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 “”¦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.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Poor effort. How can you write an introduction to Gorgoroth and not include such important details as Gaahl’s incarceration, the Gaahl/King ov Hell/ Infenus legal dispute over the name ‘Gorgoroth’, the controversial ‘Black Mass in Krakow’ concert of 2004? I could go on….
    The second paragraph is pretty much the Wikki definition of ‘Black Metal’ re-worded and the stage show you talk about is more akin to present day Watain, though, granted, it does describe the Gorgoroth video for ‘Carving a Giant’ which in itself, was replicating the previously mentioned 2004 Krakow gig.
    I have no idea why Gorgoroth are held in such high regard, there hasn’t been a half decent album since ‘Twilight….’ and the 3 times I have seen them live, they have been utter shite. There are far more TNBM bands that are more worthy and interesting, Taake for example.
    For truly groundbreaking Black Metal, look closer to home and at the likes of A Forest of Stars, Fen, Dragged into Sunlight, Wodensthrone and many others. The UK scene is now miles ahead of the ‘Grim and Frostbitten’ Nordic hordes.

  2. What an odd article. Gorgoroth are mainly talked about because Peter Beste took some very good photos of them, their many brushes with the law and Gaahl coming out of the closet. Very rarely are they talked about because of their music!

    When it comes to experimental, pioneering, trailblazing or just plain excellent black metal, Gorgoroth are way down the list.

    And in indie circles, black metal has actually been en vogue for quite a few years now. “Hipster Black Metal” is a derogatory term thrown (correctly or not) at loads of new black metal bands because it has all of a sudden become so popular amongst non-metal folk (like myself).

    I don’t know Dragged into Sunlight, but A Forest of Stars, Fen & Wodensthrone are all great UK BM bands as Andy says. And their are plenty of great US and French BM bands around at the moment. If anything, Scandinavia is at a bit of a low when it comes to BM right now…

    Always glad to see someone get excited about BM though! Also try Burzum, Darkthrone, Emperor, Mayhem, Ash Borer, Fell Voices, Wolves in the Throne Room, Alcest, Altar Of Plagues (Ireland), Deafheaven, Bathory, Mamaleek, Sleeping Peonies (England), Caïna (England), Panopticon, Lifelover, Winterfylleth (England), Deathspell Omega, Xasthur amongst many many others for a nice wide spectrum of new and old BM.

  3. Woah, soz dudes. When John asked me write it I admitted I’m not the most knowledgable person in the world about black metal. As I don’t know much about it I had to get my material from somewhere including (but def not exclusively) Wiki. It was meant as an introduction for people unfamiliar with the genre not as an in depth discussion about the. Hence the “an introduction” in the title which I guess you may’ve missed?

    I dunno what “hipster circles” you move in but in the “hipster circles” I move in black metal is derided I’m afraid. It’s only when sites like LTW take it seriously that this may change I reckoned.

    I’d love for one of you to do an in depth blog about the genre though & I’m sure John would be happy to print it.

    Off to check out some of those bands you mentioned now. Again, sorry you didn’t like the piece.

  4. The whole subject of Black Metal is a very complex one and maximum respect to you for admitting that you aren’t the most knowledgeable on this, the most fascinating genre of metal.
    I wouldn’t fancy tackling an ‘in depth’ blog on BM as there are so many sub-genres to cover and they splinter and mutate on pretty much a daily basis.
    As for the bands I mentioned, I implore you (and anyone else reading this) to check out A Forest of Stars.

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