Continuing where PART 1 left off, my top 10 list of black metal albums will leave you writhing in darkness. Consider that my theatrical and dramatic statement for the day! For those unaware, black metal is on the whole inexplicably dark. It contains subgenres that range from normal and expected (like melodic black metal and symphonic black metal) to more sinister ones (like Satanic black metal and depressive-suicidal black metal). The music you will find on this list touches on a variety of music from these respected sub-genre.
Let me continue:
3). Gnaw Their Tongues - Reeking, Pained and Shuddering
I am not sure that I can describe this album in any other way than to say it is dark and is purely an assault on an individuals audio sensory perception. The atmosphere contained on this album is thick. It is brimming with synthetic and symphonic elements (including a female opera singer), as well as the expected distorted guitars that black metal generally provides. Like so many musicians I enjoy, the amount of reverb is turned up a notch, forcing the music to take on a very atmospheric and space-like quality. Cold, emptiness was once conveyed simply by stripping down compositions and using little (if no) bass. Modern black metal seems to be taking the approach Gnaw Their Tongues has gone with, providing more bass and more distance (thanks in part to the reverb) to convey a sense of emptiness.
In all honesty, I have never heard more depressing music; and this comes from someone who has long been interested in black metal and similar genres of music. For example, the song "Nihilism Tied Up and Burning" is a prime example of what this album will offer its listeners. It begins very quietly and atmospherically, with a haunting opera singer in the background. Then, the song takes a turn and fills the soundwaves with double bass drumming and some traditional sounding black metal guitar riffs. More often than not, one cannot distinguish the individuals notes being played on the guitar; however the atmosphere is so dense that it cannot be enjoyed.
This album is simply haunting and depressing. It is best listened too on a dark, foggy, rainy day.
4). Dimmu Borgir - Death Cult Armageddon
This is yet another album that will put off black metal elitists, however it has withstood the test of time as it has lingered in my collection for the better part of 3 years. It is symphonic and grandiose. Even better (or worse?) is the simple fact that this band is much easier to get into than many others which exist in the genre. This album is particularly polished, and the sound levels are generally very even. Yes, this means there is bass this album; and on occasion it is actually audible.
Many people who have gotten into the black metal genre have likely gone through both Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth respectably. They are, in fact, the easiest bands to ween the average listener into this pummeling assault on the senses. This fact speaks to their ability to compose music on the scale in which they have. Many of their songs, such as "Progenies of the Great Apocalyse" and "Eradication Instincts Defined" feature grandiose and extremely memorable symphonies which will lure classical music enthusiasts, as well as individuals simply looking for "dark" music. Though Dimmu Borgir works under the guise of black metal, their music is much more accessible than early artists like Darkthrone and Mayhem. The influence, however, is completely evident.
So what attracts me to this album? The compositions and recordings are all top-notch. Not only that, but they fluidly run from one to the next on the album; which is always attractive to me. In pop music, for example, one can find a set of songs on an album which really have little to do with one another. For some people, this is acceptable; especially when people are mostly listening to the top hits (or singles). The scope of black metal albums is typically beyond this, and must be perceived as theatrical play or a cinamatic movies as opposed to "just a collection of songs."
Building off of that last point, some may also recognize Dimmu Borgir's symphonic section of "Eradication Instincts Defined" from one of the original Hellboy trailors. In that context, it was impossible to even guess that this band was, in fact, black metal. This again speaks to the diversity on this album.
5). Falls of Rauros - Into the Archaic
Back when Lord of the Rings (the movies) were gaining in popularity, my nerd self decided to search the internet for musicians based on J.R.R. Tolkien's mythic lore. Undoubtedly, I wound up stumbling upon an entire sub-genre of black metal more or less dedicated to Tolkien's stories. Needless to say, on the whole I was very impressed with a lot of what I was hearing. The scope of the music and the concept behind the music really sends the listener on a very visual mental journey. Falls of Rauros was one of the first band in this sub-genre that I stumbled upon, however I came to find out that they were even more interesting that what one may first expect.
Though they have released some new albums, one of their earlier, free to download, albums titled "Into the Archaic" has stuck with me. Their music is very appealing because it is not as "loud" as traditional black metal. Very much of it is dowsed with lower key instruments and musical ideas. In fact, like any good pagan band or song stemming from folklore, the genre of folk rock very much comes to the forefront of this music. While the incorporation of acoustic guitars and folk melodies is not unique in black metal by any means (in fact, many artists do do this), Falls of Rauros does it in such a raw and natural way. Another enjoyable aspect of this album is that the vocals are not entirely screamed, with occasional soft and even clean singing. Though, at the end of the day, the atmosphere still remains well refined and touches on pantheistic spiritual notions.
As this album is available for free, here is a link to download (or stream) their album. They also have a few other ones up on Last.fm which you may enjoy as well. If you like it, go by their new album and other miscellaneous things to support them!