– by Brendan Reid, Editor –
Music is a medium that is constantly evolving. It contains within itself a near infinite combination of possibilities that build on one another, and morph together to form entirely new sounds and genres. Genres that seem to have no correlation often find themselves joining forces, and sounds of great diversity often compliment each other best. One such union of genres has created blackgaze, a genre that has been gaining traction since the mid 2000’s. One might ask, and rightfully so, what exactly is blackgaze? The best way to find out is to look at the components that form this style of music.
The first half of blackgaze is black metal. Black metal is a subgenre of heavy metal, one that is characterized by its furious drumbeats, shrieking vocals, and ominous lyrics. It emerged from the ideas put forth by thrash and death metal, and was popularized by Norwegian bands such as Immortal, Emperor, and Mayhem in the 1990’s. Many consider black metal to be highly inaccessible due to its relentless intensity, and the negative stigma that has become attached to it over the years. Despite this, the positive aspects of black metal have overpowered the negative, and those who enjoy it find inspiration in the technical prowess of its musicians, and revel in the emotional rawness of its sound.
The other side of blackgaze is shoegaze. Shoegaze is a genre that has been around since the late 80’s, and first emerged from the UK. Bands such as My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, and Ride all helped pioneer the genre, and it is characterized by its dreamy melodies, high levels of distortion, and blending of its components to create a “wall of sound” that washes over its listeners. The term “shoegaze” is a somewhat endearing one, for it came from the way its audience enjoys the music, often with their heads bowed in an introspective state. Shoegaze is equally as a niche as black metal, but draws a very different crowd.
From these two very different genres has emerged a new one. Blackgaze combines the furious power of black metal with the melodic beauty of shoegaze, and creates a wall of ethereal textures for listeners to dive into. It often switches back and forth between the harmonious and heavy, and this gives its songs a very dynamic feel, one that keeps its listeners on their toes. Key proponents of this new genre are Alcest, Lantlos and Deafheaven, and all are bands that have brought the aesthetics of heavy metal to those who would usually never entertain them. If you’re feeling bold, give one of these bands a listen. You may just find something you didn’t know you enjoyed. More people are becoming open to things that once carried negative connotations, or have been labeled as inaccessible, and this allows creativity to flourish as it should. A trend such as this is a sign of more open-minded audiences, and can only benefit the future of music and those who enjoy it.