Home > Black Metal > Hey, Yngwie J. Malmsteen, How Do You Know if You Are Listening to Black Metal?

Hey, Yngwie J. Malmsteen, How Do You Know if You Are Listening to Black Metal?


Walknut - "Graveforests and Their Shadows"

What defines black metal as a musical style?

Black metal, as a specific genre of heavy metal, emerged in Norway during the early 1990s when bands like Burzum, Darkthrone, Emperor, Immortal and Mayhem stole bits and pieces from earlier groups like Venom, Bathory and Celtic Frost and melded them into a new genre.  So how do you know if you are listening to black metal?  Good question, Yngwie.

Black metal is marked by a set of distinctive musical conventions (the characteristics of the lyrics will require another entry).  Whether you are listening to green black metal, French shoegazer black metal, Ukrainian black metal or Finnish regional folk metal, you (or Yngwie) will usually notice the following:

Guitars: The sound of blackened guitars is treble, treble, treble served with side of a treble.  Detuned guitars, which are so prevalent in other forms of metal, surprisingly, do not appear in black metal.  In addition, these trebly guitars are distorted – so distorted, in fact, that on some recordings (like the truly evil Burzum) the guitar sounds more like bacon frying in a cast iron skillet than a musical instrument.  The trebly distorted guitars are used for a lot of rapid tremolo picking (single string picking) high up on the neck of the axe.

Drumming: Black metal features what they call “blast beat drumming.”  It sounds just like good old fashion hardcore thrash drumming to me.  However, one thing that does separate it from thrash is the prevalence of the battery of 1/16th notes on the kick drum.

Vox: The vocals are high-pitched and effects-laden – and generally annoying.  I guess they are supposed to sound “wraith-like” or spectral.  They are annoying in different way than the annoying low, guttural “dog barking” (or dog vomiting) style of vocals found in death metal and thrash metal.

What do you get when you put it all together? Here is the Walknut song “Motherland Ostenvegr” – 10 minutes of the bacon frying guitar, constipated “spectral” vocals, and at about 1:50 in you the get 1/16th note kick drum action.  Let me know if you actually make it through all 10:31 of it.

Walknut – “Motherland Ostenvegr”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oK4br4nFx4I

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  1. TheWife
    October 18, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Made it to 2:06. 🙂

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