Imp Kerr, Trash Past Death, 2009
By ADRIAN VAN YOUNG
In their propensity for corpse paint and murder, bands like Bathory and Gorgoroth are the unlikely fulfillment of Romantic ideals: absolute inwardness turned outward
In a now infamous interview at 2010’s Scion Rock Fest, Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, the singer and guitarist of the Brooklyn-based Black Metal band Liturgy, explained why his band doesn’t “play grim music” or “wear corpse paint.” He said he was “sickened by reveling in negativity”: “There is a fundamental substratum of chaos that is very destructive [but] also a creative force … and I think the only way to deal with the void and the flux of chaos is to affirm it.” That is why Liturgy plays what he calls “transcendental black metal,” a posi-core anomaly in the otherwise wrathful subgenre of greater Black Metal.
“True” or traditional Black Metal—not what Hunt-Hendrix plays—is an operatically dissonant blend of screeching vocals, tremolo picking, and blast beats, played by musicians in spiked jewelry and the corpse paint Hunt-Hendrix disdains, with Hammer Horror-sounding stage-names along the lines of Count Grishnackh, Faust, and Nocturno Culto, typically espousing an antiphilosophy of misanthropic individualism. In the genre’s native Norway in the early-to-mid 1990s, Black Metal spawned a culture of criminal one-upmanship that left in its wake least three documented murders, several suicides, and a swathe of burned churches and grave desecrations.
But “beneath all the grim vibes of Black Metal,” Hunt-Hendrix insists, “there’s this kind of spiritual ecstasy.” The tremolo picking creates the effect of “a string orchestra.” The great “unacknowledged influence” of the genre? Nineteenth century Romanticism.