In my review of Blut Der Nacht’s excellent Demo MMXI, I talked a little about the rise of cassette culture within the American black metal underground over the last few years. Some see it as nostalgia, others see it as pure gimmickry. I see it as a way to bring black metal back to its roots, a return to the DIY ethos, primitivism and shadowy mystique the genre was built upon.
The cassette is a cheap way of reproducing and distributing music. I haven’t gone to the trouble of actually pricing tape production and duplication (maybe some readers can shed light on that in the comments?), but I can guarantee that it is much more cost-effective than having CDs and especially vinyl pressed. In this respect, it is the perfect format for bands that have no interest in dealing with Heavy Metal Inc, and although black metal has long since been absorbed into the establishment, there’s no time like the present to take it back underground. With that said, it should be noted that some cassette-based labels, specifically Crepusulo Negro and Rhinocervs (probably the two most infamous), have begun working with larger, more established labels such as Profound Lore and The Ajna Offensive to get some of their releases (Dolorvotre, Tukaaria, Odz Manouk) on CD, but this is surely due more to outside interest and demand. These cassette releases are cheap to purchase (typically $5 – $8) and are often extremely limited, selling out in a matter of days or even hours, and therefore not always readily available. Also, no matter how much metal fans might want to hear this stuff, many are unwilling to embrace the cassette due to its supposed limitations. This need for wider distribution and other formats is a consequence of releasing great music that people want to hear, and it’s much better than forcing fans to go scouring the internet for often janky downloads of these sold out releases. Of course, the fact that the music is being released on a format which many find unacceptable only adds to the clandestine nature of these bands and the music they create, and in my mind a little of that mystique dies every time I hear about this stuff coming out on CD or even vinyl. Nonetheless, what these bands are creating is some of the most compelling modern black metal I’ve heard in years (much more on this later), and deserves to be heard and made widely available.