A year ago, metal enthusiast and writer Dayal Patterson presented the world with his authoritative document Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult, claiming the dark hearts of literate misanthropes everywhere. To anyone who read the book and thought it could have been more developed… well, the author thought so, too. This year, we will have the opportunity to read the first installment of The Cult Never Dies, a multi-volume project designed to explore black metal’s participants, histories and directions more deeply, more broadly and generally more inclusively.
Decibel asked Patterson a few questions about his laudable efforts in drawing these pieces together, in order to give you an idea of what to expect and, frankly, drool over while you anticipate reading the interviews and analysis that Patterson has dragged from the infernal darkness.
What’s the idea behind The Cult Never Dies project, as opposed to what you accomplished with last year’s Evolution of the Cult?
Evolution of the Cult was essentially the foundation for what is a fairly ambitious project, and it’s role was to provide an examination of how black metal came to be in the first place and how it evolved into the genre we recognise today. For that reason it primarily looked at the eighties and nineties because so many formative moves and significant music was made in that time. Furthermore, big as the book was, I was forced to decide whether to really go into depth with the artists involved or cut down their interviews and get some more bands in there. Depth, detail and insight was always my aim in telling this story so I chose the former option.
The Cult Never Dies books therefore present the opportunity to continue the tale, to dig even deeper and to look at some of the most important artists, subgenres and scenes and tell some of the more incredible and fascinating stories. The first book is split into three parts and begins by finishing off the Norwegian story (dealing with Satyricon, Moonfog Productions, Kampfar, Manes, Solefald, Wardruna/Jotunspor/Gorgoroth), looking at some of the more seminal and compelling acts in the Polish black metal movement (Xantotol, Mastiphal, Arkona, Evilfeast, Mgła, Kriegsmaschine) and examining the creation of depressive/suicidal black metal (Strid, Bethlehem, Silencer, Forgotten Tomb, Total Negation).
How many volumes do you have planned, and what will be the focus of each volume?
At the moment the plan is to create new volumes for as long as I’m enjoying the project and have something to say and for as long as people are enjoying reading them. Volume Two is partly written and I’ve even conducted some of the interviews for Volume Three, so there’s definitely more to come. The plan at the moment is to have each volume explore three aspects of the movement, and the order these make their way into series will be determined in part by chronology and in part by the order of the material I collect; I’m not in a rush with this, so if I don’t feel I have enough interview material with a particular band I want to explore, I’d rather wait until I can talk to them properly rather than including anything superficial.
What were the most enjoyable/interesting interviews you did for this book?
It probably sounds like hyperbole, but I’d dare to say that all the interviews in this book are interesting for the black metal fan – that’s how these particular chapters made the final cut really. I think in all cases they reveal a wealth of new information on the band in question but also deal with wider issues that surface within black metal as a genre, be it politics, drugs, suicide, Paganism, magick, philosophy, stylistic limitations or whatever else. This book is also arguably a bit darker than the first one and that was something I wasn’t expecting – the stories and insights regarding bands like Strid, Bethehem, Silencer and so were amazing for me personally to learn, so I would include those.
What was the most difficult situation you dealt with when pulling this book together?
There are people involved in this volume who don’t tend to do interviews and some who have actually never done an interview in their lives – to find these people and get them to talk openly was of course a big challenge. The other major difficulty – just like the first book – was in finding images that were of a good enough quality to merit inclusion. That took a lot of work but I think the finished product is looking great – there are about 150 images and many are never before published or even seen before. The boxed set edition actually includes an extra 52 colour pages images, and really sucks you into the whole journey of the thing I feel.
What approach did you take with Norwegian Black Metal this time around?
I realise that there was a fair bit of Norway in the first book, but I really wanted to tie up some loose ends in the first part of the new book. I had wanted to include Satyricon properly in the first book for example, but I didn’t have sufficient material to do it justice, so I laid that ghost to rest with what I think is probably the most thorough telling of the Satyricon/Moonfog story to date. As well as talking about the band and the label there’s a lot of insight on Satyr’s relationships with Darkthrone, Snorre Ruch of Thorns, Euronymouse/Helvete etc. So there was that, then similarly I finished the story of Manes, there’s the Kampfar chapter which looks not only at the band’s story but also some of the ‘unknown’ side of Norways ‘inner circle’ dynamic, then there’s Kvitrafn’s telling of the journey from Gorgoroth to Wardruna and Nordic spirituality, a discussion with Solefald’s Cornelius on nature, nationalism and counter-revolutions within black metal and also a piece looking at Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen and his affect the black metal aesthetic.
Is there any particular black metal subgenre/style that you have trouble getting excited about?
I don’t think I’ll be writing about ‘gothic black metal’ or ‘Christian black metal’ anytime soon, but those genres arguably don’t have a great deal to do with black metal anyway. Besides that, nothing springs to mind. Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of mediocre and poor bands out there, but I would say that every subgenre has at least some worthy bands within its arsenal.
Would you like to see black metal get more (wider) attention, or do you think it’s doing just fine as it is?
I don’t feel that black metal needs more attention particularly, but I’m pretty sure that it will continue to get it. Had you asked me this question during the nineties I would have told you that black metal should remain in the shadows and so on – fact is those days are long, long gone (by about a decade and a half): ‘Underground’ means something very different in the age of the internet and the problem now is not unwanted attention as much as it is misrepresentation from within and without. I feel strongly that if black metal is going to keep appearing everywhere and being talked about then the people telling its story and putting it into context ought to be those within the scene and not outsiders or newcomers looking to retell the same stories over and over again or muddy the genre’s meaning(s) to suit their own agendas.