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Dayal Patterson on Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult and Upcoming Projects

While I was writing my review of Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult, I thought it'd be a good idea to reach out to the book's author, Dayal Patterson, to let him answer some questions. While he's given numerous interviews about the book, there were still some lingering points I thought worth addressing. Also, since he has a new series of books coming out, Black Metal: The Cult Never Dies, I figured he'd like the opportunity to plug it for our readers here at Metal Injection.

While I was writing my review of Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult, I thought it'd be a good idea to reach out to the book's author, Dayal Patterson, to let him answer some questions. While he's given numerous interviews about the book, there were still some lingering points I thought worth addressing. Also, since he has a new series of books coming out, Black Metal: The Cult Never Dies, I figured he'd like the opportunity to plug it for our readers here at Metal Injection.

While I was writing my review of Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult, I thought it'd be a good idea to reach out to the book's author, Dayal Patterson, to let him answer some questions. The book has generated a lot of commentary, praise and criticism (and hopefully for Mr. Patterson's bank account, some sales as well).

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While he's given numerous interviews about the book, there were still some lingering points I thought worth addressing. Also, since he has a new series of books coming out, Black Metal: The Cult Never Dies, I figured he'd like the opportunity to plug it for our readers here at Metal Injection.

Hello Dayal, your fantastic book, Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult, has won you a lot of accolades among fellow enthusiasts. Were you worried about how well it would be received when it was first released?

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I can’t say I was worried as such, no. I’d got to the point where I was satisfied and this was such a huge and time-consuming project that that had to be the priority, not least because my standards are pretty high when it comes to signing off my own work. This was – as far as I knew at the time – perhaps the only book I’d ever write and having spent four years on it I could only release it when I was happy with it or I’d regret it forever. So I wasn’t thinking too much about what other people would think of it until after it had been signed off. But I can certainly say that I never expected the overwhelmingly positive reception from bands, critics and, perhaps most importantly, the readers buying the book. People seem to appreciate how much went into the book and that wasn’t necessarily something I could take for granted.

What do you have in store with Black Metal: The Cult Never Dies? Will it be an expansion of the previous book? Or will you be delving deeper into bands and styles already covered?

Black Metal: The Cult Never Dies will be a series of books exploring, celebrating and going even deeper into the black metal phenomenon. The first book was essentially telling the story of the birth and development of black metal, focusing on the eighties and nineties and providing a timeline of evolution to the present day. For that reason the emphasis was on the bands who really influenced the scene as a whole, as well as those who illustrated certain extremes of expression and various sub-genres (e.g. Folk black metal, industrial black metal). These new books will look at the various parts of the genre’s history in more detail – for example, Volume One is split into three parts: Norway Revisited, Polish Black Metal and Depressive Black Metal, and includes interviews with bands such as Satyricon, Strid, Bethlehem, Silencer, Kampfar, Manes, Forgotten Tomb, Mgla, Arkona, Mastiphal, Xantotol, Total Negation etc.

As an American, I can't help but ask: will you be writing more about some of the important USBM bands out there? I sympathize with your distaste for some fans' pretentious attitudes, but surely there are some great bands worth writing about.

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I will, yes. But probably not until Volume Three since Two is largely written. I understand that a lot of American readers are wondering about this subject, but bear in mind I haven’t covered the UK scene (where I’m from) either, so it’s nothing personal. Rather it’s a matter of looking at things chronologically: the American scene was pretty sparse in the eighties and nineties and then exploded over the last decade so I can’t skip to it (or I could, I suppose, but it wouldn’t make as much sense). But of course there are many great American bands and that needs to be explored.

In your book, you cover a lot of difficult subjects and personalities. I imagine many listeners wrestle with the fact they enjoy Burzum and Dissection, but feel that pang in their conscience when they consider the person behind the record. Is this something you've wrestled with yourself?

Interesting question. Enjoying a band’s music does not have a moral or ethical value in itself I think, but giving them your money probably does. I am a great appreciator of the music of some artists I strongly disagree with on certain issues, so I might think twice about buying their albums new or wearing their shirts. And if I am writing about a band who deal with such issues (and I’m not just talking about race issues) I will bring it up in the interview, so the reader is aware of the situation and can avoid if they wish. Underground metal, however, is not the only area where this question arises… a lot of people dislike the behavior of, say, Christian Bale or Mel Gibson, but they still go to see their movies. People should think about where they put their money, but if you’re obsessing over which bands you buy the CDs of and still support food outlets using factory-farmed animal products, or keeping your money in financial institutions that are supporting arms sales to dubious regimes or destroying the Amazon rainforests…well you get my point, there are probably more pressing issues than the personal politics of some Greek ambient black metal band’s drummer.

You mention black metal's special qualities and how it stands out from other styles of extreme metal. Could you see yourself writing a Thrash, Death or Grind equivalent? (I can see it now, "Grindcore: Evolution of the Blaaarrrrrgghhh!!")

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It’s a nice idea but it’s a matter of time. The ‘black metal cult’ project will take some years more to complete, so I won’t be able to start as big a project on another genre. I’d like to widen the scope of books at some point however, so it may be that some of the books coming via www.CultNeverDies.com will touch upon some of the death metal bands I appreciate (Autopsy, Entombed, Incantation, Repulsion, Carcass, Necrowretch, the list goes on).

Just a general question: how long did it take you to write Evolution of the Cult (not including old Terrorizer interviews)?

Not including old Terrorizer, Metal Hammer or Crypt interviews… hmm. Well, it took four years from start to finish, but that wasn’t solid writing by any means. There was a year where I did very little to it and also a lot of time spent emailing people, chasing people on the phone and other "admin" duties. And there was a hell of a lot of writing too, all organized around my freelance jobs. Thousands of hours in total for sure.

When will The Cult Never Dies be out in the US? Will it only be available physically, or will it go out on digital formats as well?

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American readers can already order from www.CultNeverDies.com (actually we have a lot of orders from both North and South America) but eventually we will hopefully be expanding the distribution in the States to include some stores and so on. We have no plans to make this book available on digital formats at the time being, however.

I know this question is always a pain, but what black metal band or album got you into black metal? Which one sparked that obsessive passion that eventually drove you to write your book?

It all started with a handful of CDs and dubbed cassettes lent or given to me by some older metalheads at around the same point. Bands included were: Emperor, Cradle of Filth, Gorgoroth, Gehenna and Marduk (although I didn’t really get into Marduk until a bit later). Then soon after I was introduced to bands like Darkthrone, Mayhem, Hecate Enthroned, Thorns, Mysticum, Burzum, Impaled Nazarene and so on. This was when black metal was still very much an underground – dare I say cult – proposition. Exciting times.

There is a perception that Black Metal was originally a response to the stagnation of death metal, thus the movement begun by Euronymous in the wake of Dead's suicide. But when I look at the records put out in 1991, death metal looks like it was having its Renaissance then. Am I missing something? Or did I have to be there to understand?

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I’d explain it something like this: During the eighties the extreme/underground metal scene was still very small; there weren’t many bands compared to today and the terms "death" and "black metal" were often interchangeable because those genres had yet to fully evolve their own distinct characteristics. As the eighties made way to the nineties, all that began to change, not least because of the influence of Dead/Euronymous/Mayhem/Norway. So the second wave of black metal was partly a response to a growing disenchantment with death metal, but it was more a disenchantment with the commercial success, the aesthetics and perceived "softening" of the genre (appearances on MTV, Bermuda shorts, PC lyrics), rather than its musical content. Indeed, Euro seems to have liked the music of some of the bands he criticized – for example, Napalm Death – he just hated their lyrics and the fact that they were being described as "death metal".

1991 was indeed a great year for death metal (how could it not be with Autopsy’s Mental Funeral being released?) but I think that the musical stagnation (or perceived stagnation) you speak of that drove some people toward black metal was more in the years that followed (maybe 1992/93 to 1996, something like that) because originality was going down the pan and people were increasingly aware of this "new"’ genre of metal (black metal) that had appeared. I think also that black metal offered much more variety than death metal in the early to mid-nineties (before people started thinking you had to copy Mayhem/Burzum/Darkthrone to be "true"’) so that also made it seem much more vital.

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