Top 8 Atmospheric Black Metal Albums
Atmospheric Black Metal
Many fans of Black Metal have found this atmospheric sub-genre to be the perfect background motivator to any creative or cognitive activity. It serves as a great mood setting companion on a cold late-night walk through the woods or even just for meditative purposes. One can't deny the ties it holds to bands like Bathory or Mayhem with the dark sounds, harsh vocals and low-fi production values. What separates this up-and-coming genre from tradition Black Metal however is the general lack of speed and highly toned down anger. This is as soothing as Black Metal can get and the result is one of the most unique sub-genres to metal we have seen in decades.
For the purpose of this list I did not use a band more than once and left out DSBM whenever possible but as the genres sometimes blend, the labeling is in the ear of the beholder.
Elderwind - The Magic of Nature (2012)
Elderwind's first and to date only full length release doesn't have much to compare to. It is an album that takes no time to grow addicted to. Song titles and lyrics in Russian, the songs consist mostly of simple guitar chords behind a strong leading keyboard which carries the captivating melodies in every track. Blast beats are used sparingly and it is perhaps the only album that can make such vicious drumming sound relaxing. The Magic of Nature plays more like one long piece instead of individual songs although when growing accustomed to the album, picking out favorites will come organically. Elderwind's first release has a strong nature theme which I believe to be at the heart of Black Metal.
Thy Light – No Morrow Shall Dawn (2013)
Giants in the DSBM scene, Thy Light's No Morrow Shall Dawn cannot be overlooked when looking for atmosphere. With static rhythms, high painful vocals and amazingly clear, poignant guitar solos, this album has the ability to place you in a deep part of the woods where you'll want to stay.
Coldworld – Melancholie^2 (2008)
Coldworld's second release,Melancholie2, is an album full of ethereal gloom. The somber sounds are often made into incredible catchy guitar riffs and synthesizer melodies. The well-defined and outstanding vocal melodies are rare to the genre but don't ignore the instrumental tracks as they too have much to offer. It would be best to play Melancholie2 during a heavy snowstorm or when walking through some cold bleak fog.
Rotting Christ – Sleep of the Angels (1999)
Rotting Christ is a legend. No two albums sound alike. With soft whispers, deep baritone choruses and just an all around unique presence, Sleep of the Angels creates a dark and melodic atmosphere that is still unmatched to this day. They have never really been one of the more heavy or extreme Black Metal bands although usually a big inspiration to those that are. All I can say is that with releases like Triarchy of Lost Lovers, A Dead Poem, Genesis etc. that is certainly not a bad thing. Sleep of the Angels just happens to be the one with the greatest atmospheric achievements.
Dimmu Borgir – Stormblast (1996)
It would be a crime to deny the ambiance of the first two Dimmu Borgir albums regardless of the orchestras and machine gun triggers of their later albums. This is also their last album to be done completely in Norwegian. Due to Dimmu's fame, they are a band that every fan of metal has no doubt had some sort of encounter with. Love or hate them, I would implore anyone to pick up the original Stormblast record ASAP. Yes, they did do a complete remake of the album in 2005 which, I admit, I ignored for years. It cannot touch the 1996 original but I still think of it as the best Dimmu album since Enthrone Darkness Triumphant.
Burzum – Burzum (1992)
Burzum is often credited as the godfather of Atmospheric Black Metal and the evidence is nowhere clearer than in the first album, Burzum. Varg recorded in his trademark lo-fi "necro sound" not out of necessity but because of the character is gives the music. This album features the fast picking and high shrieking vocals that made Burzum what it is today and although it may be one of the harshest on the list, with tracks like "A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit" and "My Journey to the Stars," it certainly deserves a spot.
Midnight Odyssey – Funerals from the Astral Sphere (2011)
Funerals from the Astral Sphere is equal part synthesized ambiance and black metal. The clean and cosmic synthesizer works with the dirty raw guitar in a strange agreement. The juxtaposition is great, the feelings are real and the music altogether gives the listener a sense of adventure. At over two hours, this album does us a service by keeping us on the journey for as long as possible.
Lustre – They Awoke to the Scent of Spring (2012)
They Awoke to the Scent of Spring is an album divided into four "parts" instead of traditional songs. There is little to no tempo variation so the mood the album puts you in during the beginning will likely be your mood throughout; one reason why it is a great atmospheric masterpiece.This wonderfully minimalistic, nature-themed album features high shrieking echoed vocals on the first half - the rest is instrumental.