Video Credit: Gulf News

Okay so, I do not listen to metal, let alone black metal. At all. In any form. Except right at this second. I am actually currently listening to death metal, just to really get into a dark mood while writing this blog post.

I find it such a harsh genre, but in lieu of the latest episode of our video podcast, I thought I would delve into it and read about it. This week, the musical focus was on death metal, as well as one of its subgenres, known as Black metal.

Death metal is dark… but black metal is darker. Death metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music. The songs are full of distorted and low-tuned guitars, deep growling vocals, aggressive and powerful drumming.

The tempo is fast and abrupt and the lyrical themes… oh don’t get me started on the lyrical themes. Death metal lyrics are about violence, religion, sometimes Satanism, occultism, horror, nature, , mythology, philosophy and politics and they may describe extreme acts, including mutilation, dissection, torture, rape, cannibalism, and necrophilia.


Black Metal
Members of a Norwegian Black Metal band wearing typical black metal gear such as corpse paint, spikes and bullet belts. Image Credit: Flickr

Death metal made an appearance in the mid-1980s. Not so long ago. If you think about the birth of the genre, your dad was still alive, or if you’re a little bit older, you were alive then too.

Popular death metal bands have names like: Venom, Celtic Frost, Slayer, and Kreator, Possessed, Death, Necrophagia, Obituary, Autopsy, and Morbid Angel.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, death metal gained some attention as popular genre. But it never quite hit the mainstream. Too violent? Or just too noisy?

Death Metal
Maybe this guy was one of the reasons Death Metal wasn't accepted by the mainstream Image Credit: Wikimedia

The funny thing is death metal and black metal never wanted commercial success anyways.

Death metal diversified in the 1990s, breeding more and more subgenres.

One of those subgenres is Black metal.

Black metal is an even more extreme subgenre of heavy metal music. Common traits include fast tempos, a shrieking vocal style, heavily distorted guitars. Artists usually perform on stage in corpse paint and use pseudonyms.

Meet the black metal band Mayhem

Mayhem were one of the founders of the Norwegian black metal genre and their music has strongly influenced the scene.

The band formed in 1984 by guitarist Oystein Aarseth (pseudonym = "Euronymous") and his friend, bassist Jorn Stubberud (pseudonym = "Necrobutcher") and drummer Kjetil Manheim (surprisingly, no pseudonym).

After two brief replacements, a Swedish “vocalist” (a.k.a screamer) named Per Yngve Ohlin (pseudonym = "Dead") and local drummer Jan Axel Blomberg (pseudonym ="Hellhammer").

Dead and Euronymous
Dead (left) and Euronymous (right) Image Credit: Wikimedia

So the key character in this story is our guy “Dead”. He was sort of the mastermind behind the band's notorious concerts. “Dead” really wanted to achieve the image and atmosphere of death in his concerts.

In a story published by the Guardian in 2015, they explain that “Dead” was always using corpse paint, which involved covering his face with black and white makeup. According to “Necrobutcher”, "Dead” actually wanted to look like a corpse. Before concerts, “Dead” would bury his stage clothes and dig them up again to wear on the night of a show. While performing, Dead would often cut himself with hunting knives and broken glass. Additionally, the band often had pig or sheep heads impaled on stakes and planted at the front of their stage, The Guardian wrote.

On April 8, 1991, Dead killed himself suicide in a house owned by the band. In a story written by Sounds Of Death Magazine on the suicide, “Dead” was eventually discovered by Euronymous with slit wrists and a shotgun wound to the head. Dead's suicide note allegedly read "Excuse all the blood, cheers.” Instead of calling the police, Euronymous went to a nearby store and bought a disposable camera to photograph the corpse, after re-arranging some items. One of these photographs was later used as the cover of one of their live albums.

How… Metal.

Mayhem’s sixth studio album will come out October 25 2019.