Black Metal for Dummies

What is black metal? There are as many definitions as there are demons in Satan's subterranean condo. And like those hot-and-bothered helldwellers, Black Metal afficionados are a contentious lot — sometimes even murdering one other over who is and isn't true to the genre.

Wikipedia offers this definition, while this e-mail argument between two self-described Dark Lords provides another.

Musical characteristics include superfast guitars and shrieky, bummed-out vocals. Fashion characteristics include spiky shin guards, medieval accessories (swords, chains), and generous use of corpse paint.

But as the comparative graphic above shows, identification can be tricky. At left, Dani (image link) from the band Cradle of Filth is wearing lots of corpse paint. He is Totally Black Metal. At right, Louie the pug (image link) –who is owned by television news producer Jeremy Blacklow from a Certain News Network — is not one bit Black Metal, despite facial markings that strongly resemble corpse paint.

This is tough, I know. Let's try it again.

At left, the Totally Black Metal band Dimmu Borgir, including a bald guy in a hat (image link). At right, Louie again — (image link). Yes, he is wearing a hat, but he is still Not Black Metal. When they wake up in the morning, Dimmu Borgir raise lead chalices to their lips and drink smoothies blended from the blood and brains of their vanquished enemies. When he wakes up in the morning, Louie the pug eats either lamb-and-rice Science Diet or a sock.

For further study, I direct you to this Link for the TOP 10 MOST RIDICULOUS BLACK METAL PICS OF ALL TIME.

(Thanks, Sean Bonner, Jeremy Blacklow, David Pescovitz, and someone else whose email I deleted)

Reader comment: lupinstel says,

For a more true explanation and history I recommend the book "Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground" (Amazon link). Many dumb arguments have been had over what is "true" black metal and what is not. And like so many other styles of music, black metal can incorporate and be incorporated into parallel genres, thus making things more confusing. P.S. Viking or folk metal is better!

Reader comment: Metostopholes says,

I am reminded of this old chestnut. It has instructions on how to make your own Black Metal band, including making up unpronounceable names, creating unreadable band logos, and never ever having a sense of humor. Link