Okay, so, in reading this article from Invisible Oranges, I kinda have to agree with Tim Hunter here. Cascadian Black Metal is kinda bullshit term of over eager journalists seeking to define a movement within art so they can be that one damn person that say “YEP, I DEFINED THAT SHIT FIRST GUYS!” So, I used a farce of a title for this post because I could, but let’s trace the heritage of this particular set of post black metal soundscapes, often mixed with shoegaze and folk elements.
Side note here: I hate the post genre designation as much as Hunter hates the CBM designation. I find it trite and foolish: the use of black metal in non black metal situations? Just what IS a black metal situation, what is a particular movement that defines as non-black metal? So stickiness aside here, I’ve used it in the past and I’ve tried to get around it and I’ll probably fuck up again.
So, we have all these bands that play music from a Black Metal style, but are attempting to phrase it in a completely different context than what was originally conceived as being Black Metal. So, let’s off for a history lesson! Just so you know, Burzum and Mayhem will be completed ignored by this discussion. I cannot put into words the vitriol and contempt with which I hold this situation and a particular individual. Therefore, any influence shall be ignored.
Venom is credited with being the progenitor of the Black Metal style because of one song they wrote: “Black Metal.” However, I far more agree that the Black Metal style originated in Sweden with Bathory’s frontman Quorthon. His 1988 release Blood, Fire, Death took thrash metal stylings, added a ferocious snarl, and discussed things uniquely metal (e.g.: the acrostics in a few of the songs in which he talks about Satan) and then used the poem of Erica Jong, “For All Those Who Died,” to discuss the pains of the heathen in the face of the church.
Over his next releases, Quorthon kept incorporating traditional Power Metal lyrical stylings and began calling his music Viking Metal. The second wave included two separate movements: one in Norway and one in Sweden.
In Norway, Black Metal codified around speed and chaos, yet still held onto the themes of heathenism and sometimes Satanism (see: Gorgoroth, specifically). Enslaved released in 1994 an album that AllMusic believed to continue the banner of this particular style of music. As noted, the song is closer to speed metal, but combines symphonic elements in a keyboard and a snarling, shrieking vocalist. Below is the first song off this album:
Emperor offered in 1994 their album In the Nightside Eclipse on which “The Majesty of the Night Sky” was released. Offering tremolo picked chaos in describing the night sky, the song is another example of the use of Black Metal to discuss natural themes and traditional folk elements similar to 1960s-1970s folk:
Dodheimsgard too continued the sound in some means, adding a deeper, richer rhythm section, and a touch more industrial feel while continuing the speed and chaos of the Norwegian style. Here’s a good example of their sound from 1995:
Enlsaved, Ihsahn, and Dodheimsgard are both still active. Enslaved focuses on providing a progressive experience, constantly pushing and working with their sonics to craft interesting music. Emperor broke apart two albums too late, before Ihsahn snaked off to a solo career in which he destroyed himself in effigy it seemed and then rebuilt himself.
In Sweden, this still took off as well. A good number of bands that play the modern Black Metal style, pushing past sheer chaos into melodic warmth and folk based lyrics, state that their influence comes from Katatonia. I’m using Brave Murder Day as my example as it is the album with which I am most familiar; however, earlier releases from 1994 are even better examples of this style:
In contrast to the Norwegian movement, the Swedish movement slowed it down, giving it doom metal aspects, and even rock elements (see Katatonia’s later releases). Even Opeth got in the act on their first album with “The Forest of October”:
This would be a sound that they continued into My Arms, Your Hearse and still sometimes revisit as they did on Ghost Reveries (with “Reverie/Harlequin Forest”) and Heritage (with “Folklore” and “Famine”). Though Opeth is often critically and financially more successful, Katatonia is credited as an influence more often than the modern bands. This codified into the Swedish Death Metal movements, thanks to other bands such as Dark Tranquility:
Tomorrow, we’ll move this past the mid 1990s into the later half of that decade to the present.