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What is Pitch Black Brigade?


Wolves in the Throne Room - "Black Cascade"

It all began innocently enough.  I read a blurb about the band, Wolves in the Throne Room (or as my wife calls them, “Wolves in the Bathroom”) on the web.  The piece described Wolves as an “ambient black metal” band.  I had no idea what that meant.  I knew what black metal was from the days of my youth – poorly recorded heavy metal churned out by bands like Venom who sang silly songs about Satan.  And I also was familiar with Brian Eno‘s ambient music from albums like “Music for Airports,” “Another Green World” and “Apollo.”  I can see Eno collaborating with David Byrne and Jah Wobble, but Eno crossed with Venom?  It just didn’t compute.

I was already intrigued, but then I found a review of a recent album that described black metal this way: “Despite its modest early-’80s inception at the hands of England’s blissfully clueless, crude, and cartoonish (errr, also brilliant, of course) Venom, black metal has emerged as one of the heavy metal movement’s most diverse and astonishingly experimental subgenres, thanks to endless shape-shifting through the years as it quickly suffused the planet with its controversially anti-everything musical and lyrical philosophies.  Now, as the ’00s draw to a close, the style’s leading creative edge appears to reside with bands focused on extended meditations steeped in folk and psychedelic music, atmospheric textures, and mystical pagan themes, e.g. Enslaved, Nachtmystium and Wolves in the Throne Room.”* Black metal diverse, experimental and creative?  That’s not what I remember, but I was hooked – color me fascinated.

So I started to look around and what I found was astonishing; it sounded like a joke, a “mockumentary” like This Is Spinal Tap meets A Mighty Wind at a Viking reenactor convocation. Are you ready for this list?  Here goes:

Eco-friendly “green” black metal? Check.

French shoegaze black metal? Check.

Finnish “trollish hoedown metal?” Check.

Ukrainian autumn-loving drone black metal? Check.

Scandinavian pagan folk metal groups that use both regional folk instruments and regional dialects? Check.

Viking metal bands crooning paeans to Odin, Thor and Asgaard?  Check.

Join me here at Pitch Black Brigade as I discover the good, the bad and the ugly of contemporary black metal.

Wolves in the Throne Room – “The Cleansing” from the album, “Two Hunters”:

*Eduardo Rivadavia, Review of Forest of Stars, “The Corpse of Rebirth,” iTunes, accessed 10.17.10 at 12:45 p.m.

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  1. Edgar
    November 14, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Oh, and one other element: The songs tend to be really long compared to the norm for many genres of music. However, it has some similarities to what you find in the electronic “noise” sorts of things and psytrance. For example:

    Iszoloscope: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9RFy6pLFGM

    1200 Micrograms: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lILlZJPnbsE

    Odd that I’d not noticed some of these commonalities before.

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