"... black metal could be described as a negative form of environmental writing; the least Apollonian of genres, it is terrestrial – indeed subterranean and infernal – inhabiting a dead forest that is at once both mythic and real unfolding along an atheological horizon that marks the limit of absolute evil where there are no goods or resources to distribute and therefore no means of power and domination, a mastery of nothing."
- Niall Scott & Scott Wilson
I'm finally getting around to reading Hideous Gnosis which was originally a symposium organized by Nicola Masciandaro and sponsored by Glossator and Show No Mercy. Brandon Stosuy gives us - for those unfamiliar with the Black Metal movement - an informal history of the movement in the US in his article for The Believer magazine A Blaze in the North American Sky. He recounts the gruesome murder of Norwegian born Aarseth at the hands Vikernes (a.k.a. Count Grishnackh) which gained the movement its most notorious publicity.
Beyond this dance of death the original inspiration for Black Metal came from the group Venom and its Thrash Metal sounds in which "the main early defining differences between it and its father-genre being tremelo picking and 'blast-beats'; drum beats played about twice the speed as the traditional trash metal base beats (32nds as opposed to 16ths). Taking major influence from Bathory and Venom, the ganre became largely associated with Norway through the work of Mayhem, Burzum and Dark Throne, many of the later bands categorised into the black metal genre being influenced by these three bands, and many of these bands being from Norway themselves.
Characteristics of black metal include typically high-pitched screaming vocals, tremolo picked guitars lacking bass and emphasising treble, and blastbeats (quadruple time drum beats). Unlike its sibling, the more thrash-based death metal, black metal concentrates more on mood and melodies (primal as they may be) instead of riffs and heaviness.