Black metal, that oft maligned (especially by the religious) extreme sub-genre of heavy metal has been pootling along as a scene now since the early 80’s would you believe. And yet despite being around almost 30 years it remains little known & even less well understood. Legend has it (ok, Wikipaedia) that it was originally born as a sub-genre of the speed & thrash metal scenes (which themselves devolved from a punk/metal melange) some time in the early 80’s and unlike a lot of the metal sub-genres, is now generally acknowledged as a stand alone genre in it’s own right.
During the first decade or so of the scene black metal retained a lot of the similarities with thrash & speed metal. Then the Norwegians got interested in the genre. It was now that Black Metal began to get an identity of it’s own. One of the pioneers of this second period of black metal’s history are Gorgoroth. They are certainly now one of the most well known bands trailblazing the genre and, arguably, the best.
Gorgoroth (conforming to stereotype their name comes from The Lord Of The Rings) began as a pretty typical black metal band. For those of you unfamiliar with the genre this entails guitar’s played at really fast tempo’s, high pitched shrieked vocals, highly distorted guitars, explosive almost maniacal drumming, very raw recordings & unconventional song structure. Playing thus was pretty much how Gorgoroth spent the first decade of their existence, releasing some classic black metal albums along the way.
It was at around the turn of the century that Gorgoroth began to develop a sound unique to themselves. Although still steeped in the traditional sounds & idea’s of black metal they started experimenting with industrial sounds as well as dark ambient and noise influences. They even introduced clean, bluesy vocals on one track, black metal’s equivalent to the infamous Bob Dylan “Judas” moment. With further changes of band members (there have been over 20 people in the band over the years) Gorgoroth have returned to a more traditional sound now although they’ve still got a sound unique to themselves in a way that they didn’t have during their first decade of existence. Fans of the genre can easily spot a Gorgoroth track a mile away.
More recently the band have returned to a tight nucleus which is considered classic Gorgoroth. This nucleus is formed around Pest on lead vocals & lyric writing, Infernus who’s been on lead guitar since 1992 & Tormentor, also on guitar.
Live Gorgoroth are something else. They’ve recently finished a short tour of the UK which was, according to their website “”Â¦a very positive experience with large numbers of fans turning out & our expectations surpassed”. Instead of playing live like other bands, i.e. just ambling onto stage, playing a few songs & ambling off again they turn their performance into a more theatrical event. Props are normal & in some cases controversial. They include impaled animal heads (controversial), mock crucifixion’s (controversial), medieval weaponry (not so controversial) & on occasions their band members even sometimes douse themselves in animal blood (controversial again). They also dress up for the live experience with, for instance, huge spiked wristbands, inverted crosses & extensive use of “corpse paint” – black & white body paint daubed over faces & bodies.
Following delays they have just released a reworking of one of their early albums, Under the Sign of Hell, retitled as “Under the Sign of Hell 2011”. You probably won’t see it on many end of year lists because typically black metal isn’t in vogue of course. Sadly because it’d be wonderful to see a band like Gorgoroth nestled amongst all that indie & electronica that will inevitably fill every end of year list again this year.
Anyway You can pick up a copy of both it &, should you be interested, the original album from the bands website where you can also find lots of other info about the band.