Why are Dark Funeral black metal's most mocked band?
The Swedes often aren't taken seriously by the BM elite - but why?
What is black metal if not a giant, malevolent ‘Fuck you!’ to the mediocre and the mundane? While it may often seem like a genre with the slipperiest of identities, the spirit of black metal has long tended to evoke the ferocity of punk rock’s outlaw code with the added bonus of dark, philosophical substance to back up the bravado. With that in mind, few bands embody that adversarial ethos – that ennobling cry of ‘Nobody likes us and we don’t care!’ – with the same bombastic power and panache as Dark Funeral. Twenty-three years into a rollercoaster career that has taken the Swedes from frostbitten obscurity to their current status as one of black metal’s biggest draws, they are about as popular as this stuff gets, and yet they are also the band that black metal purists love to hate: either a big-budget, grandiose affront to primitive values and hyper-kvlt haughtiness or simply a grotesque, cynical mish-mash of every cliché imaginable.
In truth, Dark Funeral are a fucking brilliant heavy metal band, albeit one with the blackest of hearts. But, by Satan’s spittle, they don’t half wind up the purists and as insanely enjoyable as it is, new album Where Dark Shadows Reign seems unlikely to change that.
“I would put it like this: you have some people with small penises and some guys with big penises,” chuckles guitarist and founder member Lord Ahriman. “That’s what it’s all about. Of course, we’ve always beenone of those bands. We just got bigger and bigger on every record, and whatever kind of band you’re in, the bigger you get, the more trolls are gonna come out looking for you! That’s just the way it is. Music should force some kind of reaction. We win either way, and you need both, the positive and the negative. It would feel weird and I wouldn’t even believe it if everybody said, ‘Oh, your new album is fucking amazing!’ I wouldn’t like it that way. But yeah, you always get people saying, ‘Oh, those guys fucking suck!’ That’s OK. They probably suck, too.”
Arguably the biggest change undergone by the black metal scene over the last two decades is the way the internecine bickering of those hallowed early years has now morphed into a never-ending online argument about what is or isn’t ‘real’ black metal. Understandably, not least because Dark Funeral are doing better than most, Lord Ahriman remains unmoved by the debate.
“Of course, it will never stop,” he notes with a sigh. “If a 20-year-old guy or girl comes up to me and says I’m a fucking poser and they know the real deal... well, yeah, what can I say? Give me a fucking break. Go and change your diapers. But it’s always going to be like that. I find it sad because we should be a united extreme metal scene. It’s just childishness and most of the time it’s about envy. This is the metal scene. We should support each other, not behave like stupid imbeciles.”