If you’ve read my previous blog post (which you can find here), you’re well aware of the tainted history of the Norway-inspired birth of black metal. While the past may be ugly, it paved the way for an entire scene. I’d like to take this time to break some of the myths regarding black metal and introduce you to some of my favorite black metal bands.

First, metal and the devil do not go hand in hand. There is this crazy idea that all metal bands, regardless of genre, sing about death, Satan, and generally terrible things. Yes, those bands exist and as a result a stereotype has formed, but by no means is this a majority of metal bands. The media’s portrayal of metal is also to blame for the negative perception. During the Norwegian black metal movement, local news stations painted these bands as being satanists – which were just anti-christian bands. In reality there was no satanic movement in Norway at all.

I would have to guess that a majority of the bands that I listen to don’t sing about overly negative or hateful things. Just because the delivery of the lyrics sounds angry doesn’t mean the content is. You’re probably familiar with Outkast‘s “Hey Yeah” – well, did you know that Andre3000 is actually singing about being in a relationship with a woman he no longer loves? The delivery doesn’t always reflect the content. As a metalhead, that is one of the biggest misconceptions about metal that I experience.

Quick Tip: Black metal, in its simplest form, can be described as raw, fast-paced music with harsh vocals, blast beats and an emphasis on tremolo picking and unconventional song structures. Nowadays bands fuse so many styles of metal that it is impossible to properly label them.

My favorite black metal-inspired band is from Portland, Oregon and is called Agalloch – which sounds evil, but is really a soft, resinous wood with a highly aromatic smell that is used as incense and perfume. They employ an experimental style of metal that combines a lot of folk and black metal tendencies. Their lyrics typically deal with nature, life, winter and so forth. While it may seem odd at first, I actually listen to Agalloch when I want to relax. The slow pace of the songs is actually quite soothing. Below is a link to my favorite song, “In the Shadow Of Our Pale Companion”.

Borknagar is another black metal-inspired band that I quite enjoy. Hailing from Bergen, Norway, Borknagar, in a way, is a super-group made up of members from Norway’s best black metal bands. Similar to Agalloch, Borknagar focus on ‘the admiration and pondering about nature and mankind’s place therein‘.

While both these bands use harsh vocals, they do so sparingly, oftentimes allowing clean vocals to direct the song. If you listen you can really catch the similarities between Agalloch and Borknagar. I think these two bands are accessible enough to those not familiar with metal and do not perpetuate the stereotype of ‘evil’ metal bands.