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
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.
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