A World of Isolation

Photo courtesy of blackmetal.com

Photo courtesy of blackmetal.com

Those who have crossed paths with the black metal genre think it’s evil, satanic, and filled with anti-theological ideologies and pure hatred.

Most of these views are true for its roots and some of the bands, but nothing embodies these emotions of anger, hatred, sorrow and depression than that of solitude.

Black metal gained its start in the early 1990s with what was known as the first wave from Norway featuring bands such as Mayhem, Darkthrone, Burzum, Immortal, Satyricon, Emperor and Gorgoroth.

The genre is often met with hostility from mainstream culture due to the ideologies and actions associated with it. Many of the artists do express extreme misanthropic and anti-Christian views that advocate various forms of ethnic paganism and Satanism.

​A small section of the artists in the genre decided to work in isolation. Leviathan, Judas Iscariot, Burzum, Striborg, Graveland, Satanic Warmaster, Paysage D’Hiver and Xasthur are a few artists who feature a single musician writing and recording everything.

Leviathan, hailing from San Francisco, started in 1998 by Jef Whitehead using the pseudonym Wrest. Wrest has stated in interviews that his lyrics are about suicide. In the Vice documentary, “One Man Metal,” Wrest discussed his troubled past, suicide attempts and many other moments in his life that fueled Leviathan.

The biggest event that affected Wrest was in January 2011, when he was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting his girlfriend at the time. He was later sentenced to two years’ probation. As of now, he released what was said to be his last album, “Scar Sighted,” in 2015.

​Russel Menzies is another composer in the genre who chose the one man path. Striborg, from Snug, Tasmania, Australia, is Russell Menzies’ project. Menzies’ lyrics reveal his fascination with forests, nature, darkness, night, misanthropy and death. He chose the isolated forest land to be far from civilization.

Menzies preferred to keep his musical persona a secret from his town, fearing the public’s views of the black metal community would drive him out of there. Menzies looks like an everyday person when he spends time with his family, but he unleashes his alter-ego, “Sin Nanna,” when writing and recording alone.

Menzies tends to take time to gain inspiration from his local forest and be one with nature. As of this year, he released “A Procession of Lost Souls” and plans to continue his craft.

​Xasthur from Alhambra is probably the best known one-man black metal project among the community. Scott Conner, better known as “Malefic,” played in several death metal bands throughout southern California before creating Xasthur in December of 1995.

Malefic noted the band Burzum as an inspiration for his one-man approach, as well as Graveland. Malefic is seen as the creator of the depressive black metal subgenre. Due to his themes of despair, depression, suicide and terror, many who listened to his albums “Telepathic with the Deceased” and “To Violate the Oblivious” can feel almost a trance of depression, sorrow and suicidal thoughts.

Malefic noted in past interviews that he does not enjoy the company of people. In fact, he said he generally hates people and prefers isolation. As of 2010, Malefic decided to end Xasthur and formed an acoustic dark folk project called Nocturnal Poisoning. In 2015, Malefic returned to the name Xasthur but dropped the black metal sound. He released his last solo black metal record, “Portal of Sorrow,” in 2010.

​The solo approach, especially in this genre, can be seen more as an outlet for musicians who prefer to work alone and write about ideals that can be seen as taboo or unacceptable to the common world. The majority of the genre is seen as “devil music,” but also features musicians that write of their ties to their native lands, mythology, nature and even depression and emotional sufferings.

In other words, this movement is a great outlet for those who want to write music their way with their own blood, sweat, and tears put into it.