Influential Black Metal Bands
In the vast cosmos of black metal, certain bands shine as guiding stars, illuminating the path for generations to come. Let’s explore some of these luminaries from both the first and second waves of black metal.
Mayhem: Hailing from Norway and formed in 1984, Mayhem is not just a band but a legend. They epitomize the chaos and controversy of black metal’s early years. Their debut album, “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” (1994), is a hallmark of the genre, featuring haunting tracks like “Freezing Moon” and “Chainsaw Gutsfuck.” Mayhem’s tumultuous history, including the tragic suicide of vocalist Dead and the murder of guitarist Euronymous, has only added to their mystique.
Burzum: Varg Vikernes, the enigmatic mastermind behind Burzum, embodies black metal’s darkest facets. His early works, such as “Filosofem” (1996), are haunting and atmospheric, blending raw aggression with ambient textures. Tracks like “Dunkelheit” create an eerie sense of isolation, making Burzum a symbol of black metal’s introspective and controversial side.
Emperor: Emperor is the embodiment of symphonic black metal’s grandeur. Their debut album, “In the Nightside Eclipse” (1994), is a symphonic masterpiece. With epic tracks like “I Am the Black Wizards” and “Inno a Satana,” Emperor introduced orchestral elements into black metal, elevating the genre to operatic heights.
Black metal’s rich history is punctuated by albums that have left an indelible mark on the genre. Here’s a selection of iconic albums that showcase its diversity and evolution:
Darkthrone – “A Blaze in the Northern Sky” (1992): This album is a testament to the raw and primitive side of black metal. With tracks like “In the Shadow of the Horns,” Darkthrone helped define the genre’s second wave. The album cover’s stark simplicity captures the essence of black metal’s minimalistic aesthetic.
Dimmu Borgir – “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant” (1997): In this symphonic masterpiece, Dimmu Borgir merged black metal with orchestral elements, forging a new path. Tracks like “Mourning Palace” exemplify their grandiose approach. The album cover, featuring dark angels, embodies the genre’s dramatic flair.
Agalloch – “The Mantle” (2002): Agalloch’s fusion of black metal with folk and post-rock elements led to a genre known as “blackgaze.” “The Mantle” is a melancholic journey through nature’s beauty and decay, with tracks like “In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion” evoking a sense of wonder and sorrow.
These albums represent the multifaceted nature of black metal, from its primal roots to its symphonic heights and experimental frontiers. Each one offers a unique portal into the genre’s expansive universe, making them essential listening for anyone embarking on a journey through the dark and mystical realm of black metal.
Contemporary Black Metal
Evolution of the Genre
Black metal, like a living, breathing entity, has evolved and adapted over the years, shedding its old skin while retaining its core essence. This evolution is marked by a willingness to explore new elements and embrace global influences.
Incorporation of New Elements: Over time, black metal has welcomed a diverse range of musical elements into its fold. Bands like Alcest have infused shoegaze and post-rock into their sound, birthing a subgenre known as “blackgaze.” This fusion of genres results in a more introspective and melodic approach, exemplified by tracks like “Kodama.”
Globalization and Digital Age: In the age of globalization and digital communication, black metal has transcended geographical boundaries. Bands from countries as varied as Iceland, Australia, and Canada now contribute to the genre’s tapestry. This globalization has led to the exchange of ideas and influences, enriching the genre with fresh perspectives.
Innovative Production Techniques: Contemporary black metal also sees experimentation with production techniques. Bands like Deathspell Omega utilize dissonant and avant-garde approaches, pushing the genre’s sonic boundaries. Their album “Paracletus” is a disorienting whirlwind of sound, showcasing a fearless approach to production.
Notable Contemporary Bands
The contemporary black metal landscape is a vibrant and dynamic realm, populated by bands that are unafraid to push the boundaries of the genre. Here are a few notable contemporary acts that are redefining black metal:
Deafheaven: Deafheaven’s fusion of black metal with elements of post-rock and shoegaze has garnered critical acclaim. Albums like “Sunbather” incorporate soaring melodies and introspective lyrics. Their innovative sound has expanded black metal’s reach to a broader audience.
Mgła: Hailing from Poland, Mgła is known for their relentless and aggressive take on black metal. Albums like “Exercises in Futility” are characterized by their ferocious intensity and bleak lyrical themes. The band’s uncompromising approach has earned them a dedicated following.
Wolves in the Throne Room: This American band embraces environmental and ecological themes, weaving them into their atmospheric black metal sound. Their album “Thrice Woven” combines cascading guitars with a sense of reverence for nature, showcasing an organic and hypnotic approach.
Duivel, a Dutch project, is the brainchild of Nachtraaf, a musician renowned for his work with bands like Urfaust, Botulistum, and Fluisterwoud. Jim, also known as Nachtraaf, collaborated with Black Anvil’s frontman, Paul Delaney, in this endeavor. They unleashed their self-titled EP in 2019, followed by their debut album, “Tirades uit de hel,” in 2020. The EP “Heiligschennis” surprised fans in 2023. Nachtraaf handled the guitar, with Paul on bass, Lahar from Ex-Fluisterwoud on drums, and D.R.E.P.’s Deportator taking on recording, mixing, and mastering. The EP also features guest vocalists from bands like D.R.E.P., Invunche, Heidenland, and Botulistum, with synths by Klavierendeler and contributions by Fír and artist Johan Prenger for the cover artwork.
Syn, a new project hailing from the south of Norway, notably includes a member from Askeregn. Their debut track, “Groregn,” premiered on the TERRATUR COMPENDIUM MMXXI, a compilation that has been hailed as a brutal triumph.
Parfaxitas is a brand-new project featuring K.R from Whoredom Rife on vocals, N. from Oculus and Merihem on guitars, J. from Suffering Hour on bass, and B.E. from Sinmara and Almyrkvi on drums. K.R, known for his exceptional vocal prowess, shines on tracks like “Thou Shalt Worship No Other,” as seen on the TERRATUR COMPENDIUM MMXXI.
Kråbøl is a project where several generations have come together under their family name. B. Kråbøl handles vocals, guitars, and synth, while T. Kråbøl is on drums, S. Kråbøl on bass, and M. Kråbøl contributes trumpet on select songs. Terje (Stian) Kråbøl, known for his work with bands like Funeral, Tulus, Katechon, and Killing for Company, collaborates with his brother Stian in this project.
Enevelde, a one-man project by B. Kråbøl, released its self-titled debut album in 2020. The album featured guest appearances from K.R, M. Hellem, and Nosophoros of Nidrosian bands like Ritual Death, Dark Sonority, and Mare. Enevelde’s EP “Gravgang” followed in 2021, while “En Gildere Død” (2023) features guest appearances by V. Einride, M. Hellem, and T. Kråbøl.
Founded in 2020, RUÏM is the brainchild of Blasphemer, the ex-Mayhem riff-master. Inspired by unused material from ’98/’99 and beliefs concerning the spirits of the “linha da esquerda,” RUÏM offers a deeply personal and transformative journey. Blasphemer handles everything except drums, executed by French musician CSR. RUÏM’s debut, “Royal Spiritism – I – O Sino da Igreja,” features Blasphemer’s vocals, reaffirming his status as a black metal guitar legend.
Imperial Triumphant, a New York City power trio, represents avant-garde black metal. Their album “Alphaville” ventures into uncharted territory with barbershop quartets, Japanese taiko drums, and collaborations with notable musicians like Trey Spruance, Colin Marston, and Tomas Haake.
Deathspell Omega, a mysterious French band active since 1998, is known for its strange and challenging music. With seven albums and a slew of EPs, they remain enigmatic, performing live rarely and maintaining a low public profile. Their anti-authoritarian lyrical themes set them apart.
Blut Aus Nord
Blut Aus Nord, or “Blood From (the) North,” from France, combines unconventional arrangements with metaphysical lyrics. Their 2003 album, “The Work Which Transforms God,” marked a breakthrough. “Hallucinogen” (2019) explored a more melodic and psychedelic sound.
These bands and projects are a testament to the ongoing innovation and diversity within the black metal genre, pushing boundaries and defying conventions.
These contemporary bands represent the ever-evolving nature of black metal. They continue to breathe new life into the genre, pushing it in exciting and innovative directions. As the genre embraces change and expands its horizons, it remains firmly rooted in its core principles of darkness, emotion, and introspection, ensuring its enduring relevance in the world of music.