10 September 2013

Me and the Black

Some mostly procrastinatory meanderings on music (and stuff) follow...

Black metal... It's still kind of a bogeyman on the fringes of the metal world, isn't it?

I wouldn't say I actually listen to black metal. At least not what hardcore black metal fans would call black metal. But I do enjoy some bands that have roots in black metal or have been influenced by the sound. Some, like Cradle of Filth and Bal-Sagoth, are among my very favourite bands these days—but I certainly wouldn't classify either of them as black metal, they're pretty far removed from it both musically and lyrically.

There are probably many reasons why I haven't listened to much 'true' black metal. Perhaps most importantly, I listen to artists that, for some reason or other, appeal to me. I mean, well... duh, what else would I listen to? But there's no clear explanation for why one does and another doesn't appeal. It's not about genre. I enjoy artists from many different genres (and also many that are hard to classify). I don't listen to any genre simply for the sake of it, each artist is an entity of its own. Most artists I really love have a rather unique sound, something that no one else quite replicates. (This applies to both Cradle of Filth and Bal-Sagoth I named above.)

When it comes to black metal specifically, I must admit I'm also a little bothered by the negativity often associated with the scene, especially in the early days. The history section of the Wikipedia article on the genre is pretty grim reading. Church burnings, murders, Nazism etc. Satanism, in and of itself, doesn't bother me—I actually think it can be a positive force, like almost any other faith, if approached intelligently—but if it's only used as an excuse to attack others, I have a problem with it (just as much as I have a problem with people using Christianity as an excuse for hatred). I generally believe it is more productive to be pro one thing than anti something else. And I strongly believe in an individual's right to be what they choose—as long as they cause no harm to others—whether that's a Christian, Satanist or anything else.

(Then there's also the negative sentiment some hardcore black metal fans seem to have towards other genres, criticising artists they view as 'commercial' and the like. Which is obviously just bollocks, neither genre or success can ever define something's worth.)

Of course it can be argued that music (or any art) is independent of the people who made it. And a lot of people, I'm sure, perhaps even the majority of black metal fans, probably take it as simple shock value, rather than serious ideology (not that all black metal bands, even from the early days, necessarily have truly negative ideologies). And that's absolutely fine. Still, I can't help contemplating such things, and tend to steer away from artists that seem to display genuine hatred or aggression towards things I don't necessarily believe deserve it. It's just not my thing.

These days, of course, it's a much more diverse field than, say, in the early 90s. There are a lot of bands out there that have been influenced by the sound and energy of black metal, but not necessarily the culture or values. It's mostly these artists that I've been looking into recently, as, for whatever reason, I found myself in the mood for black-ish metal once again. One band that's piqued my interest is Wolves in the Throne Room, an American band with values (as I understand it) rooted mainly in environmentalism (though their lyrics can be fairly obscure), and a sound that is at once hypnotic and intense. There seems to be some overlap with these newer bands and the post-rock/post-metal genres, which I find quite interesting.

As black metal still remains a fairly underground phenomenon, it can be hard to find actually interesting artists. Like in any genre, there's a lot of rubbish out there, and bands that sound very alike. Like I said, I need my favourites to have something unique about them. However, there are gems to be found in almost any genre, and it never hurts to look at (and listen to) new things.

I'm not sure what the point of this blog post was, exactly. I guess it boils down to two things. One, listen to what you bloody well please, and two, be nice to people, regardless of different tastes.

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