Jul 072011

OK, time to court some (albeit minor) controversy. To compare and contrast with the “Wintermoon Wednesday” piece on post-millennial black metal by Tr00 Nate (unseen at the time of this writing) over at TheNumberOfTheBlog, I’ve decided to list my own picks for the prize.

I’ve left out the obvious choices, so no Satyricon or 1349 – even though the former have transformed themselves post-2000 very successfully, courting both success and controversy in equal measure, while the latter have pushed their hyper-blast style beyond the breaking point, only to discover a new lease on life through their exploration of gnarled, twisted atmospherics.

No Rotting Christ? Or Samael? Nope. I love both of them, but they both had long pre-millennial careers and spent much of the post-2000 stage of their careers exploring less focussed, less black metal sounds — although both have recently released masterful examples of their own focussed and distinctive brands of black metal.

I have left out records which are perhaps less “purely” black metal — records for which a strong case can be put forward that they belong more as “blackened” examples of another genre — so there’s no place for Altar Of Plagues or Withered, both great bands in their own right. No Akercocke either, the sheer weight of their crushing death metal heft disqualifying them for this list.

I have also by choice left out artists/albums I have covered recently. Therefore, no Iskald (though The Sun I Carried Alone IS one of the best black metal albums of the last ten years), or Elite (see HERE for my thoughts) or The Axis Of Perdition (HERE), even though I’d argue that each of them has at least one example under their belt of near perfect post-millennial black metal.

So who have I chosen? Well look upon my choices dear reader, and despair…

5 Records That Epitomise The Potential And Quality Of Post-Millennial Black Metal

Dark FortressYlem

A record I truly consider a masterpiece, almost capable of being all things to all people, delivering an epic display of controlled chaos (“Ylem”), brooding intensity (“Evenfall”), sinuous structures (“Redivider”), malevolent melodies (“As The World Keels Over”) and gargantuan grooves (“Hirudineans”) with focussed precision and, at times, almost sexually charged potency (“Silence”).

Though every member performs at the top of his game, band mainman V. Santura (also in Triptykon) is in particular both a stunningly talented composer and technically gifted guitarist, while much-in-demand drummer Seraph (also of Thulcandra, et al) proves his incalculable might again and again with a performance that is both punishing and intelligently nuanced.

The record is also a compelling piece of progressive art, something which is exposed when examining the dichotomy between the truly monolithic, devastating “Osiris” and the melodic, desolate “Wraith”, songs which express the extremes of the band’s sound without ever straying from their core identity.

Sample song: “Osiris”

[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/03-Osiris.mp3|titles=Dark Fortress – Osiris]

Secrets Of The MoonPrivilegivm

Crushingly heavy, equally influenced by the proto-black metal stomp of Celtic Frost/Triptykon and the swaggering Satanic grooves of Satyricon, whilst also building on the pseudo-industrial death metal bludgeon of Zyklon, this is a record with a stunning amount of style and nuance.

It thrashes like a wounded animal, hammering away with ominous slabs of claustrophobic riffage and warped drumming, the extensive and progressively structured material crawling and staggering under the weight of its own agonising death throes, constantly on the edge of collapsing into the abyss.

Blacker than black, the group weave strands of eerie, unsettling melody into the grander tapestry of thick, machine-like riffage and clanging, dissonant dis-chords, atop which the orthodox occult pronunciations of vocalist sG dictate an almost reverential atmosphere to the proceedings as a whole.

Sample song: “Black Halo”

[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/03-Black-Halo.mp3|titles=Secrets of the Moon – Black Halo]


Often written off as a sub-Dark Funeral blast-friendly black metal act, the last two albums (Death Triumphant and Ekpyrosis) by this Swedish wrecking machine have seen them step out of the shadows of their forebears and carve an individual path for themselves. Though I personally prefer the previous album, there’s no doubt in my mind that Ekpyrosis represents a new pinnacle for frenzied, blasting Swedish black metal, incorporating shocking technicality to help conjure an utterly unforgiving and inhuman sense of discorporation.

Lyrically, the group have melded post-Satanic, anti-cosmic philosophies with clinically scientific meditations on the overwhelming celestial horror and beauty of existence, giving the record a more vibrant and wholly individual vibe that melds the raging inferno of their black metal assault with the icy clarity that comes from contemplating the bleak insignificance of human existence.

Sample Song: “The Devouring Eye”

[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/04-The-Devouring-Eye.mp3|titles=Setherial – The Devouring Eye]

Anaal NathrakhIn The Constellation Of The Black Widow

Managing to meld several genres into their black metal stew, without losing that stupefyingly dark aesthetic, these British-grown tyrants of misrule are utterly unparalleled in their ability to harness flesh-flaying vituperative fury and unchallenged in the realms of speed and aggression by all but a few of extreme metal’s most powerful proponents.

The combination of the obliterating ferocity of Mick Kenney’s symbiotic guitar and drum assault with the sheer range and grandeur of Dave Hunt’s nihilistic vocal exhortations make Anaal Nathrakh, to my mind, perhaps the only legitimate heirs to the throne of the now-departed Emperor, with a sound that is epic and expressive in scope and vision (“Oil Upon The Sores Of Lepers”), yet never less than utterly enthralling and unflinchingly brutal (“Blood Eagles Carved On The Backs Of Innocents”).

Though my personal preference is for Hell Is Empty…, I would be forced to say that In The Constellation… is arguably the superior record, both men pushing their skills and psyches to the breaking point to deliver an album that revels in its own excess and intrinsic, almost arrogant, superiority.

Sample Song: “The Lucifer Effect”

[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/07-The-Lucifer-Effect.mp3|titles=Anaal Nathrakh – The Lucifer Effect]


If Metallica had grown up in Norway, then their career might well have echoed the enviable quality and progress of Norway’s finest black metal resistance force, Vreid. With this, their fifth album (aptly named V), the group have produced a dynamic album that filters the thrashy energy and classical aspirations of Ride The Lightning through a blackened prism of primal aggression and haunting, folk-infused atmospherics.

The songs vary in length and complexity, some attacking with pure, animalistic fury (“Welcome To The Asylum”), others delivering restrained yet powerful arrangements of harsh riffage and moody passages of folk-led, ritualistic melody (“The Sound Of The River”). Though “The Other & The Look” may be the album’s crowning, progressive song, 10:30 of arrogant, martial riffage, scything tremolo sections and captivating diversions of calm, meditative clean guitar and vocals, each and every song on the record packs in multiple layers and levels of expression without ever feeling cluttered or bloated. It’s an effortlessly tight and utterly compelling spectacle.

Sample Song: “The Sound Of The River”

[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/04-The-Sound-Of-The-River.mp3|titles=Vreid – The Sound Of The River]

Honourable (and shorter) mentions:

Naglfar, Deathspell Omega, Kampfar, Keep Of Kalessin, Melechesh, Ludicra, Ikuinen Kaamos, Khold

5 Albums To Watch For In The Future

Martriden – untitled

Hailing from the icy plains of Montana, this four-piece delivered an album’s worth of unfettered experimentation and existential angst only last year with Encounter The Monolith (reviewed by Islander here), a complex and layered display of articulate anger and impressive instrumental skills, wrapped up in a progressive and spacey structure. Being hand-picked to support Emperor on their reunion tour several years back should tell you just how much potential remains untapped in this band’s sound. Thankfully, the band have apparently begun the writing and recording process for their next record, which will doubtless continue to push and expand the boundaries of their esoteric black metal sound.

Abigail Williams – untitled

Controversial choice? Not really. The band have shown both ambition and fortitude in continuing down their own path through the years, two of black metal’s defining traits. Their perseverance has paid off with the band growing and expanding their sound as well as gaining the opportunity to demonstrate their impressive musical talents on a series of tours with such metal luminaries as Vader and Rotting Christ. Currently recording their third album, the band have a variety of tour dates coming up with Landmine Marathon, Misery Index and the legendary Mayhem. They may never get the respect they deserve, but I doubt this will stop them producing some top notch, technically adept black metal in the future.

Negură BungetThe Transylvanian Trilogy

Not to argue with Tr00 Nate (oh, go on then, I will), but to my mind and ears it’s Negură Bunget who were/are the finest proponents of folk-black-metal. In fact, it seems to me that their many endeavours into murky folk realms and progressive instrumental excursions have made their particular brand of Romanian black metal a legitimate style of folk music in and of itself. Therefore, the announcement of The Transylvanian Trilogy should whet the appetites of anyone who relishes the creation of art for art’s sake, the band endeavouring to craft a trilogy of releases combining both audio and visual elements into a greater, unified whole. The first part of this trilogy, Tău, is set for release in 2012 and “will unveil the natural landscapes, by exploring 9 unique natural places, with their mystique, atmosphere, legends and meanings”.

Goatwhore – untitled

Sludgy, nasty and alchemically fuelled, The Goat (as they shall now forevermore be referred to) have managed to craft such a distinctive sound for themselves, that is clearly black metal, but a form that has grown from a totally different environment to that of many of their peers. The group’s swampy roots ensure that the flower of their black metal is of a different hue than that of any other, yet still recognisably the same species overall. Their thick and heavy sound will surely only get nastier in the future, the band planning to enter the studio in late July to vomit up another gut-wrenching expulsion of narcotic, Satanic filth.

Pantheon I – untitled

The continued presence of Live Julianne Kostøl’s cello will doubtless keep the haunting, classical atmospheres alive on the next Pantheon I record, but most important of all, the addition of Aethyris McKay (ex-Absu) on guitar will bring a totally new dynamic to the group, both through his guitar playing and through the promised use of McKay’s clean vocals. Perhaps just as important, this addition also frees up Kvebek to focus purely on being a solo vocalist, which promises an even more venomous vocal performance from this alcohol-fuelled madman. This will be an emotionally cathartic, violent affair, I predict.


  1. im really digging dark fortress. im also pretty into annal nathrakh, their new cd passion is really good as well.

    • “Ylem” is one of my favourite albums of all time I think. Time will tell if it retains that high accolade, but I believe it will.

      Their earlier stuff was all really good, “Stab Wounds” and “Seance” being particular dark and ominous pieces of work. But I think it was with “Eidolon” (and the addition of Morean on vocals) that they really came into their own. The close relations between V. Santura and Tom G. Warrior have also borne terrific (and terrible) fruit – I think the Celtic Frost spirit runs through the last two albums, although the sound is more electric and cruel than the grudge-bearing sound of Monotheist/Epistaeres Daemones.

      “Priveligum” by Secrets Of The Moon also demonstrates a clear Celtic Frost influence, but with their big slabs of none-more-black riffage being more metallic and (almost) death metally. Interestingly SotM are currently in V. Santura’s studio in Germany recording their new album with V and Tom G. Warrior.

      Tom clearly likes his German black metal.

  2. No mention of Peste Noire?

    • Coincidentally, I’ve just started listening to L’Ordure a l’Etat Pur and it’s a fascinating, creative blend of styles. I’m really liking it., and I can’t think of anything else that sounds quite like it.

    • I can mention them now if you like….?

      I went with bands I feel I know and *get* rather than bands that are awesome but don’t feel qualified to discuss/support.

      The 5 I picked are just 5 acts and albums whose listening process continues to affect me deeply.

    • I know I’m commenting on this late, hopefully someone will see this and answer, is Peste Noire a National Socialist black metal band? Cuz they sound interesting, but I don’t want to listen to them if they’re NSBM…

  3. Now, I haven’t suddenly become a black metal convert, and I doubt it could ever take the place of death metal or grindcore in my heart, but this post goes a long way in proving how much depth, expressiveness and ballsmashing awesomeness black metal has. Particularly now it’s starting to stripe off that tr00 and kvlt make up and step into the blinding light of a small (albiet bigger than someone’s mom’s basement) stage for more to see.

    I keeeeed, I keeeeeeeed!!!!

    Setherial IS VERY GOOD, YAH???

    • Peste Noir popped up in the comments above — they’re just insane enough that you might find them appealing, especially if you like accordion and trombone in your metal. 🙂 Here’s Track 1 from the new album:


      • Wait a second…this song is full of frog talk!!

        I’ve been French Rolled!!!

        • Just kidding, of course.

          I’m not loving their music on the first listen, though I do appreciate their maniacal nature.

          The vocalist sounds more like a chicken getting raped by a duck (duck dick is seriously fucked up) than a black metal vocalist should.

          • Point. Or should I say, Pointe. Also, i believe Peste Noire is French for duck rape. So, there’s that.

          • How often DO chickens get raped by ducks? Statistically speaking.

            I’m glad you liked Setherial. Have been blasting that album for the last couple of days now and I think it’s actually only really clicked with me properly since starting to write this column.

            It’s just so… cosmically cruel. Captures the terrifying vastness of the abyss around us and the awful insignificance of our existence. It’s dark in a very different, non-Satanic (or at least less obviously Satanic) way.

            I had a struggle deciding between “The Devouring Eye” and “The Mournful Sunset Of The Forsaken” for the sample song. Brilliantly abstract use of anti-melody in both.

        • French Rolled ftw!!

  4. Andy Synn, I could give you a knee to the crotch and a big wet kiss. The kneeing for giving me so much to listen to, and the kiss for the fact that I’m guessing most of, if not all of the music you gave us samples of is going to be pretty cool, if not brilliant.

    Am I the only one that, when he gets a bunch of tracks from bands he’s never listened to before (save Anaal Nathrakh, although I haven’t heard that song) he sees them as a pile of work? It’s kinda’ tedious until you finish listening to it all, then you put it away for a while and revisit it later and it’s awesome. I guess I’m impatient, like I just wanna’ get to the next band and/or song.

    Goatwhore? “Carving Out the Eyes of God” was absolutely frustrating to me, almost as frustrating as Brain Drill’s “Quantum Catastrophe”. Each of those releases were UTTERLY BORING to me UTTERLY. Each only had one song that appealed to me. I loved the song “Apocalyptic Havoc”, so I decided to buy “Carving Out the Eyes of God” on a whim… every song except “Apocalyptic Havoc” was on the level of what I like to describe as “snoozery”. I gave the album along with some albums from the other bands (I wish I had given that Brain Drill release away as well) to a friend, and he later told me that the album only had one good song on it. Guess which one he found to be good… that’s right… “Apocalyptic Havoc”…

  5. I think you and I approached our lists with different intents. Your list seems more focused on covering your favorites, while with mine I wanted to list the albums that would give people a solid base upon which to understand the post-millennial scene (you would be able to tell if it was a list of my favorites if Panopticon had like half the spots on the list).

    Of your list, I have not given a listen to the Dark Fortress, Setherial, and Secrets of the Moon albums (though I have heard other albums by all three of those bands). I hear almost zero elements of black metal in Anaal Nathrakh’s music, as they are quite clearly a grind band first and foremost (people claiming them to be good black metal has always been something that’s annoyed me). Vried, being a continuation of one aspect of Windir, I naturally like, though I think that Cor Scorpii’s album is a much better example of the post-Windir sound.

    And in regards to Negura Bunget, I love them, but the folk aspects are pretty minimal, and nowhere near close enough to the brilliance of Windir.

    Windir Windir Windir.

    • You sir, are a cad and a bounder.


      The list wasn’t EXACTLY just about my favourites. I do consider those 5 albums to be amongst the best post-millennial black metal has to offer. As I said, for a couple of them I have a personal preference for a different album (“Antithesis”, “Hell Is Empty…”, “Deth Triumphant”) – although to be honest re-exposing myself to these “Big 5” has made me reconsider both “Priveligum” and “Ekpyrosis” again and they might both just be edging out their predecessors.

      I suppose my focus was less about “the scene”, as you said yourself nowadays it’s so massive in scope and breadth that a comprehensive take on all of the different aspects would take forever. Instead it was more about singular examples of groups I think have taken the black metal sound a step further, in style, quality and/or codly calculating aggression.

      I do see Anaal Nathrakh as a black metal group filtered through grind and industrial. The overall atmosphere and structuring of the material seems to me too honestly “black” for them not to be considered one first and foremost, delivered with some of the stylistic elements of grind and industrial. I almost left them off the list due to my attempt to keep it more “pure” black metal, but I think their core very much is that, they just explore the limits of the sound using elements of other styles – rather than expanding their sound INTO other styles, if that makes sense.

      I prefer Vreid to Windier. Though I have less experience of the latter. But Vreid are just… something very, very special to my mind.

      And Negura Bunget are folk as your grandma’s hemp knickers! The organic sounds, flowing structures, the Romanian melodies, the excesses of folk instrumentation that often take precedence over the metallic elements, without ever losing the identity of the song or band. Love it.

  6. Of all the bands mentioned above, Secrets of the Moon have impressed me the most.

    • Good, I’m glad they clicked with someone.

      They were but a recent revelation of mine, though I had for years heard good things.

      Phenomenally crushing and oppressive live. Very ritualistic atmosphere.

      Went rushing out to get the albums. eps, merch, straight away and they’re just a stunning band.

  7. I just saw this July 7 announcement from Negură Bunget — one of the bands Andy listed in his “albums to watch for” section: “Negură Bunget is proud to announce the very first date in US will be at the 10th year anniversary edition of Maryland Deathfest, 24-27 May 2012! We have been trying to get there for a long time, and it’s nice to see it finally happening. We are of course looking to do some more dates in the US and Canada around that time, so if anybody can help us, please get in contact with us: contact@negurabunget.com

    I wonder if they would come play in my backyard?

    • Holy fucking lorises! I MUST GO TO MARYLAND DEATHFEST NEXT YEAR! So glad I live on the east coast for once lol.

    • Next year’s lineup also includes some other notables: Suffocation, Morbid Angel, Saint Vitus, Ulcerate, Dragged Into Sunlight (whom I have yet to listen to, I’ll remedy that right after this comment), Anvil (from Canada, that’s the one that the movie was based around yah?), and Today is the Day.

      • Now you’re making me insanely jealous. What an amazing lineup. By coincidence, I’ve been listening to the new album by Today Is the Day, and it’s blowing my mind.

        • I can’t recall if I’ve ever listened to them. The name puts me off, but I’ll have to do some digging on YouTube… TO THE BATMOBILE! Hrm… you didn’t read that…

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