Dark Funeral

Diabolus Interium (Necropolis)

Metal is the greatest rock genre, because it's irony-free. There are no postmodern winks in metal. Like pro wrestlers, metal bands never give away the fact that it's all a show -- at least not onstage. This can be a good thing. After all, if the listener ever got the merest hint that guitarist Kerry King wasn't on the brink of homicidal rage 24/7, Slayer'd be sunk.

Sometimes, though, total seriousness can damage a band's credibility. Scandinavian black metal has a real problem in this area, and the much-hyped Dark Funeral is, if not exactly special or unique, an ideal example of this. Its singer's name is Emperor Magus Caligula. That's at least as funny as Oderus Urungus (GWAR's frontdemon), but Dark Funeral won't admit any such thing, and it certainly won't permit snickering as Mr. Caligula screeches lines like "I call upon thee, custodian of the infernal legions, God of war and the hatred storms."

Granted, this isn't any goofier than all the rapcore acts demanding we wallow with them in the torment of a latchkey childhood. And musically, black metal's got rapcore beat a dozen times over. The nonstop speedbag drumming and table-saw guitar riffs make no concessions to hip-hop -- or even to listener exhaustion. Thrash bands used to slow down in the middle of a song -- the "mosh part," it was called. Dark Funeral must think moshing is for wusses or something, because the only possible reaction to its rip-roaring onslaught (eight cuts in 36 minutes) is a kind of spastic convulsing in place. It's all proof positive that black-metal bands need to lighten up a little, maybe clown around a bit. Hey, they've already got the makeup.