The first wave of black metal refers to those bands during the 1980s
The first wave of black metal refers to those bands during the 1980s who influenced the black metal sound and formed a prototype for the genre. They were often speed metal or thrash metal bands.
The term black metal was coined by the English band Venom with their second album Black Metal (1982). Although deemed thrash metal rather than black metal by today's standards, the album's lyrics and imagery focused more on anti-Christian and Satanic themes than any before it. Their music was fast, unpolished in production and with raspy or grunted vocals. Venom's members also adopted pseudonyms, a practice that would become widespread among black metal musicians.
Mercyful Fate from Denmark was very influential when it showcased the Satanic imagery with its epic songwriting and progressive musicianship with the EP Mercyful Fate and classic albums Melissa and Don't Break the Oath. Vocalist King Diamond (real name Kim Bendix Petersen) used make up on-stage, one of the inspirations for the second-wave to wear corpse paint.
Another major influence on black metal was the Swedish band Bathory, led by Thomas Forsberg (under the pseudonym Quorthon). Not only was Bathory's music dark, fast, heavily distorted, lo-fi and with anti-Christian lyrics and imagery, Quorthon was also the first to use the "shrieked" vocals that came to define black metal. The band played in this style on their first four albums: Bathory (1984), The Return of Darkness and Evil (1985), Under the Sign of the Black Mark (1987) and Blood Fire Death (1988). With Blood Fire Death and the two following albums Hammerheart and Twilight of the Gods, Bathory pioneered the style that would become known as Viking metal.
Other artists usually considered part of this movement include Hellhammer and Celtic Frost (from Switzerland), Kreator, Sodom and Destruction (from Germany), Bulldozer and Death SS (from Italy), whose vocalist Steve Sylvester was a member of the Ordo Templi Orientis.
End of the first wave
By the time Bathory's Under the Sign of the Black Mark was released, the album was considered a death metal record. In the fifth issue of his Slayer fanzine, Metalion wrote that "the latest fad of Black/Satanic bands seems to be over", the tradition being continued by a few bands like Incubus and Morbid Angel (from the United States), Sabbat (from Great Britain), Tormentor (from Hungary) and Sarcófago (from Brazil).
In the years before the Norwegian black metal scene arose, important recordings were released by Root and Master's Hammer (from Czechoslovakia), Von (from the United States), Blasphemy (from Canada), Rotting Christ (from Greece) and Samael (from Switzerland).
In Northern European countries, bands began to refer to these bands or the older ones from the first wave. In Sweden this included Marduk, Dissection, Nifelheim and Abruptum. In Finland, there emerged a scene that mixed the black metal style with elements of death metal and grindcore; this included Beherit, Archgoat and Impaled Nazarene. Bands such as Demoncy and Profanatica emerged during this time in the United States. During this time, American and Swedish death metal were more popular among extreme metal fans.
Main article: Early Norwegian black metal scene
The second wave of black metal began in the early 1990s and was spearheaded by the Norwegian black metal scene. During 1990–1994 a number of Norwegian artists began performing and releasing a new kind of black metal music; this included Mayhem, Thorns, Burzum, Darkthrone, Immortal, Satyricon, Enslaved, Emperor, Dimmu Borgir, Gorgoroth, Ulver and Carpathian Forest. They developed the style of their 1980s forebears as a distinct genre that was separate from thrash metal. This was partly thanks to a new kind of guitar playing developed by Snorre "Blackthorn" Ruch of Stigma Diabolicum/Thorns and Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth of Mayhem. Fenriz of Darkthrone has credited them with this innovation in a number of interviews. He described it as being "derived from Bathory" and noted that "those kinds of riffs became the new order for a lot of bands in the '90s". As seen below, some members of these Norwegian bands would be responsible for a spate of crimes and controversy, including church burnings and murder. Within this scene, an aggressive anti-Christian mindset became a must for any artists to be finalized as "black metal". Ihsahn of Emperor believes that this trend may have developed simply from "an opposition to society, a confrontation to all the normal stuff". Visually, the dark themes of their music was complemented with corpsepaint, which became a way for many black metal artists to distinguish themselves from other metal bands of the era.
Black metal scenes also emerged on the European mainland during the early 1990s, inspired by the Norwegian scene or the older bands. In Poland, a scene was spearheaded by Graveland and Behemoth. In France, a close-knit group of musicians known as Les Légions Noires emerged; this included artists such as Mütiilation, Vlad Tepes, Belketre and Torgeist. Bands such as Black Funeral, Grand Belial's Key and Judas Iscariot emerged during this time in the United States.
In the beginning of the second wave, the different scenes developed their own styles; as Alan "A.A. Nemtheanga" Averill states, "you had the Greek sound and the Finnish sound and the Norwegian sound and there was German bands and Swiss bands and that kind of thing". By the mid 1990s, the style of the Norwegian scene was being adopted by bands worldwide. Newer black metal bands also began raising their production quality and introducing additional instruments such as synthesizers and even full-symphony orchestras. By the late 1990s, the underground considered many Norwegian bands, like Emperor, Immortal, Dimmu Borgir, Ancient Covenant/The Kovenant, and Satyricon, to have chummed up with the mainstream media and "big bastard labels" and commercialised.