Black metal is perhaps the most bizarre, esoteric movement in modern music. The subgenre, a predominantly Scandinavian phenomenon, skyrocketed from the dingy basements of Norwegian black metal bands to worldwide notoriety on the back of a series of disturbing offenses in the early '90s. The music itself is abrasive and relentless with its iconography, lyrics, and harsh instrumentals.
Surely some of this must be hyperbole? In some cases, yes. But in fact, the annals of black metal are filled with creepy occurrences and bizarre behavior, such as musicians provoking distress with flying animal heads. It's a rare instance of reality aligning with the imagery and culture projected by an art form, which has perhaps helped black metal experience something of a resurgence in the 2010s. With bands like Deafheaven gaining accolades from hipster tastemakers like Pitchfork and a 2019 feature film based on the book Lords of Chaos starring Sky Ferreira and Rory Culkin (described as Trainspotting for millennials), the subgenre is having a moment.
Parents are understandably concerned about the social implications of the genre's hype. Scientists with Macquarie University's music lab set out to discover if such apprehensions were warranted by conducting an experiment to test whether black metal desensitizes listeners to violence. Their theory essentially states, "Death metal fans are nice people." By contrasting Pharrell Williams's "Happy" with Bloodbath's "Eaten," researchers found that "the dominant emotional response to [black metal] is joy and empowerment" and fans are not, in fact, desensitized to disaster. Bloodbath's frontman, Nick Holmes, described his band as the music equivalent of an '80s horror film. There are, however, exceptions to this rule.
Read on to learn about some of the most violent, infamous, and notorious crimes and figures in the history of black metal, and determine for yourself how deeply you want to delve into the dark forests of Northern Europe.