We all know how it goes in the music media. There are webzines and social media accounts on the one side of the media space. Content there is very democratic, usually created by enthusiasts and volunteers. These typically follow some news or are used for discussions, personal views, and self-expression. On the other hand, there are glossy magazines with professional crew. Their topics follow the current market; they are essentially big promos trying to cover the entire spectrum of metal subgenres and focusing on the most commercially successful acts (so you got your monthly update on Iron Maiden even if nothing really happened).
This book is neither. Dayal is a fan of Black Metal and a professional journalist. For several decades, he followed the genre and conducted countless interviews. He published a book, “Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult,” in 2014, which was received positively, but Dayal himself was dissatisfied with the publisher’s constraints (his then-publisher limited the word count and introduced a lot of general mess). Fast forward to 2023, he finally completed the work in the form he envisioned it from the start — expanding it twofold and calling it “The Restored, Expanded and Definitive Edition”. The book has a beautiful cover by David Thiérrée, known for his work for metal bands, labels, and fanzines. Dayal is in full control now and is responsible for text, layout, and publication. Composed of 155 interviews and 340000 words, it is indeed a “definitive” book on the genre.
I won’t advise you to try to read a digital version, as I did for this review. Despite its larger format, the book is filled with so much text that it has to be printed using a smaller font size, such as you would encounter in magazines. The text holds nicely a delicate balance between a logical narrative about the history of bands and the casual style of the interview quotes. Every line is informative and written professionally — you won’t find here typical fan passages with heightened emotions, depicting yet another catarthical experience evoked by a certain band or album. The author guides us through the bands’ journeys, interleaving his commentary with supporting first-person speech and images. Dayal comments on the essence of the music and philosophy — so the reader would understand what’s so important about the given band. The language is precise and honest: one surely knows how much controversy is happening around Black Metal, and he always stays objective. British people are known for their sense of humor and irony, and this somehow transmits between the lines when he duly describes funny situations — such as a band accidentally borrowing a sex playsuit for a supposedly very “true”, very serious Viking-themed promo. It is by far the opposite of a dry academic read. Of course, the dates and names are there, but historical bits are presented easily and clearly, as we have a chance for a friendly chat with a band about their history.
The tome does not focus only on the most well-known phenomenon of Norwegian Black Metal. That bit is just a quarter of the entire book, while the rest covers an impressive range of geographical locations and subgenres. Visual material, expectably, features tons of typical Black Metal photos and the cute handwritten flyers and adverts that bands used to make, especially in the beginning.
One should not think that the book must be consumed only by Black Metal fans. It is a great source of information for a broad range of readers who are curious about this part of musical culture. While being a long-time fan of heavy music but not necessarily of the Black, I was rather captivated (which does not happen often). It is really a book that is not easy to stop reading.
Dayal Patterson earlier authored several other books within the “Cult Never Dies series”: “Black Metal: The Cult Never Dies Vol. One” and “Black Metal: Into The Abyss”. There is also a deluxe version of the book, which can be seen on the image below.