Ben Ratliff focuses on Black Metal for the New York Times:
The bald, beefy moderator, Niall Scott of the University of Central Lancashire, approached the podium in darkness. “It is my revolting pleasure,” he susurrated, pulling on his long goatee, “to introduce Professor Erik Butler, who will present his paper ‘The Counter-Reformation in Stone and Metal: Spiritual Substances.’ ”
And Mr. Butler, an assistant professor of German studies at Emory University, talked about black-metal music — in its second-wave, largely Norwegian form — as a cryptic expression of Roman Catholicism. He started with the 16th-century Council of Trent and the early modern church. He quoted lyrics from the face-painted, early-1990s Norwegian black-metal bands Gorgoroth and Immortal; he framed black metal as respecting some of rock’s orthodoxies, as opposed to the heresies of disco and punk; and he spoke of black metal’s preoccupation with “the abiding and transcendent: stone, mountain, moon.”
You can imagine several orders of hostility toward “Hideous Gnosis,” a six-hour theory symposium on black-metal music that commenced on Saturday afternoon at Public Assembly, a bar and nightclub in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Not just because plenty of people like to make fun of academics discoursing on youth culture but because the subject was something like the music that dare not speak its name.
Black metal, which has been a self-conscious genre since the early 1990s — with a prehistory in some ’80s metal bands — remains metal’s most underground subspecies…