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In the lead up to this year's Inferno Festival I immersed myself in the numerous interviews with the bands. After about 10 or so I noticed a common thread that interviewers and fan questions tend to bring up semantics quite a bit more than the acts themselves. The sentiment is summed up nicely with Asvagyr's (of Dark Fortress) response to a "what genre is this band?" question: "Just think of us as simply black metal." However, in many fan-oriented debate shows produced by media and fans, there is huge emphasis placed on mapping out exactly where bands fall at the microgenre level. Some placed Dark Fortress as "melodic black metal," reserving the "black metal" moniker for only groups that pass a rigorous tick-the-box exercise.

It reminded me of interviews from years ago with Nergal of Behemoth and Tom G. Warrior of Triptikon, both had similar responses to these kinds of questions, typically taking the form of: "Black metal is not about conforming to genres. Black metal is an offspring of revolution and extreme forms of art after all."

Commercial viability (though it's still a fairly niche industry yet) and freedom to express oneself as desired are compelling reasons why musical acts would want to resist setting in stone their exact genre. Case in point the radical evolution of artists in mainstream rock, David Bowie.

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So I wonder, given bands are not so keen on this, what is the broader motivation for fans to insist on this highly granular categorization of black metal?

I haven't gotten really far in my own research with this question, the best thought experiment I pulled out of my hat was: "maybe there is some kind of gate-keeper responsibility the fans believe in. Without rigorous genrefication the music will just evaporate away."

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Pure opinion-piece. I'm sure some day psychologists will have a name for this.
This isn't restricted to metal.
It seems to be a generational desire to pigeon-hole into smaller & smaller categories, probably down to one pigeon per hole if we go any further.

This seems to be a psychological need, one I don't understand; perhaps driven by the online nature of audio & categorisation/tagging, but seems to have become a fear of being a fan of the 'wrong' pigeon hole compared to your peers. I imagine bands who resist this categorisation perhaps fear no longer being allowed out of their alloted hole when they want to.

I picture a conversation… "You're a teen pop band! You cannot possibly release this 'Strawberry Fields' thing! What on earth will the fans think? …And don't even think about this crackpot idea of doing a gig on a roof & making a movie & album out of it! …And get your bloody hair cut!!"
…and modern music would have died in its infancy.

Similarly with Bowie, "Ziggy who?? What happened to that cheeky cockney chappie who sung those Anthony Newley songs. I loved Uncle Arthur. Can't we have more of that?"

Pigeon-holing is the death of innovation.

Late thought:
Which came first… the death of innovation or the pigeon-hole?

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  • This need and a desire to be seen seems to be a fuel source, in the internet age, for the endless needle-threading the OP has observed.
    – Yorik
    Aug 3 at 20:25

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