The genre rose in the nineties, with the first wave composed by bands like Venom, Bathory, etc. However they sounded very much like thrash metal, but still they were the ones who came up with the anti-christian lyrics and all that satanic image and stuff.
Then there was the second wave which it seems that kind of changed the style completely, the vocals, the monochordic guitars, song structures became close to progressive, atmosphere was grimmer, except that the lyrics remained on the same theme.
I read somewhere that Venom's guys wouldn't consider the bands of the second wave "black metal".
And nowadays if you allow yourself to the black subgenres, you will see that most bands don't have the satanic imagery anymore, neither the lyrics are aimed to that concept.
Also there are bands which have such a unique style that they went far from what one would consider a black metal band of the second wave.
So... What is sufficient to categorize a band as "Black Metal" nowadays? For instance would you guys consider bands like "Botanist" or "Circle of Ouroboros" black metal?
What are your opinions?
This leads me to the question: Who plays BM in it's simplest/purest form today? Is there any bands that still sounds like it's 1990?
Well normally I would say Inquisition, but the vocals kind of throw that one off. And also black metal originated with bands like Mercyful Fate, Venom, and Bathory, so it was already quite varied in its' earliest forms (but that's straying from the 1990 limit). Also to contribute to the earlier part of the discussion, I completely agree that Black Metal is one of the most varied genres, and as such, sub-classification is entirely necessary.
Check out this label for a lot of traditional stuff. There may not be many popular throwback black metal bands but that's mainly because people have moved on from the sound.
That doesn't stop a new one from forming approximately every 36 seconds.
It's only natural that people have moved on from the sound. Bands tend to evolve and grow over the years, and if they suddenly decide to release an album where they play "like they did before" it tends to fail pretty hard. Maybe it takes a fresh, unexperienced band to create that 90's sound? So these band are also a part of what black metal is today.
Could the answer to the question in this topic be that BM today is an incredibly diverse genre with tons of subgenres? I don't think it's possible to choose one single active band to front todays BM. Mayhem is still at it, and their roots go deep into the BM scene, but their sound has also wandered through many territories since the beginning in the mid 80's.
Every metal genres is stacked with sub-genres nowadays so it's hard to decide if one band could be classified as black metal or not. It's not like it was before; it wasn't black metal if it wasn't "true", sounded grim and was recorded through a calculator (almost literally). Even some of the "grim" bands have also evolved their sound.
Dimmu Borgir - Dimmu Borgir:
(Is this black metal because of their name? Is it the vocals? It's definately not the atmosphere that makes this black, and to me it sounds more like a heavy movie track).
Alcest - Écaille De Lune Part II:
(Would this been classified as black metal back in the days? Even the soft genre shoe-gaze gets blended with black metal elements. The atmosphere is more present here (imo) but don't know if purists would classify this as black)
An Autumn For Crippled Children - Tragedy Bleeds All Over The Lost:
(Depressive / atmospheric black metal)
It is interesting indeed to explore how this one specific genre can sound in different settings, and the songs over here are what came to my mind when answering what black metal could be nowadays.