Saturday, February 17, 2018

Black Metal History Month -the Top 50 Black Metal Albums of All Time : 20 to 11

Now we are cracking the top 20 of our Top 50 Black Metal Albums of All Time list. It's interesting to notice the trends in release dates and regions these albums are coming out of as we work our way down the list. Most are ranked according to how much I have listened to these albums, with a few exceptions when it comes to certain albums that many of these releases owe their existence to. If you are a regular reader of this blog then you know blast beats alone do not fly with me. These are not just musicians who made great black metal albums , these are musicians ho made great music that happened to be called black metal. Some of these albums even came before black metal as we know it today. So here you go ...

20-Liturgy -"Aesthethica" 

This band has gotten a lot of shit due to Hunter's ramblings, but the bottom line is with this album they took black metal somewhere very different. It's bright rather than dark. Normally this is something I would not be down for , but somehow they made it work due to the jarring sonic dissonance and how they took things like blast beats and almost gave them a jazz like spin.


19- An Autumn For Crippled Children- "Lost"

This band from the Netherlands not only does post-black metal, but they do it with a more convincing nastiness and gaze out into sprawling beauty. The eventually began to rein it in, with the vocals sometimes being the heaviest component .  This 2010 album finds them at the peak of their powers and making beautiful music with feral abandon.


 I don't like this project's earlier work because of the lo-fi punk like quality. Once the production improved and a bigger viking like sound came then he caught my ear. The earlier stuff if more popular with a more hipster crowd for the very reason I do not like it.This album has more actual singing on it and it came down to me trying to decide between this one and "Twilight of the Gods". What it came down to was this album is black metal , while "Twilight of the Gods" is more epic pagan metal. "Hammerheart" might not be as refined, but it is darker and meaner.


17-Enslaved -"Isa"

While I like many of the albums that came after this one, and most of the albums that came before, I think this 2005 album finds the band at the perfect middle ground of blending their blasty black beginnings with the more progressive viking metal they would eventually find themselves locked into. Black metal is still the central component here and that fades later on. The clean vocals are not as abundant, but fit wonderfully when they do appear and the title track is actually pretty catchy, which is not an adjective that would have really described their songwriting before this point.

16- Tombs- "the Path of Totality"

The band's 2011 album found them still firmly grounded in black metal. Like most of the bands on the list Mike Hill is not content to live off of blast beats alone. When they are used they are more effective due to the broader dynamic range. The guitars are what take the spot light as they are dark and dissonant. Just as heavy metal as they are heavy sonically.  Crushing as Neurosis like sludge and atmospheric as early Darkthrone, they make for a powerful album that carries many shades of darkness.

15-Totalselfhatred- "Apocalypse in Your Heart"

 I keep returning to this album time and time again. They prove black metal can have stellar guitar and doesn't have to stick to static tremolo picking. The album does kick off with that kind of feral intensity and these guys prove that they can do straight up black metal as good as any band, but they bring a sorrowful atmosphere that captures the anguish of their name. The vocals are more aggressive than most depressive black metal bands. Their use of guitar melodies never compromises the intensity of this album.

14-Nachtmystium - "Addicts : Black Meddle Part 2"

 Blake Judd's addiction and other issues has sometimes overshadowed how awesome this project is. It was a tough call between this one and the more experimental "Assassins", this album is an honest picture of the dark torment that is Judd wrestling with his demons that were certainly winning when this album was released in 2010. Black metal is known for it's escapsim into icy viking lands or the occult imagery. This is a very real album. Dope sick black metal.If you are wondering why it ranked this high, well it boils down to the songs, which are crafted subtle hooks that draw you back into

13- Immortal- "All Shall Fall"

I get it you are screaming for "Sons of Northern Darkness" or "Blizzard Beasts". But this album just has a bigger more powerful sound. The drums fucking trample you. Their earlier albums while as awesome as they maybe are almost a parody of black metal while this album hit you with an intensity that can not be laughed at. For a genre where this kind of production might be seen as coming across as not cvlt enough or contrived, I think this album makes a powerful argument for getting your shit to sound good. Everything that you want from this band is here and dialed up to 13. The gallops destroy other bands who try to do similar. If you are wondering why Behemoth is not on here, do you really need them when you have this ?


 12- Celtic Frost - To Mega Therion"

When this album came out in 1985, black metal had yet to come to fruition. Black metal as just an album by a punk fueled metal band in the growing thrash scene. This scene found Tom Warrior and friends clawing at it with a more dynamic and darkly romantic offering that is "To Mega Therion". "the Usurper" and "Circle of Tyrants" along cement it's place here.

11-Shining- "the Eerie Cold"

To many of you who have never really listened to this album, you expect me to explain why or how this could beat out Celtic Frost. I think atmosphere and darkness are two main components of black metal that this album beats Celtic Frost out on. Both bands did go through a cock rock period after these albums. The guitar playing on this album is certainly superior. Then there is the fact that if I am giving a rawer album that is more meat and potatoes metal then given a depressive black metal album I am going to go with the depressive black metal album as that generally resonates more with me. This album does have some powerful heavy riffs to go along with the bleak landscape they drag you into.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Black Metal History Month -the Top 50 Black Metal Albums of All Time-30 to 21

Here we go mid-way into Black Metal History month and midway into our top 50 black metal albums of all time. Now we get into the thick of things. Continuing to draw from every corner of the genre and globe. If you are just jumping in now I am only using one album by each artist. Most of the time they are ranked by what I have listened to the most , in some cases if an album would not exist if not for another album, the album that came first is ranked higher, since it is obviously of more importance. So here we go before entering into the top 20, which won't come til this weekend.

30-Samael- "Ceremony of Opposites"

Released in 94 this one crosses the first wave of black metal over into the second. There is a lot of groove to this album that influenced bands like Behemoth later on. The guitar sound on this album is mean as fuck. For when this came out it was one of the darkest and most sinister things going.

29- Deathspell Omega- Paracletus

An amazing album by a band that has made some amazing albums. This one is darker , dissonant and more angular than the other in a way that finds everything clicking in place perfectly. This is one of those class of 2010 albums. The took what Blut Aus Nord had done for French metal and added Emperor's ear for technicality and then raised the bar once again for French metal.

28- Sigh- "Scenes From Hell"

 2010 was also the year my daughter was born which might be an ill sign considering how this explosion of incredible black metal came about then. This album takes the progressive slant they had given their sound and turned it on it's head.Defying the idea that the best black metal has to come from Scandinavia, this Japanese band really slays it with the odd blend of gypsy tinged progressive black metal that shows no trace of their heritage.


27-Taake- "Noregs vaapen"

 It's mindblowing to think all this came from Hoest. The very fact this is a black metal album with banjo on it earns it's place here. Norweigan black metal that gives you all the frost ridden anger you expect , but not being content with blast beats alone. Even Hoest's raspy croak sets itself apart from the pack. At end of the day it's the song writing that makes this an album I can still put on seven years later and it sounds just as vital.


26- Negura Bunget-Vîrstele pămîntului

 And yet again 2010 proves to really be the number of the beast. This time from Romania as this folk tinged black metal band comes across as almost a Dead Can Dance of metal in the way they crafted this exotic masterpiece. Don't get me wrong "Om" is a great album as well, this one just finds every nuance touching the right place. They display an excellent use of clean vocals in a way that doesn't come across as a good cop / bad cop trick.


25- Carpathian Forest- "Defending the Throne of Evil" 

 This album blends death metal and black n roll into something ugly, perverse and powerfully catchy. The songs work smoothly as classic metal. The vocals are nasty and every thing is dark as hell. These guys were always consistent and I going back to listen to this album makes me wish they would put out a new one as this embodies all things black metal should be with blast beat far and few between.

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 24--Altar of Plagues- Teeth Glory & Injury"

 This 2013 album was sadly the Irish band's last. It blends pounding blackened math rock in the vein of Russian Circles with industrial. The dissonance and darkness to this album help to give it a black metal feel. There are a few blast beats sprinkled in but they typically keep you guessing in a way few other black metal bands were doing at the time. Oppressive in it's anguish, they crush on this one here their other albums droned.


23 Primordial- "the Gathering Wilderness" 

 This Irish band has always retained a strong sense of themselves on all of their albums, so this one weighs heavily on the fact that it has my favorite song by these guys "the Coffin Ships" on it. Nemtheanga's voice is particularly strong on this album, and proves actual singing can still work on a black metal album.


 22- Deafheaven - "Roads to Judah"

The Van Halen of black metal,  with "Sunbather" this band took the genre and made it easier for Americans to digest. Their 2011 album was actually black metal with whats sounds to be genuine anger and emotion to it. So much so that it is able to compensate for not having the kind of darkness black metal is known for. So for hipsters who wanted to get into black metal at this time it served as an easy entry point. Few stuck around as trends shifted, though if you go to a Deafheaven show it looks like you are at a Mumford and Sons concert.

21-Weakling- "Dead as Dreams"

 Here is a clear cut has of an album that needed to be here, because if it wasn't for this album Deafheaven would not exist. These guys are more depressive than shoe-gazing they came out with this back in 2000. So all American black metal bands pretty much have to bow down to this one.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Black Metal History Month -the Top 50 Black Metal Albums of All Time-40 to 31

Here we go further into the countdown of the top 50 black metal albums of all time. Before I sat down at my computer I confessed to someone that I do not know why I continue to subjecting myself to the work that goes into making these lists. You my faithful reader seem to like them as the numbers don't lie so in honor of Black Metal History month I will press on. Obviously when ranking these I am looking for what I have listened to the most. Many of these I owned long before I had a Last Fm page to help track what I listened to and going with my gut. Best is not the fastest. Best is not even the most satanic though that gets these bands more points than just relying on speed. What has stood the test of time and I continue to return to are the most important qualifications. So here we go...

40-Inquisition- "Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm"

My rule is when in doubt go with the album that got you into the band in the first place.Aside from the weird production choices on this album this rule stands pretty solid with these guys. It also is yet another black metal album from 2010. This album they kept the SATAN up front, they come across as an evil version of Immortal. Granted with the production on this album they are not as big and thundering as Immortal or as big and thundering as the albums that follow, but there is just something about these songs that earns it this spot.



39-Wolves in the Throne Room - "Black Cascade" 

 Here is another one where I have to go with my gut. The more organic guitar sound of this album, elevates it above the others. These guys have been known to get distracted by the atmosphere and wander away from their camp fire. There is atmosphere to this album and I think it occurs in the most natural way possible.

38-Ulver-Nattens Madrigal -

 Ulver might not be a black metal band now, but they once were. I prefer their mid-period where the two sides of the band were balanced, they also have many albums from this era where half the album is instrumental so picking what is best can be tricky, so with these guys there are a couple of album's I might have listened to more, but this is the black metal album I have listened to the most. For black metal the guitar solos on this one prove solos can work on a black metal album.

 37 Blut Aus Nord- "the Work Which Transforms God"

 These guys are similar to Ulver in the fact that they might have album's I am listened to more, but those album's are not black metal. So the rule is just because a band starts off as black metal doesn't grandfather later albums in by default. I think as far as their black metal albums goes this one is the best because it is so dark it borders on being depressive suicidal black metal. Their tendencies towards atmospheric experimentation are still firmly intact for this 2003 album and they set the bar for French black to follow them.


36- Hail Spirit Noir-" Oi magoi" 

 This Greek band takes a progressive approach to bringing their brand of darkness. The execution is flawless and they refuse to play by the rules.They do have the occasional blast beat, but sound like they are just as influenced by Deep Purple as they are Darkthrone. There are sections where it feels like they are wandering off into a jam, which is something you never hear in black metal.For a genre that is all about freedom and being a non-conformist, black metal all too often adhere to closely to playing in the confinements of being true rather than taking risks and this album celebrates the risks they take.

35- Lifelover-"Sjukdom"

 The band broke up after this album was released due to the overdose of their guitarist. They were not always black metal in the strictest sense by the time this album rolled around. I think the mood and the other influences brought to the table expanded what black metal could be. Like most of the depressive black metal, the emphasis is on an emotional heaviness. Sometimes this translates over into a metallic heaviness. Not burdened by an overabundance of blast beats, they sometimes veer into a more black n roll realm. I think this is a fitting picture of their full realized musical vision.


34-Twilight- "Monument to Time End"

 This supergroup made an astounding album of forward thinking black metal, when they tried to mess with the formula and bring Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth into the fold, things went sour. But this album is a monument before that time ended. The guitars on here bring a indie rock sensibility and layers of melody. It is an album that is as heavy sonically as it is metal.


33 Arckanum-"Helvítismyrkr" 

 One of the amazing things about this album is it was created by one person. While this is less uncommon in black metal due to the misanthropic nature of the artists who play it, this album feels very organic like it is four guys jamming in a room. The drums are just as well played as the guitar parts to there is not the uneven feel of programmed drums that sound too thin for black metal. This doesn't follow the blue print of most Swedish black metal and owes little to Dissection.

32 - Moonsorrow-"Varjoina_kuljemme_kuolleiden_maassa" .

This 2011 album is so epic even the band themselves could not touch it when they tried to follow it up five years later. While it could also be on the top 50 pagan or viking metal albums list...if I ever get around to doing it or am even able to think of 50 albums worth a damn from those sub-genres. This album is dark enough to earn it's place here. Epic has become an overused term when it comes to metal, but if I had to pick one album on this list to use it for it describes the cinematic quality of what is going on here. Often the vocals are the most black metal element on the battle field, but I think this incredible album pushes the boundaries of what black metal can be. The folk elements are very well done and add to the over all sound rather than being a Middle Earthen distraction.


31-Marduk- "Plague Angel"

When mentioning bands from the second wave of black metal these guys are in the big 4 along side Darkthrone, Mayhem, Emperor and Burzum. Sure they might have albums that are more cvlt, but the songs are what matter and here they come off of some of the more spastic bursts of aggression to throb with a darkness that carries a more convincing feeling.A little more of an intimate feel to this album than what would happen on "Wormwood" and everything that follows.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Black Metal History Month -the Top 50 Black Metal Albums of All Time 50 to 41

While making these lists can cause a mild form of obsessive compulsive insanity for me, if I am going to attempt it. Black Metal History month is the only time that makes sense. I am including all eras and forms of black metal. I only include something that is blackened from what ever genre if it feels more black metal than death, prog or whatever. Since this list is being made by this blog their won't be an abundance of raw black metal and more depressive or experimental black metal since that is what I prefer. Typically speaking they are ranked by what I have listened to the most. I did make judgement calls in some cases when one band would not exist if not for the out put of another so I made adjustments that fairly give proper perspective to the bigger picture.I am only listing one album per artist. I am sure some of your favorite black metal albums might not be included. There are a few that are considered classics in the wider world of metal, but in some cases their most popular albums are not the ones I feel are the best. So these are the albums that have not only made an impact upon my when I initially heard them but are ones that I find easy to return to time and time again as that is what truly makes an album great. So here is the first installment of the top 50 black metal albums of all time.

50-Valdur- Raven God Amongst Us

This is the only album I have been totally behind by this American band.Later on they got a little too much death metal creeping into their sound. Another album to prove how great of a year 2010 was for black metal. The goal of every American black metal band is to sound like you are not from American and they achieved this as going back to listen to this I would guess Poland. While the vocals go into deeper growls this album has the sonic dark of black metal.

49- the Great Old Ones - Al Azif

The 2012 album by this French band, might not be their heaviest work, but it masterfully fuses shoe gazing post-rock passages into black metal with a meaner, darker edge than Alcest does.Any album with a Lovecraftian theme gets points in my book.

48-Cultest Des  Ghoules -"Henbane" 

 Not sure what it is about Poland that makes black metal bands bring so much death metal to the table. This 2013 album adds horror movie atmospherics to craft an album that can be jarring and unhinged with a great deal of atmospherics and hooky riffs which wink at classic metal.

47- A Forest of Stars -"Opportunistic Thieves of Spring"

This British band pursued an odd vision of progressive steam-punk tinged black metal. The elements in this equation have varied in the albums that came after this 2011 gem, which made it way on this list because of the balance they found here that made them something truly unique.


46-Craft- "Void"

They don't make black metal as hateful as they did in 2011. This band from Sweden was nihilistic and embodied the attitude black metal should have. They took this attitude and injected it into their music. Unlike punk they did not rely on that attitude to compensate for a lack of songwriting prowess, as these songs are equally raw and catchy, a combination most bands of this ilk do not get right.


45-Istapp -"Blekinge"

Yet another 2010 album, this one comes from another Swedish band, are we seeing a trend here? These guys play a thrashy version of black metal that incorporated clean vocals to create some viking metal with a black metal bite. The follow up to this one could not compare.


44- Peste Noir-"l'ordure a letat pur" 

 This French band has never disappointed me, but there is something about this album that was fucking gangster. I could picture them pulling guns on people while wearing ski masks in the streets of Paris. Both raw and progressive this was one of 2011's best black metal albums.


 43-Borknagar- Universal

 he albums that followed this 2010 album, were not as heavy and more progressive viking metal than this one. ICS Vortex's brought his soaring vocals full force. This is a good gateway drug to bridge you from Dimmu into other forms of black metal. It is also good to show that not everything from Norway has to sound like Darkthrone.


42-Urfaust- "Der freiwillige bettler"

 This band from the Netherlands will always hold a fond place in my heart as I love the fact they use sung vocals that border on being operatic, with none of the power metal cheese to them, and yet playing uncompromising dark metal that carries at atmospheric throb. I think this album showcases this fact and displays them at the height of their powers. It also comes from 2010.

41- 1349 - "Demonoir"

 If you are a regular reader of this blog you could be confused as to how I can love black metal but not be the biggest fan of blast beats. I do not have a problem with them when they are used as a dynamic blended into the larger context of an album. But there are exceptions to any rule These guys are heavily into their blast beats , but are able to make you a believer. Having seen them preform these songs live they are deadly serious about what they do and crank this out with 100 percent conviction.It was a hard choice between this one and "Hellfire" their 2005 album, but album is darker and has a wider range of sonic colors.


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Black Metal History Month - Looking Back In Anger At Darkthrone's "A Blaze In the Northern Sky"

Here is where we are going to look at an album that has long been considered at classic and ask how well has it stood the test of time. This album was released in 92 and most of the time we dig back a little further than but this is part of what fans call a trilogy that has grown into legendary status. So what happens when you strip that hype away and take the songs for what they are without any pretext.So lets have a listen and see. It off course starts with chanting and ambiance. Then metal kicks . This was recorded in 91 so it has the kind of rawness that bands have been trying to replicate ever since.There are chaotic bursts of speed but the bulk of the song is not a pure blast beat frenzy. In fact much of the song kind of stomps along almost closer to death metal. It grinds at more of Celtic Frost speed toward the end goes into the blast beat that is now thought of as traditionally black metal.

"In the Shadow of the Horn" finds them in more of the Celtic Frost like thrash. The solos have a more Slayer like chaos to them. Then there is the weird passage where they clean guitar is oddly layered over things. It's interesting to go back and listen to this album as I had forgotten about the guitar melody to "Paragon Belial" and the odd angular twist to it. "Where Cold Winds Blow" is totally the kind of feral blasting black metal rawness that countless bands are trying to replicate. It  could be argued the most iconic songs on the album are the last two. The title track blasts right into things with an almost punk energy. At a minute into this it shifts into a more almost classic metal groove that throbs as much as it gallops. Culto's vocals on this song in my mind defines what the large majority of black metal vocalists are going for. I think this song gets more powerful when it slows down. Fenriz's spoken word sections are kind of silly but the rest of the song makes up for it.

"the Pagan Winter" is yet again another display that even a black metal classic like this one can not live on blast beats alone and the song ebbs down before going into more of a triumphant gallop.Through out the course of the song there are moments with it speeding up with a melody that keeps repeating as a theme the song goes back to. Overall for what this album is it's pretty solid and has some strong songs, though it is not perfect so I am rounding it up to a 9. It might be considered the first time they played black metal, but I was just listening to it in terms of how it stacks up when you take that context away. A 10 is a classic, so it falls a little short of the hype that elevated it to that status, though it is easy to hear how if you are punk kin wanting to get into metal this could be an entry way to that.


Thursday, February 8, 2018

the Atlas Moth : "Coma Noir"

These guys have met at the cross roads of varied genres for sometimes. The consensus is these guys are sludge, though they have played black metal projects individually so that influence is there. They blend sung vocals with screamed vocals that are at a higher pitch bringing another comparison to black metal. There is a powerful metallic chug to the opening song, that makes it clear this heavy though murky as to what is being made here aside from metal. There feels like the grooves are to refined to be sludge. It almost borders on Myspace metal styled hardcore as the refinement of the riffs in some cases is a refined as say Atreyu. The way the guitars are layered sometimes it's hard to tell if they are using synths or heavily effected guitars.

There is a more rock n roll feel to "Galactic Brain". The vocals are sung in a tough baritone giving it more of a Corrosion of Conformity feel. The harsher vocals do come in before going back into the verse, but I would not call it a chorus. "the Streets of Bombay" starts off sounding like it might go in a more prog direction, but evens out into a more sludgey groove. The harsher vocals sound less black metal on this album. They throw down some pretty mean grooves that have rock sensibilities. Not so sure of the lyrics to "Actual Human Blood", but the guitars sound great. The screamed vocals work a little better than the sung vocals on this one. When "Smiling Knife" actually kicks in it's pretty heavy, though tinged with odd angular quirks. There is a more jammy middle section to this one with a solo that compliments the song.

There is a good thick groove to "Furious Gold" the production on this album might be heavy handed but it's hard to argue against this song. Without question it's more accessible, not at a Mastodon level but heading there.Though I am fine with this on a song like "the Frozen Crown" where drive and melody are given equal measure. "Chloroform" closes the album with a marginally darker shade. It's not the album's strongest song but it's not bad either. Right now I'll give this album a 9 and see how it grows on me.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Black Metal History Month - Abigor : "Höllenzwang (Chronicles of Perdition)"

This is the 10th album from these Austrian black metal maniacs. The vocals are crazed. Sometimes they are sung and when this happens it sounds like Emperor on a whirl wind of drugs. The varied layers of vocals give them a personality of their own. The guitars are also layered sometimes two different parts that seem like they are working against one another, but given the chaotic nature of what they do this works out fine. "Sword of Silence" has more of a thrashing groove but the weird Mayhem like vocals keep things weird. By the end of the song it has taken more twists and turns than expected. This album stays focused on Satan and has many samples from horror movies to remind you of this fact. All of the songs are in the three to four minute range.

"the Cold Breath of Satan" starts off a little fast and then feels like it is more difficult for them to get focused enough to draw you back in. "None Before Him" is a much better song, it is more experimental with the bass driven groove , but it all works here. The big chorus of overdubbed vocals creates a more majestic feel. "Olden Days" has it's vocals a little more sung but angular chaos abounds. Some one left a comment on their Bandcamp page that says this album reminds them of everything they love about "Grand Declaration of War" and I think this album is more manic than that, really the only part that sounds like Mayhem is the vocals and if you are going to compare it to Mayhem its more like the early Attila days. "Hymn to the Flaming Void" is less though out than the previous song. The first minute and a half in their is a cool part, but it quickly shifts into something else like most of these songs.

By the time we get to "Christs Descents Into Hell" they have jerked you back and forth like a less proggy version of Sigh. "Ancient Fog of Evil" is a little darker. The vocals don't sit as well over the dissonance as they do on other songs.I'll give this album an 8.5 , they are goo at what they do and their playing got them that high so it was an enjoyable listen, I appreciate that they think beyond the blast beat, but it doesn't feel like an album I am going to return to a lot if at all. If you are a fan then go ahead and round it up to a 9.