The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Galerie Dennis Cooper presents … The Resplendent Illegibility of Extreme Metal Logos


‘Extreme metal, perhaps more than any other musical genre, abides by a strict and clear visual code that conveys to listeners exactly what they’re getting into. “The genre kind of commands a particular style of logo that the listener can identify with,” says Mark Riddick, a designer and author of Logos From Hell, a 600-page book that chronicles the logos of thousands of metal bands.

‘Metal and its innumerable sub-genres have always embraced ideals like iconoclasm, pride, and independence. It’s music made by outsiders for outsiders, and its logos reflect as much. “The point of these logos is like, unless you’re in-the-know already, it’s not for you,” says Tim Butler, who designs merchandise for bands like Metallica and Slayer. “It’s to keep it sort of insular.”

‘This mindset has led to an artistic style that’s defined by visuals that are almost hostile. The identities of metal bands—black and death metal bands, in particular—tend to feature grotesque imagery and typography that swirls like branches, drips like blood, and clings like spider webs. It wasn’t always this way. If you trace the genre’s abrasive aesthetic to its roots, you’ll find your way to Black Sabbath, the British band widely regarded as the creator of heavy metal. The bubbly letterforms of the logo that appeared on the band’s eponymous debut album look more hallucinatory than creepy. It is a distant cousin to the aggressive wordmarks seen today. “Typographically, that stuff sort of starts off as psychedelic,” Butler says of early metal logos. “Later on it got more aggressive and pointy.”

‘As metal evolved into myriad subgenres, each more extreme than the last, wordmarks and branding evolved in step. “Logos just tend to get more and more extreme and as you branch out,” says Riddick. It’s reached the point that you can almost determine the style of music from the typography. Indeed, there might be no better example of typography’s multi-sensorial nature than extreme metal logos. Thrash metal bands like Metallica, Slayer, and Overkill adopted logos with straight, sharp edges to reflect the tight and controlled nature of the music. Death metal bands—which tend to focus on subjects like violence, religion, horror, and, yes, death—tend to incorporate those themes into logos that feature things like dripping blood, organs, severed limbs and skulls. The logos associated with black metal, which has its roots in deeply anti-Christian views, the occult and paganism, often are ornate, symmetrical, and derived from art nouveau’s swirling, rounded forms.

‘Christophe Szpajdel, a Belgian designer who has crafted more than 7,000 logos for bands since the 1980s, explains that, just like any other form of design, a good metal logo relies on basic principles like symmetry, visual harmony, letter height, and precision. When making a band logo, Szpajdel often works at an architect’s table, where he draws in pencil before tracing in pen. His 1991 logo for the Norwegian band Emperor is often cited as the template on which all other black metal logos are based. Its letterforms were inspired by medieval blackletter typography, but Szpajdel thinned them to create a wordmark that is so clean and simple as to be almost elegant. Asked what makes a good black metal logo, he said, “I think the lettering should be sharp, inspired by gothic/old English fonts. First and last letters should be bigger than the middle ones. Unlike most people who think a black metal logo should contain symbols like pentagrams, inverted crosses… I think this is overdone.”

‘It’s easy to forget, when met by their antagonistic form, that there is real craftsmanship behind metal logos. And that, says, Riddick, is why he dedicated an entire book to this genre of typography. “I want people to recognize this as much more than a high schooler scribbling in his notebook and calling it art,” he says. “This is legitimate serious talent. It’s a subculture that’s create a whole look and feel unlike any other. That’s a powerful thing.”’ — Elizabeth Stinson


Tutorial: Death Metal Logo
Тhe Dark Lord of Logos
Unlocking The Secret Language of Metal Band Logos
Decibel’s Top 5 Death Metal Logos
Dan Capp
Schwer lesbar: Die unmöglichsten Death Metal-Logos
The Man Behind The Black/Death Metal Logo
Luciferium War Graphics
Japanese design site explains how death metal fans find bands based on…logos?!
Death Metal Flyer Accidentally Uses Logo Font for Show Date
Lord of the Logos: Black Metal AF
Black & White: A Conversation With Death Metal Illustrator Mark Riddick
The aesthetic extremism of heavy metal design
The art of Death Metal logos




How to draw that unreadable death metal logo

Time Lapse: Creating A Death Metal/Deathcore Logo


BLACKMETALIZER: An interactive generative Black Metal logo generator







p.s. Hey. ** Kyler, Hi. Oh, shit, my address, I am in an absentminded phase, it’s true. Okay, hold on. Done. Look forward to reading your piece, natch! Everyone, In a rare, lovely occurrence, you can read a no doubt fascinating piece of non-fiction by Kyler entitled ‘The Potential For Genius’ right now, right here. And you can peek at the Amazon page for his imminently to be published new novel thusly. ** David Ehrenstein, Me neither. ** Tosh Berman, Happy to share the big up about ‘Empire of Signs’. I remember really liking Ian Buruma’s ‘Behind the Mask’, but it’s been ages since I read it. Do you know it? ** Shane Christmass, I’d thought so too, but then I got curious, and then, whoosh, there was a post. I like unwieldiness, so that sounds ace to me. Thanks a lot for the ‘Bacheloress’ links. I’ll dive. ** Steve Erickson, Thanks for the wonderful post-Halloween link. What percentage talked to you? No, I haven’t heard that Vince Staples track, but I just yesterday heard Earl Sweatshit’s squib on a new Hermit & The Recluse track. The 4DX effect thing is so stupid, I like it. ** Keithorn, You’re becoming legible. Ah, fat, biology’s global warming. I don’t know, I feel like the sublime would take one look at your physical violence then continue sipping its martini? Your question, my predictable answer: Confusion is the truth. That’s my byword(s). ** James Nulick, If you read the thing, the smelly Malick movie thing only happened in Japan. My email is: Ooh, videos. What’s your Japanese latest? ** Jeff J, Hi. Yeah I know. If only there was a smell-o-vision version of youtube. I have to check if ‘TOSofW’ is on our Netflix. I’m quaking in my boots to see it. Interesting. Sounds plenty exciting enough. Thanks! ** Bill, I can only imagine. I’m glad the gig went okay, at least. No doubt. Thank you, I’ll go find out about Beanbenders. Quite a name there. Oh, it happened ages ago. Anyway, cool. I hope Monday smiles on you. ** Misanthrope, France has yet to relent on the 4DX experience. I guess it will. It let Starbucks move in. Just hoping LPS gets himself centered and asap. What you wrote about ‘BR’ is what virtually everything I’ve read says, so you’re obviously on the money. I’m so uninterested that I wouldn’t even watch that on a plane, and that’s saying something. ** Corey Heiferman, People occasionally tag me as sensible, so there must be something to that. Like I’ve said, I quit university after one year and have never taught other than doing studio meetings with art students, so I’m a gatherer rather than a hunter. I did the 4D thing at the ‘Bug’s Life’ thing too at California Adventure in good old So. Cal. before they tore it out. It was cool. I remember there used to be a kind of great 4D ‘Terminator’ thing at Universal Studios although they must have torn it out for a good reason. I very much enjoyed your office story. I could even relate to the caffeine part and related details for the obvious reason — I’m guzzling my morning dosage as I type — and also because when I’m frequently in theater rehearsals with Gisele the backstage coffee/kitchenette set-up is not at all dissimilar. Yes, thank you, lovely! ** Alex rose, All we have are words. When you gonna come visit Paris again? Or I guess when am I gonna visit Cork again? That’s a good question. I must be complicated too because when you described your response to my film curators woes, I thought, ‘Huh, I should try that.’ I agree! About this week. Let’s figure out where to look. Love, moi. ** _Black_Acrylic, Ah, a zine festival. I just missed one here. I can’t remember why. So …heartening. Paul Shark’s stuff looks great whoever he or she secretly is. ** Right. Let’s see, what is today’s post again? Oh, right. See you tomorrow.


  1. Jonathan

    Hi D
    Sorry for not being around much, theres been a lot on & juggling of work & stuff.
    Hope your Halloween was Spooktacular!?! It’s a non thing here in Sweden or well they’re still working it out, the shops are trying but I saw no trick or treaters. I did get to see the remastered Suspiria in the cinema, which looked amazing with all the colour fully blasted out, don’t think the remake is here yet?
    Love Black Metal logos! There’s something truly awesome where you have to be a fan to know the band by their beautiful scrawl.
    I got to see Keiji Haino & John Duncan play here a few weeks ago, it was iDeal’s 20th birthday & the label is based here so there was free records to boot. The only other fun thing is that I ended up getting into a portrait award in Dublin and got a conceptual piece into the National Gallery, its a conservative prize usually or well more traditional works get in, so that was fun. It’s a tiny usb stick stuck in the wall with everything that is googleable about me & some secrets they cant find. I did have to spend 2 days reassuring people that I wasn’t taking the piss and that ‘yes theres stuff on the usb stick’.
    Not much else to report other than I finished a certain someones new book & will be asking questions soon, but you know that 😉
    Hope all’s good in Paris? It must be eeking closer to buchemus soon? Oh don’t know if you have tried it or if its lurking over with you but Summerbird, danish chocolate, has this amazing amber chocolate which is basically caramelised white chocolate, its mind blowingly good. Now I want chocolate.
    Hope your day is all kinds of awesome!

  2. Steve Erickson

    The phone calls turned out to be a waste of time. In 30 minutes, I only talked to 2 people. Both told me they were planning to vote. The rest of the time, I got 20 messages that the number was no longer in service and an equal number of calls that went straight to voice-mail. (I suspect many people just don’t pick up the phone unless they recognize the name and number.) After the half hour mark, I decided it was pointless to keep going.

    I got hacked by someone in Russia last night and had to change my E-mail password! At least Hotmail told me about it, but they apparently were able to sign into my account twice yesterday evening. I set a new password 15 minutes after the second sign-in.

    Have you seen F. J. Ossang’s 9 FINGERS? I was quite impressed by it. The b &w cinematography is quite beautiful, and it evokes Raul Ruiz’s THREE CROWNS OF THE SAILOR, L’ATALANTE & several Orson Welles films without literally copying them. Ossang’s approach to genre and narrative is really creative and irreverent. I spoke to him after the screening last night for a few minutes, and when I brought up those comparisons, he raved about Ruiz and Welles, especially MR. ARKADIN. I didn’t know that he’s also a musician – his punk band performs a song that plays over the end credits.

  3. David Ehrenstein

    These logos all look the same.

  4. Kkeyttonn

    Haha, you dont know the absolute magnitude and obliterating force of my wrath. Seriously, if i was a soldier in a war i would be one of the first to die. i dont have that focus that violence requires. thats why they make, “Blunt-Force-Trauma…” Speaking of fat, chocolate mousse is my new breakfast. Confusion is the truth? I was listening to this thing yesterday, that the Harvard space guys really think that one object that came from interstellar space recently is a “light-sail” and they are expecting many more. iow its an alien spacecraft. that’s my favorite thing about science, it is typically refutable and questionable, but if done correctly, there are expermiments and conditions that provide absolute predictability. like when you put on a Cannibal Corpse record, you know, it’s gonna be a fun-filled death-stomp of blood and guts. these logos are great. i remember when they started turning up, i was like, “smh, now theyre really worshipping satan.” i love death metal. havent been into the darker stuff lately, just some Phil and the Illegals and CC. hope your day is corpsepainted

  5. Dominik


    Sorry for the week-long absence.
    How are you, Dennis? If you ended up spending Halloween (which lives in the heart but not really, haha!) in front of your computer watching horror movies then we spent the night in question very similarly. I watched this drag competition, Dragula, which fit the occasion quite perfectly as it invites participants who represent alternative, freaky dimensions of drag – “monsters” as they call themselves. Here are my two very favorite competitors so far:

    If you learn anything about the Prague show’s when and where, please let me know!!

    Did you finally go to Salon du Chocolat with Zac? If so, how was it??
    I’ve been sick for a few days now so there aren’t many interesting news on my end but hopefully that’ll change by the time we next talk!

    Have a great, great, great week!! Do you have any special plans besides the must-dos?

  6. Shane Christmass

    Not sure if HUMAN HAGGIS is the best or worst band name ever.

    You ever listen to this stuff? I’m quite partial to the early Earache stuff (Napalm Death) and always got time for whatever Justin Broadrick is up to.

    Gonna get that Kyler novel!

    You ever get that artwork I emailed you?

    BTW – this jumped out at me last night from Horse Crazy – ‘I know what I’m worth. I don’t need to hear about it.’ – THAT is an amazing line in a book of amazing lines.

    • Kyler

      Thanks Shane! Dennis sent you the novel from Amazon – fast speed! – hope you get it in few days….

      • Kyler

        wait – that doesn’t make sense – bad punctuation in my crazed state. Should read: Dennis – sent you the novel….

  7. _Black_Acrylic

    I like the art nouveau connection to the swirling rounded forms, it does make total sense. My Birmingham-based cousin has apparently met the Napalm Death guys several times, I don’t even think he’s a major fan but that place is the definite Metal Capital.

    Tomorrow evening I start a 5 week course at the Uinversity called Writing Short Stories And Preparing For Publication. Any previous creative writing I’d done for the likes of Yuck ‘n Yum, I’d always had structure and a deadline to act as my incentive. I’m hoping this course might kickstart the process again with me. It also explores indie publishers and journals which could be stimulating, I’ll see how I get on.

  8. Misanthrope

    Dennis, What David Ehrenstein said: HA! He’s on to something. I have a friend who’s created a local rap group and his logo isn’t far off. They call themselves Dearly Departed and the logo is all squished together and has brass knuckles for the Ds. What’s really odd is that this guy, on Facebook anyway, is all Mr. Positivity…and then names his band Dearly Departed. I don’t know, that’s kind of funny to me. But I could see the name as being sweet too.

    Ah, thanks. Yeah, the more I think about the movie, the more I’m realizing that I didn’t like it, though I did enjoy the songs and such. Another friend pointed out that there was no showing how he became a singer, other than this bogus -fact checkers have been everywhere on this- part at the beginning where he meets the other members right after their lead singer (Freddie’s very close friend at the time in real life) has quit and he sings a couple lines in an alley to them and they’re all like, “Yeah!!!!!!!!!!” Whatever.

    That’s the problem with a biopic like this. You can only bend the timeline so much before people start calling total bullshit, you know? At least the Elton John movie is calling itself a “fantasy.” I might just skip that one.

    I’m seeing, too, some push back on Beautiful Boy a bit because of something they pretty egregiously left out: how he got a lot of his drugs. Seems there was a lot of dick-sucking and other stuff involved. In the movie, he’s just suddenly got drugs here and there, like the magically appeared or something, hahaha.

    Man, I feel like I need to be consulted on every movie now. There will, of course, be tons of dick-sucking and rimming, but I still think I could do better than a lot of shit they’re putting out in the cinemas over here. Well, except for that one at Lincoln Center. 😉

    Which makes me realize something: your and Zac’s film is by far the best film I’ve seen this year. No ass kissing here, it’s just the truth.

    Yeah, LPS. Aaahhh. Poor kid. 🙁

    • Kyler

      I agree about the film! (sorry to hear about LPS)

    • Steve Erickson

      The Elton John movie is directed by Dexter Fletcher, the uncredited co-director of BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY!

  9. Corey Heiferman

    I’m glad you enjoyed my little story. I got a vicarious thrill out of watching the logos being drawn because I can’t draw anything myself. Even before Wikipedia, all the world’s preserved knowledge depends on the obsessives. Only relatively recently have shrinks decided to classify the obsessives on whom society depends, according to their own obsessive classification system. Suggested soundtrack:

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