LMdC's 10 Favorite Black Metal Albums of All Time

Taste in music is something that we can discuss forever but when it comes to name our particular tastes in music it’s another thing. Making a list of my Top 10 favorite Black Metal albums of all time is quite difficult since I’ve been into this music since more that fifteen years. Record store in Quebec City didn’t carry the albums I wanted to buy at the time. Even today, with the evolution to digital music this is still an obscure musical movement. Wrongly or not the genre was considered neo-nazi, terrorists, satanists, etc.

This is the expression of an anger of juvenile grandeur but also a movement I consider like an underground expression of the X generation in Scandinavia and more precisely in Norway for the majority of its main musicians. Suicide, murder, arsons, heavy drugs are also connected with the public image of Black Metal but it is also a movement of anti-censorship and freedom for teenagers who were most of the time put aside and intimidated.

Honestly, I was often rejected and put aside during my high school years and music was one of the major things that kept me from falling into self loath and hate. Black Metal was a way for me to get those demons out and learn how to play drums and record some music. Maybe some day you’ll see a BM album from the writer of those lines come out.

Venom – Welcome to Hell (1981)
Inspired by Motörhead, this first album by the British grand-fathers of Black Metal is a must have for any fan of old-school sound of the genre. With their second album Black Metal, they gave a name to the genre they were developing without knowing. It has everything a BM album has to have, harsh vocals, lo-fi sound, sheer aggressive, and a thirst for raw music. Plus you have the Satanist banner all over the place.

Bathory – Blood Fire Death (1988)
Even if Quorthon and his fans have always disavowed that Bathory was widely inspired by Venom and Slayer, the song structures are too similar to be that stupid and believe that Quorthon never listened to those two legendary acts. However, Bathory’s creation of atmospheres, sound textures and texts was one of the elements that makes this Swedish band the father of all that Black Metal is. With their four first albums : the self-titled debut, The Return, Under the Sign of the Black Mark and Blood, Fire, Death, Bathory has made an altar that bands like DarkThrone, Immortal, Emperor, and Mayhem have taken and tried to elevate and master.

Burzum – Hvis lysett tar oss (1994)
Count Grishnack or Varg Vikernes, is also the most hated BM musician and one of the most infamous. Known for multiple arson and the murder of his fellow band mate Euronymous of Mayhem, Vikernes recorded four albums in less than 18 months before getting a 21 years sentence in jail for the aforementioned crimes.
With all that put aside, Burzum, the one man band of Vikernes, is one of the most famous names in BM. Demonstrating a great mastery of repetitive patterns a raw sound and an uncommon sensitivity for such a violent band, Hvis lysett tar oss has a hypnotic grandeur. With only four songs, this full lenght represents everything for following bands like Summoning. Creating an atmosphere reminding of obscure Horror films and truly defining the term grim and eerie.

DarkThrone – Transylvanian Hunger (1994)
With A Blaze in the Northern Sky and Under a Funeral Moon, Transylvanian Hunger completes Darkthrone’s Unholy Trinity of Norwegian Black Metal. Directly influenced by hardcore bands of the 1980’s and having shifted from Death Metal, DT’s masterpiece of songwriting, simplicity, and lo-fi recordings of Transylvanian Hunger has transcended time. This is a kult band and their legend is alive.

Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (1994)
Famously known as the last recordings of guitarist Euronymous tragically stabbed by Varg Vikernes who played bass on the same record, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas was released shortly after the murder of Euronymous. On the vocals was Attila Csizar not even credited following the suicide of lead singer Dead. Csizar brought another dimension to the traditional BM vocals with a more guttural sound and less high pitched screams.
Hellhammer’s drumming on DMDS was much more elaborated than the usual simplistic blast beats or punk sound that most BM bands used on their records. Following him, drummers like Faust, Frost, and many others give depth to this underground sound.

Emperor – Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk (1997)
Of all the bullcrap that Symphonic Metal has created and even worse Symphonic Black Metal, Emperor is probably the greatest band that took the epic sound of Bathory and raised it to another level of mastery and quality in production without forgiving its roots. With front man Ihsahn, now a reference in avant-garde Metal, Emperor have created their own path of Empirical scale. Anthems might be the most acheived piece of music that the genre has created. Thus Spake the Nightspirit translates how grand and elegant such a violent record can be at the same time. Just like a movie like Suspiria, violent and beautiful at the same time.

Gorgoroth – Under the Sign of Hell (1997)
Raw, fast, and grim are the elements that define the sound of Gorgoroth. Under the Sign of Hell is the culmination of their precedent albums Antichrist and Pentagram. Just before Gorgoroth became a joke of itself with a series of uninspired releases and a legal dispute that split the remain members of the band in two camps. For further Gorgoroth sound  go towards Taake instead of wandering in the latest and weakest albums.

Ulver – Nattens Madrigal (1997)
This outfit of great creators in Ulver have put two stellar albums in the BM mythology before turning into a more Ambiant, Electronic, Avant-Garde, post-rock band. With Nattens Madrigal, you have a blend of proto BM mixed with sampling and Atmospheric elements. Great visionaries were rising in this early but essential act.

Immortal – Sons of Northern Darkness (2002)
With a path of fast paced BM, Immortal have made a name for themselves as a cross between early BM and Extreme Metal as well. In a constant evolution the band that produced Pure Holocaust, Battles in the North and Damned in Black have released their ultimate album with Sons of Northern Darkness. The song structures and agressivity still screams for BM but they have made a sound of their own and make only what can be called Immortal music.

Enslaved – Below the Lights (2003)
Mixing their influence from Pink Floyd to Bathory, Enslaved might have been perceived as a Viking Metal band in their early days but now they are more like a Progressive Black Metal reference. With much more depth and exploration than Vintersorg, Enslaved based their lyrics on ancient Viking mythology.
Below the Lights is a masterpiece and I don’t use this word that often. However, the overall writing of the music, the balance between their original sound, Black Metal, and progressive elements reached its peak. Even with their more complex efforts in RIITIIR, Enslaved stayed true to their roots and keeps the bar of quality very high with each release.

As you've seen this top is in chronological order and positions could easily change between album.

If you are in Black Metal, what do you think of this list? Would you like to see more of this kind of post here?

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