Well I made it through all of Decibel’s Top 100 Black Metal Albums of all Time. I’ve listened to 100 black metal albums in 3 weeks time and I gotta say, it was awesome. What have I gleamed from countless hours of blistering, desolate, grim, evil black metal? One thing is I’m not tired of black metal. All I listened to for 3 weeks was black metal and now that it’s over, I’m listening to black metal as I type this.
Another thing that is made abundantly clear is that within black metal are some of the most amazing players and musicians you will ever hear. You can shrug your shoulders and pass it off as weird foreigners just making noise but that would be a gross understatement. A lot of these albums perplex me in their musicianship and song structure. Black metal is limitless in it’s possibilities as demonstrated by some of the bands on this list. There are so many styles and so many influences all colliding together you really have to respect the creators ability to pull it off.
While nobody will ever agree 100% with any of these best of lists, I did find it a bit short sited. A lot of bands clock in with numerous entries and while I understand and appreciate that numerous bands put out multiple genre defining and defying albums, I think a couple could have been acknowledge in the notes or left off to make way for more variety. I think they had a somewhat dismissive attitude towards American black metal in general (especially evident in the fact that they ranked Inquisition at 100) as well as newer bands and albums that have come out in the past couple years. It’s a crying shame Panopticon was left off this list. Agalloch is missing as well.
Other bands just off the top of my head that would be included in my list would be Mgla, Borknagar, Horna, Behexen, Primordial, Dawn and Ruins of Beverast. How did Ruins not make it on here?!
Black metal is a fascinating genre of music. There is so much there to absorb if you’re brave and willing to challenge yourself, and it will definitely challenge you. I’m glad I took the time to go through this list and hear some new albums and remind myself why I love the others.
The last part of the list contain some of the best black metal albums ever made. If you are new to the genre or want to see some of what the best examples are, any one of these albums will do you right.
37. Burzum – Hvis Lyset Tar Oss
Oh Burzum. The great conflict of a black metal listener, whether to listen to Burzum or not. It’s hard to deny the influence and innovation of his first couple albums and I do think the music is awesome. I just kind of hate him.
36. Dissection – The Somberlain
The first Dissection album to make the list. This should be higher right? It’s Dissection! The melodic black metal masters!
35. Drudkh – Blood in Our Wells
I have a couple Drudkh albums but for some reason I barely listen to them. I’m not sure why that is because this album is excellent. I love the Ukrainian folk element they added to the mix on this album and the fantastic acoustic guitar parts.
34. Von – Satanic Blood (demo)
I’ve heard a lot about Von and their influence on black metal. Maybe it was inspirational to a lot of bands but all I have to say is I’m thankful this demo is only 20 minutes long. It’s almost unbearable to listen to. I’m not sure where Decibel drew the line for what influential bands make the list as this and Venom place pretty highly on the list but no mention of Mercyful Fate.
33. Ulver – The Madrigal of Night
I love this album. In fact I love the first three albums. This would have ranked WAY higher on my list but they do appear once more. For me you can’t get much more classic black metal than early Ulver.
32. Deathspell Omega – Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice
This album is amazing in true Deathspell Omega fashion. Masterfully played, lathered with atmosphere and to me, slightly creepy. Amazing band. It’s an injustice to have them peak at 32.
31. Cradle of Filth – The Principle Made Flesh
I know, Cradle of Filth right. Super cheesy symphonic black metal or whatever they are today. This album is still pretty cheesy in it’s grandiose, hammer horror film like atmosphere complete with piano and orchestra and that’s pretty much why I love it. It’s all the cheese parts of black metal thrown into one album with some great songs to keep it all together. The only album of theirs I own and I don’t see a reason to own any more.
30. Bathory – Hammerheart
Again, it’s Bathory so it’s amazing. Listening to this album makes you realize how many times you’ve heard these riffs and this style pop up in black metal. This album is a juggernaut of influence and awesomeness.
29. Emperor/Enslaved – Hordanes Land Split
Not sure how I overlooked this album as these are two of my favorite bands. Picking a better side of this split is probably impossible because this is early stuff from both of them so it’s amazing. Symphonic and epic all at once, these two are the masters of that type of black metal.
28. Celtic Frost – Morbid Tales EP
I’ve never really dove into Celtic Frost’s back catalog. I have Morbid Tales and I’m a big fan of their Monotheist album and the new Triptikon stuff but the older stuff doesn’t do much for me. This one was pretty decent and I can see where it is influential. More of a curiosity for me.
27. Watain – Sworn to the Dark
Again, Watain rule. This album is incredible and is more in lines with the sound I became familiar with when I started listening to them when they released Lawless Darkness. Just put all of their albums on this list. You can’t go wrong.
26. Venom – Welcome to Hell
I understand why they decided Venom should be on this list but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say, they aren’t a black metal band. Sure they may have came up with the name but in context of this list and black metal as a genre, they are not a black metal band. This album is ok for a heavy metal album and I’m sure its impact was more felt when it came out but my preference, I wouldn’t have have included it.
25. Immortal – Pure Holocaust
Demonaz’s guitars on this album are amazing. So frantic and furious. I’m a fan of all phases of Immortal but you can’t beat the original Occultas.
24. Darkthrone – Under a Funeral Moon
I’m a Darkthrone fanboy. I love all their albums from first to last. Their early black metal albums are of course considered the classics and some of the finest black metal recorded. I love the straightforward, almost punk like vibe they have going on this album. They exploit this sound much more later in their career. You need to hear all the re-releases with the audio commentary from Frenriz and Nocturno. Amazing.
23. Dissection – Storm of the Light’s Bane
A Black Metal masterpiece through and through. I would have ranked this one much higher. Melodic, icy, furious. You can hear Dissection riffs everywhere in Black Metal but none do it quite so well as the original.
22. Sarcófago – I.N.R.I.
Another new album to me. This was a pretty fun, quick listen. Furious, frantic and blistering and reminds me of the old punk records thrown together by bands who could barely play their instruments.
21. Burzum – Burzum
I’ve never heard this Burzum album before but I am familiar with a lot of the songs. By now we know Varg’s reputation so it’s hard not to take that into consideration when listening to this but his early work is classic. This one is the rawest of his earlier work. It’s part of the template that is black metal.
20. Weakling – Dead as Dreams
I think one of the roots of these “post” black metal and “atmospheric” black metal bands can be found right here in Weakling’s MASSIVE album. I enjoy those genres quite a bit but listening to this album again I can see the influence. With songs ranging from 10 to 20 minutes long this one is an undertaking but so very rewarding. I love this album.
19. Hellhammer – Apocalyptic Raids (EP)
I think Hellhammer (Celtic Frost) are one of those genre spanning influential bands. I can see how it influenced black metal but that could be said about any extreme metal genre. Maybe that is the key to their charm, maybe not. Either way I wouldn’t have included it on my black metal list.
18. Rotting Christ – Thy Mighty Contract
My favorite Rotting Christ album. The Greek stuff seems to get over looked in the history of black metal. Not as frenzied and bleak as their Norwegian counterparts but just as unrelentingly rocking and dark. I think this is a good spot for it.
17. Darkthrone -Transilvanian Hunger
This is classic black metal. Maybe an archetypical black metal album. It’s cold and sinister and crude and bleak. All great things to be when you are a black metal band or, all good things to help pave the way for countless bands to follow. Darkthrone rules.
16. Enslaved – Frost
No matter what form Enslaved take I will still be a fan. While I kind of prefer their older black metal releases to their newer progressive shift, the black metal era still has that sort of classical musical element and leanings of progression. They were full on into their viking stuff on this album and it stands as a classic.
15. Mayhem – Live in Leipzig
The only live album on this list which probably speaks volumes in and of itself. The recording is raw, Mayhem is furious and this album captured a fleeting moment, when Mayhem was at their most primal and before they all started dropping dead.
14. Bathory – Blood Fire Death
13. Emperor – Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk
First of all, the write up for this album in the magazine is ridiculous. Secondly, This album is of course great. I love that Emperor starts and ends and has left these awesome albums in their wake. Symphonic black metal done best by one of the originals.
It’s Bathory. It’s epic. It’s amazing. Just love it. How could you not?
12. Ulver – Bergtatt – Eteventyri 5 capitler
I love this album. The first time I heard it I was blown away by the folk elements infused into the black metal. The running through the woods part on the third track is amazing and helps add a distinct atmosphere that can put you right in some dense Norwegian forest. Ulver is an incredible band and through all their changes and musical styling, they nailed black metal right on the head.
11. Bathory – Bathory
Their first album is quite different then where they ended up. This album has a very heavy punk and thrash vibe to it while still getting evil with the content. The speed and riffs of the guitar are setting in motion all the black metal to follow. Again, it’s Bathory! It’s awesome! Whatever form they take they are amazing.
10. Beherit – Drawing Down the Moon.
A more methodical, wall of sound approach to black metal then their Norwegian contemporaries at the time. It’s an interesting occult like sounding black metal album. I dig the mid paced tempo but I’m not sure I would have placed it so high.
9. Burzum – Filosofem
I’m running on empty talking about Varg and Burzum. This album is a classic and would have been regardless of his later actions. I tend to skip the 25 minute long fifth song though. Mostly just atmospherics and synths and I get the point after about 2 minutes.
8. Immortal – At the Hear of Winter
I think this is the album that changed the sound of Immortal to what it is today. They got more melodic on this one but just as forceful. They found a new way to be heavy. Demonaz’s guitars are missed a bit but they still put out one hell of a black metal album.
7. Marduk – Opus Noctune
Those first couple of Marduk albums are some of my favorite black metal recordings. They have the speed, the melody, the cheesy atmospheric elements and, the satanism! I much prefer this phase to their blistering war metal phase. Classic.
6Satyricon – Nemesis Divina
It’s getting harder and harder to say much about the rest of these albums. Since about 18 or 19 on the list they have all been classic albums that have been reviewed, analyzed and critiqued endlessly. I think this album is a masterpiece of the genre and one I tend to recommend when people ask for a black metal album to start with. The beginning cry of “THIS IS ARMAGEDDON” is black metal at it’s finest.
5.Venom – Black Metal
Again, I’m sure this is on here because of the title Black Metal, but to give it a place so high on the list seems a bit generous. I’m not denying their influence on the genre, just their place in it.
4. Emperor – In the Nightside Eclipse
Emperor made the case that black metal can be more then ferocity and grimness. It goes without saying that black metal contains some of the most well versed and accomplished musicians but Emperor put that all out there on display. They helped to start off the symphonic black metal sound and made some incredible records.
3. Darkthrone – A Blaze in the Northern Sky
One of the hallmarks of black metal. A classic if ever there was a classic. The template that helped launch the second wave of black metal. Lo fi, furious, screeching black metal. Plus the iconic artwork. This album is the whole package for black metal.
2. Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
This album is pretty classic. I might have ranked the previous Darkthrone album above it. Mayhem is pretty spot on for the black metal sound with this album. It’s an amazing album in its own right.
1. Bathory – Under the Sign of the Black Mark
It’s Bathory. It’s a masterpiece.
Stay Creepy My Friends!