Black Metal is a genre that has constantly evolved, and stagnated, over the past few decades. Since the term was coined by the band Venom on their album "Black Metal", the underground metal world has taken off in a cold and grim direction.
Within the confines of black metal you will usually find relentless distortion guitars, raspy growled vocals, double bass drums, and dissonance. Fortunately for the common heavy metal lover, many "new" black metal artists have begun to break out of the monotonous feeling and include other instruments to make the music more atmospheric, melodic, and beautiful altogether. Sub-genres of black metal include: symphonic black metal and blackened folk metal.
Since this is really my personal top ten list, I will be sure to include a range of these genres. Black metal elitists will likely not be pleased, however this list should be for those with an open mind. Let's be honest, many people just have not heard about black metal (or if they have, have not heard enough) to appreciate it. I hope my summaries of the following albums spark interest in someone!
Please note: I am not going into extensive detail on each album, this is primarily just a listing of my top 5 black metal albums. If you are more interested in these albums (and others) feel free to check out My Content here on InfoBarrel and read my full reviews.
1 Blut Aus Nord - Memoria Vetusta II - Dialogue With The Stars
Blut Aus Nord is a fascinating black metal band. Much of their music found on this album is highly melodic, yet they so perfectly blend the dissonant and discordant guitars riffs that are so commonly found in black metal with this melodic, harmonic, and symphonic style.
This album sticks out in my mind because it is so diverse. The guitars have a unique atmospheric tone. Occasionally synths find their way into the mix as well. If you are an individual interested in atmospheric black metal, look no further. Blut Aus Nord has it down to a science, yet they still liberally splatter their artwork with pure genius.
2 Cradle of Filth - Cruelty and the Beast
Okay, it is possible I may slowly be dragged to the noose by some black metal advocates for this one. Cradle of Filth is a modern spectacle that has frequently found its way into the public eye. Unfortunately, they have garnered attention at the wrong point in their career. Their initial few albums were possibly some of the best that symphonic black metal had to offer. They were intense, and laced symphonic elements through the black metal elements perfectly. The atmosphere created is very intense and worthy of recognition, even if I do not feel where the band is today is anything like this.
Cruelty and the Beast is really a work of art worthy of being noted by black metal lovers.
3 Northwail - Enigma
Northwail is another underground black metal band worthy of recognition. Imagine taking riff structures like Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth, mixing it with the beautiful arrangements found in Left in Torment's work. It could be said that this is a blackened death metal album because some more primal elements of death metal can also be found here, such as the inclusion of some thrashy solos and fast chord changes.
4 Dark Funeral - Diabolis Interium
For whatever bizzar reason, Dark Funeral has been a band that has intrigued me since I stumbled on to the genre of black metal. It is humorous that I mention them because they never really do anything "unique", however they so solidly perform standard black metal with all the flair necessary to make it appealing. I will not lie, some of the intrigue for me (and most black metal fans) lie in the personas of the band members, the grotesque artwork, and the highly Satanic/anti-religious themes.
Unlike some of their albums, Dark Funeral's Diabolis Interium is actually very high quality in the composition and recording departments. The best songs for me are easily "Hail Murder" with the perfect riffs, and "An Apprentice of Satan" just because it is awsome.
Don't go buy this album if you aren't ready for relentless blast beats and screaming. You are in for a very dark and grim atmosphere in this album!
5 Left in Torment - Saturian Rights
The likeliness of really any one hearing about this unique one man band is very slim. The fact that I was able to stumble upon this music is nothing short of amazing. To describe this music would almost be pointless, as it is just so good.
Instead of taking on the typical anti-religious themes presented in black metal, Left in Torment moves outside of typical songwriting and creates an "out of this world" atmosphere in the music. The music's primary inspiration is that of space and the astral realm.
The first time I heard this album I was blown away. I was bored of the music I had, and looking for new (free) material. My body was literally in shock and I was nearly driven to tears by the sheer intensity of the music. Interestingly enough, the music is not your typical blast beats and tremelo picking festivals. Much of the music relies on the usage of synths and symphonic elements. The pianos weave beautiful melodies that interact perfectly with synths and violins. The guitars then rush on to the scene and add that darker touch. In finale, we are treated to the perfect vocals.
The three song EP can be downloaded off the internet for free, and it clocks in at about 50 minutes (yes, that means the songs are all 15+ minutes).