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Mutate and survive: How black metal got weird in the 90s

Although innovation was always at the heart of black metal’s DNA, the 90s saw a period of wild experimentalism that broke down all remaining doors of perception

Though there are some who champion a rather narrow interpretation of the subgenre, black metal has long been characterised by an incredible degree of plurality and diversity, resulting in numerous contrasts and contradictions. In fact, almost from its very beginning, black metal’s development has been explicitly informed by the combination of conservatism and a more experimental and revolutionary impulse.

As with many emerging musical movements, the scene was originally made up of a small, fragmented and loosely connected collection of bands, making diversity inevitable. Interestingly, though, this characteristic survived the intense process of unification that occurred in Norway during the early 90s. Scene godfather Euronymous may have famously urged a uniformity of appearance and ideology, but his eclectic musical taste meant that no attempts were made to streamline black metal’s sound in that era – indeed, by defining the genre solely by its Satanic ethos, Euronymous actually freed many musicians creatively.


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