February 1998

Various Artists - Blackend III
Plastichead Music Black007/DCD
Released: 1997

by Owen Mackwood

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality **1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

[Reviewed on CD]Blackend III is a two-disc set of the best black metal there is. Now, how much that says is questionable. This is a difficult set to critique without reviewing the black metal genre as a whole because nearly the entire genre is represented in this collection, which gives it great diversity. While all the bands present may be considered black metal, most of them certainly sound very different from each other. Almost all of the most popular groups are represented, including Emperor, Mayhem, Dimmu Borgir, and Hecate Enthroned. Now, I could certainly rate each band on its individual contribution to the compilation, and some bands would fare far better than others, but that isn't what this collection is about. It isn't to prove that each of these bands is made up of brilliant musicians. Instead, it provides an overview of the genre from front to back, and it does a very commendable job.

Through its 24 tracks, this compilation runs the gamut. It covers all of black metal, from goth-rock to what could best be described as machine-gun metal. One thing that almost all of these bands have in common (with a few notable exceptions) is the vocal style. It's an unusual combination of shrieking, growling, and demonic howls, and this combination is the trademark of black metal. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, and the bands that display these are the ones that tend to go for the more sweeping, majestic sound, playing pseudo-metal in the process. Many of the bands use synthesizers, and these add to their sound immensely, but an equally large number of the bands showcased on Blackend III use no synths. They rely on nothing but the old stand-bys: guitars, bass, and drums.

This makes it sound like black metal can be easily split into two categories, but it's far more complex than that. Often you will find a fusion between different styles, resulting in songs that open with dark organs and quickly turn into the ear-splitting sound of guitars shredding, and voices screeching, and then just as quickly turn back to the soft sound of synths.

Blackend III contains a surprisingly diverse sound, but there is no doubt that the music is metal. In fact, if one is not accustomed to heavy metal, all of these songs might sound very similar. If you have read my online bio, you know that I am a big metal fan. If you are a person who can't stand my type of music, then don't buy Blackend III. If you are a fan of heavy music and would like to expand your musical horizons, then this is one collection that has my utmost recommendation. Blackend III will open your ears to a whole world of music. Believe it or not, there is something out there besides Slayer, Deicide, and Pantera.