Location and the Evolution of Ideology and Aesthetics in Post-Second Wave American Black Metal

Student Author(s)

Carsten Forester

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Julia Randel

Document Type


Event Date



Black Metal is a style of extreme metal that began to develop during the 1980's from a handful of unconnected bands which combined dark, often occult themed lyrics with highly distorted, dissonant guitar playing, aggressive vocals and fast tempos. The style was crystalized into a distinct form of metal music in the early 1990's in Norway, with a subculture that embraced the violent ideologies their music represented. In a few cases, these violent ideologies brought the subculture to action, resulting in over fifty church arsons, two murders and multiple other violent crimes. This brief outburst of violence garnered international media attention and destroyed the coherence of the scene through lost members and internal conflict. In recent years, several American bands have come to the foreground of the extreme music scene whose music is black metal in style but is used to communicate things other than violence and hatred. The purpose of this research is twofold. First, the research will explore the relationship between physical location and the evolution of ideological and aesthetic differences within American black metal through a combination of lyrical and musical analysis, interviews and subculture studies. Second, the research will examine the process by which the original style of black metal has been adapted and rebranded both musically and ideologically as “American” by three different bands: Wolves in the Throne Room, Deafheaven, and Liturgy. In addition, related factors are discussed such as the role of the internet and modern music distribution in underground music, and the increased cross pollination and genre bending that is more prevalent in underground music than ever before.


This project was supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Scholars Program in the Arts & Humanities at Hope College.

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