In lieu of and completely unrelated to all of the excitement, I decided that it's been quite a while since I got my black robe and wizard hat on. To remedy my situation I downloaded a bunch of black metal albums, and what the hell has happened to the lovably (and sometimes laughably) evil genre that I used to love?
|All decked out and ready to KRIEG!!|
Now obviously this only applies to a small portion of black metal. Any real black metal listener knows there's hundreds of artists out there who still keep the spirit of the genre alive (dead?). However it seems that this small portion has broken through to the mainstream metal community with relative success. I mean yeah sure Dimmu Burger and trash bands like Ov Hell are winning Norwegian Grammys, but nobody takes those bands seriously in the metal community. This is a whole different deal.
"Cascadian" black metal, as it's known, is essentially black metal with shoegaze, dark ambient, neo-folk, or post-rock elements thrown in. I'm sure you can recall a few bands by name who play in this trend-setting style. Altar Of Plagues, Agalloch, newcomer Petrychor, Skagos, Wolves In The Throne Room, Lantlôs, etc. I wouldn't necessarily include bands like Alcest or Les Discrets who are both much more rock than metal, but like Porcupine Tree it seems every metal listener loves them both even if they're both piss-poor artists (I do like Alcest's debut as a shoegaze/rock album though).
I actually like a lot of this stuff although I'd never say it's as amazing as others might, but it's becoming irritating when every new black metal band I come across shares some similarities to those aforementioned bands. Some of the more "reputable" bands in this sub-subgenre are absolute garbage like Wolves In The Throne Room, but that's beside the point. I feel like the praise most of these bands get is unfounded. It's like some listeners get a pre-conceived notion of artfulness from these bands, when it's only present in superficial quantities. Maybe it's their beards, who knows?
|The bearded face of kvlt to come?|
The majority of these bands seem to be copying and pasting the same formula that made their peers successful, and a lot of their success seems to be limited to pockets of the internet where emo-nerds congregate to listen to the next "expressive" black metal album. I swear it's in the beards, man.
This brings me to my next point: that the amount of Deathspell Omega worshippers is off the fucking charts. I love Deathspell Omega as much as the next person, and their (at the time) unique dissonant sound is a staple of the French black metal scene. Now you've got tons of bands sounding like them, for better or worse. Soli Diaboli Gloria, Glorior Belli, Corpus Christii (the black metal one, obviously), Arkhon Infaustus, Blaze Of Perdition, Nightbringer, etc. I like Glorior Belli. Arkhon Infaustus and Annthennath are cool too, but damn the new Blaze Of Perdition is so predictable and boring. The new Axis Of Perdition (death/grind/black/noise/dark ambient) is even reminiscent of Deathspell Omega, but at least they did it right. Some would even go as far to include Blut Aus Nord, who technically started the whole thing along with Deathspell Omega, on their fantastic 2003 release The Work Which Transforms God. Recently they released 777-Sects as a direct continuation of The Work Which Transforms God and it's pretty sweet. At least a few good things came out of this trend.
And now I realize why I stayed away from black metal for so long. The genre has been heading this way for quite some time, yet it doesn't seem like the flow of "Cascadian" black metal or Deathspell Omega knockoffs is going to stop anytime soon either. Luckily there's always bands like Dødsengel who are revitalizing the Norwegian scene with some unique flavor, and there's still a bunch of original artists who are influenced by Deathspell Omega without sounding exactly like them. Not that they'd ever be able to top Fas anyway. I just felt like I had to rant about black metal due to the hypocrisy surrounding some of it's listeners who pretend they're kvlt when all they can talk about is trendy artists like Wolves In The Throne Room. Then you have Pitchfork-endorsed trendy shit like Liturgy and Krallice, but that's a rant for another day...
Here's Blut Aus Nord's 777-Sects. I might write a review on this album and The Work Which Transforms God soon.