I was honoured and slightly bewildered recently when, out of the blue, a couple of dudes approached me online asking me to participate in an upcoming symposium on black metal in Dublin, called “Colouring the Black”. Not just to attend, you understand, but to present a talk on the subject of black metal, based on the perceived strengths of this blog (which honestly I still struggle to see, a lot of the time).
I felt supremely unequipped to do this, to put it mildly. “I only started listening to this shit in 2009”, I felt like saying. “I’m the least kvlt person imaginable. I haven’t worn all black in literally years. What are you thinking?” Nevertheless, the organisers assured me they appreciated my posts here, and were looking for people to give the kind of insights I attempt to articulate. People who love the extremity of this music, but are willing to engage critically with the aspects of it they don’t like. The devotion to traditional genre signifiers that can act as an impediment to innovation. Elitist ideologies that spurn perceived outsiders and seek to exclude them from bands or audiences. The kind of low-key reactionary thought that gets more upset about people trying to make a safe space for people not traditionally represented in black metal, than the fact that far-right and white supremacist groups and fans have had that safe space more or less since the beginning.
After weeks of consideration, I eventually decided against giving a talk there. Even if the organisers think I have something to say about black metal that’s worth feeling, I still feel like a neophyte, a moderately-informed outsider at best. Surely, I thought, someone far more knowledgeable and articulate and insightful about this than me will make the points I want to make, better than I could have hoped to, and then I’ll have to go on after them and look like an absolute shitheap in comparison.
There are still things I think and feel about the music, though, that I feel might be worth sharing. A few nights ago I hammered out some thoughts on the subject via Twitter, and to my surprise the organisers of Colouring the Black asked if they might include these in a collection of writings associated with the event. To make things more convenient I’ve Storified the tweets in question, and have put a link to them in this post. Hopefully, they engender discussion and reflection, and form a small contribution to the symposium itself.
Colouring the Black: A Black Metal Theory Symposium will be held on Friday the 20th March at GalleryX in Dublin. Facebook page for the event is here.