Black metal and the blues; the parallel is not just colour-based whimsy; the blues started out as basic, primal, heartfelt music. Then it developed; went jazzy, electric, progressive, even psychedelic; but at heart there was still – ideally anyway - that unchanging core of feeling. With black metal, this near-century-long stylistic expansion and mutation has been telescoped to within just a couple of decades, and as with the blues, whatever the prefix, there remains an indefinable core of feeling. To buy into the cheesy platitudes of the genre, if the feeling isn’t there, it isn’t the blues (or BM)
early blues as both a lonely solo occupation and a joyous group activity (left:Charlie Patton, right: Mamie Smith & her Jazz Hounds)
Black metal in its angry, solemn and solitary forms (Gorgoroth, Ulver, Striborg)
Genre clichés a-go-go. No criticism intended, I love these clichés.
Which is not to say there is only one ‘authentic’ style: in the 20s alone, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Charlie Patton worked alone, while artists like Mamie Smith, Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith sang with pianists, jazz bands and orchestras, later artists like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf spanned many styles over the course of their long careers, while Albert Collins, Johnny Winter and BB King could barely be more different from each other, but all are true blues legends. Similarly, Venom and Bathory were as different as they were similar; Mayhem, Darkthrone and Emperor have only the most superficial similarities while being key bands in the genre, solo acts like Xasthur and Striborg have carved their own niches, while bands as diverse as Immortal, Gorgoroth and even the sometimes-maligned Dimmu Borgir all have the feel of true black metal running through the grooves of (most of) their very different records.
And Carpathian Forest are the fundamental, elemental, eternally valid John Lee Hooker of black metal.