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A Brief Oral History of U.S. Black Metal

A Brief Oral History of U.S. Black Metal

Various
19 Snaps

DAGON, INQUISITION

The lineage of black metal does not begin in one country and with one band only. There is this romance with the thought that one band—one man—one nation started it all. Wrong. It was a collective campaign during the late ’70s/early ’80s, throughout Europe and the United States, which “morphed” into what later became the Norwegian scene and gave us what we know as today’s black metal.

Dagon

WRATH, AVERSE SEFIRA

I have been active in the underground for almost twenty years, and as far as I know there were virtually no American black metal bands before the Norwegian incursion other than Profanatica, Demoncy, and Absu. Up until then, a majority of American acts were death metal, so while there are a lot of people who are desperate to deny that USBM owes most of its roots to Norway, it is pretty hard to prove otherwise.

Wrath Sathariel Diabolus

ANDEE, AQUARIUS RECORDS/ tUMULt RECORDS

If you asked most black-metal musicians from the U.S., and American black-metal fans in general, I’m pretty sure most of them would cite the Scandinavian bands as the true roots of black metal—sonically and visually. Taking USBM at a purely sonic level, it’s obvious that it owes a huge debt to the Swedes and the Norwegians. It’s pretty undeniable


UMESH, BROWN JENKINS

In other countries, in other parts of the world, they see things differently. The metal scene by that time, say ’92 and ’93, was already completely international; it was trading tapes all over the place. At the time, someone couldn’t record a single stray chord in Sweden without having it traded all over the world. The network to document black metal was already in place way before the Varg-Euronymous debacle. The truth is, there are certain people in this world who are investigating and examining “dark” emotions through music, and as they circulate through their lives they bump into each other, and this creates interesting connections. Playing the influence game can get tricky because it never really ends.

Umesh Amtey

CHRIS BRUNI, PROFOUND LORE RECORDS

I grew up listening to thrash and then death metal. My first band formed when I was fifteen and it was a Satanic death metal act called Diabolus. By 1992, the death movement had stalled and it seemed like the underground was in for a long winter, but then rumors started floating around about bands from Norway who had burnt churches and then Euronymous’s murder was splashed across pages of Kerrang!, and it was clear that we were facing a new renaissance. I caught on to it right as all these events unfolded and never looked back.


TYLER DAVIS, THE AJNA OFFENSIVE

My first interests in BM were Darkthrone and Beherit— two names mentioned in the Kerrang! article when Varg killed Euronymous. Or, I should say, those were the first two BM records I owned.

Tyler Davis

BLAASH, BAHIMIRON

Do not answer your door in your underwear—it’s easy to get stabbed, it seems.


W. OBSCURUM, CULT OF DAATH

My first taste of BM was Immortal’s Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism and Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. They greatly affected me; the atmosphere and overall mysterious aura were just what I was seeking. It stirred something within me. Too bad Norway has produced garbage since the mid-’90s.

Cult of Daath

XAPHAN, KULT OV AZAZEL

My start was in 1984 with Venom. This is because ever since I can remember, the bands I enjoyed were always linked to Devil-worship or the occult. Many since have claimed no affiliation, but I have always been into the darker side of music.


IMPERIAL, KRIEG

I became interested in black metal during the later part of the “Second Wave” around 1993 to ’94… Being from a relatively isolated area, my only source for this was a university radio station that did one show a week and I would have to sit outside of my house in order to get decent reception (which wasn’t much fun when it rained).

Neill Jameson

BLAASH, BAHIMIRON

[My] only way to get this style of music was from a radio show run here in Houston by Wes Weaver—it was called “Sweet Nightmares” and was on at midnight once a week, I think. I would scribble down the names of bands I heard and then try to order demo(n)s from bands, as well as follow what flyers I could. In ’90 to ’91, I was reading a couple really killer zines, and first got a ninety-minute compilation tape that had many killer bands (from the COVEN zine by Billy Nocera). One of them was Impaled Nazarene. I immediately wrote the bloke and sent him a blank ninety-minute TDK tape and I got their Toag eht fo Htao eht demo… Immediately after that I started into the early Nordic acts like the first Immortal record, Diabolical…, Marduk’s Dark Endless, and, finally, the most defining moment for me: the Emperor/Enslaved split. That was and still is one of the best bands that to me conjured the spirits of cold, desolate, blackened hate—something you could lose yourself to in a slow suicide…


AESOP DEKKER, LUDICRA/AGALLOCH

Around 1995 I was dumpster diving here in San Francisco. Mordam Records had a great dumpster full of water-damaged CDs, and I scored a copy of Under a Funeral Moon by Darkthrone and I was set on my course. I had the same feeling I had when I discovered punk, like Here’s something totally alien and new, very exciting.

Aesop Dekker

ANDEE, AQUARIUS/tUMULt

We had a cool co-op punk rock record store here in San Francisco called the Epicenter Zone, and one of the women who worked there was this insanely beautiful, statuesque, crusty punk girl with long multicolored dreads and spikes and leather and she was just like a total metal-crust pin-up. She was really into black metal, and started ordering more metal for the shop (which I think ruffled some punk-rock feathers) and one day she insisted I buy In the Nightside Eclipse and the very first Cradle of Filth (still a fucking awesome record) and I was immediately hooked. I would have probably bought anything she told me to, so good thing she had good taste.


BLAASH, BAHIMIRON

I started to visit and eventually move to Norway in the mid-’90s, and lived in Toyengata 40b—where Euronymous was murdered—with one of his exes. I wanted to get as close to the extreme occurrences there as I could, and I was truly affected to an extent by what occurred—hell, even INTERPOL was wondering what I was doing there, and I was called up in the U.S. by an investigator. Unfortunately, that was the pinnacle of the Nordic scene when it came to violence—murder and jail took away some of the most extreme persons, and it left a vacuum that was soon filled, but with different folks.


JOSH, VELVET CACOON

Black metal is a drug of power, a study of the self, a warm and resinous Satanism—and in that regard I would say USBM and European black metal share this basic fundamental principle. I see European black metal as being far more rooted in national romanticism and lore, whereas a good deal of USBM seems to exist more in the realm of fantasy, with lots of themes about space, alternate realities, physical powers, etc.

Velvet Cacoon

D., VROLOK

I regret my lack of knowledge on the currently active bands, but that can be chalked up to the fact that the entire “USBM” tag has been so hyped that, being the reactionary bastard that I am, I’ve neglected to look into it.

Vrolok

JOHN MINCEMOYER, OAKEN THRONE MAGAZINE

I do not like or dislike the “USBM” tag. It is a descriptive, quick way for music journalists to identify bands, and I see nothing wrong with it.

John Mincemoyer

W. OBSCURUM, CULT OF DAATH

I am indifferent to the term; it is just a geographical categorization.

Cult of Daath

BESTIAL DEVOTION, NEGATIVE PLANE

I don’t know, all that scene shit resembles an absurd club consisting of teenagers that never grew up in my eyes… Do they hold monthly meetings to discuss the further plans of “TEAM USBM”?

Negative Plane

NAMELESS VOID, NEGATIVE PLANE

The only thing that we have in common with other U.S. bands is that we happen to live in the same country. That’s pretty much it.

Negative Plane

DAGON, INQUISITION

All “USBM” means is black metal from the United States. There is nothing in that term that I dislike. If you hate the term, then there must be some personal problems you have with black metal from here. I don’t see anything false about it because it says what it is, there is nothing between the lines to read.

Dagon

IMPERIAL, KRIEG

I don’t see it as a subgenre, style, or even any sort of outlined community, really. It’s just geography, or a way for someone who doesn’t have anything to say with their music to try to relate to others that do.

Neill Jameson

TYLER DAVIS, THE AJNA OFFENSIVE

I’d be curious to know which bands in America proclaim themselves to be USBM so I could choose from the list! I like some bands from the U.S. but never would have conceived of hording them altogether under some catchy, marketable little moniker like USBM. It implies a sense of unity which I cannot see manifesting in the States on any comprehensible scale.

Tyler Davis

D., VROLOK

In comparing its situation in 2008 to that of Norway’s in 1992, consider a few things. The U.S. black-metal scene of today consists of a vast number of bands spread across a vast amount of land; to be connected to others with similar interests, then, is a sort of novel and affirming idea for many people.

Vrolok

KILLUSION, THE HOWLING WIND

I for one think there is absolutely no narrative in the United States of America black-metal scene as people in New York have nothing to do with people in Idaho.


CHRIS BRUNI, PROFOUND LORE

If you listen to bands like Blasphemy, Profanatica, or Von, their sound comes from a very raw and primal influence where traces of melody and structured rhythm are buried (and pretty much nonexistent) among a primitive brutal sound canvas that also helped give birth to what is known as “war metal.”

The war and hate metal of Australia is also connected to the more aggressive, grinding black metal. Again, this music [black Satanic metal] just can’t be defined as a purely nationalistic and regional sensation. By nature it is isolation… and this occurs all over the globe


XAPHAN, KULT OV AZAZEL

I find black metal from America to usually be more brutal in the way it is executed compared to most European black metal.


D., VROLOK

The Norwegian thing belongs to a certain time and place. I know that there were definitely a few actions in the U.S. a few years ago by militant-minded teenagers (not necessarily within the realms of the black-metal scene itself, though) but even if the individuals had been caught, it definitely would not have been a tabloid feature on that scale. This country has far too much violent crime to worry about a bunch of easily excitable juveniles burning down modern-day Methodist churches. The Norwegian authorities were facing the destruction of ancient landmarks, and the relatively low crime rate in that country surely helped the sensationalist drama that unfolded afterwards. As for murder in the U.S., I don’t think it’d matter if someone was into black-metal music and stabbed another person to death these days—it’d just be another violent crime. The type of music the person was into/involved with would be secondary to everything else. However, fifteen or twenty years ago it probably would have been a different story, as the “Satanic panic” was just beginning to die down and the American public still believed babies were being eaten in sacrifices and Black Mass rituals in middle-American cemeteries… Ridiculous.

To be honest, I don’t think I’ve heard any new black metal albums from the U.S. since Krieg’s The Black House, which I viewed as being derived from a bunch of different (what I guess would be considered European) blackmetal styles. It was quite good. The only thing I didn’t like was the inclusion of the “Venus in Furs” cover (the Velvets have been one of my favorite bands for years, and the inclusion of black-metal vocals on it sort of killed it for me), which is ironically the very thing that gave it the feeling of being American—what European band would have covered it?

Vrolok

BLAASH, BAHIMIRON

USBM incorporates more “brutality,” I think, than some European acts—ignoring the obvious stalwart murderers like Immortal, Marduk, or after them Dark Funeral…


ANDEE, AQUARIUS/tUMULt

Most black-metal musicians did not grow up listening to black metal. Many might not have listened to metal at all. And you can hear that in the music. Elements of doom, psych, stoner rock, post rock. Black-metal guys who are my age, which is a lot of them, were into Slint way before they were into black metal, and were listening to Drive Like Jehu and Unwound before they had ever heard Mayhem or Immortal. That stuff informs every thing they do. Even when they’re playing some part that is total Darkthrone worship, often those years of listening to other music seeps in and turns it into something new. And for me that has a lot to do with what makes the USBM sound so special. And so unique. I tend to lean toward the weirder, the more challenging, the bands whose music embraces the true grim classic sound but twists it all around, into something way more fucked up.


WRATH, AVERSE SEFIRA

More often than not USBM is distinctly American in that it demonstrates a misunderstanding of esoteric ideas and a preoccupation with simplistic means and instant gratification. Aesthetics and subject matter commonly take a back seat to the fact that Hey, dude, we’re in a black-metal band!

Wrath Sathariel Diabolus

JOSH, VELVET CACOON

I don’t think anyone expected that a country as superficial as the U.S. could produce black metal that could tap into that weird obscurity that rests at the heart of this music.

Velvet Cacoon

ANDEE, AQUARIUS/tUMULt

USBM bands also seem to embrace noise, using it the same way other band use riffs and blast beats, as another element, another sonic layer. And subject matter, too. It seems like the USBM scene has really embraced the personal nature of BM, the dark shadow of the soul, depression and sorrow, death and loss and longing. And anyway, it’s a bit hard to imagine some dude in his bedroom in Texas singing about frosty winter forests and Viking longboats.


XAPHAN, KULT OV AZAZEL

I can’t even name any newer bands that have popped up, to be honest with you. I lost interest in the U.S. scene a few years back when the depressive/suicidal/eco-fascist trend started, which only sucked in insecure nerds, emo kids, and scenester hippies.


UMESH, BROWN JENKINS

Well, for the sake of argument: The only things really different about American black metal are its more overt Satan ism, the close ties to the death metal scene and the longer history here of such ties, the willingness to use a much heavier guitar sound, and the absence of nature-worshipping lyrics or historical themes unless the bands are deliberately copying European ones. The thing is, you’re using really general terms here, like “European black metal,” which pull together all kinds of different bands and national scenes and pretends to create a homogeneous mass that doesn’t exist in reality. Even if you were to say “Norwegian black metal,” for example, you have many, many different styles of bands inside that. Games of labeling and genre-creating may be fun, but they are ultimately self-defeating because they are illogical from the very start; they use imaginary terms. All these arguments do is pretend to say something which disappears into thin air as soon as you stop accepting clichés.

Umesh Amtey

IMPERIAL, KRIEG

What I do see as something typically American is the pseudo-idea (to which many outside of the U.S. and unfortunately only a few within the country would agree) of American superiority to outside art, culture, and music. This is why you see so many bands doing the paint-by-numbers sort of thing, regurgitating what’s already been done yet thinking it’s their own. As Americans we have a strong artistic and literary heritage, especially post-WWII from the Beat movement, Warhol’s idea of POPism, La Monte Young’s musical experiences, etc., but we don’t draw on it, we just keep pushing out McBlackMetal. I’m not sure if this is happening all over, it probably is, but I see that as very American—or just plain boring.

Neill Jameson

TYLER DAVIS, THE AJNA OFFENSIVE

I think what happened in Norway is the only reason BM is known, period. I think black metal should be about those events in Norway. USBM isn’t about anything, and I cannot conceive of it standing for something of substance. This is my problem with it.

Tyler Davis

ANDEE, AQUARIUS/tUMULt

That whole Lords of Chaos thing really appeals more to dabblers than true fans. It got so overblown and romanticized. It’s easy to forget that those were basically kids. Fucked-up kids. You could transplant that whole scene to some small town in the Midwest. Kids doing drugs, killing each other, burning down buildings. It’s pretty much the same situation, except with a much shittier soundtrack. Sure, the church burning and the murders are weird and freaky to read about and kind of appealing in a Star magazine kind of way. But ultimately, the music doesn’t lose any of its power or mystery and magic if you take away all that stuff. In fact, being in the spotlight and on the news and having yuppies discussing that stuff at dinner parties because they saw it on E!, that takes away from the music for me. I like bands to be clouded in mystery, I like having no idea what the band looks like. Or what their real names are. Or what other bands they’ve played in. Or what they do when they’re not making crazy buzzing blackness.


W. OBSCURUM, CULT OF DAATH

The U.S. scene is hard to generalize, especially these days. And there are some great minds among the trash, but on the rare occasion that I go to a show it seems to be brimming with hillbillies, leftist fags, and other assorted lowlifes. Maybe that was always the case.

Cult of Daath

NAMELESS VOID, NEGATIVE PLANE

The best music from that part of the world was created while the church burnings and murders were happening, so maybe there’s something to that.

Negative Plane

JORDAN, WRATH OF THE WEAK

It’s not 1996, we’re not in Norway, and we’re not Varg Vikernes. Too many people are fixated on trying to recreate that whole scene, or at least what they’ve heard about it, and I think it’s really counterproductive. There’s more to American culture besides fat people and strip malls, and it’s almost insulting that it gets cast aside by people who just want to have musical wet dreams about Nordic traditions despite being two or three generations removed from any kind of European ancestry at all.

Wrath of the Weak

DAGON, INQUISITION

Here in the United States you cannot play with fire like the early Norwegian scene. With terrorist threats all the time, the least you want to do in the name of black metal is become one right now. This is Satanic music, and that is how it must remain. If you want cheap fame, go kill yourself.

Dagon

ANDEE, AQUARIUS/tUMULt

Black metal definitely has a theatrical aspect already. The corpse paint, the band photos, song titles, artwork, subject matter, even the sound itself. The music and the musicians are mysterious, demonic, hellborne wraiths, the sound a sonic black fog, a roiling black sea of buzz and blast. And the thing is, the music is so evocative to me, the rest of that stuff seems almost unnecessary, but I still dig it. Like crazy. You know when you go see some band, and it’s dudes in jeans and T-shirts instead of crazy costumes with giant drum risers and mechanical dragons and flames and skulls and spikes—it’s always a letdown.


BLAASH, BAHIMIRON

The U.S. has only been a country for about 225 years— we don’t have the ancestry, and some places here don’t have the majesty of nature—not to mention our (proposed) obsession with materialism and that we are all plastic and soulless consumers bent on working to buy stuff, to buy a house, to buy more stuff to work, etc., etc. The extreme acts of the Nordic scene (murder, church burning) were also fascinating and have never been topped by anyone within this “scene.”

However, I would like to point out that this is where I actually prefer some of the more nihilistic leanings of USBM—the fact that we are covered in drugs, alcohol, a consumerist lifestyle, indeed—but is that not the work of the devil? We become soulless to a point— a hollow meandering consumer who thinks they are Christian until they’re rapin’ their daughter one day… School shootings, mass murder, serial killers, suicide— all of the “real subjects”—not Viking heritage or killing the “Christians” in lyrics—I’m talkin’ about real live church shootings, mass murder, warfare, forced prostitution, etc.—it all happens here in the good ole USA—we have had many, many more church burnings, it’s called “hatin’ niggaz” here and is performed by the extreme right, and you go to jail for it here, for many, many years, where if you’re not careful, you learn to take it up the arse very badly.


KILLUSION, THE HOWLING WIND

I argue that it was the music that made [black metal] most unique for Norway, and not the murders and fires. Of course, the crime accelerated the exposure to insane levels, but there must be something said for the unique sound/approach they developed. I mean, Swedish death metal has a huge reputation these days, still—and no one killed anyone there.


DAGON, INQUISITION

We like it filthy. We don’t want perfection, we don’t want huge productions. We are doing what Europeans stopped doing ten years ago, which is making black metal without following the standards once things became standard. Very USBM also are the low-tuned guitars, more Satanism, and hate for Christianity.

Dagon

JOSH, VELVET CACOON

True Satanism is wealth, wealth is psychedelic, and everything that occurs occurs as a dream.

Velvet Cacoon

D., VROLOK

We live in a society dominated by socio-political repression and are hated by most of the world. I see these aspects of our culture, on top of American “heritage” in general, as the building blocks of these small nuances. I just don’t see where location nurtures a sound beyond the fine details. You have plenty of bands in the USA attempting to sound European intentionally. But even there, I don’t think it’s an intentional sort of “I wish I was born in a Scandinavian forest” thing—it’s just a matter of influence. Norway, for instance, is quite an exotic place compared to the USA, and that sort of profound mystery would naturally influence many people who are used to the crumbling, industrial infrastructures that make up the “landscape” in this country.

Vrolok

ANDEE, AQUARIUS/tUMULt

Right now, the West Coast seems to be producing some of the most intense and unique black metal around…


JOSH, VELVET CACOON

USBM wasn’t even respectable until the West Coast groups starting doing really innovative things with dissonance and oversaturated distortions a few years back. Until then you mostly had these beer-and-party metal bands from the East Coast who had no real voice to their music, they were lackadaisically going through the motions.

Velvet Cacoon

KILLUSION, THE HOWLING WIND

I must admit the only Californian BM I like is Leviathan.


W. OBSCURUM, CULT OF DAATH

To me, BM in itself is nationalistic, there is no need for an extra genre tag. Look at the Norwegian, Greek, and Polish scenes from the early and mid-’90s: they were steeped in nationalism, romanticism, occultism, and paganism/pre-Christian ideals.

Cult of Daath

AESOP DEKKER, LUDICRA/AGALLOCH

Xasthur always sounded French to me.

Aesop Dekker

BEN WEST, OAKEN THRONE MAGAZINE

Perhaps black metal isn’t quite ferocious enough to grasp the attention of an American populace/media presented with regular mass shootings and suicidal murder sprees. Honestly, in the face of rampant violence and killing in our society, corpse-painted teenagers swinging maces in the forest and burning churches would have a hard time competing.

John Mincemoyer

JORDAN, WRATH OF THE WEAK

I think USBM is different from EuroBM if only because it seems like the majority of projects here are pretty good representations of the cultural vacuum found in the third-ring suburbs from where they originate… just lots of bland, personality-free music that wishes greatly to be something that it’s not and will never be…

Wrath of the Weak

AESOP DEKKER, LUDICRA/AGALLOCH

Believe me when I say there are bands and individuals who seek to bring about this sort of soap opera drama to the U.S. “scene.” Bands that make empty threats and attempt to ignite feuds based on who is “true” and “worthy.” I forget the name of the band from L.A. who had a member quit and become a born-again Christian, then the remaining members firebombed the rehab clinic he was an inpatient in. These sort of actions make for interesting news stories, but don’t really say much about the individuals and the art they create.

Aesop Dekker

D., VROLOK

Simply stated, I have absolutely no interest in politics or society. My physical existence is spent preparing for my astral existence (through the gathering of knowledge and experience), with everything else being rather trivial and more or less a way for me to pass time.

Vrolok

IMPERIAL, KRIEG

All of my work is based on my own deteriorating sense of reality, mental illness, fetish, and natural ruin.

Neill Jameson

UMESH, BROWN JENKINS

Even if the U.S. “scene”—and I’m putting that in quotes because it doesn’t really exist—had a number of central events that others sought to highlight and press to give some kind of meaning, one can take it or leave it as one chooses. If half of the U.S. “scene” murdered the other half, it wouldn’t mean much to me. Americans are much more sophisticated, you have to remember. We don’t have either the heart or the willingness to believe in grand narratives or possibilities, we don’t have any hope whatsoever. Another way to say that we are sophisticated is to say that we are nihilists, we don’t have the capability to believe in anything outside ourselves, and we’re certainly not going to subscribe to anything even closely resembling the gang societies or brotherhoods which sought to present a very false image of possible change in Norway. This is not positive or negative, it simply is. At the heart of this is of course a very real and poisonous hypocrisy, which seeks to mimic the ability to change, the ability for anger or passion to accomplish something. That is very disheartening, you know… the mummery and illusion, the masks that the American musicians wear, pretending to be something they can never be. This is why I believe European music is often so much more powerful, because they at least have a certain innocence and belief that the Americans never can hold onto. Creativity seems to need that innocence; it falls back into pragmatism when it’s taken away, and pragmatism uses clichés most of the time: whatever works, whatever is effective, not what changes anything.

Umesh Amtey

JORDAN, WRATH OF THE WEAK

In some respects, it seems like USBM has taken the destructive side of black metal and turned it against itself, so instead of church burnings and murders it manifests itself in the hatred and self-loathing that’s present in a lot of the acts which get labeled as suicidal/depressive/etc. I suppose you could take that as a reaction of sorts against our current habit of ignoring and/or medicating away any mood which isn’t neutral or somewhat positive.

Wrath of the Weak

IMPERIAL, KRIEG

I’ve often thought a retrospective on U.S. black metal like Ian Glasper’s trilogy on English punk would be interesting, but what would it say? Most of the older generation have moved on, disappeared, or just don’t have anything to say outside of their own musical endeavors. We’ve all had interesting stories and experiences happen to us, but outside of a dozen or so people, from close to two decades there’s just not much tabloid material in there and thus it wouldn’t be interesting for the common person to read. And that just might be the beauty of it.

Neill Jameson

UMESH, BROWN JENKINS

All it would take would be half a dozen ambitious writers in America and the U.S. black-metal scene would have its own sordid narrative to struggle with. These are creations of the press, of course. If you think about it, the heart of the Norwegian narrative, for example, is a story with a black hole at the middle of it—no one really knows what happened the night Euronymous was murdered except Varg Vikernes. The other person involved is dead. Varg has told different stories about what happened over the years—does he even really remember? So even at the very center of an attempt to apply meaning and a grand, overarching story to the history of the Norwegian black-metal scene, there is a wall beyond which no one can penetrate. It’s meaningless. People can make whatever they want of it.

Umesh Amtey

ORAL HISTORY CONTRIBUTORS

Wrath Sathariel Diabolus is the bassist in Austin-based trio Averse Sefi ra. Their most recent album, Advent Parallax, is out on Candlelight Records (2008).

Dagon is the guitarist, bassist, and vocalist for the Columbian -born, Seattle-based Satanic duo Inquisition. His signature is his reptilian voice. Their most recent studio albums are Magnifi cent Glorifi cation of Lucifer (2004) and Nefarious Dismal Orations (2007), both on No Colours.

Negative Plane are the Gainesville, Florida–based occult duo of guitarist/vocalist Nameless Void and drummer Bestial Devotion. Their most recent release, Et In Saecula Saeculorum, is out on the Ajna Offensive (2006).

Velvet Cacoon are the ambient black metal duo of guitarist Angela (LVG) and vocalist/guitarist/drummer Josh (SGL) from Portland, Oregon.

Josh is known for inventing and perpetrating hoaxes. During our interview he told me he had moved to Prague, but it’s unclear if that’s true. Their most recent release, P aa opal Poere Pr. 33, out on Full Moon Productions (2008), doesn’t exist.

D. performs as Vrolok, a one-man band from Clarion, Pennsylvania. He, along with Kult ov Azazel, was included in the History Channel documentary Hell: The Devil’s Domain. His most recent release, Void (The Divine Abortion), is out on Drakkar Productions (2007).

Imperial, a.k.a. Neill Jameson, is best known for his seminal project Krieg, which started in Somers Point, New Jersey, in 1995, though he was also a live contributor to another of one of America’s most important early blackmetal bands, Judas Iscariot. He was also a member of the USBM group Twilight, along with Malefi c, Wrest, and Blake Judd. He currently records as N.I.L. and as a member of the doom-metal band March into the Sea. He’s planning a new Krieg album for release in 2009.

Cult of Daath are two brothers from Chicago, Illinois: guitarist/bassist/vocalist Culggath Immortum and vocalist/drummer W. Obscurum. Their last full-length is Slit Throats and Ritual Nights, out on Deathgasm (2005).

Aesop Dekker is the drummer of Ludicra, an idiosyncratic quintet from San Francisco. He also currently plays drums in the Portland-based dark-metal folk-inflected band Agalloch. Ludicra’s most recent album, Fex Urbis Lex Orbis, is out on Alternative Tentacles (2006).

Blake Judd, who used to go by Azentrius, is the vocalist/ guitarist/main songwriter for Nachtmystium, the psychedelic black/non-black metal band from Wheaton, Illinois. He was also a member of Twilight. Nachtmystium’s newest album is the brilliant Assassins: Black Meddle, Pt. 1 (Century Media, 2008).

Wrath of the Weak is the noisy, hypnotic one-man band of Buffalo, New York–based Jordan B. He released Alogon on Profound Lore in 2008.

Blaash is the drummer of Houston, Texas–based quartet Bahimiron. The band released Pure Negativism: In Allegiance with Self Wreckage in 2006 and have a new album, Southern Nihilism, forthcoming as of press time.

Brooklyn-based Killusion fronts the Howling Wind and records by his given name, Ryan Lipynsky, in the Relapse Records doom band Unearthly Trance. The Howling Wind’s Pestilence & Peril was released in 2007 on Profound Lore.

Tyler Davis runs the Jacksonville, Oregon–based label Ajna Offensive and the literary press Ajna Bound, which specializes in a variety of occult titles.

Chris Bruni runs the Ontario-based Profound Lore Records.

Andee runs the San Francisco–based tUMULt records and is “OverlOrd” at Aquarius Records.

John Mincemoyer edits and Ben West designs the “oddsized” black-metal zine Oaken Throne.

Xaphan is the guitarist/vocalist of the Fort Lauderdale, Florida–based Satanic black metal trio Kult ov Azazel. Their last full-length is 2005’s The World, the Flesh, & the Devil (Arctic Music/Crash Music). They are at work on the follow-up, Destroying the Sacred.

Umesh records as the one-man Texas-based Lovecraft inspired blackened doom act Brown Jenkins. His most recent release is Angel Eyes (Moribund, 2008). ✯

NOTE: This is one small section of an ongoing oral history of non-Scandinavian black metal. The preceding voices belong to some of the most prominent participants, but they should in no way be considered the entirety of the American black-metal canon. As of press time, I have added Absu, Ashdautas, Ash Pool, Bone Awl, Krallice, the Mausoleums, Wolves in the Throne Room, and Wrnlrd to the mix. Others to be contacted in the coming months include folks involved with (or once involved with) Acheron, Amocoma, Ancestors, Azrael, Black Funeral, Black Witchery, Blood of the Black Owl, Cobalt, Crebain, Crucifi er, Demonic Christ, Draugar, Eldrig, Enbilulugugal, Goatloard, Hennes Siste Høst, I Shalt Become, Jabladav, Krohm, Malkuth, Nightbringer, Grand Belial’s Key, L’Acephale, Lascowiec, Teratism, Veil, Vukodlak, Woodland’s Edge, and a mighty etc. Of course, not everyone will feel like talking. From there I move into Canadian black metal…

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