It happens every year – you think you are in the clear, that you have finally melted away the frigid talons of Old Man Winter. But then, in the midst of the oncoming warm fronts, the spiteful geezer returns for one more surprise offensive. Unlike most people, I secretly hope for this last big freeze, for one last malevolent blizzard with all its baleful wrath, so I can get one more trip to Blashyrkh before retiring my favorite black metal albums for the season. This year’s spring brings with it an additional bitterness, as I haven’t had nearly enough time with the latest musical tag to capture my ear: technical black metal.
A few Tuesdays back I wrote about a few modern technical black metal bands that people may not be particularly familiar with (Drottnar, Imperial Triumphant, and Krallice.) This week I would like to focus on some of the classic black metal bands, some of the monsters that most metalheads have heard of, but perhaps don’t particularly think of as technicians. Specifically, I want to highlight some points in some older black metal albums exhibiting technicality, along with the whole grim, frozen vastlands bit, to establish a line from older bands to examples of modern technicality on the scene.
Marduk has been preaching the black word since 1990, and anyone familiar with this side of the metal spectrum has certainly heard of them. While their early records remain essential entries into the pantheon of the second wave, the panzer division’s most recent album consist of a writhing mass of forked blasphemy delivered atop some venomous orations (vocalist Mortuus, also of Funeral Mist, spits more fire than most any modern black metal preacher). I intentionally chose a modern album to emphasize the more recent shift to technicality, although the elements have long been present. Check out “M.A.M.M.O.N.” for an example of how Serpent Sermon embraces the modern malevolence of technicality in coiling riffs and discordant strikes (near the end of the song), yet stays true to Marduk’s formula of filth and vitriol.
I enjoy giving credit where credit is due, and I must thank staff writer Goshuggist for pointing me in the direction of this album. When I compiled the first technical black metal post I was only familiar with Abigor’s more cosmic/atmospheric material (Channeling the Quintessence) and their pagan/medieval material (Verwustung/ Invoke the Dark Ages). At the suggestion of Goshuggist I checked out Fractal Possession, a masterful and sinister demonstration of wickedly discordant metal. The production reminds me of Dødheimsgard’s Supervillain Outcast, (but no industrial.) Instead, Abigor engineers an apocalyptic vision of a bleak, misanthropic future, of a boot stomping on the human face in tracks such as “Project: Shadow.”
Be scorched by the inferno of drumming that is 1349. I remember the first time I heard “I Breathe Spears” from 2003’s Liberation, and being completely floored that someone could play drums that fast. 1349 (the year the Black Death hit Norway) vomit forth an inferno of second wave black metal. They sacrifice no grimness with the introduction of technical blazes aplenty, as well as a sprinkling of the orthodox and the raw. In particular, I recommend “I Am Abomination,” (from Hellfire) for cold calculus; and “The Devil of the Desert” (from Demonoir) for a scathing whirlwind of skin-searing warm-weather black metal (I think everyone secretly wishes for a sudden blizzard in August so they can spin some Immortal).
It would seem any list talking about the history of black metal, even with the new tag of technicality, isn’t complete without them, yeah? Controversy and legacy aside, Mayhem has put out a diverse catalog of releases (despite having only four full-lengths!) that meander across the black metal spectrum, especially 2000’s Grand Declaration of War. The experimental and avant-garde second full-length covers everything from blackened technicality to doom to spoken word to trip hop. In particular, “Crystallized Pain in Deconstruction” will cause the temperature in your room to drop a few degrees, and bring a smile to Old Man Winter’s face, especially if during one of his woeful resurgences… and may enrage your kvlt-purist friends.
I hope this post finds you in time, fellow technical metalheads, because timeliness is essential here. I had to wait until that one last cold spell, when I thought we had banished the wretched old man for the season, before I could truly complete this list. That day has finally arrived, and although I partially revel in it, I am left wondering if –
naaaaaaah, who am I kidding, after all those negative adjectives about winter weather, I am ecstatic to have this last baleful gust. I am a kid in a candy shop here… that is, if a black metal candy shop existed. And the kid had corpsepaint. Ok, maybe not the best of analogies, but you get the idea.