Like many of my album lists, these are in an arbitrary order. The numbers are irrelevent, as I feel black metal and music in general covers such a range; that it is difficult to say one is objectively better than another. With that said, the black metal albums listed in this list will likely not be catering to the elitists among us. While I respect the original Norwegian black metal artists (Venom, Mayhem, Darkthrone, Bathory, and so forth), I feel that many recent black metal releases are equally, if not more, important and worthy of coverage.
A part of my reason for mostly ignoring the original artists is two fold: 1. They take up top spots on so many lists of black metal albums. While these albums are undoubtedly worth listening too, they should not be the end-all for albums worth listening too. 2. Many individuals will be repulsed by the poor quality of these original albums. I personally love the dark, cold sounds; however to drive new listeners to the genre of black metal; I feel it is important that people are able to hear new sounds that they may not otherwise be able to hear about.With that point stated, many of these artists may dabble in additional genres of music; such as symphonic/classical, post-rock, and neo-folk. These are by no means then strictly "traditional" black metal artists, however they are generally deemed black metal by and large.
Without further adue, let me begin:
1). Blut Aus Nord - Memoria Vetusta II: A Dialogue with the Stars
I have found myself to be increasingly interested in the French black metal scene. While many of these artists maintain a very rugged, dark, and distorted sound; it is overwhelmingly plagued with high emotionality and beauty. I suppose a part of this image that I have stapled in my mind is my almost mythological perception of French culture. As someone who has never been to France, there is a certain expectation I have from the French, especially in departments relating to art and creativity. Additionally, France is undeniably noted for the romantic air; and in some ways I feel many black metal bands are capable of reflecting this romance, this passion, in their music. On so many levels I would then describe Blut Aus Nord's album Memoria Vetusta II: A Dialogue with the Stars as cold, dark love.
Very few artists are capable of stapling themselves into my music collection. In all honesty, I often find myself purchasing albums; only to resell them at a later point, generally at a record store, so I may purchase new music. Blut Aus Nord is an artist in which I have found long lasting longevity. I have owned this album for nearly two years, and have been in love with it ever since.
They attract me so deeply because of their mystique. Their music is thematically about space and likely some form of nihilism (as many black metal artists write about). This is reflected in the compositions and recordings very well, as the instruments are dowsed in reverb and feel very distant. As dark, distorted, and spacey this album may be; it is still fairly easy to listen too thanks in part to the fantastic mixes. Additionally, this music is highly melodic; while still able to balance occasional dissonance. The guitars are often shooting out guitar riffs at lightening speed, though frequently we are also treated to clean guitar interludes which break up the chaos.
Very few albums are worth as much note.
2). Cradle of Filth - Cruelty and the Beast
Before I begin, let me just say that I am certain my opinion on Cradle of Filth will be abhorred by many black metal elitists. I, however, try to keep an open mind about the music I am willing to listen too. When I began getting into Cradle of Filth, I originally checked them out on account that so many people were spouting on about how they are "terrible" or "not black metal", though thye obviously draw much of their influence from this style of music. Granted, many of their more recent albums, particularly those that made them infamous to the Hot Topic hipsters of the modern world, are much more distant than their previous albums from their roots in black metal. In fact, I am not really a fan of a majority of their recent work since Nymphetamine. I do, however, feel that their older work needs to be heard because this band has been capable of blending symphonic elements ("the drama" as I would refer to them) with the darkess, cold sounds of black metal.
Thematically, this album is interesting because it is a concept album related to the infamous Countess Bathory. She is said to have committed many murders of young, virgin girls for the purpose of collecting their blood and bathing in it. This was done in order to maintain her youthful vitality, or so the folklore goes. Needless to say, this was an interesting vision placed in my mind as I began listening to the album. By the end, I was hooked and felt as if I had just witnessed a beautiful play that no studio would pick up for fear of offending their audience and the general populace.
Of course, theatrics is not the only selling point of this album. Cradle of Filth's sound is very expansive, drawing from classical/neo-classical symphonic ideas and merging them with very heavy, and very solid, black metal riffs. Many of the songs range between 6 and 10 minutes, and often lead from one right into the next beautifully. In many respects, this entire album feels like it was meant to go together. Every song feels like an act in a play, and they all collaborate and work very well together.
For those willing to open their minds to a band who may have destroyed their reputation with their later works, I would highly advice checking out this album "Cruelty and the Beast." Additionally, for those who want to wet their Cradle of Filth lips even further, I also highly advise "Dusk and Her Embrace" and "Midian" from a similar time period. You can also find these albums in a 4 album set for around 20 dollars on Amazon as well.