August 11, 2013 - 4 comments

Why I don’t like Black Metal logos

The traditional Black Metal logos are very much inspired by nature, fog, trees, mystery and pure darkness. Something that fits perfectly with the atmosphere and the tone of the music.

But If you google “Black metal logos” you will first find a couple of hits that talks about the “illegible black metal band logos” before you get hits on articles that writes about “the top 5” or similar. I’m not surprised.

To be honest, the title is a bit misleading. I do like a lot of black metal logos. I admire the artistic side, the symmetric concepts, the craftsmanship and the look and feel of it. But from a branding point of view, 90% of them are no good.

So what’s wrong with Black Metal logos?

First off, you can’t even read what they say. A lot of them are so heavily cluttered with spikes, branches, shapes and details to the point of being illegible. They look more like advanced illustrations or a piece of art rather than a logotype. That has its charm, but if you are trying to build a strong brand, there are better ways of doing that.

Secondly, who can tell the difference between them? It is virtually impossible. With all the details, sharp edges and too many branches it’s very hard to tell them apart. So if you can’t tell them apart, how will you remember them?

I’m pretty sure most black metal logos were drawn without thoughts of branding or the idea of recognition. The goal might have been more to create something cool and evil. The darker the better, right? And that’s fine, as long as that is the goal. But if your goal is to strengthen your bands brand and identity, to separate yourself from the rest and stand out, then think again.

The Good ones

Thou Art Lord logotype
There are black metal bands who manage to keep the dark atmosphere of the logo while remaining memorable and easy to remember. Thou Art Lord’s old logo is a good example of that. It’s symmetric, evil and true to the genre while still being clean and legible.

Emperor logotype
The Emperor’s is another good example of a logo that is dark, evil and still readable. If you examine the letters carefully you can find all kinds of details. The E shaped as a shield that implies a bit of war and recklessness, and at the same time you have the eye in the same letter that I’m guessing represent wisdom.


The strongest point with black metal logos is the recognition for the genre, not the individual band. So in that sense the logos are helping the genre spread its demons, but when it comes down to specific bands it’s much harder for them to stand out and be remembered.

So why not simplify the design a bit. Make changes to the logo and make it more unique. It doesn’t mean you have to change the tone and feeling of the art. You can still have the same dark edgy merchandise and album artwork without losing touch with the foundation of the music. It might be hard but not impossible and as I mentioned before, some bands are already doing it, and they are doing it well.

Published by: Daniel Eek in Thoughts on Design


September 25, 2015 at 04:30

You’re completely missing the point.

The point of making the logo illegible is to ensure that the band remains underground. That if you’re wearing it on a patch or on your shirt, a poser won’t be able to read it and pretend that he knows what band it belongs to. It’s like a code designed to dissimulate a secret from the uninitiated, which makes perfect sense knowing how much BM musicians are fascinated by the occult.

It’s meant to ensure that only people who are legitimately into black metal will be able to recognize what logo belongs to what band. And generally these people are perfectly able to differentiate various logos. Because they actually exhibit a lot of variety, ranging from simple blackletter script to elaborate abstract root-like designs, sometimes incorporating iconography or taking the shape of a crest, and always having its own distinct silhouette.

You’re approaching this from the perspective of marketing a band so that it becomes famous, and it’s precisely what Black Metal isn’t about. It’s about attracting a small cult (kvlt) following. Of course there are exceptions and that’s generally when bands go for less intricate designs.

So basically you dislike them for the wrong reasons.

    Daniel Eek
    September 25, 2015 at 14:53

    Thanks rebreather for your input, I appreciate your comments and I understand what you mean. I still don’t think making a logo illegible is a good way to go, even if your intentions is to be kept as a secret and underground. Occult symbols and secret societies don’t really have illegible logos or symbols and are still kept mysterious. Most occult symbols are very simple in their design.

    I never said I dislike Black Metal logos. On the contrary, I like them a lot, I just think when you see a bunch of them together there is no great distinction among them. And even if you don’t want to become famous and seen on mainstream events I’m pretty sure all bands want their audience to spot their logo wherever it can be seen, and not to be hidden and never to be seen in the forrest for all the trees.

      September 26, 2015 at 05:37

      Then the problem isn’t simplicity or legibility it’s simply coming up with an immediately identifiable design. I pointed out several ways bands or graphic designers use to achieve that, and there are more. So rest assured, it doesn’t take more than a few seconds for a Black Metal fan to recognize the logo of a band he knows.

      Weren’t Black Metal bands so fascinated by grimy atmospheres, they would probably have gone the way of many current bands and go for minimal but equally unreadable designs. But the idea is also to convey through calligraphy the sound that characterizes Black Metal: riffs that are barely discernible underneath the distortion and terrible production, and vocals so harsh you can’t understand the lyrics without reading them first, things that aren’t hidden in plain sight so much as they are buried under impenetrable layers of grit and filth. I don’t think clean minimalism is the best way to achieve that, plus, many Metal bands had already developed baroque logos before that, it was just a tradition at this point to create very ornate logos.

      You seem to worry yourself over negligible issues. It’s okay not to like the way it looks or to be frustrated by the fact that you can’t read it right off the bat, but to call it bad design is really excessive. If you had just stayed true to the title of your article by adopting a subjective discourse I wouldn’t be pestering you, but you’re essentially saying that most designers of Black Metal logos did their job wrong.

Daniel Eek
September 26, 2015 at 10:00

No, not at all. I clearly say that if the goal with the logo is to create a dark evil mark, it’s spot on. But if the goal is to stand out (next to your fellow black metal bands) then it might me a good idea not to look like the rest. Like I wrote in my post, the title of the article is a bit misleading and I admire the artistic side, the symmetric concepts, the craftsmanship and the look and feel of Black Metal logos.

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