By Alee Karim
Once upon a time, extreme metal bands opted to contort their logos into the most stylized mutations possible as a way to visually represent their music, and as a proud testament to the obscurity of their appeal. But by now it’s all become a bad joke, and you’re likelier to find the sludgiest doom crust ensemble representing themselves in simple Helvetica than in the arcane designs of old.
– 15 Most Ridiculous Band Promo Photos
Still, as the fine fellows at Metal Sucks have already keenly observed, the illegible band logo marches on. So here’s a look at ten of the most insanely unreadable black metal logos. What stories might they tell? (Hat tip to Metal-archives.com for hosting most of these.)
10. Deathspell Omega
Granted, if you look at it a certain way, it looks like it says “Deathspew.” But the irony is that our list’s most legible logo belongs to its most inscrutable band. Deathspell Omega is a French occult black metal group that offers NO interviews, NO live engagements, NO self-portraits, and NO names to its rabidly devoted cult following. Go ahead: Attempt to find out anything about these guys’ identities. Even the Internet has its limits.
Part of the ever-growing movement of bedroom black metal, Panopticon hails from Louisville, Kentucky. Despite its experimental leanings and the incorporation of bluegrass elements into its deeply excoriating music, Panopticon keeps it decidedly old school with a ridiculously over-stylized and very-hard-to-discern logo.
One of the reasons it’s so hard to decipher most black metal band logos is they tend not to be words, but rather weird portmanteaus pulling from multiple dialects. Hence these Chicagoans, who’ve dubbed themselves something to the effect of “hidden night place.”
Interesting to note that one of the founding fathers of black metal has one of the easiest to read logos, though a less-seasoned eye might still balk at it.
Equally influential black metal legends Darkthrone split the difference perfectly with this utterly unique and much-imitated splatter of a logo. It’s got personality and about as much recognition value as one can get in this genre.
This simple yet inscrutable logo for a word that doesn’t exist belongs to one of the more deeply creepy bands in the genre. These Swedes bring fire, animal carcasses, and all manner of satanic esoterica onstage. They also sport the most perfectly symmetric logo on this list.
Leviathan are part of the new wave of American black metal. This logo manages to be less spindly, more robust, and somehow twice as inscrutable as the others. It’s also less aesthetically pleasing and potentially a little corny in its horror effect next to Leviathan’s quite-scary music.
3. Wolves in the Throne Room
This Olympia, Washington-based black metal band with mystical leanings took the sound of Weakling and tweaked it in more personal directions. They also made the logo much harder to read.
This is as obscure as it gets, and it’s an utterly appropriate representation for this hermetic and short-lived ensemble. While ignored in their time, Weakling was a seminal Bay Area band that helped kick off much of the United States black metal scene. In fact, some would say it spawned the much more successful band below.
Who knew the gargled-with-sandpaper voice of Xasthur’s only member Malefic is actually a dude from San Diego named Scott. His logo is the best one on this list, albeit completely and utterly unreadable. It’s certainly the most ornately designed and objectively beautiful, the perfect analogue to this most mournful of modern black metal bands.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 15, 2012