Black metal is growing up.
According to Neill Jameson, frontman/mastermind of New Jersey-based band Krieg ,the extreme heavy-metal subgenre infamous for everything from cartoonish Satanic posturing to all-too-real criminal violence (most notably a rash of church burnings and murders in Norway in the early ‘90s) has advanced beyond both the destructive behavior and isolationist musical mentality that once dominated it.
“When I think of black metal in 2013, I don’t think of that,” Jameson says. “Modern black metal is more idea-based, rather than action-based.”
With Krieg being one of the most well-known, well-regarded bands in today’s American black metal scene, Jameson’s observations come from firsthand experience. This Saturday, Jameson will bring that experience with him to NEPA, when Krieg headlines the first ever Wrath of the Goat black metal festival at The Rattler in Pittston.
Bringing together such acts as Gravewürm from Virginia, Murrum from Connecticut, Hubris from New York, and Sathanas and Neldöreth from Pennsylvania, the fest offers fans a hydra-headed overview of the current state of American black metal.
“Black metal is a sort of music where you can do pretty much whatever you want,” Jameson says. “I understand that we’re steeped in tradition in the aesthetics and the music, but I also understand that this music is 20 or 30 years old. Things are going to evolve. I’m just happy to see that there’s a thriving in this country of any kind of black metal.”
As if to bolster Jameson’s talk of thriving, festival organizer and Neldöreth vocalist Oz Bloodcurse reveals just how ambitious he is about the future of the event. In addition to confirming a second Wrath of the Goat to take place in Chicago, Ill., this November, Bloodcurse is already making plans for next year’s Pennsylvania show.
“I’ve seen a lot of festivals popping up all over the U.S., but none of them really catered a hundred percent to black metal, especially not on the East Coast,” Bloodcurse says, explaining that he expects metalheads to come in from all over for the event, from the farthest fringes of the tri-state area and beyond.
“Hopefully this event will open up some eyes and also provide something for people who are into black metal but don’t get to go to a lot of shows because the tours don’t come around here.”
What, then, is the appeal of black metal? To attract fans diehard enough to not only travel miles on top of miles just to jam-pack themselves into a music venue like sardines in a can, but also to withstand the ire of the mainstream masses that “just don’t get it,” one suspects there must be more to black metal than just the gleefully blasphemous rebel magnetism of upside-down crosses, monochrome face paint, and illegible band logos.
For Jameson, it’s about catharsis.
“The essence of black metal is negativity. There are people for whom that negativity comes as Satanism, there are people for whom it is nihilism, but negativity is the one thread that binds the whole thing together. Black metal is negative music expressing negative emotions and negative ideas,” he says.
“Life is an absurd journey. There’s always going to be multiple aspects to everything, different sides to every story, shadows to sunshine… Black metal, to me, is the personification of negative art.”