Immortal’s classic record Battles in the north was the first serious BM I listened as a teen, after a short Dimmu Borgir phase (though that band wasn’t bad at all in the 90s). I decided to pick Blizzard Beasts, because I like the especially raw and heavy “production” on this record. Back then Immortal took no prisoners. Furthermore, they were a very focused band among all the classic early Norwegian BM bands, like Abbath once pointed out, they were never involved in anti-religious or political “side-activities”. Also his singing style was very unique and that is an important aspect to me.
Another classic Norwegian BM record. I like the insane “singing” style of Attila that adds a rotten atmosphere to the razor-blade-sharp riffing. I am glad that the band was still around after some involuntary line up changes and still is today. Other than most of the 90s BM bands, Mayhem still fucking kill on stage.
I have spent a lot of time listening to Behemoth over the years. They started copying the old-school Norwegian sound, which they did extremely well. But soon, Behemoth evolved into something more brutal, when they started combining BM with much more heavy power. The band did not get a lot of recognition in the 90s and I have the highest of respect for their development through the earlier years. It is very hard for me to pick just one record of them. In the close-minded black metal ice desert, Behemoth were the outstanding erupting mountain throwing volcanic bombs. Also I have to point out that I especially like Nergal’s unique barking vocals.
I think Dissection were my favourite Black Metal band for a very long time. I listened to their first two records countless times. The songs just get into your head and never leave again. I don’t think there is much more to write about this band, that is not common knowledge anyway. I am glad, I had the chance to attend to one of their concerts.
This is where my duty comes to an end and things might get more interesting. Windir were always under the radar, hailing from a remote part of Norway. Valfar was a very creative young multi-instrumentalist, who developed his very own refreshing BM style throughout the band’s discography. The songs have a sad and dramatic atmosphere. He does use his accordion a lot and he didn’t care what BM fans think of keyboards. It is a shame that he had to die so early, but freezing to death in the Norwegian woods is maybe one of the truest forms of dying for a black metal musician. It is sad that the band was forgotten so quickly, I still listen to Windir with a heavy heart.
I own every single record of them, so they have to be on this list. Most of the time this music is too cheesy for me, but when I am in the right mood it gives me the chills. Perfect music for any fantasy nerd and much better than any other popular Tolkien-themed metal band.
Not to be confused with Naglfar from Sweden. This is a German BM band that soon started to give even lesser fucks by the excessive use of electronic sounds on this record, paired with a certain insanity that is hard for me to pinpoint why that is. Also there is a majestic feeling to it, that makes you feel very insignificant while listening. The album is divided into the four seasons and a “bonus” track – to me an overall masterpiece of modern BM. Although, if I would have to pick just one favourite song of Nagelfar, it would be “Meuterei” from Virus West, the harsh epicness of that song blows you away like the storm tide. As a black metal fan you can’t desire for more. Volle Kraft voraus!
Hörst Du das Raunen in der Tiefe? The debut record of Helrunar kicked in very strong. I liked the classic cold BM sound combined with acoustic guitars, the German lyrics and the heroic parts that are sung in Old Norse. A fantastic debut record without any downsides.
Hard to pick a record of the leaders of the German “avant-garde black metal” scene, I go with the one I listened to the most. It is intelligent (black)metal with a comforting warm pinkfloydesque feeling every now and then. The lyrics are fantastic and very meaningful, though sometimes a little bit icky, but not worse than any other classic Norwegian BM lyrics. This record is also divided into the four seasons, it seems that you can hardly go wrong with that as a European band. Best Nocte Obducta song is not on that record but on Nektar Teil 2: “Und Pan Spielt Die Flöte (Desîhras Tagebuch – Kapitel II)”, a 16 minute masterpiece with very read-worthy German lyrics. If you like Opeth you might enjoy the mellow sound of Stille – Das nagende Schweigen.
Doomed to rot alive in a musty dungeon with no chance of ever seeing the sunlight again – this is how this record sounds: it is pure hopelessness turned into music. Some people say it is too boring because there are too many mid-tempo parts and the solos are played without any emphasis – but this is exactly what this music is about, every song of this record makes perfect sense to me. Listen to the record in its entirely, but at least to the song “Shardfigures”. It features the typical elements of Dark Fortress with a slow and grim mood.
And yet another German BM Band. It is embarrassing that so many German bands are among my favourites, I do not want to sound patriotic. It is just that the German scene has its very own style and the German language and the German overall “mentality” goes fucking good together with Black metal. Geïst are among those German “avant-garde” BM bands that show a lot of respect for raw old-school black metal like “Wanderer bei Fels und Fjord”. But also epic tracks like “Winters Schwingenschlag” are among the highlights of this outstanding debut record. Again, if there was only one song I’d had to pick from that band, it would be the title track of the subsequent record Kainsmal. I love the poetic middle-age themed lyrics in that song together with the acoustic guitar elements. The part in the end with a sample of Klaus Kinsky reciting Nietzsche‘s “Vereinsamt” lets your blood finally freeze solid.
Lunar Aurora – (2007) Andacht
The complex songwriting, the unique lyrics and the use of keyboards serve the overall deep and dark atmosphere without losing the scope of raw back metal. This record is without doubt among the best black metal records of this young millennium.
This list lacks of any modern USBM. I personally love this kind of rebirth of atmospheric old-school black metal in the US. It is great music and that is all I care about, also I like that they are more into promoting gardening work or psychedelic drug abuse than murdering people or right wing politics. As one representative of the left-wing, eco, transcendental BM I chose Altar of plagues from Ireland who openly admit that they are heavily inspired by the USBM band Wolves in the Throne Room. But they have their own approach in creating a vast sound scape, Ireland sure is a great place to get inspiration for dark and meaningful music.
Funeral Mist – (2009) Maranatha
Funeral Mist knocked my socks off when I first heard them. This band is all about orthodox BM taken to new extremes: the gnarly production, the insanely chaotic music, satanic lyrics, christ-mocking spoken word passages, disgusting imagery and an overall filthy atmosphere – there is no compromise! The few atmospheric parts sound very beautiful, but they just exist so that the listener doesn’t get a chance to get used to the extreme harshness. This record holds a mirror up to the founding fathers of hypocrisy: Christianity with its globally spread herd of believers, who are not less sick and twisted than the sound of this record.