History Of Black Metal Music

History Of Black Metal Music

The history of black metal is a fascinating journey through the darkest realms of music. Originating from the heavy riffs of Black Sabbath and evolving into a distinct subgenre in the early 1980s, black metal has captivated fans with its fast tempos, anti-Christian themes and raw intensity.

Pioneering bands like Venom, Bathory, and Mayhem set the stage for an ever-evolving genre that continues to fascinate listeners worldwide today.

Key Takeaways

  • Black metal music originated from heavy metal roots and punk influences in the early 1980s, starting with bands like Venom and Bathory.
  • The Norwegian black metal scene gained notoriety in the 1990s due to controversial activities such as church burnings and murder.
  • Black metal is defined by its unique blend of musical style and techniques, lyrically thematic content, visual aesthetics and fashion.
  • Despite its controversies, black metal continues to evolve and diversify over time through different sub-genres, global influences, fusion with other styles while remaining popular among music lovers who appreciate its unique sound.
History Of Black Metal Music

Early Influences And Emergence Of Black Metal

Black metal emerged from the heavy metal roots and punk influences of the 1980s, with bands like Venom and Bathory paving the way for the first wave of black metal in Europe.

Heavy Metal Roots And Punk Influences

As a music lover, it’s fascinating to delve into the roots of various genres and understand how they have evolved over time. One such genre that has captured the attention of many is black metal, which traces its origins back to heavy metal roots and punk influences.

Heavy metal itself emerged from hard rock in the 1960s, drawing inspiration from blues music and pioneers like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple. These bands helped establish a new and distinctive sound for heavy metal by experimenting with heavier guitar riffs, powerful drumming techniques, and darker lyrical themes.

Alongside early heavy metal developments came punk rock’s influence on black metal music which cannot be overlooked either – having contributed significantly to its gritty appeal today! Punk rock musicians were known for their raw energy manifested through rapid tempos played on stripped-down arrangements without sacrificing any passion whatsoever; qualities that would later become intrinsic elements in shaping other genres including our beloved black metal scene we know today – especially those originating from influential bands such as Venom (widely recognised as one of its earliest forefathers), Celtic Frost amongst others who dared combine different styles efficiently resulting not just musically innovative but undeniably captivating creations too! The marriage between heavy metals intense instrumental prowess plus punk rocks unrefined drive eventually gave birth to an entirely new subculture where fans worldwide could find solace amid darkness exuded all around them..and thus black metals journey had officially begun towards cementing itself within history books forevermore

The First Wave Of Black Metal In The 1980s

The first wave of black metal in the 1980s marked a pivotal moment in music history, as the genre started to find its distinctive sound and aesthetics. With heavy metal roots deeply entrenched in extreme styles such as thrash and death metal, this fascinating subgenre began emerging throughout Europe.

A crucial turning point occurred when British band Venom released their groundbreaking album “Black Metal” in 1982.

During this period, other pioneering bands like Bathory from Sweden and Hellhammer from Switzerland were making waves within the burgeoning black metal scene by experimenting with aggressive sounds, dark themes, and low-quality production techniques – all essential characteristics that would later define the genre’s identity.

Tapping into a raw energy unlike anything heard before in mainstream music circles resonated with listeners intrigued by these daring musicians who weren’t afraid to challenge conventions or push boundaries artistically.

As more artists joined their ranks throughout the decade, they collectively contributed towards laying down solid foundations upon which future generations of black metal enthusiasts would build upon further on down the line.

The Emergence Of The Norwegian Black Metal Scene

The emergence of the Norwegian black metal scene in the early 1980s was a monumental shift for extreme metal music. Bands like Mayhem played a pivotal role in developing this new soundscape that pushed metal into uncharted territories.

This burgeoning scene was not without its controversies, as bands often embraced an infamous image centred around darker themes and aesthetics. However, it was their distinct approach to musical composition that truly captivated fans.

Deliberately opting for low-quality production techniques, these artists sought to create raw, atmospheric soundscapes that resonated with listeners on a visceral level.

Elements Of Black Metal

Black metal is defined by its unique blend of musical style and techniques, lyrically thematic content, and visual aesthetics and fashion.

Musical Style And Techniques

As a music lover, you may be interested in the unique and distinct musical style of Black Metal. This subgenre of heavy metal is characterized by its fast-paced and aggressive sound, often featuring blast beats, tremolo-picked guitar riffs, and shrieking vocals.

Black Metal is also known for its use of lo-fi production values which give the music a raw and unpolished quality. Many bands intentionally record their music on low-quality equipment to achieve this desired effect.

Some notable examples of Black Metal groups that showcase these musical styles include Bathory’s “Under the Sign of the Black Mark,” Mayhem’s “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas,” or Emperor’s “Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk.” Whether you’re new to this genre or have been listening for years, there’s always something new and exciting to discover within the rich history and culture of Black Metal.

Lyrics And Thematic Content

As mentioned earlier, black metal is a subgenre of heavy metal music that features anti-Christian, satanic and paganistic themes in its lyrics and thematic content. The lyrical themes of black metal are known for their dark, brooding, and often controversial nature.

One of the most prominent themes in black metal is Satanism. Bands like Venom, Bathory and Mayhem were known for using Satanic imagery in their lyrics and album artwork.

Another common theme found in black metal music is nature worship. Many bands use images of forests, mountains and other natural formations as inspiration for their lyrics.

Lastly, death is another recurring subject matter explored by many black metal artists. As an example Jim Mutilator from Greek band Rotting Christ said “The main reason we chose All Souls’ Day (for our first gig) was that it was a day when everyone visits cemeteries; people remember dead relatives with meat dishes after returning home.” Essentially meaning death can be celebrated as well as mourned through some aspects of Black Metal’s lyrical content.

Black Metal continues to explore these themes today while incorporating new ideas such as political views into its messaging which can vary based on different scenes worldwide

Visual Aesthetics And Fashion

As much as Black Metal is a music genre, it’s also widely known for its distinctive visual identity. The artists who play this kind of music take great care over their appearance to reflect the dark and macabre themes in their music.

Inspired by gothic aesthetics, black leather jackets with spikes and studs are popular with black metal musicians. More often than not, they wear heavy make-up to look pale and sinister on stage.

The look isn’t just about dressing up; it’s about presenting an attitude – one that’s rebellious and anti-social.

Controversies And Infamy

Black metal has been shrouded in controversy since its inception, with various instances of criminal activities such as church burnings and murder, causing media outcry and negative public perception.

Church Burnings And Criminal Activities

The association of black metal with criminal activities and controversial behavior is perhaps the most notorious aspect of its history. Church burnings, in particular, have become infamous as a hallmark of the Norwegian black metal scene in the early 1990s.

More than 50 churches were burned down during this time, although only four of them were actually torched by members of black metal bands according to reliable sources.

The most widely known case linked to these crimes is that of Varg Vikernes, a founding member of Burzum who was sentenced for murder and suspected involvement in several church arsons.

However, not all criminals associated with black metal belong to Norway’s second wave; even today, some contemporary acts still express extremist views or endorse violent ideologies through their music.

Media Portrayal And Public Perception

As black metal grew in popularity, the media began to take notice and portray it as a dangerous, violent genre of music. In particular, the attention placed on the Norwegian black metal scene in the early 1990s drew scrutiny due to its controversial ties to church burnings and murder.

Despite this negative portrayal, many fans of black metal see it as an empowering form of music that celebrates individuality and rebellion against societal norms.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in black metal with documentaries like “Lords Of Chaos” bringing renewed attention to its dark history.

Associations With Neo-Nazi Ideologies

As amazing as black metal music is, it has been associated with neo-Nazi ideologies and political movements. There’s a subgenre of Black Metal called National Socialist Black Metal (NSBM), which promotes far-right views and espouses racist, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic beliefs that go against the core principles of Black Metal.

Anti-racism groups have called for bands accused of promoting neo-Nazism to be banned from playing at black metal music events.

However, there are now many explicitly leftist RABM (Red and Anarchist Black Metal) bands that speak out against fascism and far-right ideologies in the scene. These artists believe that such extremist politics have no place in their brand of music or society at large.

Despite this, debates still rage within the community about the relationship between black metal aesthetics and far-right political extremism, with some bands attempting to ascribe specific political meanings onto black metal aesthetics.

Rise Of Norwegian Black Metal

The Norwegian black metal scene quickly rose to prominence in the early 1990s, with bands like Mayhem, Burzum, Darkthrone and Emperor gaining widespread attention for their extreme music and controversial antics.


As a music lover, I’m sure you’ve heard of Mayhem – the band that helped lay the groundwork for the Norwegian black metal scene. Formed in Oslo back in 1984, Mayhem quickly gained notoriety for their extreme live shows and controversial antics, including onstage self-mutilation and animal sacrifices.

The band’s early history includes a string of violent incidents, such as lead singer Dead’s suicide and guitarist Euronymous’ murder by fellow musician Varg Vikernes.


One of the most prominent bands in the history of black metal is Burzum. Founded by Varg Vikernes, this band has gained notoriety for its controversial themes and contributions to the evolution of Norwegian black metal.

Despite his criminal history, Vikernes’ influence on black metal cannot be ignored. He pioneered a unique sound that blended elements of atmospheric ambient music with traditional black metal techniques.

His songs typically feature harsh shrieking vocals and fast-paced guitar riffs that are layered over dark synth tracks.


As a music lover, you cannot discuss the history of black metal without mentioning Darkthrone. This Norwegian band played a major role in shaping and popularizing the genre during its second wave in the 1990s.

Alongside other bands like Mayhem and Burzum, they helped establish Norway as a hub for black metal music.

What sets Darkthrone apart is their ability to evolve their artistic style while still remaining true to their roots. They started out playing traditional black metal but have since incorporated elements of crust punk, heavy metal, and even speed metal into their sound.

As such, they continue to influence contemporary black metal artists worldwide with albums such as “A Blaze in the Northern Sky” and “Total Death”.


Emperor is a Norwegian black metal band that was instrumental in the rise of the second wave of black metal. The band’s music and stage presence were heavily influenced by their interest in Norse mythology and occultism, which gave them an eerie and unsettling sound.

However, Emperor drummer Faust was involved in some of the darkest incidents associated with black metal during its early days. In 1992, he killed Magne Andreassen, a homosexual man who had propositioned him while on tour.

Later on, Faust was also implicated in several church burnings that occurred in Norway during that time period. These events sparked widespread controversy around black metal culture and led to increased scrutiny from law enforcement agencies worldwide.

Evolution And Diversification Of Black Metal

Over the years, black metal has evolved and diversified into many subgenres such as atmospheric black metal, unblack metal, and depressive black metal.

Sub-genres And Fusion With Other Styles

As a black metal fan, I’ve always been fascinated by the genre’s various sub-genres and its fusion with other styles. Here are some of the most notable examples:

1. Atmospheric Black Metal – This sub-genre emphasizes ambiance, often featuring long, repetitive, and hypnotic songs that create a dark and melancholic atmosphere.

2. Depressive Black Metal – Also known as suicidal black metal, this sub-genre explores themes of depression, isolation, and self-harm.

3. Folk Black Metal – This sub-genre incorporates traditional folk instruments and melodies into black metal music, creating a unique blend of sounds.

4. Industrial Black Metal – This sub-genre combines elements of black metal with industrial music, often featuring electronic beats and distorted vocals.

5. Post-Black Metal – This sub-genre emerged in the mid-2000s and is characterized by a more experimental approach to songwriting, incorporating elements from genres such as shoegaze and post-rock.

6. Symphonic Black Metal – This sub-genre features the use of orchestral arrangements and choirs in addition to traditional black metal instrumentation.

7. Blackened Death Metal – A style that has elements of death metal but played in the black metal style with screeched vocals.

8. Progressive Black Metal – As evident from its name, this is a progressive form of black metal that involves incorporating complex rhythms to create complicated song structures which could be quite lengthy at times.

What I find interesting about these sub-genres is how they showcase the diversity within black metal while still maintaining its core sound and ethos. From atmospheric soundscapes to intense blast beats, there’s something for everyone in the world of black metal fusion.

Internationalization And Global Influences

As black metal continued to evolve, it transcended national boundaries and began to incorporate influences from different parts of the world.

Additionally, Nordic countries like Sweden have spawned many prominent Black Metal bands with unique styles that blend elements of melodic death metal with black metal. Bands like Dissection were among the pioneers of this style which has come to be known as “melodic Black Metal” or “Blackened Death Metal”.

Contemporary Black Metal Scenes And Artists

As a music lover, I’m always interested in discovering new and exciting artists within the black metal genre. Here are some of the contemporary black metal scenes and artists that have been making waves in recent years:

1. Cascadian Black Metal Scene – This scene originated in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States and is characterized by its emphasis on nature, environmentalism, and atmospheric soundscapes. Some notable bands include Wolves in the Throne Room, Alda, and Agalloch.

2. French Black Metal Scene – The French black metal scene has produced some unique and innovative bands that blend elements of black metal with other genres such as shoegaze and post-punk. Some notable bands include Alcest, Amesoeurs, and Les Discrets.

3. Icelandic Black Metal Scene – Iceland’s isolation from the rest of Europe has resulted in a distinct black metal scene with an emphasis on raw aggression and intensity. Some notable bands include Svartidauði, Misþyrming, and Sinmara.

4. USBM (United States Black Metal) – While overshadowed by their European counterparts, there are still many talented black metal artists hailing from the United States. Some notable bands include Leviathan, Krallice, and Ash Borer.

5. Deafheaven – While not strictly a black metal band, this San Francisco-based group has been influential in bringing elements of shoegaze and post-rock into the world of black metal.

6. Mgła – This Polish duo has gained widespread acclaim for their unrelenting brand of black metal that draws inspiration from both traditional Norwegian black metal as well as more modern influences.

These are just a few examples of the vibrant and diverse contemporary black metal scenes and artists out there today. As someone who loves this genre of music, I can’t wait to see what new sounds emerge in the years to come.

Famous Black Metal Bands

If you’re a fan of black metal, you’ll definitely know these iconic bands. Here are 7 of the most famous and influential bands in the history of black metal:

1. Venom – Considered by many as the godfathers of black metal, Venom was formed in Newcastle, England in 1979.

2. Bathory – Bathory is credited with pioneering the first wave of black metal and influencing the second wave with their dark and raw sound.

3. Mayhem – The Norwegian band Mayhem is notorious for their involvement in the early Scandinavian black metal scene, particularly for their member’s criminal activities.

4. Burzum – Varg Vikernes’ one-man project Burzum was one of the most influential bands to emerge from Norway’s second wave of black metal.

5. Darkthrone – The Norwegian duo Darkthrone is known for their contribution to black metal as well as their incorporation of other genres like punk and heavy metal.

6. Emperor – Emperor rose to fame in the early 1990s with their symphonic approach to black metal, combining elements of classical music into their sound.

7. Immortal – Another Norwegian band, Immortal is known for incorporating elements of folk and Viking themes into their music while staying true to the traditional sound of black metal.

These bands helped shape the genre and have left a lasting impact on modern heavy music.

Black Metal And Politics

Black metal has been associated with a range of political beliefs, including nationalism, fascism, anti-establishment rhetoric and even advocacy for freedom of expression.

Nationalism And Fascism In Black Metal

As with many subcultures, black metal has been associated with extremist politics and ideologies. National Socialist black metal (NSBM) is a political movement that espouses far-right views and aligns itself with Nazism.

There have been instances where NSBM musicians have used their platform to promote hateful messages. One example is Varg Vikernes of Burzum who was imprisoned for murder and arson related to his involvement in the Norwegian black metal scene.

Vikernes openly identifies as a neo-Nazi and has expressed white supremacist beliefs.

It is important to note that not all black metal artists hold extremist political views, but it remains an ongoing issue within the genre.

Anti-establishment And Countercultural Sentiments

As a countercultural movement, black metal is rooted in anti-establishment sentiments. Many black metal bands reject commercialism and seek to create music that is raw, honest, and authentic.

One example of black metal’s anti-establishment spirit is the way it rejects mainstream norms of beauty and fashion. Black metal artists often wear corpse paint or adopt other extreme visual aesthetics to challenge societal expectations of appearance.

Furthermore, many black metal musicians embrace anarchic values and advocate for freedom of expression. However, this subversive attitude has also led some bands towards more controversial positions.

Overall, while not all black metal artists share identical viewpoints; it remains a genre synonymous with rebellion against standard cultural conventions—a stance that continues to attract passionate fans from around the world even today.

Advocacy For Freedom Of Expression

As with many genres of music, black metal has faced controversy and censorship due to its often controversial and extreme themes. Some argue that the genre provides a powerful outlet for free expression and allows artists to explore taboo subjects in their work.

However, there are also concerns about the intersection of hateful ideologies with black metal’s confrontational nature. The rise of nationalist and neo-Nazi movements within some sub-genres has sparked debate over whether these beliefs should be allowed a platform in music.

Black Metal Subgenres

Black metal has been around for decades, and over time it has diversified into a number of subgenres. Here are some of the most notable:

1. Atmospheric black metal – this subgenre is characterized by its emphasis on creating a specific mood or atmosphere through the use of layered instrumentation, often including synthesizers and keyboards.

2. Depressive black metal – as the name suggests, this subgenre typically deals with themes of depression and despair. Musically, it tends to be slower and more introspective than other forms of black metal.

3. Symphonic black metal – this subgenre incorporates symphonic orchestration along with traditional black metal elements for a grandiose sound that evokes epic landscapes and battles.

4. Unblack metal – also known as Christian black metal, this subgenre combines the aggressive musical style of black metal with lyrics that express Christian themes instead of the typical Satanic ones.

5. Avant-garde black metal – this subgenre experiments with unconventional song structures, instrumentation, and avant-garde art influences to produce music that often defies categorization.

6. Folk black metal – this subgenre incorporates elements from folk music traditions into the typical sound and aesthetic of black metal.

7. Post-black metal – this subgenre uses the core elements of black metal but combines them with post-rock or post-metal influences to create an otherworldly sound.

8. War/blackened death metal – This genre combine elements of death and thrash Metal along with Black Metal themes

9. Sludge/blackened doom – This genre involves combining Black Metal’s raw energy along with sludge/doom rhythms

These are just a few examples; there are many more nuances within each individual subgenre as well as crossovers between them. The diversity within the overall umbrella term ‘Black Metal’ showcases how vast this genre can be in terms of options available to music lovers who may not subscribe to one type of genre.

Conclusion And Future Of Black Metal

In conclusion, the history of black metal is a fascinating and often controversial one, with roots in heavy metal and punk. The emergence of the Norwegian scene in the 1990s brought notoriety to the genre with a wave of church burnings and criminal activities.

However, black metal has continued to evolve and diversify over time through sub-genres, global influences, and fusion with other styles. While black metal may not be for everyone due to its extreme nature, it remains popular among many music lovers who appreciate its unique sound and anti-establishment sentiments.

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