Stygian Imagery: Black Metal by Rick Spears and Chuck BB

Art by Chuck BB from

Black metal isn’t exactly linked to humor in most people’s imaginations. While much of what’s been dubbed “black metal” since the term was coined is certainly over-the-top, tongues are firmly directed away from cheeks. Whether it’s the monstrous black masses of Gorgoroth, the frightening majesty of Ash Borer’s soundscapes, or the philosophical Satanism of Deathspell Omega, there’s a prevailing seriousness that underpins this diverse genre. This is particularly fascinating in light of the fact that King Diamond and Venom, certainly no strangers to camp, are cited as key influences on the genre-defining second wave of black metal. What strange alchemy transformed the title of Venom’s 1982 record — which includes “Teacher’s Pet,” a song with Miltonian poesy like “Pulled me down towards her mound / teacher tasted sweet / sixty-nine – I don’t mean lines / this was teachers treat” — into one of the most notorious musical movements of the late 20th Century? How did a song with the lyrics “freaking so wild, nobody’s mild” inspire the real-life death dance of Mayhem and the church-burning, criminal excess of Varg Vikernes? Thousands upon thousands of words have been spent tracing this evolution,* but for the purposes of our current discussion, readers will have to be satisfied with a bit of hand waving and assurances that “it’s complicated.” Continue reading