Black metal is an extreme sub-genre of Heavy Metal featuring harsh screams or evil voices, fast electric guitars with tremolo picking and blast beat drumming combined with raw recording and extreme guitar distortion, a harsh guitar sound and haunting lyrics. Often played by bands wearing all black, long usually with black hair, corpse like make-up, spikes, studs, blood theatrics, pentagrams, upside-down crosses, black leather. Some forms of black metal put an emphasis on the nuances of ambient or atmospheric aspects which include the suicidal or depressive subgenres of black metal, while others focus more on melody or technicality.
The roots of black metal come from Venom’s cartoon take on Motörhead. The band’s Black Metal album has obviously been cited as a seminal influence on the genre. Venom is generally seen as one of the earliest examples of this style of music, being a major force of the ‘first wave’ of black metal, along with other bands such as Bathory, Celtic Frost and Mercyful Fate.
The ‘second wave’ of black metal began with Norwegian and Greek bands in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with artists such as Burzum, Darkthrone, Mayhem and Varathron playing a major role in the development of the genre. There was also black metal bands from the United States, such as 'Von', also formed around this time. Most modern black metal has built upon the groundwork laid by bands during this time period. Furthermore, following a series of church burnings associated with black metal musicians and the murder of "Euronymous" of Mayhem by Burzum’s "Varg Vikernes", the Norwegian black metal scene received considerable attention from the mainstream media.
In more recent years, bands such as Dimmu Borgir, have become more popular by incorporating Gothic sensibilities with a basic black metal framework and introduced the use of keyboards. Some other black metal bands have incorporated keyboards, as well as folk instruments and other musical influences into their music. Emperor was a key band in the development of Symphonic Black Metal, with many later bands adopting a similar, keyboard-heavy style. Bands such as Ulver and Nokturnal Mortum incorporated influences from ethnic folk music. Others took Influences from music such as Industrial and dark ambient.
Although anti-religious themes can be favoured in black metal, there are exceptions. Many bands have written about folklore, nature or a variety of other subjects, with lyrical themes even including J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings. Some black metal bands also feature themes tied to National Socialism or other strong political beliefs.