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Shores of Sheol, Gjaldir and El Ghoulio Fuel My Black Metal Obsession

21 May 2008

Black Metal. It has possessed my soul like a demon – its wretched claws wrapped tightly around my heart, holding me in its grasp with its ever-present squeeze.

I can’t get enough of the stuff – really!

Bands like BURZUM, MAYHEM, DARKTHRONE, IMMORTAL, HATE FOREST, ILDJARN, HAVOHEJ, GORGOROTH, 1349, XASTHUR, MUTIILATION, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, have taken my obsessive compulsive music disorder hostage. I spend hours searching for the next black metal band that will blow my mind. And nearly every band does just that.

So why do I love black metal so much?

Probably because it reminds me of the early days of hardcore punk. Like hardcore, black metal songs are furious blasts of raging energy, only the songs are longer. Where technical dexterity reigns supreme in most other metal genres (except, perhaps for doom), black metal focuses on atmosphere and emotion, projecting cold, grim feelings of loneliness, despair, misanthropy and freezing winters. That’s not to say that black metal doesn’t have its technical moments – MERRIMACK and SATYRICON, for example, both take a technical approach to their music, but the feeling of the music is most important.

Then there’s the sound of the production, which is usually raw and nasty, like the early BLACK FLAG, MINOR THREAT and NEGATIVE APPROACH EPs. Black metal recordings tend to be under-produced, either out of necessity or a love of lo-fi recording techniques.

Also, like the early days of hardcore, most black metal bands have their own sound, meaning that very few of the bands sound alike. Where Ildjarn, Havohej and Immortal take the speed approach of, say, POISON IDEA or early BAD BRAINS, Xasthur, ABRUPTUM and Mutiilation are the FLIPPER/NO TREND-types, while Burzum, Hate Forest and Merrimack evoke the post-hardcore of later Black Flag and SST recordings. Some bands, including ULVER, BEHERIT and Burzum, completely shed their metal roots in favor of electronic or classical music.

Additionally, black metal is one of the few rock-based forms of music where one-man bands are fully accepted. Misanthropy is a common theme among black metal bands, so much so that some artists prefer to record by themselves and never perform live.

Plus, most of the bands wear corpse paint that makes THE MISFITS look like THE SPICE GIRLS.

The sordid legacy of Norwegian black metal has been well-documented elsewhere, so I won’t go into it here. Instead I’ll refer you to the Wikipedia article on black metal, which does a fine job summing up the murder, arson and mayhem (sorry, couldn’t resist): Historical Events in Black Metal

Believe it or not, NPR recently did a story on Norwegian black metal that you can watch and hear here

Out of mere curiosity, I did a cursory search for black metal on Newgrounds and I actually found some projects worth mentioning:

Austria’s Shores of Sheol is MARKO on vocals and all instruments. His black metal is heavy, yet melodic, more in line with ENSLAVED, Burzum or even BATHORY circa Blood, Fire, Death. My personal favorite songs are “The Nomad” “A Collection of Guilt” and “The Return to Gaia,” though all of his tracks are worth a listen. He’s even done some experimenting with drum and bass loops, the best by far being “Mellow Destruction.”

I couldn’t find much information about Gjaldir. Apparently, it’s a two-person project, and the person who uploaded their lone song, “DysterGran,” appears to be Scandinavian, but other than that, they’re a mystery. It’s unfortunate, too, because between the opening howl and the closing scream is one minute and fifty seconds of pure, unadulterated rage, like a very angry bobcat on a rampage.

El Ghoulio is probably the oddest black metal project I’ve ever heard. It’s the work of somebody named KHAMUL who was ridiculously prolific in 2005, but hasn’t uploaded anything since. His sound combines the gloomy chaos of Abruptum with the inept bombast of early GRAVELAND. As another member of newgrounds eloquently wrote: “sounded like….sum1 threw sum instruments in a cage full of retarded apes….and let them wail on them for a while and stuck a f***ing mic between the bars and recorded it…” It’s black metal for JANDEK fans! Start at the top of the page with “Six Feet Below” or “Wasted Years” and work your way down the list.

I’ll probably be on this black metal kick for a while, so please bare with me. I plan on trekking into the deepest, darkest caverns of cyberspace to find the best homemade black metal out there, including a series on Middle Eastern black metal. This is just the beginning.


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