Welcome To Hell - Black Metal's First Wave (Mighty Lambchop's Heavy Metal Nails #8)

Warning: This post will be discussing Satanic/Occult themes that one may find offensive depending on religious/spiritual views. This post does not necessarily reflect the philosophical views of the author and should not be discerned as such.
P.S. This post is so perfect for Friday the 13th, no? 

Good day!

Today we are discussing Black Metal and specifically, the first wave of it. In the next series, we will discuss the second wave that primarily came out of Scandinavia. I will also be briefly covering the four influential bands of the first wave and hold quite dear. So let's jump in!

The first wave of Black Metal owes a lot to NWOBHM. They had the Trad Metal sound with the addition of Satanic or horror themed lyrics. Hence making these bands more "evil."  The first wave was also inspired by the "Shock Rock" of Alice Cooper, presenting itself more as performance art.
(I love Alice. I highly recommend seeing him in concert, always a great show. And in case you didn't know, Alice is actually a born again Christian. His music has always been performance art and his newer stuff has been more moral parables. Just sayin'.)

Mercyful Fate

Mercyful Fate is one band that was very clear about its Trad Metal sound. The band formed in Denmark in  1980. What set them apart was their singer, King Diamond (AKA Kim Petersen). King had an extensive vocal range and made good use of falsetto singing. The falsetto was especially good at establishing the spooky and eerie feel of the music.
King Diamond also wore very theatrical makeup and has used real bones as a microphone handle. King Diamond follows LaVeyan Satanism which he sees more as a philosophy rather a religion. He was one of the very few performers of the time to be open about it and not just devil worshipper for pay. So yeah, he was a presence. 
Mercyful Fate's lyrical themes were more horror based than explicitly Satanic though they liked to make good use of occult themes. The Melissa album was a loose concept album telling the story of a witch burned at the stake and the man who loved her and swore vengeance on her behalf. Basically, it was a ghost story in music form. The band broke up in 1985 and King Diamond went on to pursue an awesome solo career.
King Diamond

King Diamond's solo career focused heavily on horror/ghost stories to be told over the span of an album and sometimes more than one. The trinity of albums that have his best work and longest running story are Abigail, Them and Conspiracy.  There's almost next to nothing about Satanism and the occult in his solo work but there is masterful gothic horror. Those albums have been highly influential to Gothic Metal as well as the second wave of Black Metal.
Mercyful Fate reunited  in 1992 and has been active between King Diamond's solo efforts. Things were not looking so good in 2010 when King had to have triple-bypass surgery. He has since recovered and played a comeback show at Sweden Rock Festival in June 2012.
Looks like both projects will be go in the forseeable future.

My picks for Mercyful Fate and King Diamond:
Don't Break the Oath
The Puppet Master

Next up is another controversial band who came out roaring from the NWOBHM, Venom.

If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a skull!

Venom formed in 1979 in Newcastle, England. Venom really set the standard here. They coined the term Black Metal via their second album of the same name. They took the spikes, chains and leather look of Judas Priest and ran away with it. Their early recordings are crude and the musicianship is at best, iffy.
They differentiated themselves from the NWOBHM scene by playing faster, loads of Satanic imagery and just being all around loud, drunken hooligans.
Venom heavily influenced the thrash scene and Metallica actually opened for them during a tour in the 1980s.
One thing is very clear about Venom. The lyrics, the evil posturing were all just meant to shock and titillate.
Venom never endorsed such a thing, they just made a niche for themselves.
I love Venom but even then I knew they weren't serious. There was always something clownish about them but they were so great at the time and some of those solos were scorching!
Venom has disbanded and reunited with varying lineups and still manages to pop up here and again.

My picks for Venom:
Black Metal
At War With Satan

Hailing from the generally benign country of Switzerland, is a particularly legendary band, Celtic Frost.

Celtic Frost

The story of Celtic Frost is interesting because their legacy includes the band formed before CF, Hellhammer. Hellhammer began in 1981 and really laid the foundation for the second wave. They released several demos and only one proper recording, Apocalyptic Raids. The band broke up shortly after that release and the remnants formed Celtic Frost in 1984.
Hellhammer had some of the seeds of Death Metal with the faster riffing and drumming and growled vocals.
The band was a bit crude and not so warmly received by critics at the time. Even Celtic Frost's frontman, Tom Gabriel Fischer disdained the output of Hellhammer but has since embraced it. 
Celtic Frost has been labelled avant garde given the level of experimentation on the Into The Pandemonium album. The band enjoyed a great deal of success up until 1987 when personal tension, financial troubles and a disappointing tour led Fischer to end the band. 
However, he was persuaded to regroup and this happened:

This is really sinister, you guys.

You can't talk about Celtic Frost without discussing the Cold Lake era. Oh dear. This was one of those colossal blunders that could have easily killed a band. How does one go from black/death metal to avant garde doom to glam? Let's allow Mr. Fischer to tell you himself:

I was too eager to simply have a good time, I was too happy to have new musicians who actually wanted to write and who didn't leave me with the immense burden of writing and producing the entire album (as it had been for the first three Celtic Frost albums). I therefore loosened control (of material and quality) too much. And I was too glad to let the darkness go – right down to the band’s image.
The original concept for Cold Lake as outlined was now taking on its own dynamics and our focus became totally out of control. What was going to be a far more melodic (commercial) album by the original line-up became an overblown steam release valve for past frustrations, recorded by new musicians who didn’t yet understand the legacy of Celtic Frost.
Tony Platt’s faulty production and the hefty disagreements he had with us contributed to this. The mistakes are countless. Just two here: we didn’t let go of Tony because we wanted a major name attached to the album – after all, that was what Celtic Frost always requested from Noise Records and had never gotten. Now it was possible. And Celtic Frost’s traditional complete ignorance of what was appropriate now backfired when we did Cold Lake in this totally inappropriate way.

So yeah. That happened. Gratefully, Celtic Frost overcame this.  However, you cannot buy the Cold Lake album anymore. They made sure to scrub that. I never heard it but as I understand it, it's actually not too bad. It's a harder, harsher kind of glam but it's definitely not worthy of the Celtic Frost name.
The band did break up in 1993 and reunited in 2001. After much tension, feuding and all kinds of super fun, the band permanently called it quits in 2008.

My picks for Helhammer/Celtic Frost:
Apocalyptic Raids
To Mega Therion
Into The Pandemonium
(They are the classics but they are classic for a reason.)

Next up is a band that is directly responsible for what was to come from Scandinavia.

Bringing brutality to Scandinavian forests since 1983!

Bathory  formed in 1983 in Sweden by Thomas Forsberg, better known as Quorthon, with Fredrik Melander on bass and Jonas Akerlund on drums. (Akerlund has since gone on to be a successful music video director. Seriously. This is a list of his work. Crazy.)


The band immediately made a mark with the Bathory album in 1984. It featured all the hallmarks one would find of the genre, inhuman vocals, lo-fi production and lots of Satanic imagery that was less an endorsement and more just to entertain.
Bathory was a really interesting project. Quorthon decided to quit playing live in 1985 and ultimately became more of a one man band albeit with hired help for the recordings. 
The band released what are considered to be really classic Black Metal recordings and then began the so-called "Viking" metal style. It was the imagery and stories of Norse mythology and folklore that really interested Quorthon. It was rich and complex compared to the same old Devil trappings but still allowed for anger towards the Christian Church. (Given the whole stamping out and co-opting of the Pagan traditions of Scandinavia during the 8th through 12th centuries. Just sayin'.)
Both the early black metal and Viking metal proved to be outrageously influential, especially in Norway. It is very clear when one listens to early Mayhem just where the influence comes from.

Bathory disbanded following the death of Quorthon in 2004. 

My picks for Bathory:
Pretty much everything. The evolution is simply breathtaking and I was a big fan of the Viking material.

This brings us to the manicure portion. I chose a simple and almost crude design since Black Metal's beginnings were quite humble. Of course, I added a little flair. That's just how I like it.

My base for all fingers was my favorite black polish of all time, Sally Hansen Salon Formula Black Patent Leather. I used Kiss Nail Artist Pen in white for the "666" and Pure Ice Platinum Base Coat for the inverted cross on my ring finger. For the middle and pinkie I lightly sponged Sally Hansen Nail Prisms in Pink Pearl, Fire Opal and Blush Diamond. 

I'll be talking about those Nail Prisms soon. I found an incredible bit of treasure that I must share.

Now, this is a bit of a controversial subject. I love the music, I really do. I have a fairly macabre sense of humour so the Satanic imagery is funny to me. That's because I am an atheist with Ethical Humanist leanings so the concept of a devil is not only illogical to me but a bit silly. However, I am aware that many of you may disagree and I certainly respect that. Which is why I chose to post a disclaimer at the top of the page.

That will end this chapter for now. Next up will be a discussion of the second wave of Black Metal.
Thank you for coming by and I hope you will have a wonderful weekend!


  1. Awesome post with awesome nail art!! :D

    1. Thank you, Chrissy. I really appreciate your kind words and that you came to visit. Hope you'll enjoy what's coming next!

  2. Holy ass, you're a chick? I wanna marry you!

  3. Holy ass, you're a chick? King Diamond rules, I wanna marry you!

    1. Thanks for coming by and commenting, Otto.
      I'm already married. Sorry! Glad you enjoyed the post though.


Thank you for coming by! I deeply appreciate each comment and I do my best to respond in a timely fashion.

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