I was not expecting this! I had been anticipating this book for some time but when it arrived I was very pleasantly surprised. I had heard through the usual channels that an academic book of essays about Black Metal was being published. I assumed it would be like the recently published collection of essays HIDEOUS GNOSIS, which I reviewed here last month (June 2012). What arrived was a large, glossy coffee table book that is visually gorgeous. I was thinking it might be standard paperback on regular paper, no pictures (or very few) and a standard collection of essays. How wrong I was! This book will stand proudly next to Beste’s TRUE NORWEIGAN BLACK METAL and Kristiansen’s METALION: THE SLAYER DIARIES as a gorgeous, unholy trinity of coffee-table books about Black Metal.
BLACK METAL: BEYOND THE DARKNESS has a striking cover, elegant in it’s simple design and execution, and a clever nod to the archetypes of Black Metal. Turn the cross upside down indeed! Printed on a sturdier paper-stock the book runs 190 pages and is much more than just a collection of essays. The sparse black and white, squared, layout and design make it very appealing to simply just look at. There are dozens and dozens of photos most in black and white but a few colour shots are scattered around as well. Congratulations are in order to Alex Wright and the design team at Black Dog Publishing.
As for the content of the book, it is equally admirable. There are 16 contributors from acts such as Ulver, Skyforger and Neill Jameson of Krieg and Judas Iscariot, to noted writers in the fledgling academic Black Metal ‘scene’, such as Birk, Stosuy and Masciandaro. Brandon Stosuy contributes his piece called ‘A Blaze Across The North American Sky’ which is another chunk of his epic work-in-progress, an oral history of Black Metal. It is interesting to read the thoughts from the creators of the music. Nathan T. Birk does an fascinating an insightful piece on the early Black Metal scenes in Greece, France, Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia until 1993) He concludes that these regional scenes were as strong and innovative as the Scandinavian scene and I would suggest those other European scenes had less notoriety due to the criminal (read: media-friendly) activities of a few in the Norwegian scene. ‘If it bleeds, it leads’ is a popular phrase in the media, or in this case ‘If it burns…
One of the more interesting sections of a less academic nature were a sextet of contributions about the business, image and presentation of Black Metal. In an interview piece called ‘Aesthetic Transcendence’ Kim and Trine from their design studio in Norway talk about the design and layout of Black Metal product. In the same vein there is a brief interview with Justin Stubbs talking again about layout for Black Metal product. In a very visually interesting work, Christophe Szpajdel, a Belgian designer, talks about his professional career which involves making Black Metal logos. About 20 larger scale reproductions of his bands logos are reproduced, bands such as Moonspell, Emperor and Enthroned and many more, lesser-known bands. Louis Pattison wrote a piece about the selling of Black Metal called ‘Nocturnal Transmissions: The Selling And Distribution Of Black Metal’. He interviews a number of people who run stores that sell Black Metal and/or run Black Metal specialty labels for example Andee Connors of Aquarius Music in San Francisco and various stores in England, America and Finland including the big chain HMV! There are additional interviews with creators of ‘zines and journals with many fine examples of art to accompany the script.
BLACK METAL is a very interesting and encompassing look at the many aspects and facets of the musical genre. A layperson (a non-fan) could conceivably purchase this book and have an appreciation for the broad spectrum of the non-musical components that comprise Black Metal; history, layout, design, sales, distribution, philosophy, image, art and more. This is the most comprehensive overview of the second wave of Black Metal that has ever been attempted and the most visually appealing as well. Essential for all fans of Black Metal.
Black Dog Publishing is giving all Metal-Rules.com readers a 40% Discount! If you would like your own copy just email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name & delivery address, quoting ‘Metal-Rules.com Offer’ - as the subject heading & you will receive your discount.