Book review: Black Metal – Beyond the Darkness

By on 28 February 2013

Black Metal cover


Louis Pattison / Nick Richardson / Brandon Stosuy / Nathan T Birk

The encounter of black metal and self-reflection, while steadily intensifying in the form of blogs, books, exhibitions, documentary films and even academic seminars, is still received with much apprehension and suspicion by the metal scene. This, however, is only partly based on concrete assessment of what is actually on offer and more on metal’s lifelong and mostly healthy suspicion of and immunity to attempts to penetrate it either with political agendas (metal bands, for example, are notably scornful of lefty calls to isolate their loyal fans in politically-charged places like Israel) or over-intellectualising and analysis. Pioneering, bold efforts to create a break in this tradition came from the Black Metal Theory blog and conferences. The book they published, Hideous Gnosis, undoubtedly provided the doubters with some ammunition as more than one of the essays in it were pretentious to the extent of bordering parody, and felt like some rookie’s university dissertation artificially forced on the genre to gain extreme nerdy points. At the same time, some of the essays were nothing short of inspiring, challenging, even breath-taking. The first proper coffee-table (blasphemous indeed) tome on the subject, ‘Beyond The Darkness’ offers a more comprehensively varied mix of approaches that turn the book to an absolute must both in terms of content and as an artefact of outmost beauty. Furthermore, it displays the willingness and passion of actual participants in the creation of the superior black art to provide it with perspective. The in-depth scene reports and historical overviews tributing many places BM reached that aren’t Scandinavia provide primers that no magazine special has the space to enable these days. These are bracketed by essays by Nicola Masciandaro, Louis Pattison and which provide more general reckoning with the way BM has changed, for better and for worse, over the years.

The central philosophical tract, Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’ (?) ‘Transcendental Black Metal’ risks a stance over the abyss of pretense, yet manages to remain suspended in the realm of satisfactory mind-fuck. Haptic void, mofos! This is rounded up with mouth-watering oral histories and a focus on BM art and aesthetics via Christophe Szpajdel and Trine & Kim (where’s Metastazis?). Yes the slickness of the format creates an uneasiness about the packaging and taming of that which is feral. However, and as mused upon within the book, BM is, and has probably always been, despite its self-image, more than a purely animalistic roar. Its challenge of civilisation human and as such thought-out.



About Matthew

Die humans.

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