(In this post Wil Cifer presents his list of the year’s best black metal albums.)
At this point half the bands in metal today are trying to be blackened something, so here are the top ten black metal bands, that aren’t death metal bands trying to grim it up or post- rock bands with some anguished screams mixed in… these are all bands that are so pure… so cold. The cream of the crop this year came from not only Norway, but also France, Canada, Sweden, Chicago, and the Deep South. So here we go…
10-Taake – Stridens Hus
Hoest descended from the first wave of Norwegian black metal and has been going strong since the 90’s. Stridens Hus doesn’t break that trend. On the first few listens it seemed like he was relying on blast beats, but this album grows on you. There is less experimentation this go-around — it’s in your face all the way through. For a one-man show, every element holds its own. There is no question here as to whether Hoest has earned his corpse paint.
9-Nocturnal Depression – Near to the Stars
Quality Depressive Suicidal Black Metal wasn’t exactly flourishing this year, but this French project featuring one of the members of Make a Change Kill Yourself brought a healthy dose of despair. Despite the lo-fi production, this album carries the drone of Burzum while wallowing in the futility of its existence.
8-Wormreich – Wormcult Revelations
This is the band’s first release on Moribund Records, and you would never guess from the dark depraved tornado of chaos invoked on this album that these guys are from the Deep South. Beautifully dissonant and chillingly dynamic; my only regret is that I haven’t been able to give this one more spins. I suppose it’s cool they threw a Deathspell Omega cover on here. I really want to hear more of what these guys are capable of conjuring on their own.
7–Thantifaxath – Sacred White Noise
Seeping with angular weirdness, this Canadian band might be the most unique group on this list. This album is more of an exorcism that explodes into your ears rather than a barrage of blast beats. However, the ugliness and anguish secures its place in the genre and even broadens the scope of what black metal can be while staying true to itself. It’s experimental but without getting lost in lazy hipster formlessness.
6-1349 – Massive Cauldron of Chaos
This album reaches down into the band’s dirt bag of influences and pulls out many razor-sharp thrash riffs that are delivered with enough hatred to burn a church down. This album shows that black metal can still be a feral beast while wrapped in catchy songs. They even nail a Possessed cover to the cross. They dare you to press play and not headbang.
5-Sado Sathanas – Nomos Hamartia
Plenty of epic excursions litter this folk-tinged album, but it doesn’t distract these German black metallers from staying the course. They get how to be an atmospheric black metal band without sacrificing the balls that make this black metal to begin with. This album covers a wide range of sonic landscapes, and it goes to show that you don’t have to stoop to “necro” production in order to make quality black metal.
4-Ellorsith – 1959
There is a smattering of death metal about this Scottish band’s concept album about the Dyatlov Pass Incident, but it’s so raw, cold, and oppressive there is still no question this is black metal. The death metal aggression is blended perfectly, so you are never left wondering if the blast beats are just an afterthought. This was released on a very limited cassette run, so you know it has to be cvlt as fuck.
3-Nachtmystium – The World We Left Behind
OK, we get it, Blake Judd has drama. He may or may not be a scumbag. This is about music, so I don’t care. In fact, I prefer my rock stars to be strung out on drugs. Black metal needs more junkies pouring their souls out, if this is what it brings. This album has all the elements that made Nachtmystium great — the creepy melodies slinking in dark alleys, the lyrics written during self-destructive binges. If this is Nachtmystium’s final album, then it was a good note to end on.
2-Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare
If Mayhem had tried to make another De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas it would have bored the bullet belt right off me. Instead, they released an album with pristine production, one that takes chances and takes no prisoners. Attila has never sounded better and Hellhammer makes his case (again) for being the best drummer in black metal. As Spinal Tap once asked, “How much blacker can you get?” The answer was none then, and it is none now.
1-Nasheim – Solens vemod
The Swedish act is another one-man show. The mastermind behind this is Erik Grahn. He has come out the gate on his first full-length and kills it. This album sweeps you away, combining the lush romanticism of Emperor, atmosphere, and incredible arrangements. My only regret is not finding this masterpiece when it came out under the radar back in February.