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Metalheads do a lot of silly things. They wear a lot of black. Year round. Even in the summer. They routinely attend concerts with volume levels far above human thresholds for pain and permanent hearing loss. They all dress the same in an attempt to be different. They pretend to actually like bands like Ildjarn. And, finally, rather than just wear the shirt of the band they like, they will sometimes get patches for EVERY band they like and sew them all onto one vest. This is called a patch (or sometimes “battle”) jacket/vest, and, silly or not, I totally just made one of those motherfuckers for myself!
Usually, patch jackets are made out of blue denim jean jackets with the sleeves cut off. However, I decided that, being that it is my favorite genre, I was going to make a BLACK METAL patch jacket, and thus, only a black leather vest would work. Besides, I’d always been a huge fan of black vests, now that I had finally figured out a barely socially acceptable excuse to wear one again, I was super pumped!
With a vest in hand, I began rounding up the patches. Now this gets tricky. See, a patch jacket is a sign that the wearer is uncommonly “kvlt” as this “first world metal problems” meme I found online makes clear:
For those not in the know (ie, not kvlt enough), for one to be trooly kvlt, one must not only like music that no one else likes but also like music that no one else has ever even heard of. It’s not just those hipsters, metalheads were being kvlt snobs way before it was cool.
Unfortunately, there was a two fold kvlt problem with my patch jacket. First, the most kvlt of all kvlt bands that I liked not only didn’t have many patches due to their obscurity but also were mostly pretty fascist. Which, of course an artist’s personal beliefs shouldn’t affect your enjoyment of their music in the slightest, but I also didn’t want to wear a bunch of swastikas on my patch jacket. I learned my lesson with that old Burzum shirt I used to wear, like what you like, but when you wear it on your shirt you gotta take responsibility for that shit and not complain and moan about how that the skinhead neo-nazi dude that sieg heiled you for wearing your Burzum shirt to Ren Fest didn’t understand your nuanced position on the relationship of an artist’s ideology to the quality of their artistic output.
So right off the back I had to leave off Graveland, Veles, Infernum, Seigneur Voland, Absurd, Dub Buk, M8l8th, Temnozor, actually, basically any Polish or Russian bands. Hell, as it turned out, even Moonblood had some kind of white power Celtic Cross hidden in their logo that almost made it past my vetting process. I mean, satanic murderers are fine, but I guess I draw a line at nationalism disguised racism?
My second kvlt problem was that all the so called “second wave” Norwegian bands that were so influential to the scene are totally not kvlt anymore. A good general rule is that as long as a band’s songs have less than 10,000 youtube views (ideally less than 1,000), they are still pretty kvlt. Well, you won’t find such kvltness with big name bands like Mayhem and Darkthrone. But hell, even though I don’t listen to the foundational Norwegian bands as much as I used to, and even though I really tend to dislike the legion of Emperor/Immortal style clones that came later, turns out all my old favorites that got me into black metal were still pretty awesome, and I finally decided that they deserved their own side of the front of the jacket. I even relaxed the non-racist rule and put Burzum on there too. I mean, the dude was only saying fascist stuff in prison (if I learned anything from watching Oz, it was probably just to keep from being raped) and Burzum is about the best black metal band ever anyway!
Also, I found some good kvlt patches like the poor quality bootleg Xibalba patch that I ordered from Ecuador, or the Paysage d’Hiver patch that I could only find in grey but then was able to trade with a fellow metalhead who had somehow found a black one like I wanted somewhere else.
Finally, I just had to find an epic centerpiece back patch and I was good to go! I almost went with just a normal picture of Quorthon from Bathory (arguably the founder of the genre), but that would have just been way too populist a choice, I mean who DOESN’T like Bathory?! Luckily I found a thunderously epic Varathron patch that was just the right combination of evil and nerdy (and, as it happens, I think the band is rather brilliant too).
***Late edit: I wasn’t happy with the greyed out tone and hard to read logo of the “official” Varathron patch I ordered from NWN, so I just went ahead and printed my own up, along with some some upside down crosses just to make sure everyone knows exactly how I feel about christianity. Also, the upside down crosses filled in that tricky area next to the back patch that is too small for a real patch quite well!
I spray glued the patches on to hold them in place, borrowed a sewing machine, figured out how to use a sewing machine, and then sewed that motherfucker together!
Here you can see the front with optional wrist spikes accessories (metal fashion rule #1, ALWAYS accessorize):
And here you can see a blurry picture of the back of version 1 of this vest with optional “biker jacket” under-layer (metal fashion rule #2, layers can really spice up an outfit):
I even left a bit of room for new patches on one shoulder! I still need to figure out what to do with the other empty spaces (especially the snaps area), but I figure some combination of ring mail/more patches/spikes/studs/taxidermied animals will work.
I also did a quick tally of the Satanic symbols and various metal accouterments in the 36 separate patches and came up with the following:
Upside down crosses: 22
Old English Font Variations: 11ish
Devil Tails: 9
Lion Tails: 3
And I can always add an Enbilulugugal patch to bring that inverted cross tally up to an even 30:
Shocking that didn’t make last month’s “worst black metal album cover” Mailbag Monday, right?
Anyway, for those who might not be familiar with EVERY band on my semi KVLT patch jacket, I went ahead and included a representative song from each band. I’ve also included them in order of release date, so skipping around in in each song should give you a nice little aural history of the evolution of black metal as it moved from the first wave (ie, just dark sounding heavy metal) to the second (ie, black metal sounding black metal).
Hellhammer – “Revelations of Doom”
(Satanic Rites, 1983)
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Hellhammer-Revelations-Of-Doom.mp3|titles=Hellhammer – Revelations Of Doom]
Even though this song comes from all the way back in 1983, you can’t simply classify it as NWOBHM Venom worship. Hellhammer was always unique, and this more uptempo version of their sound actually sounds pretty second wave black metal by itself. Brilliant band, brilliant demo, and an influence to just about every genre of extreme metal that was to come.
Celtic Frost – “Procreation of the Wicked”
(Morbid Tales, 1984)
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Celtic-Frost-Procreation-of-the-wicked.mp3|titles=Celtic Frost – Procreation (of the wicked)]
I probably didn’t need a Celtic Frost patch in addition a patch for their earlier incarnation Hellhammer, since the music was pretty similar. But, Celtic Frost is still awesome, and proved that you didn’t need tremolo picking to make the most evil sounding music ever. Definitely an influence to just about every black metal song with a “slow” part ever.
Bathory – “Reaper”
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Bathory-Reaper.mp3|titles=Bathory – Reaper]
Bathory pretty much invented Black Metal. Sure, like a lot of these early bands, maybe they sound more like Venom than black metal, but goddamn if Bathory didn’t find a way to make the already dark as shit Venom take the evil meter up to 11. Stylistically the vocals and horrible production might be the only thing “black metal” about this release, but the soulcrushing evil atmosphere of the chorus really takes this into the realm of black metal more than anything else.
Sabbat – “Mion’s Hill”
(Sabbat EP, 1985)
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Sabbat-Mions-Hill.mp3|titles=Sabbat – Mion’s Hill]
Japanese madmen Sabbat add in a bit of Mercyful Fate worship to the usual first wave black metal mix of Venom worship, and, like Bathory, they make it dark as hell. Of course, this isn’t technically black metal either, but they proved that with only 4 chords (twice as many as Hellhammer) you could nail a perfect black metal atmosphere, and by picking the right chords it could be epic as hell too. Sabbat got blacker and more brutal for sure, but their first EP laid out the blueprint for the rest of their brilliant career.
Sarcofago – “I.N.R.I.”
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Sarcofago-INRI.mp3|titles=Sarcofago – INRI]
Sarcofago is what happens when one of the original founders of the already fairly brutal Sepultura decides that Sepultura was to mainstream for him. Thus he formed Sarcofago, and, inadvertently was a huge influence on the genre of black metal in the process. This song (along with most of Bathory’s output from their second and third albums) was the closest thing to second wave black metal in the mid 80s.
Bathory – “Gods of Thunder of Wind and of Rain”
(Blood on Ice, 1988-1996)
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Bathory-Gods-of-Thunder-of-Wind-and-of-Rain.mp3|titles=Bathory – Gods of Thunder of Wind and of Rain]
What’s that? I already did Bathory? Well, unlike every other band I idolize who went on to change their sound, when Bathory changed their sound I ended up liking them even more! This track is from some of Bathory’s first experiments with their new “viking metal” sound in 1988 that was not released until 1996 for fear of fan backlash. They shouldn’t have worried, I’d even be so bold as to call Blood on Ice their finest album (even if Quorthon can’t sing for shit).
Blasphemy – “Demoniac”
(Blood Upon the Altar, 1989)[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Blasphemy-Demoniac.mp3|titles=Blasphemy – Demoniac]
There was plenty of brutal music in the underground by 1989, from both death metal and first wave black metal bands. However, nothing quite matched the pure blasting evil of Blasphemy’s demo Blood Upon the Altar. Intense, brutal, and evil as fuck, there is something undeniably “black” about this album, despite its grindcore roots.
Master’s Hammer – “Geniové”
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Masters-Hammer-Geniove.mp3|titles=Master’s Hammer – Geniové]
Skip ahead a few years and we find ourselves one year before the second wave black metal scene was about to explode. In this song from Czech band Master’s Hammer, you can hear the first wave give way to the second mid song. Brilliant, unique stuff, with some really excellent (and strange) vocal work.
Von – “Devil Pig”
(Satanic Blood, 1992)
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Von-Devil-Pig.mp3|titles=Von – Devil Pig]
Von may or may not have been a joke band, but I say they were accidental genius anyway. Who needs more than one riff per song? Not Von! Sure, they sound like death metal, and death metal had been going on since the mid to late 80s, but in showing the possibilities of the nihilistic minimalism that was to be so important to the black metal style, I’d call Von a black metal band at heart. Though it is amusing to think that the entire genre of black metal could have been so strongly influenced by a band that might have been completely satirical.
Mystifier – “An Elizabethan Devil-worshiper’s Prayer-book”
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Mystifier-An-Elizabethan-Devil-Worshipers-Prayer-Book.mp3|titles=Mystifier – An Elizabethan Devil-Worshiper’s Prayer-Book]
As with Master’s Hammer, by the time you get to the early 90s, it’s really hard to tell the first wave and second wave black metal albums apart. Especially with brilliantly evil bands like Brazil’s Mystifier. This song is more of a metal ritual than anything that could be so summarily described as “first wave.” And yet when it kicks into the uptempo sections it sounds exactly like any other “second wave” band that would follow them in the next decade. And to think that they recorded an even more awesome version of this song only a year later!
Havohej – “Weeping in Heaven”
(Dethrone the Son of God, 1993)
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Havohej-Weeping-in-Heaven.mp3|titles=Havohej – Weeping in Heaven]
More than any other band on my jacket, Havohej kind of sounds like death metal (in the Incantation style). However, their style of ultra dark, evil as shit, atmospheric brutality is also often considered the first wave American black metal and was a huge influence to bands like Demoncy. Again, a lot of the time when oddball bands are considered black metal it’s all about the atmosphere.
Beherit – “Salomon’s Gate”
(Drawing Down the Moon, 1993)
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Beherit-Salomons-Gate.mp3|titles=Beherit – Salomon’s Gate]
Finland’s Beherit’s early work (which this logo, which was always my favorite, is taken from) is about as filthy and chaotic as the most vile South American output. And then, for 1993’s Drawing Down the Moon, they focused their sound into producing what could be the most evil sounding album ever. Like Mystifier, unique, and undeniably evil.
Varathron – “Unholy Funeral”
(His Majesty at the Swamp, 1993)
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Varathron-Unholy-Funeral.mp3|titles=Varathron – Unholy Funeral]
If you ask me, Varathron’s His Majesty at the Swamp may be one of the greatest black metal albums ever. And it doesn’t even really sound like either first or second wave black metal. Yeah, doesn’t make any sense to me either, but their odd style highlights everything I love about the Greek scene.
Rotting Christ – “Transform all Sufferings into Plagues”
(Thy Mighty Contract, 1993)
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Rotting-Christ-Transform-all-Sufferings-into-Plagues.mp3|titles=Rotting Christ – Transform all Sufferings into Plagues]
If push came to shove, I’d probably admit that Rotting Christ’s Thy Mighty Contract is a better (and even Greekier) album than Varathron’s brilliant His Majesty at the Swamp. But no point in picking favorites between two such excellent albums…though that Varathron back patch was so cool it probably tipped the scale in their favor.
Enslaved – “Balfár (Andi Fara / Prologr)”
(Hordanes Land, 1993)
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Enslaved-Balfar.mp3|titles=Enslaved – Balfar]
Enslaved has been playing a prog rock style of black metal for quite a while now. And while they have some ok stuff, it’s their early work that I like the most, especially their Hordane’s Land split with Emperor (which also happened to be my first black metal cd). Repetitive, keyboard heavy, epic, and even kind of pretty sounding, old Enslaved is basically awesome.
Emperor – “I am the Black Wizards”
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Emperor-I-am-the-Black-Wizards.mp3|titles=Emperor – I am the Black Wizards]
The Emperor style is not one that I really enjoy all that much any more. But I can’t deny how great their split with Enslaved is (in addition to their surprisingly brutal demo). About as close to “symphonic” as I will get with black metal, even though this early stuff doesn’t really count (and is still quite excellent).
Immortal – “As the Eternity Opens”
(Pure Holocaust, 1993)
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Immortal-As-the-Eternity-Opens.mp3|titles=Immortal – As the Eternity Opens]
Along with Emperor, the Immortal style of black metal is probably the most copied style of black metal ever, and really helped to define the second wave black metal sound. And also, along with Emperor, few (no?) bands have been able to match the brilliance of the originals.
Mütiilation – “To the Memory of the Dead Countess”
(Evil: The Gestalt of Abomination/Remains of a Ruined Dead Cursed Soul, 1993/1999)
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Mutiilation-To-the-Memory-of-the-Dead-Countess.mp3|titles=Mutiilation – To the Memory of the Dead Countess]
French black metal is dirty, nasty stuff, but infused with a nice melancholy backbone. Mutiilation is probably my favorite band from the French scene and they are just the right combination of lo fi production and excellently sorrowful melodic choices. This is from their unreleased first full length, and is pretty damn raw, but showcases their style quite well.
Burzum – “Inn I Slottet Fra Drømmen”
(Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, 1994)
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Burzum-Inn-I-Slottet-Fra-Droemmen.mp3|titles=Burzum – Inn I Slottet Fra Droemmen]
Burzum has long been my favorite black metal band, and I still don’t see new discoveries like Paysage D’Hiver usurping them. This song starts out harsh and discordant and finishes up in an almost overwhelmingly epic place.
Darkthrone – “Transilvanian Hunger”
(Transilvanian Hunger, 1994)
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Darkthrone-Transilvanian-Hunger.mp3|titles=Darkthrone – Transilvanian Hunger]
Along with Burzum, Darkthrone helped invent the second wave Norwegian scene, and this album was their statement on how far they could push the limits of the genre. Inspired by Von, Transilvanian Hunger distilled black metal down to its nihilistically minimal essence and became an instant classic in the process.
Mayhem – “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”
(De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, 1994)
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Mayhem-De-Mysteriis-Dom-Sathanas.mp3|titles=Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas]
Mayhem in theory “started” the Norwegian scene in the mid 80s, but they did not release an album of note until 1994. And, though it was their only output before the band fell apart to “creative differences,” it more than deserves its legendary reputation. They took their time, but when they finally put out De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, they definitely got it right.
Gorgoroth – “Crushing the Scepter”
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Gorgoroth-Crushing-the-Scepter-Regaining-a-Lost-Dominion.mp3|titles=Gorgoroth – Crushing the Scepter (Regaining a Lost Dominion)]
Gorgoroth tends to get overlooked in favor of the bigger name Norwegian bands, but I’ve always had a soft spot for them. Their brand of black metal doesn’t change the world like Burzum’s, but goddamn if it isn’t catchy and epic as shit!
Forgotten Woods – “Dimension of the Blackest Dark”
(As the Wolves Gather, 1994)[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Forgotten-Woods-Dimension-Of-The-Blackest-Dark.mp3|titles=Forgotten Woods – Dimension Of The Blackest Dark]
Forgotten Woods were unique among the early Norwegian black metal bands in that they sounded more like Blue Oyster Cult than anything actually KVLT. And yet, the rock ‘n roll vibe meshed so perfectly with the supremely melancholy atmosphere of their music that I can’t imagine them sounding any other way.
Xibalba – “Itzam Cab Ain Katun”
(Ah Dzam Poop Ek, 1994)
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Xibalba-Itzam-cab-ain-katun.mp3|titles=Xibalba – Itzam cab ain katun]
Mayan themed Mexican black metal? Yes please. As black metal began to spread around the world, it was interesting to hear each new country’s take on the genre. And Xibalba’s take was refreshingly unique (aside from the obvious, and appreciated, Burzum influence) that has quickly made them one of my favorite new discoveries.
Ulver – “I Troldskog Faren Vild”
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Ulver-Capitel-I-I-Troldskog-faren-vild.mp3|titles=Ulver – Capitel I – I Troldskog faren vild]
Ulver only really ever had two full length black metal albums, but damn they were good ones. This song, from their first full length, may be the only bit of black metal that rivals Burzum for emotional power. Well, almost rivals Burzum.
Ildjarn – “Midnight Interval”
(Forest Poetry, 1995)
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Ildjarn-Midnight-Interval.mp3|titles=Ildjarn – Midnight Interval]
Ildjarn took the blueprint laid out by Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger and somehow made music that was even more ugly and minimal. Definitely a tough listen, but a rewarding one as well–few albums are as nihilistically hateful as Forest Poetry.
Isengard – “I Kamp Med Kvitekrist”
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Isengard-I-Kamp-Med-Kvitekrist.mp3|titles=Isengard – I Kamp Med Kvitekrist]
Bathory, as with black metal, was first on the scene for a more folk influenced style of black metal, but it was Fenriz of Darkthrone fame who really brought the possibilities of folk black metal into the spotlight with his Isengard side project. Also, shockingly, he wasn’t a half bad singer either…at least compared to other black metal vocalists.
Necromantia – “Scarlet Witching Dreams”
(Scarlet Evil Witching Black, 1995)[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Necromantia-Scarlet-Witching-Dreams.mp3|titles=Necromantia – Scarlet Witching Dreams]
On the surface, Necromantia’s masterpiece Scarlet Evil Witching Black seems to sound a bit more Norwegian than most of their contemporaries. However, the two guitars, unique atmosphere, and excellent songwriting quickly establishes this as an album that is neither Greek nor Norwegian, rather, it is just pure Necromantia, and pretty goddamn good as well.
Zemial – “Battle on the Norse Mountains”
(For the Glory of Ur, 1996)
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Zemial-Battle-On-The-Norse-Mountain.mp3|titles=Zemial – Battle On The Norse Mountain]
People may try to write off Zemial as never good enough to match the Greek “big three,” but I’m here to say that Zemial is just as awesome, and just as quintessentially Greek as any of the big three. They didn’t break any new boundaries, but their debut full length is one of the high points of the Greek scene.
Summoning – “Mirkwood”
(Nightshade Forests, 1997)
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Summoning-Mirkwood.mp3|titles=Summoning – Mirkwood]
At this point Summoning has pretty much been repeating themselves for a while, but in their heyday, no one did keyboard heavy Tolkien inspired epic black metal better. Cheesy sure, but sometimes that’s ok.
Demoncy – “Winter Bliss”
(Joined in Darkness, 1999)
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Demoncy-Winter-Bliss.mp3|titles=Demoncy – Winter Bliss]
Like Havohej and Incantation, Demoncy features a low, bass heavy “american black metal” sound. And like Havohej and Incantation, they are evil as shit. This album is a pure blast of unadulterated evil that will shrivel your balls into tiny black lumps of evil coal.
Paysage D’Hiver – “Isa”
(Kristall & Isa, 2000)
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Paysage-DHiver-Isa.mp3|titles=Paysage D’Hiver – Isa]
Paysage D’Hiver takes the usual shitty black metal production (and minimal melodic content…this song only features 3 notes) so far that one could almost call their music ambient. Hell, you gotta have a good stereo to even hear the drums half the time. But they are also probably one of the greatest black metal bands of all time and I was super happy I found a patch for them!
Xasthur – “Soul Abduction Ceremony”
(Nocturnal Poisoning, 2002)
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Xasthur-Soul-Abduction-Ceremony.mp3|titles=Xasthur – Soul Abduction Ceremony]
Xasthur is awesome, I don’t care what they say. Every album might sound the same, but the supremely mournful melodies and the underwater production make this probably my favorite “depressive suicidal black metal” band.
Urfaust – “Die kalte Teufelsfaust”
(Geist ist Teufel, 2004)
[audio:https://isleyunruh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Urfaust-Die-Kalt-Teufelsfaust.mp3|titles=Urfaust – Die Kalt Teufelsfaust]
Take everything I love about Isengard and Burzum and mix them together and you get Urfaust. Tough to pick a song, their whole catalog is excellent (and very unique), and their first album works far better than such a simple mix of metal and folk has any right to.
The vest featured in this post is version 2.0 of my patch vest. You can see my original version 1.0 HERE