It goes without saying, but author Dayal Patterson is a well-known figure within the black metal realm. In 2013, he founded the publishing house, merchandising company, label, and mail order Cult Never Dies and just last year, his company formed an alliance with Decibel. The two are now bringing a special, expanded edition of Patterson’s book Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult.
Originally released back in 2015, the previous edition of the epic Evolution of the Cult was a great read about black metal as a genre. With next week’s release of the updated version, titled Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult (The Restored Expanded & Definitive Edition), Patterson aims to give an updated and more in-depth look at how things have changed in the roughly nine years since.
Even if you own the original, the additions make this 2024 release worth purchasing. It’s truly an exceptional effort that’s housed in more than 800 pages, making it a must-have for all black metal fans.
Patterson’s descriptions are clear and thoughtful enough so that even those just discovering the genre for the first time won’t feel lost. At the same time, die-hards are bound to walk away feeling pleased. Evolution of the Cult provides an incredible wealth of information. Readers will enjoy chapters on greats, such as Beherit, Dødheimsgard, Shining, Darkthrone, and Thorns. Fans of Immortal will be glad to discover a new chapter devoted to this beloved group. Mayhem, however, gets the most attention in the book, which makes sense given their prominence in the genre’s history.
The book features an abundance of fascinating quotes from interviews with very varied subjects. The discussions that Patterson has had ensure a certain level of insight and honesty. Captured within the tome is a particularly interesting conversation Patterson had with the revered producer Eirik “Pytten” Hundvin, whose brilliance greatly contributed to the success of classics like Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom. Sathanas (1994).
This expanded version of Evolution of the Cult also offers quotes from the likes of the ever-eloquent black metal historian and curator Finn Håkon Rødland and Jan Even Åsli of Vemod and formerly One Tail, One Head. Even though the latter’s bands weren’t covered, it was still nice to see that he was included.
Readers can find new sections devoted to some of our other favorite pioneering acts: Silencer, Strid, Ved Buens Ende, etc. While these top-notch bands have not exactly been what one would call prolific, we must say that we would have loved it if they had been explored in greater depth. Mütiilation is an example of another group that we considered deserving of more attention. Their five-paragraph section was in fact part of the previous book and remains pretty similar.
We must acknowledge that at roughly 340,000 words, Evolution of the Cult is more than long enough already. Of course, a single book can’t feature everyone, so unfortunately it feels like a lot of important bands had to be left out. All the same, if we were to give some suggestions of additional voices worthy of chapters, they would include Carpathian Forest, Taake, Urgehal, Skitliv, Slagmaur, Tulus, and Dødsengel. Most of these names, however, were mentioned in some capacity at least.
Very close to the end, Patterson writes: “Indeed, even in Norway, a territory now famous for its progressive undercurrents, a new underground has surfaced in the shape of the so-called Nidrosian black metal scene, with bands such Mare and Whoredom Rife keeping the black flame of an earlier generation alive.” Patterson is definitely pointing to a topic here that would have been worth exploring. Doing so would have made Evolution of the Cult feel more current. That said, those interested can just buy Josh Brown’s book of photography titled Ancient Black Art: Nidrosian Black Metal either from Decibel’s webshop or directly from Cult Never Dies, as I have done.
Again, Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult Restored Expanded & Definitive Edition is a highly rewarding read. It is bound to prove a nice belated Christmas gift to the black metal fans in your life.
(Pre-order Dayal Patterson’s Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult Restored Expanded & Definitive Edition here.)