Black (Death) Metal typography

Endre Berentzen's picture

Hi I need some help finding some fonts for a t-shirt print. I'm looking for some fonts in the black (death) metal genre. Not my usual cup of tea so help anyone?

Queneau's picture

I guess the "Sabbath Black" could be right for this purpose...
And the name is just right for it :>)

cheerio Queneau

Artur Schmal's picture

As far as I know there aren't any real Black Metal fonts avaiable. Black Metal logo's usually are hand-drawn with a high level of symmetry in them. Search for album covers of bands like Mayhem, Marduk, Burzum, Urgehal. Frakturs are often used to complement the typography.

Hope this is of any help.


Endre Berentzen's picture

So symmetry is a keyword here? I really should know all this comming from the death metal capital of the world but when it is not your cup of tea it is not your cup of tea;-)
Any other traits that are linked to this typography?

Reed Reibstein's picture

Blaktur could be right up your alley.

Artur Schmal's picture

Ah yes now I see, Bergen. Pretty infamous I believe in terms of Black Metal. :)

blank's picture

About two years ago some obscure black metal band got a lot of press by hiring a designer to do an album cover without the usual genre cliches.

Anyway, black metal albums tend to feature a big hideous custom logo that’s modified to look symmetrical, dripping with pus, blood, and or spiderwebs. It’s common for them to be all but completely unreadable. All other text should be either in a scary-looking blackletter or a roman with lots of sharp points.

Arild's picture

What typeface to use depends a lot on what kind of black metal we are talking about. If it is the traditional, early nineties kind, then Wilhelm Klingspor Gotisch could be appropriate. But black metal comes in a lot of other varieties as well(folky, gothic, punky, avant-garde), and each has an accordingly different visual style. Either way, Blaktur is definately not the right typeface, as it is way too cartoonish.

(And by the way, Bergen may be a black metal capital, but a death metal capital it is definately not.)

Endre Berentzen's picture

Hi Arild (Norwegian?).

Again as I said before it's not my cup of tea so I was probably wrong in my definition of Bergen as a death metal city. So it's black metal huh? What is the death metal capital and which bands are big in this genre. I'm guessing death metal is darker but what other differences are there?

Thanks again for your help:-)

Endre Berentzen's picture

Just checked your website Arild!

You look like you know a thing or two about this topic. Have you seen this? Some friends of mine are doing t-shirts and I was just invited to do one for their series:-)

Arild's picture

(Yes, I am norwegian)

The big death metal countries are sweden and USA. Traditional death metal has a visual style with blood, gore and colorful illustrations (Cannibal Corpse is a good example), whereas traditional black metal is more dominated by fog, nature, darkness and black and white photography. Black metal design should not look gory.

blank's picture

Death Metal tends to be fast, dumb, and focused on Satanism and lyrical depictions of extreme violence, usually in relation to zombies, Satanism, and anti-Christian genocide. Some of it is quite tongue in cheek, but there are also some nutters who talk it all seriously. Florida was the capital of death metal in the 1990s, these days death metal is very much on the wane and doesn’t have much of a locale. It’s sort of hard to keep an audience when one lionizes Albert Fish.

Black metal tends to focus on Norse mythology, with some Satanism and violence chucked in for tongue-in-cheek fun. The music tends to be more melodic and experimental than death metal, and every once in a while a band even tricks a big label into footing the bill for a symphonic partnership album. Pretty much nobody takes this stuff seriously, but they won’t admit it. Like Robert Plant and Bruce Dickinson, black metal lyricists tend to be book nerds, so history and literature pop up a lot; Cradle of Filth self-produced what amounts to a rock opera about Eresebete Bathory. Northern Europe still produces most of these bands, and that’s where they do most of their touring.

The bands in these genres that have made it really big tend to overlap the genres.

outerone's picture

the more illegible the better, black metal logos are truly the anti-logos. But that doesnt mean they arent cool, the best imo is the Darkthrone logo, reminds me of a large forest during the autumn darkness of scandinavia.

magnus_rakeng's picture

I did these for Great fun. There is no such thing as a black metal typeface. The best way to do it is with a pen. Most black metal logos have a homemade feel to it, mostly because they are. To make it look authentic be sure to draw it almost symmetrical, but not quite.

brett jordan's picture

some lovely stuff there magnus... i hate the music, but love the typography :-)

Endre Berentzen's picture

Thanks a lot guys. To clear one thing up I was always intending to do this by hand however it is important when working within a genre you are not accustomed too to identify certain traits hence my asking for examples of the typography.

It appears that this is the essence "To make it look authentic be sure to draw it almost symmetrical, but not quite".

Of Magnus's t-shirts I especially love Gravid, it sits nicely over my perfectly rounded beer gut;-)

Ps: How is Melkeveien these days Magnus?
Pps: To anyone wondering who Magnus is look at (probably Norway's best typographic designer)

dtw's picture

If the end result is going to involve near-illegible blackletters, with "a high degree of symmetry", it might be worth considering trying to make an ambigram? (depending on the text this may or may not be feasible...)

Ever since I chose to block pop-ups, my toaster's stopped working.

magnus_rakeng's picture

Thanks Brett. I'm not too keen on the music either :-) The project ('skuls' means 'even' in norwegian) is a collection of t-shirts with logos of fake norwegian black metal bands. It's just for fun and of course to see if any non-norwegian speaking people will think it is for real and buy and wear the t-shirts. The band names are the most dull and boring words you can think of like, Office, Bread, Hairdryer, Pillow case etc.

Endre: Melkeveien is doing just fine thank you! I hear the sun is shining in Bergen today! You should buy the Gravid shirt. I'm sure it will look good on you. (for all of you that don't speak norwegian 'Gravid' means 'Pregnant')

dtw: If one can manage to make a black metal logo into an ambiagram that would be perfect! What could be more evil than ambiagrams.

Endre Berentzen's picture

Hehe I'm working on finding a word for the ambiagram;-)

Magnus: I'll be wearing the t-shirt soon. (Hey Magnus; you weren't supposed to tell;-)
(The weather is nice and I'm stuck at home with a serious deadline:-(

Scott Leyes's picture

Look at "wood" type faces, old block-letter printing faces you see on wanted posters and circus banners - lots o' these floating around out there. Also check out "Halloween" fonts, lotsa sites pop up this time of year include free fonts (check the legal).

russellm's picture

Courtesy of my son's vast and unrivaled knowledge of things dark and Norwegian:

I kind of like Opeth

justinthomaskay's picture

one of my favorite logos (and bands) for the genre:

Arild's picture

The Skuls project is quite funny, but not all the shirts look black metal to me. For instance the use of umlauts in a logo, like the Haarföner logo, signals that this is thrash metal band. But the ones Magnus made, especially the Putevar and Spasertur logos, are brilliant.

Like Justin, I do quite like the music of Xasthur, but I am not too keen on their logo (too messy for my taste). One of my favorite logos is the Borknagar logo:

Other favorites are the aforementioned Darkthrone and Emperor logos.

magnus_rakeng's picture

You are right Arild. Many of the logos have little to do with Black Metal. "Spasertur" and "Putevar" should be availabe soon.

Endre Berentzen's picture

Thanks a lot guys! Keep em coming.
I agree they don't all look black metal but that doesn't matter as long as someone (from outside of Norway) buys them;-)

Florian Hardwig's picture

No black metal either, but a very cute and self-deprecating persiflage of a heavy metal classic for ‘softies’ Ms. John Soda/Morr by Jan Kruse.
Came to my mind when reading about ‘Pillow case’ etc … Great stuff, Magnus! :°D

Arild's picture

Where can we buy the Skuls shirts, by the way?

magnus_rakeng's picture

You can buy them here:
It does not work very well in Safari. Use Firefox if you are using a Mac.

justinthomaskay's picture

another fave:

rui abreu's picture

You can see a lot of duc de berry in the swedish black metal band Marduk.

ebensorkin's picture

Tasty Thread! Thanks.

Vysionous's picture

Endre, it depends on which sub-genre that black metal band plays. If you state the sub-genre they play, maybe I can help you and give you some examples on the fonts that are used.


Dante_Pilcrow's picture


I am sure your deadline has come and gone and you're up to your 3rd pressing of your awesome shirts (which I am very curious to see!)...but I just had to chime in on some example of "metal" band logos.

Anyway, I am both a Typo-nerd as well as a metalhead, and it has come to my attention that since metal has become more mainstream, the logos of such bands have become well crafted and readable (well, not in all cases, but some are just so awesome to look at!)

Here is an abridged list of bands with (in my opinion) very well crafted logos. Since I know you probably won't spend the time looking at each and every one, I have marked the ones I found particularly striking with a dash (must see!).

-The Absence
-All Shall Perish
-Becoming the Archetype *2 different logos for each album, both very nice*
-The Black Dahlia Murder
-The Faceless
Glass Casket
-Heaven Shall Burn
-Job For a Cowboy
A Life Once Lost
-The Red Chord
Shadows Fall
Uphill Battle

oprion's picture

I was bored :D

Personal Art and Design Portal of Ivan Gulkov

plaguesofwrath's picture

I'm not sure if this issue has been resolved, but I felt compelled to comment anyway. First: there IS a black metal font, although it's not the greatest in the world... Just google "Ultimate Black Metal Font" and it'll come up.

If it's a black metal logo you're looking to do, there's one person you should try to contact on the matter, and that's Christophe Szpajdel. He has done logos for some of the biggest names in the genre (Emperor for example) and what's more, is he doesn't charge.

If you're looking to do a Death Metal logo ala-Cannibal Corpse, the Gushing Meadows font should suit your needs just fine, other than that... Just look up Death Metal logos on google and see what else is there.

Second. There is a lot of bad information here, but this isn't a music forum, it's a typography forum, however, the definitions here on black metal and death metal are so inaccurate that I must say something about it. For a clear idea on black metal, forget Scandinavia almost all together, at least at first. Go back to the beginning, Venom, Sodom, Hellhammer, Sarcofago, Bathory (yes they're from scandinavia) and other 80's black metal bands. Black metal is, in my opinion, the most diverse sub-genre of metal. You cannot clearly define it as one thing or another, because it depends on the band and the region. You have bands from Black Witchery (hateful aggressive satanic... my favorite band) all the way to Woods of Ypres (mellow, sorrowful, naturistic...sometimes) and everything in between. There's symphonic black metal which tends to focus on sounding gothy, there're raw black metal bands who prefer to sound as primitive as they can.. You cannot, i repeat, cannot nail black metal down into one definition.

And as far as death metal goes... While not as diverse as black metal, it is also very difficult to just pin to a specific definition, there are many types of death metal as well, including hybrids of death metal and black metal.

Jackson's picture

Christophe Szpajdel's book is now available on Amazon. Got my copy last week.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

A Finnish heavy band Nightwish used my font in their albums:

Nightwish is hardly death metal, even though we do have pretty good ones for that here in Finland.

I was surpriced to see their choice of typeface; I was pretty drunk when I made this font.

Jongseong's picture

Ah yes, I remember this typeface from Nightwish's CD inserts. So it was you, Tomi! If I remember correctly, the typeface was used quite small and reversed on a dark background. The extraneous lines formed something like the busy "webs" like those seen in some of the logos pictured above; the effect is quite different, of course, but not completely dissimilar.

E.Jacobson's picture

How awesome would it be if someone came up with a Black Metal opentype with a ton of contextual alternates ala Liza/Studio Lettering? I'm looking at you Tal Leming

A good way to think about BLACK Metal typography (and yes there is a difference between Black and Death) is to think about Textura vs Fuse.

matt_yow's picture

black metal typography is also popularly hand drawn, at least initially. I can't think of a decent font that is unique, effective AND represents a specific metal artist.

pheno's picture

well just a short note on some of those logos... for sure the most are symmetric and well designed. but there was a great great mistake made in the third post. -> the link will provide you the true story about the Burzum Logo... other than the most Varg here explains why he never had a logo in the sense of a logo. the first logo is just a gothic font and the second of the latest release of belus album is a nice font too. but it has never been ment as a logo. With that knowledge BURZUM can't take as a reference for a BM -logo at all.
In my eyes it's still one of the best bands in the genre as Varg influenced a lot of bands... sadly others play same riffs or equal music instead of making something new out of it. Same with the logo question... behind most of them the idea is the same , they look different but still same. those logos were nice 1990-1993 but nowadays i think we need a change ... or at least something new... the wheel allready excists so why devoloping another?

so between black an deathmetal there is also a big difference. while the BM Logos are most times filled up with turnaround crosses and pentagrams or other occult-icons DM logos goes another dirrection more brutal less occult... anyway at the end a good logo should be handdrawn and not by freefonts - or if you're realy true go the burzum way and don't even follow any trend!^^

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