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The Black Metal Arts 

This town has one of the most thriving metal scenes in the world. Local faves Ludicra offer tips on how to cash in on that action.

Wednesday, Mar 16 2005
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Once you've named yourself, it's time to work on your look. We know, we know, it's not cool to let on that you actually pay attention to this, and frankly, all the best bands probably really don't pay attention to this, but you are new and, let's face it, not very good, so listen up. First off, don't dress like you live in your parents' basement and play Castle Wolfenstein all day. This is metal, not wood shop. You gotta put some thought into it, especially if you want to copy European black metal musicians, who aren't afraid of painting their faces black and white, wielding gigantic axes, and dressing like a human bed of nails.

"Some of my nonmetal friends will come over and look at my records," says Aesop. "And they say, 'Man, these guys are just trying to be Kiss.' But they aren't, it's really more like kabuki -- it's high art."

Aesop says that the face paint and capes worn by many European black metal bands are a reaction to the doofus factor in death metal, the doofus factor being (and this is where the class warfare comes into play) that the stereotype of most death metal bands is that they are rednecks in sweat pants and big fat white high-tops. Hmm ... so, the black metal folks are making fun of the death metal folks for looking silly? "It is an extreme reaction to it," Aesop admits.

Which side you choose will also depend on how hard you want your kids to laugh at you when they grow up. Which is more embarrassing, a black metal picture of you with Alice Cooper's face makeup locked in an iron maiden, or a greasy-haired death metal shot of you gnawing on a limb torn from a zombie? Tough call.


Finally, there is the music itself. Despite the aesthetic differences between both sounds, an important consideration your new band needs to consider is: How good is your bass player? A death metal band has more low end, so that sucka is going to have to carry you pretty far. If you really want to impress the chicks, death metal bands are also more noodly and chop-laden.

The second musician factor to examine is: How interested is your drummer in playing the same beat over and over again extremely rapidly for 1.5 hours? If he or she is very interested, death metal is your bag. If he or she is more open to breaking time signatures, try black.

Then there is the singing: Would you rather scream for vengeance in black metal, or chew gravel with Yoda on the side of death? All of these things need to be taken into account. And here you thought this was going to be easy.

But here's good news: Songwriting can be made to sound all the more sweet when combined with choice album art. If you have a cool picture of a shotgun blast to the head for your cover (death), then all of your songs can be about suicide. Or you could go the even creepier route. "You would want a zombie or a real evil landscape that might be hell, but might not be," says Aesop about death metal album art. "A cavernous landscape, a waterfall of blood ...."

Black metal usually reflects the myths of the countries it's from, like Norway or England. Ludicra sings about relationships and urban landscapes, "not forests or Satan," says Shanaman. But then, you know what they say: You have to learn the rules before you can break them.

Whatever you choose, black or death, or any of the many other subgenres, metal is the wave of the future, people, and we are living in the center of it. "Hipsters and indie rockers are just now figuring it out," says Aesop. "They used to listen to black metal and be like, 'Wow, this is crazy, this is so ironic, these guys dress up like pandas in the forest!' But now I think that some of them are realizing that the bands are really interesting musically, more interesting than 101 Pavement offshoots. And that's how it was for me, too -- it was more of a morbid curiosity, like, 'Look at these freaky people.' But then the records were so good."

So there you have it. Now go out there and create your own doom.


Nine Nuggets for Becoming More Metal
By Ross Sewage

Hello true believers. My name is Ross Sewage, and I play bass guitar in Impaled and Ludicra, two bands that are more metal than tungsten. I've been asked by the poser staff at SF Weekly to provide some advice on how you, the poserish white-belt-wearing readership of this decidedly nonmetal rag, might at least appear more metal. Here are nine of my top tips, because nine is an evil number according to The Satanic Bible. Well, that, and 666 tips are just way too many to write -- I've got headbangin' to do, damn it!

No. 1: There's a fine line between metalhead and leather daddy. Never don a leather cap along with your studded armbands.

No. 2: If you can't name the first Slayer album or a member of Venom, a studded belt will not make you metal; it makes you stupid.

No. 3: Never wear eyeliner. A face full of panda-style greasepaint, however, is A-OK.

No. 4: Be sure to use the words "gay" and "faggot" to describe things or people unfavorable to you, even though you totally look gay, you faggot.

No. 5: Pointy guitars are a must. This is sure to make up for your alcohol-induced impotence.

No. 6: If someone brings up a metal band you've never heard of, just say that band sucked after its first demo. Note to hipsters and white-belts: This works for you, too.

About The Author

Katy St. Clair

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