“Hellenic black metal” could be misunderstood as simply a geographic descriptor, nothing more than a reference to black metal bands located in Greece. And if you were to survey music released over the last five years by the many fine black metal bands practicing their art from that ancient country, simply encompassing them in a straight-forward geographic category might be understandable, because that music displays considerable stylistic diversity.
But “Hellenic black metal” isn’t merely a geographic reference point. The phrase has another meaning, which refers to a distinctive combination of musical ingredients, and a certain undaunted spirit, reflected in the classic early releases of such bands as Varathron, Rotting Christ, and Necromantia. Last summer, Bandcamp Daily published a primer captioned “A Brief Guide to Hellenic Black Metal”, which included this description:
“Hellenic black metal,” as it’s often called, became a force in the cradle of Western civilization around the same time as the most infamous happenings in the Norwegian scene. Yet the bands associated with Hellenic black metal were worlds apart from the church-burning hordes—not just aesthetically, but also sonically and philosophically. The Hellenic sound was defined by an embrace of traditional heavy metal riffing, elements of Greek folk music, a reverence for epic stories rooted in the country’s history and mythology, and a sun-dappled atmosphere that places the music firmly next to the Mediterranean Sea rather than a freezing fjord”.