The Wire

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The Wire Salon returns: Looking Black: The Visual Aesthetics Of Black Metal

In the early 1990s, a group of Scandinavian teenage misfits birthed a new form of Metal, one that was atavistic, fantastical and profoundly misanthropic. 20 years later, we’re still talking about it: there are Black Metal art installations, Black Metal symposiums, Black Metal films, a Black Metal ballet company and an ever-growing stack of Black Metal books, of which Black Metal: Beyond The Darkness, an anthology of essays and interviews published by Black Dog, is the latest.

One reason for the enduring fascination with Black Metal is the movement’s visual identity. From the outset, its practitioners took great care over the way they presented themselves, wearing costumes and make-up and obsessing over artwork and gig theatrics. Black Metal became a ‘look’, as much as it did a sound, one packed with a complex of allusions to grindhouse movies, occult literature, pagan folklore and religious iconography. 

For this edition of The Wire Salon, the first in a new season, critic Nick Richardson (The Wire, London Review Of Books) will give a talk that expands on his essay in Beyond The Darkness and which will examine the derivation of the Black Metal imaginary, taking in Quorthon’s leg-bone mic-stand and Gorgoroth’s Krakow gorefest, via weapons, runes and the meaning of wolfhood. The talk will be illustrated with audio and visuals and will be followed by a panel discussion, with Richardson, Edwin Pouncey and Louise Brown (former editor of Terrorizer magazine), which will consider Black Metal imagery in the context of the music's extreme philosophies and radical praxis, as well as its influence on a swathe of avant garde musicians and artists, from Sunn 0))) to Banks Violette.

London Cafe Oto, 6 September, 8pm, £4 on the door only.