Black Metal Into The Abyss cover teaseIf such honours were bestowed Dayal Patterson is fast becoming the person most likely to be recognised as being an official biographer of the black metal scene. This is now his third book following on from Feral House publication Black Metal Evolution Of The Cult (2014) and self-published & Black Metal The Cult Never Dies (2015 released alongside companion piece Prelude To The Cult). It’s not the quantity of output that has me stating such a sweeping statement it is mainly due to the quality of what he has done so far and essentially the fact that he has managed to gain access to the lives and stories from some of the most shadowy figures behind the creation of the music. Not only that but he has essentially got them all to really open out and be totally honest with him which is the mark of a very good and indeed trusted interviewer.

This 3rd volume is said to be looked on as a companion piece to The Cult Never Dies rather than a part 2 which is still in development. It differs somewhat in form as it takes a more fanzine approach by presenting its 21 chapters in question and answer form. That is not to say it lacks anything in thoroughness in the slightest. What we get are complete historical narratives to date with many bands and side projects in over 300 comprehensive pages. There are some dividing factors between them as geographically plenty of the bands featured are from Norway and Poland, lurking toward the back of the book like naughty children are those that can be tagged in the depressive suicidal black metal (DSBM) scene, although some as you will read are pretty much repulsed by that particular definition. There are too some anomalies that don’t quite fit in anywhere such as Estonian group Loits, Brazilian’s Mystifier and the Dutch doom etched misery of Deinonychus. Some bands are well known such as 1349, others less so, for example Psychonaut 4 from Georgia, a group I had never personally stumbled across but been quick to listen to since reading about them.

The author starts by giving a comprehensive analysis of each group at the beginning of their respective chapter which places them both in historical perspective and gives the reader an idea of how the group essentially sound and what they have released. The questions start at the beginning and naturally ask what drew the interviewee into the music and how they started out playing. One thing that we have discovered through these books (loathe as I am to say it) is that we have Kiss to thank for many of the artists taking up their musical journey. Things are far from formulaic though as each and every ‘story’ is a different one. Common ground is shared by ambition and the means that the people have to develop their craft from clumsy beginnings to what we hear today. Life and death and disappointment all feature heavily and some of the bands are not even active today although many in this situation are hinting that their tales are not done yet and there will be more to come.

No doubt everyone will have their favourites and those they are keen to skip straight to but patience is needed to get to those chapters. For me the starting point of Helheim was a great one as I had recently been listening to the Norse Viking bands back catalogue and always found them a group whose ideas and creations went way beyond the mere music itself. Urgehal laid to rest recently due to the death of founder Trondr Nefas are a band whose history seems explored at the perfect time; no resurrection coming here. Tsjuder are also a timely offering having recently played the UK twice gaining a lot more interest for them in the process. Other lesser known acts on the rise such as One Tail One Head could be a gateway for those who have not encountered them to start checking out their music and eagerly anticipating their debut full length album. It’s really good getting insights into albums that you love but never really heard the group talking about, one such case for me was Massemord affiliated act Furia and their excellent 2014 album Nocel. I’m still probably never going to get my head around the operatic falsetto on Mystifier’s ‘The World Is So Good….’ but at least I get a bit more insight into it and the times around its release now. If I had to pick a chapter that I really couldn’t wait to devour it would be on the hugely underrated Loits. Founding member Lembetu really manages to convey the misunderstood narratives and imagery of the band due to some intelligent questioning from Patterson and it’s a fascinating look at a really unique and interesting band; one who again despite silence for some time are hinting of fresh material soon .

Those dwelling toward the back pages of the book are fascinating characters and Dayal really pulls of a coup that seems to surprise even him getting an interview from the reclusive Suizid founder of Nocturnal Depression. These are compelling tales of fractured minds, pharmaceutical drugs legal and otherwise, self-harm and stays in mental institutions with the likes of Kim Carlsson talking about Hypothermia, Czech Republic agonist Trist and Graf of Psychonaut 4 really open up to the interviewer candidly and in a way that seems completely uncensored and in a way cathartic at being given the opportunity to intelligently tell their stories.

Naturally the book is illustrated throughout with pictures and archival photos of the groups and individuals featured as well as important album and demo covers. Each page also somewhat amusingly although thankfully not in a cheesy fashion is surrounded by an arch of skulls courtesy of illustrator Gareth Elliot. To go with the book there is an excellent stand-alone companion acting as a visual accompaniment with stacks of full page promo and live shots from an excellent array of great photographers. Some of these are absolutely stunning and have you asking questions in themselves; check out the crazy get up of Mord’ A’ Stigmata and Blaze Of Perdition and you are definitely going to want to know more about them.

Anyway I’ve waffled enough and all that remains to be said is that like the two books that came before it, this is an essential purchase for anyone who loves black metal and I’m already eager for the next instalment which can’t come quickly enough!

(Pete Woods)