Black metal guitarists usually favour high gain guitar tones and abundant distortion. Typically, the guitar is played with much usage of fast tremolo picking. When composing music, guitarists often use scales, intervals and chord progressions that produce the most dissonant, fearful and ominous sounds. Guitar solos and low guitar tunings are a rarity in black metal.
The bass guitar is rarely used to perform independent melodies. It is not uncommon for the bass guitar to be inaudible or to homophonically follow the bass lines of the electric guitar. Typically, drumming is fast-paced and performed using double-bass and/or blast beat techniques; however, it is not unusual for drummers to employ more simplistic techniques.
Black metal compositions commonly deviate from conventional song structure and are often devoid of clear verse-chorus sections. Instead, many black metal songs contain extended and repetitive instrumental sections.
Vocals and lyrics
Traditional black metal vocals are in the form of high-pitched shrieks, screams and snarls. This vocal style sharply contrasts with the low-pitched growls of death metal. The majority of black metal vocalists are male, although there are a few notable exceptions.
The most common and founding lyrical theme is opposition to Christianity and other organized religions (described by some as Right-Hand Path religions). As part of this, many artists write lyrics that could be seen to promote atheism, antitheism, paganism and Satanism.] Other themes that are commonly explored include depression, nihilism, misanthropy and death. However, many black metal artists write lyrics that are inspired by winter, nature, mythology, folklore and fantasy narratives.
Low-cost production quality began as a must for pioneering black metal artists with low budgets. However, even when they were able to increase their production quality, many artists intentionally recorded in a low fidelity style. The reason for this was to remain true to the genre's underground roots and to make the music sound more "cold". One of the better-known examples of this production is the album Transilvanian Hunger by Darkthrone, a band who "represent the DIY aspect of black metal" according to Johnathan Selzer of Terrorizer magazine. Many have noted that, originally, black metal was not designed to attract listeners. Vocalist Gaahl claimed that during its early years, "black metal was never meant to reach an audience, it was purely for our own satisfaction".
Imagery and performances
Unlike artists of other genres, many black metal artists do not perform concerts. Bands that choose to perform concerts often make use of stage props and theatrics. Mayhem and Gorgoroth among other bands are noted for their controversial stage performances; which have featured impaled animal heads, mock crucifixions, medieval weaponry, and band members doused in animal blood.
Black metal artists typically appear dressed in black with combat boots, bullet belts, spiked wristbands, and inverted crosses/inverted pentagrams to reinforce their anti-Christian or anti-religious stance. However, they are most often identified by their usage of corpse paint – black and white makeup (sometimes detailed with real or fake blood), which is used to simulate a corpse-like appearance.
In the early 1990s, most pioneering black metal artists used very simplistic black-and-white imagery on their record covers. Some believe this was a reaction against death metal bands, who at that time had begun to use brightly coloured album artwork. Most underground black metal artists have continued this style. Bands that do not use this style usually have album covers that are either atmospheric or provocative; some feature natural or fantastical landscapes (for example Burzum's Filosofem and Emperor's In The Nightside Eclipse) while others are violent, perverted and iconoclastic (for example Marduk's Fuck Me Jesus).
Bands Like: Darkthrone, Burzum, Bathory, Marduk, Emperor, Mayhem, Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, Immortal, Gorgoroth, Satyricon, Abyssic Hate, Old Dimmu Borgir, Dark Funeral, 1349, Ancient, Armagedda, Behexen, Carpathian Forest, Deathspell Omega, Forgotten Tomb, Ulver, Taake, Setherial, Watain, Venom, Horna, Naglfar, Morgul, Necrofrost, Nattefrost, Satanic Warmaster, Nehemah, Besatt, Funeral Mist, Graveland, Judas Iscariot, Khold, Lord Belial, Old Man's Child, Rotting Christ, Samael, Wyrd, Ajattara, Akerbeltz, Astaroth, Beherit, Black Funeral.. etc