29 November 2008

The Softer Side of Black Metal

Back in October, Hammer of Hate records released a split EP featuring two of Finland's finest--namely, Behexen and Satanic Warmaster. The album features two tracks by each of the bands, and all four are pretty solid offerings. The track that I find most intriguing, however, is Satanic Warmaster's second track, an acoustic version of his song "The Burning Eyes of the Werewolf" (which originally appeared on his debut album, 2001's Strength and Honour). As a pseudo-scholar of the Black Metal genre, I have to say that even though I haven't heard the original version (which is in all likelihood horribly under-produced), I greatly appreciate this acoustic rendition; I feel as though it supports my long-standing logic for liking Black Metal.

Even though I am as strong an advocate of the genre as you are likely to meet, I will readily admit that the Black Metal milieu---if we may call it such--is not without its fair share of foibles (and perhaps even more than that). Among these may be counted the oft-cited poor production values of the majority of Black Metal albums, the abrasive nature of the distorted guitars and the rapid-fire, merciless drumming, the often-times abhorrent ideologies espoused by many figures within the genre (which can range from petulant satanism to militant racism) and the sometimes laughable get-ups which those same figures flaunt.

Yet in spite of all this, I have long maintained that if one is willing to put aside all the peripheral baggage that comes along with the Black Metal label and is willing to simply listen to the notes that are being paid, one will find out that Black Metal is more than just sound and fury. At its most basic level, a Black Metal composition is made or broken by its melody and the ability of that melody to communicate the desired mood (which, contrary to popular belief, is not always raw, unfocused anger).

Although the title of the song might suggest a B-grade Italian horror flick from the 1960s, the acoustic rendition of "Burning Eyes of the Werewolf" nevertheless allows the uninitiated listener to get a feel for the subtleties of Black Metal songwriting. The melody--the most crucial aspect of the song as a whole--suggests several different moods. The melancholy and despair in the intro is apparent, but as the song picks up those give way to something more akin to solemn pride. Is it a masterpiece of songwriting? Hardly. But Satanic Warmaster's brief sojourn into acoustic territory nonetheless merits some interest by virtue of the fact that it allows us a glimpse of the softer side of Black Metal (or, at least, what we may understand to be the closest possible approximation to such a thing).


  1. Great post.The way you have described is too good.I like it.Thanks!

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