Metal Talk Live- Metal Does Not Have To Evolve To Be Good

Metal Talk Live- Metal Does Not Have To Evolve To Be Good Listen

A livestream from The Underground Metal Elitist published in Rock

Recent years have seen an uptick in the number of quality, well-researched books that take heavy metal as their subject, but the sonically and often ideologically extreme subgenre of black metal (forever the genre’s redheaded stepchild) has barely yet been given its due. It found itself relegated to mere chapters in generalized histories, finding a modicum of respect only within the pages of the perennially controversial Lord Of Chaos: The Bloody Rise Of The Satanic Metal Underground. Originally published in 1998 by Feral House (the same publisher behind Black Metal), the book presented a purportedly nonfiction account of the notorious church burnings and murders that took place in Norway in the early Nineties and surrounded black metal’s early days in a cloud of fear and suspicion. It was an interesting (some might say inflammatory) piece of work, but not without serious flaws, including a speculative, meandering second half. It also came under fire from both those who protested against the alleged political leanings of author (and founder of the neofolk group Blood Axis) Michael Moynihan, and Burzum’s Varg Vikernes himself, who claimed that Moynihan and co-author Didrik Søderlind lacked "insight into or even good knowledge about the subjects discussed." That’s been about it for black metal literature since a revised expanded edition of Lords Of Chaos hit shelves in 2003.

Meanwhile, the genre itself underwent a series of startling evolutions, leaving its bloody roots behind and pressing onwards into unexplored territories the likes of which genre forefathers Quorthon and Cronos could’ve never predicted. The past five years have seen a huge swell in popular interest and support from both curious new fans and the media. Whereas the bloody details of the genre’s early days were covered with slavering delight by magazines like Kerrang! who thrilled at the horror and theatricality of it all, nowadays we see quite extreme bands garnering praise on outlets like NPR, The Atlantic, and Pitchfork. When the New York Times is writing about black metal, you know that the times are a’changin. It’s high time that black metal had a champion to sing its praises, shed light on its failures, and tell the truth about its sordid past. Death metal had Albert Mudrian’s excellent Choosing Death, the genre as a whole was blessed by Ian Christe’s Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal, but the existing published literature on black metal lacked the sort of in-depth, balanced reporting that this story cried out for.

In even more recent years, the notion of “black metal theory” has taken hold in several tiny academic-minded circles, but that’s hardly a substitute. That’s where veteran British music journalist and photographer Dayal Patterson comes in. Patterson aims to plug that howling void with this blackened compendium, and succeeds almost completely.
Deciding where to start on this exhaustive history of one of rock & roll’s most maligned and misunderstood subgenres is a daunting task, not least thanks to the sheer size and breadth of the thing. It’s a massive, weighty tome stuffed to the gills with interviews, rare photographs, and arcane knowledge culled from nearly twenty years of musical mayhem. From Black Sabbath to Beherit and many points in between, Patterson obsessively chronicles the rise of black metal in a manner that feels more academic than artistic. Black Metal is not an easy read by any stretch of the imagination; even beyond the gruesome tales of murder and ritual, the bloody thing clocks in at nearly five hundred pages, and every page is absolutely packed with information. You’d not going to want to haul it onto a plane and cuddle up for some light reading, that’s dead certain.

What you or anyone else with an interest in rock music and its subcultures will want to do, though, it to treat it as the scholarly work that is it and delve deep into its pages. Though its contents boast a chimeric hybrid of oral history and historical record, more than anything else, Black Metal is a reference book. Patterson’s prose is utilitarian, occasionally to a fault; you may find yourself wishing that such a colorful genre had been painted in broad strokes of blood red and charred grey instead of methodically laid out in stark black and white. He is a journalist above all else, though, and more than succeeds in his goal of extracting information and anecdotes from some of the genre’s most influential figures.