Album: Graveforests and their Shadows (2007)
Genre: Black Metal
Our first SFTN and we’re starting off with a black metal song, of course. SMH.
Here’s the thing: I’m not a metalhead. I don’t fit any of the stereotypes surrounding metalheads, although I did practice my corpsepaint when I was a wee middle-schooler. Spotify, bless its heart, recommends me a nice blend of folk, indie, and soundtrack music every week. That being said, there are some types of metal that I listen to casually. Black metal is one of them.
According to our friend Wikipedia:
Black metal is an extreme subgenre and subculture of heavy metal music. Common traits include fast tempos, shrieking (sometimes growling or both) vocal style, heavily distorted guitars played with tremolo picking, raw (lo-fi) recording, unconventional song structures and an emphasis on atmosphere.
In other words, it’s not an easily accessible subgenre.
The first wave of black metal occurred in the early to mid-1980’s. An example of a first-wave black metal band is Candlemass (please look at that video if you have time, it’s gloriously cheesy in the most epic possible way.) Second-wave black metal grew out of the Norwegian BM scene in the early ’90’s. In my opinion it was then that black metal musicians and fans began to develop their distinctive aesthetic (corpsepaint, animal blood, Satanic emblems, etc.) Although certain musicians have since caused the genre to become associated with Satanism and white supremacism/neo-Nazi ideology, there are certainly many black metal bands that fall under neither category.
One of the reasons I was drawn to black metal was because of its powerful emotion. I’ve always focused more on the music than the lyrics. Black metal can definitely have ugly lyrics (although in my opinion not as ugly as death metal – but we can talk about that another time), but its music can get so heavy and so ugly that it just makes a complete 180 into something beautiful. Is it the downtuning? Who knows. I don’t even know what downtuning is.
Walknut (val-knut, not wal-nut) is an atmospheric black metal band from Russia. They’ve only released one album, and the song I posted above, Skinfaxi, is the last song on that album. It’s also instrumental. I think easing yourself into the lyrics and vocal style of black metal is a completely different process than becoming accustomed to the musical style, so I chose a song with no vocals so you can focus on the music alone.
The quality of the recording is somewhat low, befitting a more traditional black metal aesthetic. I learned that they are using a drum machine, which makes me a little sad because I would love another drummer to worship, but the overall effect is fitting. Drum machines always unsettle me as they’re a little too perfect.
The chord progression is simple to follow. My favorite part of the song starts around 1:56 and ends at 2:30. I can finally distinguish a bit more of the tremolo picking at the fade-out. Atmospheric black metal, as its name suggests, focuses on creating a heavy, almost palpable atmosphere, evoking different images in each listener.
And now, in case you needed any more proof that I’m not kvlt, I’m off to clear my head with some Passion Pit. Sorry, friends 😀