Wednesday, January 14, 2009

AT WAR WITH SATAN: THE AMAZING TRUE STORY OF UNBLACK METAL



This just in from the "There's A Market For Everything" Department:

"Unblack Metal", a pro-Christianity offshoot of the notoriously (and sometimes violently) anti-Christian Black Metal genre, has its roots way back in the 80's. Bubblegum metal band Stryper introduced mainstream audiences to the concept of Jesus Metal early in the decade, but REAL underground metal had a different story. Doom metal band Trouble released the epic album "Psalm 9" in 1984 on Metal Blade Records, which featured Christian lyrics and imagery. Metal Blade head Brian Slagel dubbed it "White Metal" in response to the Satanic Black Metal trend popular in Scandinavia, England, and South America at the time, which would have brought many more jeers had not Trouble's music been so crushing and good. Several more extreme metal bands touting Christian values followed, including California's Tourniquet and Australia's Mortification. But the cross-pollination of Christianity and the dreaded Black Metal genre didn't occur until a decade after "Psalm 9", with a band called Horde.



Horde was a one-man band formed by a dude named Jayson Sherlock in Australia in the early 90's. He poked fun at the uber-serious world of Norweigan Black Metal by labelling his music "holy unblack metal" (a play on BM band Darkthrone's slogan "unholy black metal") and taking on the moniker Anonymous (a jab at Euronymous, infamous Black Metal celebrity and guitarist for Mayhem). When Black Metallers caught wind of this unprovoked act of reverse blasphemy, they were not pleased, going as far as sending death threats to Horde's record label, Nuclear Blast. Regardless, Horde's debut album, 1994's "Hellig Usvart", was released to a modest amount of critical acclaim, proving to some, at least, that Satanism and Black Metal didn't neccessarily have to go hand in hand.

The only other band with any sort of claim to being the first Unblack Metal Band would be Norway's Antestor. Although they formed in 1990, they started out playing a rather generic blend of Doom/Death Metal, only to switch over to the speedy Black Metal sound on their 1994 album, "Martyrium". Antestor also has the larger set of balls, as they were playing Christian music in the middle of the most vehemently Satanic music scene ever, Norway in the mid-90's.

Antestor also took it a step further than Horde by adopting the Black Metal "look" of robes and corpsepaint (see example at left). During their earlier days, Antestor played under the name Crush Evil, and were threatened repeatedly by Mayhem's Euronymous (who was luckily murdered by his bass player before he could do any harm). They also hold the distinction of having almost as many former members as Napalm Death, with the count currently at 17. Who knew there were even that many people willing to associate with an Unblack Metal band in Norway? Dang.

Admonish is the third band in the trifecta of Unblack Metal Pioneers. Formed in 1994, they played shows and toured for years but didn't release their first album until 2005's EP "Den Yttersta Tiden". They were also Sweden's first Christian Black Metal band. Twin brothers Jonas and Emil Karlsson, bassist and guitarist for Admonish, caused a stir by appearing on a European version of MTV's "Pimp My Ride" with Lil' Jon. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a video on Youtube. Weak.

Definition: "Admonition (or "being admonished") is a punishment under Scots law when an offender has been found guilty but is neither imprisoned nor fined but receives a verbal warning and is afterwards set free. The conviction is still recorded.
It is usually the result of either the strict application of law where no real wrong has been caused or where other circumstances (e.g. time already spent in custody or attending court) make further punishment unjust in the circumstances specific to the case involved." Super TOUGH, dudes!

Admonish was also featured in a 2008 documentary film about the Unblack Metal movement, alongside similar bands such as Pantokrator, Frosthardr, and Crimson Moonlight (see below)

Trailer for "Light In Darkness - Nemesis Divina":


Above and below: Spiffy Unblack Metal merchandise.


Also of note in the Unblack world is Kekal, a band formed in 1995 in the unlikely location of Jakarta, Indonesia. Although they began their career playing sort of a Black/Death Metal hybrid, Kekal has followed a more progressive path in recent years, branching off into jazz and electronica.

Right: Kekal

At the beginning of the 2000s, Unblack Metal saw an onslaught of fresh blood with albums released by Norway's Lengsel, Folk/Viking/Unblack group Arvinger, and Crimson Moonlight. Sweden responded by kicking down albums from prog-metallers Sanctifica and Drottnar. Drottnar in particular is an Unblack Metal curiosity, spouting the Lord's word over technical, grindy Black Metal and donning Soviet-style officer's uniforms. Whoa.



Drottnar live in Denmark, 2008. Is it just me or is he smoking weed out of a gasmask? Further proof that Jesus is down with the Dank.



Unblack Metal (and all Christian metal in general) seems to be just hitting its stride at present, with hordes of new bands springing up everywhere, emboldened by strength in numbers. Crimson Moonlight, formed in 1997, is a particularly successful band, playing a Black/Death hybrid and hitting the stage with swords, Viking gear, and fake blood (ostensibly a reference to The Last Supper). The crazy thing is, they DON'T suck. Go figure.


Fun fact: Nicholas Barker of Old Man's Child, Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth, and Brujeria played session drums for Crimson Moonlight at one point.

Below: Curiously named C.M. vocalist "Pilgrim"



Although I subscribe to neither the Satanic Black Metal creed nor the Christian leanings of the Unblack Metallers above, I've got to give the Unblack kids credit for having some MAJOR cojones and standing up for what they believe in a scene violently opposed to it. Hats off to you guys, and God bless you.

8 comments:

Peter said...

Norway's Extol is also an excellent example of white metal. They actually share have the same guitarists and bassist as Lengsel. The album Burial is excellent for this style. The album Undeceived, while leaning closer to death metal stylistically, is a must hear for any fan of extreme music. Finally, as a warning, while all of the early releases are worth while, the final output of the band, Blue Print (2005), is dog shit, and should be avoided at all costs.

Aesop said...

Also look into EEE records for a whole bunch of "unblack" bands made up of the same couple of guys. The only one I can recall is Light Shall Prevail and here is a link:

http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewProfile&friendID=42903909

Peter said...

Found this for all who are interested....
Extol-Burial-1999
http://www.sendspace.com/file/cw2gsx
Extol-Mesmerized EP-1999
http://www.sendspace.com/file/vl24b1
Extol-Undeceived-2000
http://www.sendspace.com/file/dq4mtz
Extol-Synergy-2003
http://www.sendspace.com/file/a2qvq8

Steven said...

Dude, the final Extol album is my favorite one. It's the most proggy and the most catchy. All of their records are good though, in spite of their frequent line-up changes.

All of Lengsel's members were in Extol, a band within a band if you will.

I remember stumbling upon a MySpace page dedicated to heaping scorn and derision on Christian metal bands. I don't remember the name of the page, but they had a list of more Unblack bands than I thought could even exist.

Shelby Cobras said...

Is this PETER Peter? PS thanks for the links to Extol. Killer stuff.

Peter said...

It is I.

BLOGGER said...

Christianity can have all friendly Crowdist genres like reggae, rock, rap, blues, techno, jazz and disco.

Leave metal for the transcendental idealists.

Shelby Cobras said...

I don't think we are in any danger of losing metal to the Christians. not just yet.