Black Metal: The Cult Never Dies, Vol. 1
by Dayal Patterson
Decibel Books (237 pgs)
Back in 2013, longtime Metal Hammer contributor Dayal Patterson released Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult, a massive 600+ page history of black metal that traces the genre’s progression from Venom’s seminal Welcome to Hell and Black Metal albums through the infamous Norwegian ‘second wave’ to more contemporary acts like Wolves in the Throne Room and Alcest. Complied from hours upon hours of interviews with the bands themselves, the book is pretty much essential reading for anyone who even has a passing interest in black metal. I consider myself to be fairly well-versed in the genre, and I still discovered a lot of things that I never knew about bands like Mayhem and Darkthrone, plus it turned me on to a few acts I was unaware of, like the bands in the French Les Légiones Noires collective.
As exhaustive as Evolution of the Cult is, though, Patterson really only scratched the surface of the genre. Thus the Cult Never Dies series, which expands and elaborates on the material from the first book. In this volume, the focus is primarily on the Polish scene and Depressive/Suicidal Black Metal, though there are a couple of Norwegian bands included as well (most notably Satyricon, who were kind of given short shrift in Evolution). As such, the bands he discusses are a bit more obscure; I was only familiar with less than half of them before reading the book. I think Patterson realizes, however, that he’s writing for a general audience here, so lack of familiarity with the bands doesn’t prevent this book from being another incredibly enjoyable read. I think Patterson is particularly good at getting out the way of his interview subjects and letting them tell their own stories, even when it means the subjects don’t end up coming off very well (like EvilFeast’s GrimSpirit, who comes off as sounding kind of racist).
Since my tastes tend to lean more towards DSBM, I found those chapters to be a particular highlight, especially the one on genre forefathers Strid, with whom I was completely unfamiliar, and the first-ever interview with Leere, the musical mastermind behind the legendary Silencer, whose lone full-length Death – Pierce Me is probably the quintessential album in the genre. There have been a lot of fucked up stories about Silencer, particularly involving deeply troubled vocalist Nattramn, and the chapter does a nice job of separating some of the myth from reality.