The book is a collection of essays from different authors, some previously published elsewhere and others written specifically for Black Metal: Beyond The Darkness. As you’d expect when several different writers are involved, there’s a variance in quality.
The best essay in the book is the first one: “South of Helvete (And East of Eden)” by Nathan T. Birk. He examines the overlooked but extremely important black metal scenes in Eastern Europe and Southern Europe in the ‘90s. Most fans will recognize names like Rotting Christ, but Birk digs deep and gives other influential bands like Varathron, Necromantia, Mortuary Drape and many others their due.
Birk’s article is supplemented with several photos of the bands along with an extensive list of crucial bands of that era from Greece, Italy, Portugal, France, Czech Republic, Poland and Romania.
Brandon Stosuy’s “A Blaze Across The North American Sky” was originally published in 2008, but still holds up. It rehashes the Norwegian history before transitioning to black metal’s spread to North America. There’s an interesting oral history of U.S. black metal with several musicians, journalists and others.
Other essays explore some of the non-musical aspects of black metal, such as the business side from the perspective of record labels and distros. The artistic impact of the genre is also examined in terms of photos, album artwork and even band logos.
In addition to lengthier essays, there are shorter profiles by musicians such as Skyforger’s Peteris Kvetkovskis and Ulver and writers such as Jon “Metalion” Kristiansen. Even though a couple of the essays are of marginal quality, the majority of Black Metal: Beyond The Darkness is an enlightening and informative look at the genre.
(published 2012 by Black Dog Publishing)