Looking beyond the darkness

In what looks set to be an interesting take on the history of the scene, a new book from Black Dog explores the powerful visual side to one of music’s most notorious and maligned genres: black metal

Norwegian band, One Tail, One Head

In what looks set to be an interesting take on the history of the scene, a new book from Black Dog explores the powerful visual side to one of music’s most notorious and maligned genres: black metal…

Like any musical genre, alongside the music there is also the visual aspect; the recognisable tropes that more often than not indicate that the album you have in your hands, or the website you’re clicking through, belongs to a band who make a particular kind of noise. Of course, this is not always the case (with some artists attempting to eschew this completely), but genres and subgenres thrive on their visual codes that link fans and bands together.

Band identity for Belegurth by Christophe Szpajdel

Metal’s bleaker cousin ‘black’ metal, perhaps has one of the strongest identities of all, and it’s one which interestingly crosses over several visual disciplines. From the elaborately calligraphic type treatments of the band’s names, to the ‘corpse paint’ make up, and theatrical elements which make up a fearsome stage presence, black metal has a very distinct visual language.

On right: Negru, drummer in Romanian band, Negura Bunget. Courtesy Negru

An interesting new book from Black Dog (an apt publisher if ever there was one) tries to get beyond the stereotypes of insularity and nihilism, and examine the movement from a more academic perspective. For that reason Beyond the Darkness is even billed as an “in-depth reader” on the scene.

And that’s no bad thing, as there is much intelligence to be found among the movement’s protagonists and some surprising alliances with, the publishers inform us, “radical environmentalism, fine art, sexuality, transcendentalism and theatrics, amongst other topics.” It looks like Black Dog has commissioned some serious writing here as well, with essays from journalist Louis Pattison; The Wire writer, Nick Richardson; and Pitchfork editor, Brandon Stosuy.

Opening spread to section on transcendental black metal

Above: AiwarikiaR and Garm from the band, ULVER, 1993. Courtesy the artists.

We’re yet to see an actual copy for a proper look through the tome, but Black Dog has just sent us these images from it to share on the CR blog. From the look of the spreads it also appears to have been very well put together, too.

Bands featured in the book include Bathory, Burzum, Mayhem, Gorgoroth, Blut Aus Nord, Xasthur, Wolves In The Throne Room, Darkthrone, Immortal, Hellhammer, Liturgy, Weakling, Ulver, Immortal, Enslaved, 1349, Krallice, and the associated artists of the French Les Légions Noires movement.

CR blog readers can benefit from an offer of 40% off the cover price of £19.95. To order, simply email Jessica Atkins at jess@blackdogonline.com with your delivery address and quote ‘CR OFFER’ in the subject line.

Black Metal: Beyond the Darkness is available now from Black Dog; £19.95.

On right: Gorgoroth, Black Mass, Kraków, 2004. Copyright Peter Beste. Courtesy the artist.

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