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A Beginner's Guide To Heavy Metal #5 - The First Wave Of Black Metal

Updated on September 17, 2015

Satan Records The First Note

Thrash was well underway, paving a trail of extremely fast uncompromising metal that was engulfing the world. It seemed that the pinnacle of heavy metal has been reached, but that feeling did not last long. One of the bands that had helped to kick start the thrash movement, "Venom", the most stripped down, fastest, and unabashedly evil band to come out of the NWOBHM. Their first album, "Welcome to Hell", had a huge impact on the beginning metal scene in the US, but with their second album, and the multitude of bands that would come to be influenced by it, they effectively launched a new sub-genre altogether, centered around only two things: Dark heavy music, and lyrics not only talking about the most evil of subjects you could imagine, but enjoying them. This new affront to mainstream audiences is what we now call Black Metal.



Slayer - Show No Mercy

Although also influenced by Venom's earlier works , Slayer would in turn become a major influence an innumerable amount of black metal musicians that would spring up over the next few years. One of the darkest and most unrelenting bands metal has ever had, listening to their first two albums you can hear a close resemblance to much of the early black metal sound.

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Sodom - Obsessed by Cruelty

More commonly grouped together with the German thrash scene, their earlier material was some of the most beautifully atrocious metal you could hear. Bad production and fast songs with lyrics about all manner of despicable things, future leader of the Norwegian Black Metal movement Euronymous cited this album as one of his favorites.



Sarcofago - I.N.R.I

When one thinks of black metal, thoughts almost instantly go to, for good reason, Europe. But one of the most influential albums in this category ever released came from the seemingly unlikely country of Brazil. Although their sound would prove to a major influence on the black metal of the future (drummer D.D. Crazy's use of blast beats especially), the imagery used on their debut album would become the standard that seemingly all black metal imagery would be modeled after.

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Sepultura - Morbid Visions

Another monstrous band from Brazil, Sepultura would go on to become one of the most respected metal bands in the world and a huge influence on groove, industrial, death and nu-metal. But in their very early days, they were a bunch of extreme metal obsessed kids with cheap equipment, lyrics translated to English through Venom lyric sheets, and a speed and ferocity not shared by any of their peers. This album is as black metal as it comes and would help make Sepultura a great influence to future black metallers like Samoth and Ihsahn of Emperor.



Possessed - Seven Churches

Without question the most evil band of the bay area thrash scene, featuring future Primus guitarist Larry Lalonde and Motorhead obsessed Jeff Becerra on bass and vocals, this album takes the framework laid by the earlier bands of the genre to new extremes, giving them a status as one of the most revered underground metal bands ever known.

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Mercyful Fate - Melissa

No album fully displays just how broad the definition of black metal used to be as this one. Featuring smooth haunting melodies, controversial lyrics about Satan and the occult ("Into the Coven" even landed them a spot on PMRC's dirty 15 list), high pitched psycho-operatic vocals courtesy of legendary metal singer King Diamond, and named after a human skull given to King Diamond and used in their stage show until it was stolen in Amsterdam, they were just as a big an influence to thrash as they were to black metal. The best description I have ever heard of this album as it relates to black metal, came from Fenriz, of the pioneering Norwegian metal band Darkthrone, who said that Mercyful Fate was one of the bands who helped him to understand the darkness of black metal.

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Hellhammer - Apocalyptic Raids

The biggest flash in the pan of all of the bands on this list, Hellhammer are survived only by a series of demos and this EP (later reissued with two bonus tracks), and were only active from 1982 to 1984. That however was enough to leave a monumental influence behind, with Hellhammer now being regarded as both one of the founders of death metal as well as a key influence on the then burgeoning black metal movement. All of the hallmarks are there; fast, heavily distorted guitars and bass, poor production values, evil lyrics, the works. This band however would pale in comparison to the influence of main man Tom Gabriel Fischer's next band.



Celtic Frost - Morbid Tales

Ask any fan of any form of extreme metal if they know who Celtic Frost is, the answer should be an immediate yes. Few bands can claim to have had a bigger influence on modern metal than Celtic Frost, the band that rose from the ashes of Hellhammer. Eventually they would become pioneers of experimental metal as well, adding horns and strings to their bombastic dark sound, but this is the release that most agree is, as far as early black metal is concerned, required listening.



Bathory - Bathory

No band effectively set the official black metal template that would be followed by nearly every band in the beginning of the Norwegian scene like Bathory. Listening back to it now, you would almost swear their early albums were part of that scene. Fast distorted guitars, screaming vocals, Satanic lyrics, and of course absolutely piss poor production value, there is absolutely no way to overstate the influence of this album. Although they would become more widely remembered as the band that founded Viking metal, black metal would not sound the same without them.

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Venom - Black Metal

Bathory confirmed the official black metal template, Celtic Frost expanded the boundaries, but all of the basic fundamental elements you will find throughout all of black metal, as well as the name itself, is right here in Venom's second album. Their first album "Welcome to Hell" made them a stand out band of the NWOBHM scene, this album established them as founders of a new sub-genre altogether. And even though the seeds they planted would not fully blossom until almost a decade later, this album still stands as the definitive album to listen to if you want to understand exactly what black metal is. It's loud, it's bombastic, it's fast, the quality of the recording and even some of the musicianship is awful, it's evil, and it is absolutely brilliant.

Black Is The Night

Few styles of music are as controversial as this, and it was only the beginning. The next list will be of the bands that the took the framework laid by these bands, and took them to even greater, and in some cases even more gruesome extremes.


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    • smcgavin1 profile image

      Sean McGavin 4 years ago from Bowling Green, Ohio

      Some of the ones in the Sepultura lyric sheet are like that. Apparently they literally would get Venom and Celtic Frost lyric sheets, translate them, and make lyrics based on their translations. Your brother has some good taste as well it seems.

    • FatFreddysCat profile image

      Keith Abt 4 years ago from The Garden State

      Some good stuff here, laying the groundwork for what we now call the 'extreme music' scene.

      My brother was the big thrash/death metal guy 'round our house, I'm pretty sure he owns every one of these records...haha. (I only own the Venom, Slayer, and Mercyful Fate discs.) I remember the lyric sheet to that Sarcofago record being (unintentionally) hilarious due to the language barrier.