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Essential Black Metal Albums Part 1

Updated on March 15, 2015


Black Metal is a genre full of purists. It is a genre who's fans can get awfully picky about what a band can or cannot do before no longer being worthy of the title. The traditional Black Metal sound started with these albums. To understand these records is to understand Black Metal.

  • Released - 1984
  • Country of Origin - Sweden
  • Notable Tracks - "Reaper," "Raise the Dead," "Sacrifice"

Bathory - Bathory

Quite possibly the first actual Black Metal album, Bathory's self-titled first release embodies the spirit of the extreme genre with lo-fi productions, dirty vocals and dirtier everything else. Black Metal bands would go on to use this sound for decades either out of money restrictions or just to add another dark element to the music. In Bathory's case, it is believed to be the financial limitations more than anything.

Heil satanic majesty

tonight we sacrifice

We drink our own blood

and blasphemy while

the moon is our only light

— "Necromansy"

The story goes that frontman Quorthon worked for a record company and was putting together a metal compilation album when an open slot gave Quorthon the opportunity to include two Bathory tracks ("Sacrifice" and "The Return of Darkness and Evil") which led to fan mail pouring in for Bathory. Quorthon knew that recording a full length album was the next step and this masterpiece was soon unleashed.

To this day the goat which haunted the cover of Bathory is somewhat of a universal symbol for Black Metal. This truly influential album is quite possibly the most extreme example of the birth of a genre.

  • Released - 1994
  • Country of Origin - Norway
  • Notable Tracks - "Funeral Fog," "Pagan Tears," "Freezing Moon"

Mayhem - De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas

The stories surrounding this album are without question the most infamous Black Metal has to offer. Some of the songs were originally recorded on an EP with their vocalist, Dead. Dead however took his life via shotgun and knife before recording for the studio album had begun. Attila Csihar took his place and luckily his slow, dark vocal style fit right in with the music.

A dream of another existence

You wish to die

A dream of another world

You pray for death

— "Life Eternal"

Bassist Varg Vikernes, most known for his one man band, Burzum, and other members of the "Black Metal Circle" performed crimes against the Catholic church. These included many burnings of historic cathedrals in Norway. Vikernes and guitarist Euronymous reportedly had a plan to blow up the Nidaros Cathedral as well. This is the cathedral on the album cover. The act was never carried through as Vikernes stabbed Euronymous to death in 1993 before the album's release.

Whether you condemn these actions are just view them as part of the extreme-ness of the genre, this album cannot be overlooked by Black Metal fans.

  • Released - 1994
  • Country of Origin - Norway
  • Notable Tracks - "I am the Black Wizards," "Cosmic Keys to My Creations & Times," "The Majesty of the Night Sky"

Emperor - In the Nightside Eclipse

In the early days of Black Metal, members of Emperor were also part of the Black Metal Inner Circle and participated in burning down historic churches in Norway. It wasn't their actions but rather their musical ambition that got them true recognition however. This is still considered a masterpiece and a largely influential album. With an abundance of synthesizer met with lo-fi guitars, this is possibly the most atmospheric release of its time.

Benighted darker and darker

As I walk through the woods,

Into the silent shadows

— The Burning Shadows of Silence

On a personal note, Emperor was one of the first true Black Metal bands I have ever listened to when I randomly bought an EP entitled Emperor because of the artwork. It was definitely the most raw music I have ever heard at that point with an incredible amount of static on each track. The more I listened to it the more I understood why they recorded in this way.

  • Released - 1994
  • Country of Origin - Norway
  • Notable Tracks - "Hvite Krists død," "In the Mist by the Hills," "Vikingland"

Satyricon - The Shadowthrone

The Shadowthrone is Satyricon's second release and continues with the atmosphere of their first but with added aggression and everything that makes Black Metal great. Fast guitars, skillful keyboards, droning chants; Satyricon really nailed it with this one. Frontman and songwriter, Satyr, is one of the most talented composers in the genre with the ability to write riffs atypical of Black Metal but somehow still fitting the mold. Frost is one of the most well known Black Metal drummers to date and every release is a testimony to this. The dynamic duo of Black Metal that is Satyricon have made some of the most memorable songs over the years but this has to be their greatest album.

In the mist of the shadows by the river of the fogpalace

Two great spears and a flag of dominion and hate

Over the chasm riders of doom

— In the Mist by the Hills
  • Released - 1994
  • Country of Origin - Norway
  • Notable Tracks - "Transilvanian Hunger," "Over fjell og gjennom torner," "I en hall med flesk og mjød"

Like Satyricon, Darkthrone started as a more-or-less full band which eventually became a duo with Transylvanian Hunger becoming the first release to feature just two members. The album opens with the title track and one of the most unforgettable guitar riffs in history and continues on a straight cold path.

To be Draped by the Shadow of your Morbid Palace

oh, Hate Living...The only heat is warm blood

— Transylvanian Hunger

The latter half of the songs had lyrics written by Varg Vikernes himself and although the album has been criticized as having Nazi influence, Darkthrone denies this and states that they are not a political band in any way.

The track "As Flittermice as Satan Spys" contains a message which when played in reverse says, "In the name of god, let the churches burn." No doubt this is a reference to the Black Metal Inner Circle of the time. Later, the German Black Metal band Sun of the Sleepless sampled this and made a unique hip-hop-esque song on their split with Nachtmahr. The song was called "Neunter November."

Which black metal albums should be in part 2?

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    • A Bones profile image

      A Bones 2 years ago from New Jersey

      Goth metal (bands like Moonspell and Graveworm) is certainly a direct result of black metal. At some point during the second wave some bands took on a more gothic sound.

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 2 years ago from California

      About as close as I get to black metal is heavy metal. Where does Goth metal fit in? Anyway, I'll have to check out these shadowy, Satanic guys. Later!