Black metal is a subgenre of heavy metal music that originated in the early 1980s, primarily in Norway and Sweden. Known for its extreme and often controversial characteristics, black metal is marked by its raw and aggressive sound, fast tempos, and thematic focus on darkness, mysticism, and anti-religious sentiments. Embracing a distinctive visual aesthetic, black metal musicians often wear corpse paint and incorporate elements of nature, paganism, and occultism into their imagery. When the English band Venom released its second album titled "Black Metal," stylistically, the music was similar to earlier heavy metal subgenres, but Venom's lyrics had anti-Christian and satanic themes, so it was considered as "the first wave of Black Metal."
By analyzing black metal music, is characterized by its fast-paced drumming, tremolo-picked guitar riffs, and blast-beat drumming style. The guitar work often features dissonant chords and melodic progressions, creating a haunting and atmospheric sound. Keyboards are sometimes used to enhance the atmospheric elements, adding layers of eerie melodies and symphonic textures. Vocals in black metal are typically high-pitched screams or shrieks, contributing to the genre's intense and unsettling atmosphere.
Lyrically, black metal often explores themes related to darkness, nature, folklore, paganism, and anti-religious sentiments. Some bands incorporate elements of Satanism and the occult into their lyrics and imagery. As an example, in the lyrics of Dimmu Borgir's song "The Sacrilegious Scorn," profound themes of rebellion and disillusionment intertwine with a dark musical ambiance. The verses delve into existential inquiries, challenging established norms and questioning the essence of faith. The words evoke a sense of defiance, urging listeners to contemplate their beliefs and confront the hypocrisy that can exist within religious constructs.
Black metal has also a distinct visual aesthetic that goes beyond the music itself. Musicians often wear elaborate corpse paint, which involves covering the face with white or black makeup to create a ghostly or skeletal appearance. Band members might also dress in dark, medieval-inspired clothing and incorporate symbols of nature, such as animal bones and tree branches, into their stage presence.
Mayhem was one of the pioneering bands in the Norwegian black metal scene, known for their album "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas." The band Burzum is the solo project of Varg Vikernes, and is known for its atmospheric and ambient black metal sound. Emperor is considered to be a highly influential band that played a significant role in shaping the symphonic and atmospheric aspects of black metal. As mentioned before, Dimmu Borgir is also known for their symphonic black metal style, incorporating orchestral elements and grandiose arrangements into their music.