A long sought after question which many of us metal heads have pondered for decades. There are numerous angles we could approach this volatile subject, but we need only focus on a few key elements to determine who would arise victorious in this battle of sonic devilry.
First we need to select the contenders, one to represent each genre. Im gonna go out on a severed limb and say there are two legends who meet these qualifications without question of their legacy.
Some would consider Death to be the most influential metal band of all time, and there are few who would disagree. They were pioneers of the genre, and created a sound that is still widely emulated today. Their guitars were layered, thick, and lacked any mid range frequency. Founding father Chuck Schuldiner is responsible for many of these signature elements we all have grown to love and respect. Not much has changed either, the drums have gotten faster and guitar parts more technical, but for the most part bands today still hold true to formulas established long ago by bands like Death, Morbid Angel, and Possessed.
On the black metal front, we have the obvious choice for a band which actually named the genre with their 1982 album. Venom exposed themselves to the world with their debut album Welcome to Hell in 1981, but it wasn’t until the follow up release where they solidified themselves as heavy metal legends. The guitars weren’t as tight and layered as a band like Death, but the attitude behind their sound was much more prominent. Black metal bands even started introducing keyboards into their music as the genre moved forward, thus expanding their sonic atmospheres into a more fantasy inspired realm. Acts like Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir became widely known for their theatrical elements almost more so than their sound in some cases.
Death metal has always focused on the gory side of life with subjects like disembowelment and torture being in the forefront of their lyrics. While black metal has taken a lyrical page from death metal on occasion, the majority of their lyrics focus on more of a spiritual blasphemy element.
Staring your severed head in the face I celebrate a faggot’s death human disgrace Hanging your mangled corpse for display My revenge was fulfilled upon this day – Death
Its no secret that black metal bands have a strong hatred for anything related to the bible, with the exception of lucifer of course. Some have even taken their vision to extreme levels by actually burning down churches in defiance of what they represent.
Unveil the pentagram And feel the demons lust Come watch the holy men Who look on in disgust Come taste blood And feel the heat of satan’s breath Look in the sky’s and see The warriors of death – Venom
For a genre such as metal which blatantly defies any and all rules of the mainstream, they sure do take their fashion seriously. While death metal bands may take a back seat on the subject, simply dawning a band t-shirt and jeans for their on stage uniform, black metal bands took a much more serious approach to their personas.
Bands like Venom would introduce elements like wrist gauntlets, or even spiked chokers and belts. It wasn’t until the genre started progressing when artists got heavily into face paint and outfits that would rival some of medieval England’s best armor clad knights.
And the Winner Is…
Clearly black metal bands would physically destroy any death metal band that approached them with a simple swing of their nail studded gauntlets. However, to be fair we should look at this from an even playing field and consider what metal itself represents. The genre inspires attitude, chaos, individuality, and pure evil across the board. With that in mind, I would have to choose death metal as victors in this battle. Their overall package represents something much more brutal, and dominating. Not to mention if any of their subject matter truly came to life, I would much rather listen to religious babbling than be disemboweled by a sadistic flesh eating psychopath.
Remember that this is just one opinion on the subject, and there are clearly people who will disagree. If you feel different on the subject, have a different outcome, or even just want to verbally destroy me personally, please do so in the comments below!