AUTHOR INTERVIEW: “BLACK METAL: EVOLUTION OF THE CULT” (NEW BOOK)
The birth and evolving life of black metal: Even the “trvest” of “kvlt” fans don’t know everything there is to know about it. The majority of black metal’s story remains untouched, only the most famous events of its history revealed. One UK author made it his mission to highlight those stories untold.
In the beginning “…even metal fans were generally unaware of its presence. No Spotify, no YouTube, no Immortal memes,” said Dayal Patterson, author of “Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult.” “The heaviness was nothing new – I was already listening to Bolt Thrower, Carcass and so on – but the spiritual overtones and emotional depth were completely new.”
The book, which is to be released November 12, 2013 via Feral House Publishers, is a 600-page progression of black metal’s birth in the early eighties; it’s resurgence in the nineties, and finally a modern day account of the fascinating, albeit controversial scene.
Unlike other books and documentaries on the subject, Patterson approaches the genre from an insider’s perspective, providing an exciting account of nearly 30 years’ worth of black metal history, two decades of which he found himself firmly rooted; a purposeful tome meant to enrich, enlighten and “examine the artistic, musical, and spiritual development of the genre and the creative work, ideologies and often colourful lives of some of its most significant bands.”
That includes 80 musicians, producers and BM figureheads, to be exact.
(Scroll to the bottom of this page for a complete interview roster)
ZT kicked it off with the black metal author and found out why any serious BM fan should read this book—what really, really sets it apart from other books and films of similar substance.
ZT: What kind of academic background do you come from? In a sense, what kind of authority do you have when it comes to discussing metal and writing about it?
Patterson: My degree is in photography actually – I didn’t study journalism or anything, though I did study English at college (because I wanted to write and illustrate comics at one point). So I don’t have a particularly academic background at all. But this isn’t intended to be an academic book, rather it’s a truly revealing book on music history brought alive by the memories and opinions of the people involved with it. It is intellectual rather than academic, I would hope.
What’s my authority? Well over two decades of listening to metal and just under that following black metal and being involved within the scene in one way or another. Years of writing about music. But while of course the book features my analysis, my role was as much about communicating the memories and opinions of key figures within the scene. I might perhaps have a healthy ego in some regards, but I keep it out of my writing to a good extent I would say. Ultimately the book is about black metal, not about me haha.
ZT: How did you discover black metal?
Patterson: I had stopped going to school regularly and because my movements were a bit freer I was able to get to know some metal guys who were at college in the area and who were often in record stores during the day time. I was already listening to thrash and death metal but it was these new friends who really introduced me to the genre by copying albums onto cassettes and lending me CDs. It opened up a completely new world to me; I have to emphasise here that this was the mid-nineties and black metal was basically only known to those who actively followed it – even metal fans were generally unaware of its presence. No Spotify, no YouTube, no Immortal memes, – even Cradle of Filth were a fairly unknown act.
ZT: What really intrigued you the most about it?
Patterson: Pinning down what attracted me to it all is harder to say. Most of all it was the feeling and quality of the music, the atmospherics and transcendent thrill of it was completely overwhelming. The heaviness was nothing new – I was already listening to Bolt Thrower, Carcass and so on – but the spiritual overtones and emotional depth were completely new. It felt like extreme metal was entering the arena of high art somehow while also being infinitely darker and, dare I say, more authentic or dangerous than anything I’d encountered before. There was also the otherworldly, cultish and somewhat transgressive aura that surrounded the black metal scene before it blew up, that made things very exciting too.
ZT: Do you remember the first black metal band you ever listened to? What was your reaction?
Patterson: The first few bands I got into – the ones that were leant to me by friends already in the scene – were fairly reflective of the period; Emperor, Gorgoroth, Cradle of Filth, Hecate Enthroned, Gehenna, then soon after Darkthrone, Impaled Nazarene, Mayhem, Marduk… As mentioned, I was blown away not by the heaviness of the music, but the rich atmosphere and emotional dynamics. That’s what black metal is ultimately about of course; as thrash and death metal have become increasingly about technique, black metal remains resolutely concerned with feeling and essence.
ZT: Who are some of your favorite bands and how have they influenced you?
Patterson: Within black metal: Mysticum, Darkthrone, Arkona (Pol), Burzum, Mayhem, Total Negation, Forgotten Tomb, Mercyful Fate, Venom, Grifteskymfning, Blacklodge, Manes, Behexen, Thorns, Gorgoroth… I guess I could go on all day but that gives you some idea.
Outside of writing music and writing about music, it’s hard to say how black metal has influenced me because I was getting into it around my early/mid-teens and that’s a very formative time anyway. I’m guess indirectly, bands have led me to research a lot of interesting and esoteric subjects and I suppose my interest in black metal also directly led to me becoming a writer, so in that sense it’s had a huge role in my life.
ZT: How difficult was it to wrap 30 years of BM history into one book? How many hours pinpointing details?
Patterson: It was a huge endeavour to be honest, probably even bigger than I had envisioned, and structuring the book was one of the things that took many hours. Another huge time-eater was tracking down the various artists involved; black metal musicians are not generally the most organised of people and some are not at all easy to get hold of. Case in point was Mysticum whose members took so long to organise themselves – two years in fact – that they actually went from being seemingly done with black metal, to reforming the band (thank the gods)! VON and Blasphemy took some patience as well, though it was worth it. Actually I have to say that more ‘obvious’ artists such as Mayhem. Darkthrone, Venom, Mercyful Fate, Gorgoroth etc were pretty much wrapped up in the first few months.
The whole book took four years which means even if I spent only one hour a day on average (and I’m sure it was more than that) I spent over 1400 hours on it. Which is a bit scary. But I’m not complaining, the vast majority of it was hugely rewarding and made the stressful periods worthwhile. In terms of interviews, there were about eighty people involved, though some of these were interviewed more than once. Then I included my own archive interviews and archive interviews from before my time (early nineties fanzines and so on). So lots of work basically!
ZT: “Lords of Chaos” was published in October 1994, what has happened since then?
Patterson: Where to start? That’s almost twenty years of releases, bands, and musical and cultural shifts. Also, while Lords of Chaos is an interesting read, it mainly focusses on the links between extreme metal (not necessarily black) and crime, Satanism and extreme politics rather than examining the music itself. Evolution Of The Cult attempts a far broader picture and was a somewhat more collaborative work with regards to the people involved.
Even in terms of the past, I think I have the benefit of those two decades of hindsight (both on my part and that of the interviewees). So I think there is a much more balanced account of the pivotal events in Norway (thanks to heavy contributions from the likes of Necrobutcher, Metalion, Manheim, Maniac, Snorre Ruch, Fenriz, Infernus, Apollyon, and members of Emperor, Hades, Enslaved and so on) and the rise of politics in black metal (thanks to Rob of Graveland, Nergal of Behemoth etc).Then post 1993 you have the rise of Industrial black metal (Mysticum, Blacklodge) progressive black metal (Negura Bunget, Fleurety), folk black metal (Ulver, Windir, Primordial), post black metal (Fen, Lifelover), the rise of bands and characters such as Watain, Gaahl, Niklas Kvarforth and so on. The book is huge (about 210,000 words) so it covers a lot of ground.
ZT: You mentioned that you wanted this book to be a complete historical overview, what do you feel has been left out of the other books and documentaries on the topic?
Patterson: I think most of the history of black metal has been left pretty much untouched actually, because writers and film makers are approaching the genre as outsiders. Because of that they tend to gravitate towards the most famous events in its history (ie. Norway 1991-1993) and the most obvious musicians and bands (Varg, Fenriz, Mayhem, Emperor). That’s fine, except that it totally distorts what is a much bigger picture and the black metal story of the eighties (usually rushed in an effort to provide background before getting to the juicy murders and church burnings) is forgotten, as is the twenty years of events post 1993.
So this book is an effort to cover in detail the most historical events and music. To that end I look and speak to the pioneers (Venom, Bathory, Hellhammer/Celtic Frost), the late eighties acts who kept the flame alive (Rotting Christ, Blasphemy, Samael, Master’s Hammer and more), before tackling the bands who created ‘second wave’ black metal (Mayhem, Thorns, Darkthrone etc). And from there the many branches that grew over the years.
ZT: What impacted you the most while writing and interviewing for this book?
That’s a good question. I don’t want to ruin the book for those who are going to read it, so I would just say that some of the stories and opinions of people interviewed proved quite extreme even within the context of black metal. I think more generally speaking, writing this book made me more aware of the pivotal role that the black metal bands of the eighties played.
Often when relating the history of the genre, the eighties are presented merely as some sort of burlesque rehearsal for the ‘real’ black metal that was born (or rather ‘reborn’) in the early nineties in Norway. Actually while Venom are obviously quite a long way stylistically from most of today’s black metal bands, the sounds of Rotting Christ, Samael, VON, Master’s Hammer, Tormentor, and so on played a vital role in bridging the so-called first and second waves, which are two often presented as being separate entities. It should be obvious that Bathory, Hellhammer and such have more in common with classic black metal than some of the bands popping up now, and I am very happy that I was able to talk to the key protagonists from these bands and to members of bands such as Mayhem, Darkthrone, Gorgoroth, Marduk, Sigh, etc etc who spoke about how they continued these band’s legacy.
Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult includes extensive and exclusive interviews with:
Adam ‘Nergal’ Darski (Behemoth)
Alan ‘AA Nemtheanga’ Averill (Primordial)
Attila Csihar (Mayhem / Tormentor)
Benny ‘Cerastes’ (Mysticum)
Christophe Szpajdel (Designer for Emperor, Graveland etc)
Conrad ‘Cronos’ Lant (Venom)
Dani Filth (Cradle Of Filth)
Edmond ‘Hupogrammos’ Karban (Negura Bunget)
Eirik ‘Pytten’ Hundvin (Producer for Emperor, Gorgoroth, Mayhem)
Fabban ‘Malfeitor’ (Aborym)
Frank ‘The Watcher’ Allain (Fen)
František Štorm (Master’s Hammer)
George ‘Magus Daoloth’ Zacharopoulos (Rotting Christ / Necromantia)
Gerald ‘Black Winds’ (Blasphemy)
Greg ‘Damien’ Moffit (Cradle Of Filth)
Gylve ‘Fenriz’ Nagell (Darkthrone / Dødheimsgard / Isengard / Storm)
Hans ‘Mortuus’ Rostén (Marduk / Funeral Mist)
Håvard ‘Mortiis’ Ellefsen(Emperor)
Ian ‘Tjodalv’ Åkesson (Dimmu Borgir)
Ivar Bjørnson (Enslaved)
Jarle ‘Hvall’ Kvåle (Windir / Vreid)
Jason ‘Venien’ Ventura (VON)
Jon ‘Metallion’ Kristiansen (Slayer Mag / Head Not Found Records)
Jonas ‘B’ Bergqvist (Lifelover)
Jonas Åkerlund (Bathory)
Jørn ‘Necrobutcher’ Stubberud (Mayhem / Kvikksølvguttene)
Jorn Tunsberg (Old Funeral / Immortal / Hades)
Kai ‘Trym’ Mosaker (Emperor / Enslaved)
Kim ‘( )’ Carlsson(Lifelover)
Kim ‘King Diamond’ Petersen (Mercyful Fate)
Kjetil ‘Manheim’ (Mayhem)
Kjetil Grutle (Enslaved)
Kristian ‘Gaahl’ Espedal (Trelldom / Gorgoroth / Gaahlskag)
Kristoffer ‘Garm’ Rygg (Arcturus / Ulver)
Lee Barrett (Candlelight Records)
Marko ‘Holocausto’ Laiho (Beherit)
Michael ‘Vorph’ Locher (Samael)
Mikko Aspa (Clandestine Blaze)
Mirai Kawashima (Sigh)
Morgan ‘Evil’ Hakkansson (Marduk / Abruptum)
Niklas Kvarforth (Shining)
Ole ‘Apollyon’ Moe (Aura Noir / Dødheimsgard / Immortal)
Paul Ryan (Cradle Of Filth)
Peter Tagtgren (Producer for Dimmu Borgir, Marduk)
Preben ‘Prime Evil’ (Mysticum, Aborym)
Rob ‘Darken’ Fudali (Graveland / Infernum)
Robin ‘Graves’ Eaglestone (Cradle Of Filth)
Robin ‘Mean’ Malmberg (Mysticum)
Roger ‘Infernus’ Tiegs (Gorgoroth / Borknagar)
Rune ‘Blasphemer’ Eriksen (Mayhem / Aura Noir)
Saint Vincent (Blacklodge)
Sakis Tolis (Rotting Christ)
Shawn ‘Goat’ Calizo (VON)
Simen ‘ICS Vortex’ Hestnæs (Arcturus / Dimmu Borgir)
Snorre Ruch (Stigma Diabolicum / Thorns / Mayhem)
Steffen ‘Dolgar’ Simestad (Gehenna)
Svein Egil Hatlevik (Fleurety / Dødheimsgard)
Sven ‘Silenoz’ Kopperud (Dimmu Borgir)
Sven-Erik ‘Maniac’ Kristiansen (Mayhem)
Terje ‘Tchort’ Vik Schei (Emperor / Carpathian Forest)
Thomas ‘Pest’ Kronenes (Gorgoroth)
Tom ‘King’ Visnes (Gorgoroth / Ov Hell)
Tom ‘Warrior’ Fischer (Hellhammer / Celtic Frost)
Tomas ‘Samoth’ Haugen (Thou Shalt Suffer / Emperor)
Tor-Helge ‘Cernunnus’ Skei (Manes)
Vegard ‘Ihsahn’ Tveiten (Emperor / Thou Shalt Suffer)
Ville ‘Shatraug’ Pystynen (Horna / Behexen)
Willy ‘Meyhna’ch’ Rousell (Mutiilation)
Yusaf ‘Vicotnik’ Parvez (Dødheimsgard)
Zhema Rodero (Vulcano)
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