Black Metal, this extreme music genre born in the 80's, happens to be filled with extreme personalities and is definitely fueled by an affirmed rejection of the modern world - or at least of some of its aspects. Therefore, numerous musicians are making strong statements, doomed to sometimes be misunderstood, as they try to justify their artistic approach or personal beliefs.
In this spirit, I have compiled 24 quotes from famous members of the scene which, I believe, depict quite precisely their inspiration sources as well as the various aspects of black metal.
- Too often people approach this movement with convoluted theories and try and hammer them onto the story at all cost. They start out with the idea (hope?) that black metal is really all about the reawakening of the Northern European Viking spirit, or Satanic belief, or self-destruction, or far right ideology or whatever else, and black metal is far too diverse and individual to be described like that. (Dayal Patterson - Author of Black Metal Evolution of the Cult - 2014 - Source: The Quietus)
- Every form of art can only be strong, and I mean truly revolutionary, if it's a movement. (Abigor TT - 2013 - Source: Second Heart Magazine)
- I guess the inspiration mainly comes naturally, as the music and the lyrics mirror our souls and reflect how we actually feel deep inside. (Dimmu Borgir - Silenoz - 1996 - Source: Chronicles of Chaos)
- Black metal is maybe the only musical genre where the concept behind the music is more important than the music itself. The music is more of a reflection of the ideas, but the main thing is to get the concept across. (Negura Bunget - Negru - 2012 - Source: Teeth of the Divine)
- The most important thing to understand, if you are trying to learn what the essence in what black metal is about, is it's essentially defined by a feeling. It's not how the logo looks, not the production, although that can be an element, and not necessarily the speed. (Satyricon - Satyr - 2014 - Source: Cryptic Rock)
- Black Metal is a unique art which allows us to express all kinds of human emotions that's a gift. And as I said my inspirations are my self-reflexions. And they are always filled with real emotions and real considerations of human nature (Nargaroth - Ash/Kanwulf - 2010 - Source: MetalCast)
- What is extremity? It's a good question. To me it's always been you pushing your own boundaries. It's you making a stronger or sharper point for yourselfa stronger aim, a further reach. It's a fucking emotion. It's a lifting. This music, this extreme metal, is cool as fuck to listen to, and what is in there is hard to define. It's not really how good you are musically. It's not only about talent. It's more about how can you manifest this feeling, which is really strong in the spirit and the whole feeling behind the music (Mayhem - Attila Csihar - 2014 - Source: Noisey)
- To me metal/music is a form of art and I think that artistic freedom, all categories, whether you support them all or not, is very important. (Dark Funeral - Lord Ahriman - 2003 - Source: The Metal Crypt)
- Black metal is a war for those who hear the whisper. It appeals to individuals that are looking for something and that why it can be seen as a whisper, like talking to the children. They won't listen to you but if you whisper they will pay attention and that is what I want to do with black metal, to pay attention to the child, to the true spirit of the individual (Gorgoroth - Gaahl - 2004 - Source: Tartarean Desire)
- I feel Black Metal should have nothing to do with politics. It's not a political thing, it's something more spiritual. I realise that many people think that Fascism, Satanism and Black Metal are one and the same, probably because they are all extreme ideologies. (Emperor - Ihsahn - Unknown date - Source: Terrorizer)
- It should be something that you want to run from. It should be about a big fucking machinery that consumes all life and extinguishes this forever. One should feel fear when listening to/worshipping true Black Metal. It should be something ugly and "alive" that haunts you every free second of your life. (Isvind - Goblin - 2008 - Source: Frostkamp)
- Music in general, when it works on a deeper level it's always played that role of a bridge between the high and the low so to say, I mean, music is never really, or at least the way I see it, is never really meant to be all human; there has to be that other thing in there that kind of makes it come alive. You can call it anything you want, inspiration, a fire, but to me it's always been that spiritual aspect and we put a lot of emphasis on that in Watain, obviously, it's the foundation on which we built this band. (Watain - Erik Danielsson - 2014 - Source: Trash Hits)
- It's purely musical and purely, like, making a craft. We're making a totem or something like that, it's an old tradition, only it's a newer tradition that started in the '80s, for us, cos black metal started in the '80s and that's what I know, what I listen to, so… (Darkthrone - Fenriz 2003 - Source: Dorfdisco Berlin)
- Black metal is the essence of Satan forged into shining steel, a gruesome axe that shines its dismal, eerie gleam in the night when no other lights shine anymore. (Satanic Warmaster - Satanic Tyrant Werwolf - 2010 - Source: Examiner)
- Satanism has many facets, and I believe that black metal should have an anti-religious, or darker side to it. However, the idea that unless you mention Satan in every lyric, it's not black metal? That's a very childish way of looking at it. (1349 - Seidemann - 2014 - Source: Metal Blast)
- I think black metal is just a expression and (for fans) appreciation of the despair most men feel from living in a world that is not built for them. (Burzum - Varg Vikernes - 2013 - Source: Death Metal Underground)
- I don't think Black Metal is for the masses. (Khold - Sarke - 2002 - Source: Infernal Fields)
- I think black metal is exclusive, and what I mean by "exclusive" is that it excludes people. That's its twisted take on elitism. I think that there's a great amount of peace felt in what nature can bring. You can have a spiritual connection to it without it being loaded with religion. You can make your own attachments. (Botanist - Otrebor - 2011 - Source: NPR Music)
- The world around us has failed to sustain our humanity, our spirituality. The deep woe inside black metal is about fear that we can never return to the mythic, pastoral world that we crave on a deep subconscious level. […] We are weak and pitiful in our strength over the earth in conquering, we have destroyed ourselves. Black Metal expresses disgust with humanity and revels in the misery that one finds when the falseness of our lives is revealed. (Wolves in the Throne Room - 2006 - Source: Nocturnal Cult)
- Black Metal has always been an artistic mode that shuns the crowded cityscape, seeking refuge in the natural world, and we embrace this both lyrically and visually. Our impulse is to transport the listener back to a time when man relied on the land for all his needs, before that moral and spiritual connection was replaced by the hollow pursuit for materialism, before technology presented us with a means to make our lives comfortable at the expense of tearing up the earth for profit. (Wodensthrone - Rædwalh - 2010 - Teeth of the Divine)
- Black metal has often displayed a deep connection with the Earth. I think that such views are making resurgence now due to a global shift in people's thoughts. I would say that while people have not become alert to some of the serious issues we are facing as a civilisation, we are becoming more aware. Black metal is supposed to provoke terror and dread. To me there is nothing more frightening that the idea of losing our connection with an ancient earth, and creating a sterile land of concrete and smog. That is far more frightening that some sort of fantasy fire and brimstone nonsense. (Altar of Plagues - James Kelly - 2009 - Hammer Smashed Sound)
- If you see the lyrical concept of black metal, it was never about complete destruction, but rather with the growth and the potential of things. It's very rarely about the downfall of anything. It might be related to war against something, but there's always a rebuilding energy in it. (Gaahl - 2013 - Source: Metal Blast)
- If our music resonates with someone on a very personal level, then that is great, but if someone else reacts to it in a visceral way then that is ok also. As long as people feel something then I don't really mind what it is. (Altar of Plagues - James Kelly - 2013 - Source: Invisible Oranges)
- If you create something of value to yourself, you want a receiving part in order for it to be seen and understood physically or conceptually. You want it to connect to the world and to be meaningful not only to yourself, but to others as well. That could be the essence of art. (Galar - Marius Kristiansen - 2012 - Source: The Eye of Every Storm)
How I selected these quotes
There are plenty of interviews in which musicians say a lot of interesting things, but Black Metal artists are usually commenting on their releases or on their place in the metal scene, therefore there is almost no "famous quote" that everyone would know of.
The only one I may think of is Gaahl's "Satan" saying but my respect for him and especially for his work in the last years is too high for me to acknowledge it - and therefore I will not put that on any list I might build.
After a lot of reading and comparison, I decided to highlight the most interesting and inspiring sentences from some of the most famous black metal acts. I tried to focus on the parts where the bands were giving details about their motivation, about why they are composing songs in this genre, and about what it means for them.
Basically, as a musician myself, I wanted to share with you the quotes that would be the most interesting for you, in order to propose a way to decipher the ultimate goals of black metal - and why not make you want to spend more time studying it or composing music.
Is this quote list finished ?
Obviously such a list can evolve with time. There are new people making new statements, and I technically cannot be aware of all the sayings of all the bands about this marvelous music genre.
If you have any idea of quotes I could include or of musicians you think I should have featured in the list, just drop a comment below and I may very well consider doing an update in the future.
However, by collecting these little texts I have found out two things about black metal, which may seem obvious but are definitely worth highlighting.
First, even (in)famous artists do not agree on their definition of the genre. In particular, some consider that only satanic lyrics can be called black metal, whereas some others are more, in a way, open-minded. So I want it to be a very proof of the fact that this genre, just like most others, cannot be clustered in a simple five-words definition : it is evolving, and everyone's motivation is different.
However (and this is my second observation), the musicians seem to agree on the fact that black metal is a way to bring to the fore and condemn the materialistic evolution of our society, to the detriment of our secular lore and earth-based beliefs. Although one could say that this reaction is due to the rather blatant lack of spirituality in our modern world, I would think that black metal artists are also trying to stray away from conformism, thereby creating some kind of musical elitism.
So maybe, in a way, this quotes list is self-explanatory and self-sufficient.