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Earlier this summer, I had the immense pleasure of meeting one of Haute Macabre’s favorite designers, Hogan McLaughlin. Standing in the corner of a godawful bar in Boston, we started talking about music, specifically Black Metal, and Hogan’s own love for it. I confessed to him that I had always been a fan of the music, but knew very little about it. I had always been intimidated by the immense catalogue, and had no idea where to start. In a perfect reply, he promised me a playlist, which has evolved into this beautiful essay about Hogan’s own first experiences exploring the genre. – Samantha
It’s difficult to say exactly how and when I began my relationship with metal music, particularly black metal. And I do have to state that the prompt of this essay is purely about my personal relationship with it, so I am not, and would never dream of claiming to be an expert on the genre. There are many, many more individuals that are more qualified than I to give a history lesson, and even essential recommendations for anyone interested in exploring this music.
Growing up, I had pretty diverse music preferences but mostly listened to classic rock, with a smattering of the occasional Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden track. In high school I knew of classic black metal bands like Darkthrone, Mayhem, Burzum, but mostly listened to punk, some bad screamo bands, and noise music. The first metal album I bought was Mayhem’s Dawn of the Black Hearts, purely because of my morbid fascination with the story behind the album photo, which depicts former vocalist Dead’s bloody suicide scene, taken by fellow band member Euronymous upon discovery. I got heavily into Bathory when I purchased their self-titled album, partly because its lo-fi sounds were reminiscent of the punk and garage rock bands I listened to, and partly because of the history behind the name Bathory and its namesake’s bloody countess.
It wasn’t until I was touring in a small city in Germany with the ballet company I was dancing for that I was properly introduced to the kind of black metal I seek out now. I wandered off on my own and came across a small record store (which the name escapes me) and decided to ask the guy behind the desk for any suggestions on what was good. As luck would have it, it was a record store geared towards metal music, which I was unaware of before entering. Even luckier, it was only a few months after The Ruins of Beverast released their album, Rain Upon the Impure, which was exactly what he recommended.
Over the years, especially during the height of Tumblr, I engaged with people through the music and learned a huge deal from individuals I now consider some of my greatest friends, going to festivals around the world to see them play, spend time, and continue learning. There is something about the intensity, coupled with these beautifully atmospheric interludes, that inspires me so much while I am working. I am a lover of all things fantasy and folklore and I think, especially with the bands I am drawn to, that those themes are rooted in the very core of the music and the ritualistic nature of the live performances. When I design clothing, I mostly think with a photographer’s eye. I think about how the pieces can be used to create imagery, particularly the imagery I see when I lay down and listen to an album. There is a starkness and loneliness but, at least for me, it isn’t depressing.
One of my favorite albums to work to is Burzum’s Filosofem because I enter sort of a trance-like state due to the extreme repetitiveness of the tracks. It almost feels like a meditation. Always in rotation are albums by Paysage d’Hiver, Grift, Vemod, and Sortilegia, which I think perfectly blend a certain bleakness with definite power and elegance. I’ll admit that I do listen to much more neofolk than black metal when I’m in the studio or working at home, but I think that neofolk has had a definite hand in guiding me to the metal bands I find myself drawn to.
Regardless of what genre it is, the music I am drawn to while creating anything from a simpler drawing to a 100-hour dress is the type of music that transports you to different times and triggers a feeling that takes you out of your everyday.
10 Black Metal Albums I listen to while working, and will never get tired of:
Das Tor, Paysage D’Hiver
Minas Morgul, Summoning
Arcane Death Ritual, Sortilegia
In the Nightside Eclipse, Emperor
Throne of the Thirteenth Witch, Mare
Venter på stormene, Vemod
Exercises in Futility, Mg?a
Rain Upon the Impure, Ruins of Beverast