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Some Thoughts on Depressive Black Metal

Posted in black metal, DSBM, musings with tags , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2012 by blackmetallurgy

Lately I’ve found myself listening to a lot of DSBM (depressive/suicidal black metal, for those of you who typoed and ended up here on accident), because, well, it’s perfect weather for it, yeah? It’s finals week, and my ennui over the past semester has peaked (and it’s been a rough one, moving to a new place, meeting new people, trying to adjust to the financial difficulties that entails). The Twin Cities are covered in snow (and about to get more). The holidays are up and coming, and they are fun, but they are also stressful. Everything at this time of year is full of contradictions, kind of like DSBM. Lovely and tormented.

[Surprise screams]

I’ve always liked DSBM because most of it is actually quite pretty. At times it’s incredibly heavy, and the bands that do it well create some of the most emotionally riveting music I’ve heard. I love the blend of beautiful and horrible at the same time- take Hypothermia for instance. Gorgeous melodies, with Kim Carlsson screaming in agony over the top of it. It also seems like a very healthy genre to me, honestly. The way I see it, it’s almost like pushing through depression and out the other side. There’s hope mingled in there, somewhere. Unfortunately the genre gets a bad rap sometimes, though, and I largely don’t think that it deserves one.

[We also do this pretty well in the U.S. This one is on it’s way to me, currently]

First of all, in the past several years “depressive” has come to be linked with “emo,” which is really quite ridiculous. This is silly; dark emotions are not regulated to some fad. And not only that, but this perspective has made it so that in past several years music culture has managed to trivialize depression and to stigmatize those who suffer from it. None of these guys, I think, are doing this to be cute. To dismiss this music because you’ve somehow gotten confused and conflated mental anguish with fashion is silly. DSBM is not emo. Scene haircuts are emo.


Also, I think that some of the more… infamous, we’ll say, vocalists have caused people to steer away from the genre. I know I avoided Shining like the plague for a long time because Niklas Kvarforth put me off with his faked suicide. And a lot of them do tend to bleed all over the stage, pass out razorblades to the audience, etc. etc. These stunts can be a little much. However, you don’t have to watch that if you don’t want. The music in and of itself is often really, really good. (And besides, if you’re like me and you don’t live in Europe, good luck seeing most of these bands anyway).

[Plus, if you don’t like this, there’s not a whole lot I can do for you]

Another reason why I think that DSBM is often harshly criticized or dismissed by metal people is because its musical style is, often, not actually based in metal. A large percentage of DSBM is more grounded musically in post-rock, which lacks some of the signature moves of black metal: the tri-tone and the tremolo picking, to name a couple. A lot of it seems inspired by Burzum-esque, repetitive ambient music, but the darker aspects of the music aren’t clear on the surface in many cases. Lyrically and thematically, it’s very much black metal (lots of gazing into the Void, and this brand of depression has nothing to do with teen angst), but as most metal people are probably looking for, well, metal, a lot of DSBM may not be appealing to them.

[Musically this has very little to do with black metal]

I have, however, rather fallen in love with it as of lately. Particularly Lifelover, who I didn’t like at first (this has happened to me a lot. I also did not like Watain at first). I think I was wary because I assumed they were a lot like Shining because they were from the same place and were classified the same (silly me), and also because I didn’t really like the first song I heard by them. But now, NOW, I’m really starting to appreciate them. What a weird, wonderful little band.

[Right now, if I knew I was about to die and could only listen to one last song before I kicked the bucket, this’d be it]

Anyway, there you have some musings. Go listen to Skogens Hjärta. It’s perfect for the wintertime.

[The more I listen to this stuff the more I find that if you like this sort of thing, Kim Carlsson is your man. Anything he touches is good]