Characteristics of Black Metal

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by JustinRhoads1980, Apr 23, 2018.

  1. JustinRhoads1980

    JustinRhoads1980 SS.org Regular

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    So I am not a big Black Metal listener and not true kvlt. I do however like some songs when they cross paths with me and I end up liking them. I would like to apply some of the uniqe charasterics though Black Metal has and especially want to emulate some of it since I created a gloomy riff.

    I know they down tune their guits, but is it possible to do some of these things in E standard? One of the things that I am trying to emulate (Please provide examples since I do not know what the fuck this is called so sorry if I sound like an idiot) is when they start chugging and then they hit notes that sound like they are clashing and have a lot of dissonance and is usually used to build up the tension (how I feel about it) in the BM songs I have heard.

    If you guys could provide some examples of it and also how to emulate that on the guitar I would greatly appreciate it.

    Also if you guys could keep it in laimen terms since I am not the wise in music theory, but I am trying to learn and I would like to know how this sound in Black Metal is accomplished.

    Thanks guys
     
  2. The Omega Cluster

    The Omega Cluster n00b

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    I don't think down-tuning is a characteristic of black metal, many black metal bands use standard tuning. I think it's only a minority who use lower tunings. Also what BM songs have you heard? Chugging is not a BM technique, although it can be used in BM songs, but you wouldn't see that in traditional black I believe.

    The things that sound black to me is the extensive and prolongated use of blast beats on drums, and tremolo picking on guitars. Tremolo picking meaning that you pick high-pitched notes very fast. The chords and chord progressions don't usually vary too much from regular metal although they can have a lot more influence from romanticism and classical music. But if you mention chords clashing together maybe you've listened to some recent dissonant black metal. I like this style a lot, too. Basically they use chords that are dissonant, like chords with a flat-2, flat-5, minor-6, but you can get creative.

    BM is not necessarily a vocal genre, but if you go for a vocalist, try to find someone whose shrieks are high-pitched, it seems to be more standard in BM than low-pitched grunts and growls of death metal.
     
  3. JustinRhoads1980

    JustinRhoads1980 SS.org Regular

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    I think I might have mistaken some characteristics of BM for Death Metal?



    Skip to 2:46 and you will see where he is chuggin and then plays those two 'clashing' notes as I like to call them.

    If you could clarify on that that would be great.
     
  4. JustinRhoads1980

    JustinRhoads1980 SS.org Regular

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    **** AN ALERT, I MIGHT HAVE MISTAKEN SOME OF BLACK METAL FOR DEATH METAL****
     
  5. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Yeah, that's a death metal riff. The two genres are related to each other, but the part you are pointing toward is definitely one of the characteristic sounds of death metal.

    Tune your guitar down, chug your open power chord two times with plenty of palm muting, then play the first fret power chord with the same palm muting one time, then play another muted open power chord, and repeat three total times, then play some screechy notes four times way up on the first and second strings, a few frets apart with the lower fret on the first string. While you do this, whoever is doing vocals should go a false chord growl for as long as the breakdown goes, or as long as possible if the breakdown is too long. Have your drummer follow your chugging on his kick drum with quarter notes stuck on a crash or maybe china cymbal. Snare on two and on four. Bonus points to your drummer if he or she switches to triplets on the kick drum halfway through the breakdown.

    That's the basic formula for probably 80-90% of slow DM breakdowns in the 21st century. Fast breakdowns, on the other hand, is more where DM and BM overlap a bit, but in my mind, Death Metal singers either sound like "GRWOOOOAAAAAARRRR!!1!1!1!!!1one!!!11!!e!even!!!!1!!!" or "BREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!", where black metal singers sound more like "SKREEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!". It's like the difference between a minotaur or pig monster and a serpent or lizard monster. :lol:

    Even though it seems mostly formulaic, it's still cool as hell, and to be fair, 99.6% of the music that's out there is just as predictably formulaic, if not moreso.
     
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  6. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire baritone zone

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    how to black metal:
    play dick dale and other surf music with lots of gain
    record said riffs with a tape recorder in the middle of the woods (free reverb yo)
    smear black and white corpse paint on your face
    screech about the left hand path/satanism and burn churches

    In all seriousness though, black metal is basically super lo-fi recording, trem picking, a good amount of reverb, diminished and minor scales, and screechy Venom style screams.
    Tremolo picking is essentially an electric guitar technique to accomplish tremolo (ie rapid picking of the same note to give a specific wavering/undulating effect). It's not specifically applied to any range of the guitar, though in black metal they tend to favor using the higher frets for it.
     
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  7. The Omega Cluster

    The Omega Cluster n00b

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    Yeah, Feared is 100% a death metal band. So, do you want to know about black metal characteristics but you were mistaken in one of your examples, or you were mistaken in the genre you are interested in and you want to know about death metal characteristics? If the latter is true I suggest starting a new post and deleting this one if possible).
     
  8. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Bluntly said, but that is essentially what I think of when I hear "black metal."

    Here's a contrast:
     

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  9. JustinRhoads1980

    JustinRhoads1980 SS.org Regular

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    How would I make that screechy sound. I know how to do the breakdown part as I have implicated that into my song, but I think the icing on the cake is the screechy notes. How do I do those? I know it is on the b and e string. I tried to do that with a chord by adding a note up on the b string and I kinda got the vibe there, but not entirely
     
  10. JustinRhoads1980

    JustinRhoads1980 SS.org Regular

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    I thought that the thing they did in the breakdown was a black metal thing. Guess my interest is more pointed towards Death Metal then
     
  11. JustinRhoads1980

    JustinRhoads1980 SS.org Regular

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    Hm seems like I would prefer death metal better. Though I don't like the cannibal corpse stuff where I cannot comprehend what they are saying.
     
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  12. NateFalcon

    NateFalcon The Impossible Kid

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    Bands like: Bathory, Emperor, Immortal, Burzum, Mayhem etc...lo-fi recording, depressing/suicidal lyrical themes, hyper fast barre-chord style rhythm guitar over extended blast beat drums, lots of gain and chorus for the “frozen moon” sound lol, choppy mess lead work...some bands like Behemoth are “churching up” black metal and making it hi-fi and more technical, but classic Black Metal follows the same theme. You can spot the people at Wal-mart and Hot Topic at the mall looking for good sales on Halloween makeup and usually shopping in the children’s section because most of them all weigh under 90 lbs...Old stuff from Mayhem is a good example of straight up Black Metal
     
  13. JustinRhoads1980

    JustinRhoads1980 SS.org Regular

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    I like some of Venom, Is that a bad example of a BM band?

    Also I hear people making jokes about black metal being recorded on a 2006 flip phone and such and I assume that has to correlate with lo-fi. What exactly is lo-fi?
     
  14. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Haha! Well, extreme metal of whichever sort might not be your bag, then, if you actually want to be able to understand the lyrics.

    Lo-fi, or low fidelity is just a really low quality recording. A lot of Black Metal from the 1990's and 2000's was recorded on extremely low budget, so the sound quality just isn't any good, usually sounding tinny and harsh.

    Those two notes shouldn't be difficult to find. I don't have a guitar with me, or I'd try to help you, but honestly, you should be able to find it through trial and error in 2-3 minutes. It's a mainstay of modern metal to play two notes a half step or sometimes a whole step apart, up high, to affect the same sort of clashing dissonance.
     
  15. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire baritone zone

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    Venom and mayhem are the perfect examples of early black metal.
    lo-fi = low fidelity (ie sounds like shit). It's a product of the time and equipment available to black metal groups at the time of its creation and basically became a signature part of the black metal sound, just like the boss hm2 is a staple of the swedish death metal sound or how fuzz is a big part of the stoner/doom sound.
     
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  16. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I've always been under the impression that "black metal" was more about the culture or politics of the band than any musical characteristics. I've heard lots of stuff get called 'black metal' that doesn't sound similar at all, and any similarities between bands I figured was more tangential than central to the "kvlt-ness" of the metal. As in, you wouldn't use lo-fi recordings because that sounded cool, you would do it because high production values don't fit the values of the culture.
     
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  17. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire baritone zone

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    the culture evolved from the inability to actually make music with high production values, and the fact that they were emulating the early venom works (which were quite lo-fi). There's an interview on youtube with one of the members of Darkthrone where he talks about the history of black metal and how emulating venom's lo-fi shittiness was kind of a deliberate choice
     
  18. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I don't doubt that those are deliberate choices, and there are certainly defining "black metal" musical characteristics, I just mean that for many of the bands I've encountered, the musical style was secondary to the philosophy behind it. That very well could just be the people I've run into happened to take it a little more seriously than some.
     
  19. NateFalcon

    NateFalcon The Impossible Kid

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    True, the obnoxious qualities are about not “selling out” with the mantra of that genre. Bad recording quality is intentional and desired. The music is usually written around a theme more than a defined sound, and the imagery and lyrical content is usually meant to conjure thoughts of suicide and despair. I’d say early Black Metal is more of an art process than a musical focus. Suicide was a shocking affront to the religious collective in Norway, so church burning and encouraging suicide became a theme to sway younger people away from and disrupt fundamental religion...in a nutshell
     
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  20. Bobro

    Bobro SS.org Regular

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    I think one political aspect of black metal and death metal that gets overlooked is the bold statement of solidarity with old-school feminism (like, Rosie the Riveter kind of thing), because how is that blast beat double kick bass drum not the sound of an industrial sewing machine? Whenever I hear this stuff (I lead a metal workshop every Saturday in the multimedia arts institute I work in) I am reminded of how my American grandmother worked in a factory sewing parachutes during WWII.
     

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