(also known as “What do they do? Build churches?”)
Unblack metal is a genre that is stylistically black metal, but instead promote Christianity in their lyric and imagery. Artists involved in this genre are controversial, mainly because black metal started as anti-Christian. It’s also suggested tat Christianity contradicts black metal’s nature and the individualistic/misanthropic ideals of many bands. The term “holy unblack metal” may have originated from the band Horde’s 1994 album Hellig Usvart as a play on Darkthrone’s slogan “unholy black metal,” used on both A Blaze in the Northern Sky andUnder a Funeral Moon.
In other words, underneath the music and the corpse paint lies proclamations for Jesus Christ. After all, considering all the subgenres in black metal, one would think that unblack metal would be embraced. After all, black metal isn’t restricted to just one image. According to Syhirious of Diamoth,
Imagine that a man bought an outfit that can only be used in a single occasion; the occasion happened and the outfit ‘can’t be used again.’ Imagine a fire occurs, and his entire house with his belongings was burned in that fire, except him and his outfit that was used. What would do the fool? The fool would say: ‘I’d rather be naked than use this outfit that was used,’ but what would do the wise? The wise would say: ‘the dress had a purpose and it was used, now I will re-signify his function.’ The wheel can be always a wheel, and the person who invented the wheel certainly has it’s copyrights in prehistoric times, but you can take that element and turn it into something new with a new function, the same thing happens with the music.”
Well, unfortunately, that is not the case. Unblack metal is still seen as something completely ridiculous in the eyes of most black metallers. However, the number of black metal bands carrying the typical (read: original) black metal sound are dwindling and there is a reason for it. The genre is changing, suddenly becoming an umbrella term for its various subgenres. According to Eric Honer of Thorns of Malediction,
“In order [for black metal] to evolve, it must separate to some extent. Though there were a lot of great albums of black metal in the 1980’s and 1990’s, it is not the only time good black metal was made, however. Elitist assholes who say true black/extreme metal died in the 1990’s remind me of a middle aged dude who glories in his high school football days. Those were the beginnings and the bands of today need to grow from that foundation more, rather than try to re-hash old shit.”
However, this does not mean that black metal is accepting unblack metal soon. According to Matthew Kelly of Dehumination,
“I think the idea of ‘unblack metal’ is preposterous and we should kill it with fire. Christian death metal was ridiculous enough (remember Mortification?) - the same people who wanted Slayer lyrics censored in the late 80s decided it’d be a good idea to go the Deicide route and try to shock people into listening to or appreciating them just to get their message of proselytization out or earn an imagined place in heaven when they died. The idea that black metal can be anything other than misanthropic and somehow ‘save’ people… it’s just ludicrous to me. At its core black metal doesn’t give a fuck about anyone else.”
Of course, everyone has the right to listen to what they please and, whether or not you agree with it, unblack metal exists in the metal world and it’s here to stay. Everything in the music world has a religious counterpart and you have all, at some point, listened to a couple of verses before changing the station. This means that black metal is evolving. To sum things up, Skraven of Nierty put it best:
"… if it’s gonna be pro-Jesus, fine[;] make me fear his wrath to the point where I shit my pants or make me want to hang myself for him. Don’t be passive about it. This is the cold intent black metal is founded on[;] you either got it or you don’t got it."
In the end, what does this mean for unblack metal? Well, for one, it’s music that is being heard around the world. It can be dark and heavy, even though it talks about Jesus. There is a fanbase that is voraciously consuming everything in this scene. We cannot stop the genre from flourishing, but this shows us how far black metal has come since its inception— and it will only keep evolving.