A Selection by Wagner Hertzog
For many reasons, I’ve deliberately included on this list of my favorite BM albums only very underground bands, that aren’t really well known, even to the most ardent enthusiasts of the genre. You will notice that I haven’t included on this list albums of “mainstream” bands and artists, like Emperor, Burzum, Gorgoroth, Darkthrone or Mayhem. I have done that deliberately. For many reasons, I’ve became tired of notorious “mainstream” acts of the genre, and I also don’t think they need to be highlighted nor publicized, because everybody that are into the genre knows them.
But the strongest motive comes from the fact that I developed for a long time now a passion for discovering “new” bands and acts that I refer to as “the underground of the underground”, so to speak – literally, bands and artists that are exceedingly marvelous, but aren’t well known outside a very restricted fan base. Since a lot of them really has formidable albums released, I think it’s always useful to give these bands and artists more visibility. Also, I became a little tired of the “mainstream”, since the vast majority of the groups cited above has completely fallen into a latent sonorous predictability: the bands that are still active keep releasing the same albums time after time, over and over again. In the underground, on the other hand, you can always find something new and interesting, even if it’s an old album, from a band that is no longer active, but fall into the category of a relatively unknown group. Additionally, there are always new, refreshing bands and artists coming out every day, and a lot of them are competent enough to deserve a chance on the spotlight. And new albums from old, veteran bands – that are relatively obscure – that are releasing new material with more or less frequency.
So, I sincerely hope you find my selection interesting. Be free to emphasize or criticize! The important thing is to maintain black metal – one of the most beautiful genres ever conceived – in constant evidence, ever.
It’s important to reiterate that the albums selected here are in no particular order. Just because Minas Morgul, by Summoning, is in the first place, and Unbound, by Sargeist, is the last, doesn’t mean that I prefer the first album. Just because I, by Fuath, comes before Arousal, by Donarhall, doesn’t mean that I prefer the Fuath album. The albums are in this order because they just are. I haven’t selected them in order of preference. I love all these albums equally.
1 – Summoning - Minas Morgul
With eleven tracks – Soul Wandering, Lugburz, The Passing of the Grey Company, Morthond, Marching Homewards, Orthanc, Ungolianth, Dagor Bragollach, Through the Forest of Dol Guldur, The Legend of the Master-Ring and Dor Daedeloth –, Minas Morgul is an aggrandizing, genuine and wonderful album, with a splendorous sound reminiscent of epic battles, medieval times, chivalry, loyalty, deposed kings and lost realms. The sensible, elusive guitar lines, the dream-like nostalgia harmonies, the glorious melodies evocative of once iridescent kingdoms forgotten in the dust of time, are precisely combined altogether to deliver a work of incomparable sonorous artistry, that deserves to be appreciated for decades to come, and to be passed away to the younger generations fond of the subgenre. This album is exceedingly marvelous, being amazingly excellent from the beginning until the end. Song after song after song, this awesome masterpiece delivers one of the best exemplars of epic black metal you will ever be able to appreciate in your life!
2 – Anti – The Insignificance of Life
Anti is a band from Germany, that was active from 2003 to 2014, and regrouped in 2018. The Insignificance of Life was originally released in 2006, with six tracks: Nothing, Landscape in Minor, Invocation, Farewell (Escape into Beyond), Zero Point and Mourning Soul. A posterior re-issue had the additional tracks: Perished, Death into Life and Longing for the End. Despite the lugubrious atmosphere of the album, the musical framework also carries on a beautiful poetic density, reflexive melodies and intonations, and at certain times, very philosophic and sensible undertones. As an album that begins aggressively, but slowly becomes more humane, deeply existential and melancholic, The Insignificance of Life is in no rush to reveal itself as an imponderable and unexpected masterpiece to its audience. On the contrary, its latent, but patient atmosphere proves to be another one of its many qualities.
3 – Fleurety – Min Tid Skal Komme
Almost forty-five minutes long, the record has five relatively extensive tracks: Fragmenter av en fortid, En skikkelse i horisonten, Hvileløs?, Englers piler har ingen brodd and Fragmenter av en fremtid. With the predominance of poetic, though somber and melancholic harmonies, Min Tid Skal Komme is a beautiful and graceful work of art, that definitely has on the apex of its consecrated virtuosity a lucid and proverbial sense of originality, that enabled this fantastic and gracefully consistent BM act to conceive a very singular and precious work of art.
4 – Azerlath –...Medieval Art
Flirting with virtuous melodies and ascendant rhapsodies of graceful cohesion, the general style displayed by the band are a colorful and proverbial convergence of organic elements, exploding on floating waves of synchronic cosmic dissonances, that perfectly revolves around a lucid conjuncture of preponderant qualities, consistently inserted as a sensitive layout to mostly beautiful and poetic songs.
Largely drawing its magnificent tonalities from the expansive grace of its creative vortex, …Medieval Art is a proficient, mature and fabulous record, that definitely has consecrated the genre to a more vigorous, robust and genuine sense of artistry, elevating the standards of black metal to a splendidly dynamic, elegant and sophisticated scale.
5 – Austere – To Lay Like Old Ashes
The first song, To Fade With The Dusk – Down is just a brief intro – is absolutely marvelous, and embodies the fragile and fractured, but renitent and sagacious essence that drove the band’s astute, lucid and creative musicality, for the entirety of its short career, but more prominently on this album. With precise guitar lines, and a sensible perception of the spectral void that surrounds the human race, the song revitalize with sincere and flexible splendor the tempestuous dissonances and the tragic abysses that are inherent to our existential disgrace. The last song, the monumental and epic Coma II, features derisive and depressant guitar lines, that obliterates the emptiness that beholds its complacent serenity, with the hyperbolic consecration of a fatalist calmness, that revolves around a despondent perception of reality.
With abundant and dilated virtues, that converges to a highly concentrated and energized – but dark – musical atmosphere, Austere displays a pungent, yet profoundly humane style, which makes this record to be a gracefully unique work of art, that definitely standardizes its singularity by the elegant proclivities and unexpected versatility displayed all the way through.
6 – Koldyssey – Under The Moonlight Rising
A singular record, whose melodies rely primarily on extensive, diluted and somber atmospheres, Under The Moonlight Rising is almost a collection of melancholic serenades, whose impulsive and primordial daydreams conducts into the everlasting fog of a delusional existence an indulgent and desperate search for lost forgotten realms – whose glorious past was filled by the solicitude of heroic and brave virtues –, that were unmercifully reduced to nothing, by the indifferent dust of history. In Under The Moonlight Rising, the artist somehow seems predisposed to revitalize in the rapture of its monumental harmonies the fugacious splendor that is no longer present. Since the world has fallen on the dubious darkness of lugubrious shadows, all that we have is harmonies that maybe the only reminiscent of those splendorous times.
7 – Witcher – Boszorkánytánc
If you are into atmospheric black metal, you may not be impressed at all by this work, but undoubtedly, their qualities cannot be denied. They know how to elaborate, sustain and expand dispersive, but at the same time allegorical, diluted and elegant dark symphonies, that are much more grounded on melancholy and sentimental poetry, than generic sinister despondencies. This work have soul and sensibility, and Witcher deals with the general limitations of the genre with flexible virtuosity. Originally conceived as a demo, Boszorkánytánc is forty-two minutes long, so it can be defined – taking the extension into consideration – as a full length album.
8 – Cân Bardd – Nature Stays Silent
With formidable melodies, and amazingly overwhelming epic elements, exceedingly grounded in mythology and folklore, the style of Cân Bardd is indebted to an intuitive sense of musical grandeur, stylish majesty and rapture, that makes each of its masterful symphonies a monumental tale of everlasting realms of splendor, full of sensibility and grandiloquent artistry. With kings being deposed, chevaliers rescuing the honor of lost dynasties, and ancient Celtic tribes being remembered by the vitality of its salutary resistance against exterior enemies, the music of Cân Bardd – abundant on Viking and folk metal elements as well – is a vivid story of passionate and sentimental nostalgia, whose horizon contemplates the graceful eternity of splendid lost times.
With a poetic and noble sound, the virtuosity of Cân Bardd is everywhere on this album. Consecrating to the subgenres of epic and melodic black metal a monumental quality that becomes its most valuable triumph, whose sound reverberates the intensity of its grace by the ethereal dimensions of its marvelous, poetic and lucid harmonies, Nature Stays Silent is a wonderful sonorous journey throughout a marvelous world of bards, hereditary kingdoms, heroic tradition and sincere grace, completely devoid of unnecessary superficialities and vanities. Definitely, it’s a majestic album, that aggregates fantastic perspectives into these wonderful subgenres.
9 – Falls of Rauros – The Light That Dwells In Rotten Wood
With sensational, abrasive, pungent and creative guitar lines, the general pace of the music is calm, mature and serene, but has a profound, dissonant and fatalist glory, reminiscent of indefinite and fantastic landscapes full of gray haze and lost emotional conflicts. All songs on this album are gracefully elegant and imaginative, full of qualitative elements that embrace a consistent and fabulous virtuosity, that easily expands its exceptionally vibrant sensibilities to all the potentialities upon which its vast and intuitive melodies were conceived. Falls of Rauros has on this album a marvelous triumph, that easily manages the strength of its genuine style, full of originality, splendor and furious vitality.
10 – Fuath – I
With vast, cohesive and exceedingly rapid melodies, highly suggestive of dramatic imagery – like everlasting anthems that echoes in the night, perfunctorily revolving around the conflagration of sinister flames that mysteriously burns surrounded by the infinite darkness of a forest conceived by the drastic loneliness of an unknown isolationist conscience –, the general harmonies of this work were elaborated in objective elegance, consistence and splendor, despite the fact that its passionate subjectivity also consecrates to the imagination a realm of possibilities that wanders around the imperative solitude of a universe lost in the glorious storms of all human despondencies. The guitar lines are exceedingly dynamic, and gives to the listener an impressionistic repertoire of poetic symphonies, that definitely filters the solitary emptiness upon which our ordinary sensibilities are confined.
Displaying a visceral artistic grandiosity all the way through, I, by Fuath, is a formidable and genuine work, that engraves the singular style of the artist in the listener’s mind with evasive strength. While its pungent and abrasive guitar lines creates a nefarious world of unknown demise, the melodies are crystallized with a gracious beauty, that definitely qualifies this album as a fundamental milestone of the subgenre.
11 – Donarhall – Arousal
A very graceful and consistent work – full of melancholic and splendid melodies –, its impressive how Donarhall evolved musically, since the time Gnev released the project’s first album, Misanthrope (that I’ve personally evaluated, as you can read here), in January 2017, which was, indeed, a tasteless and ordinary work, almost to the point of mediocrity, pervasively marked by sameness, generic passages and sonorous commonalities.
Forty minutes long, Arousal is more concise and dynamic – though more stylistically ambitious and mature –, despite the fact that has only four long tracks: Drowsiness, Incubus, Apathy and Lethargy. Although the titles are incredibly suggestive, and they do transmit the respective feelings upon which each song is named – except, of course, for Incubus – this Donarhall album is anything but tedious, conventional or homogeneous. Despite the fact that the melodies sounds mostly evasive, cynic, diluted and somber, there is an organic vitality hidden in the harmonies, that makes the sound exceedingly beautiful and fascinating. With a robust creative strength and a genuinely elegant audacity, this album really sounds as a virtuous and relevant artistic triumph. It’s an indication that Gnev is evolving as a musician, and definitely has potential to surprise his audience with more excellent work in the future, the way he did on this magnificent album.
12 – Kult – The Eternal Darkness I Adore
A marvelously good, raw, traditional black metal album – though with a high fidelity production of superior quality, that makes the sound more clear and defined –, The Eternal Darkness I Adore is an intelligent, audacious and impeccable work, that very subtlety, plays with crust punk elements in a few select passages, but always with latent mordacity, never losing sight of its profoundly sinister, excruciating and lancinating BM stylish grandiloquence.
With a brutal and aggressive sound – abundant on abrasive and tempestuous guitar lines –, that concomitantly remains precisely elegant and rapturous, the music developed by Kult is thoroughly expansive and consistent. Definitely, this album can be qualified as mature, sensible and sophisticated traditional black metal, conceived by the strongest virtues of an authorial, genuine and punctual creativity.
13 – Severoth – When The Night Falls…
With incisive, but soft and poetic harmonies, When The Night Falls… is a group of beautiful symphonies, aligned altogether in a mosaic of insurgent magnificence. Despite being a little less versatile than other acts in the genre, Severoth has a remarkable style, and a gracious and cohesive musicality. With a delicate splendor, that flirts discreetly with the most somber conflagrations of human nature, this work features prominently dissonant and almost folkloric keyboards, that masterly conceives colorful worlds of melancholic and petrified solitude, whose terribly ancient, but visceral disappointment towards existence drives despair to an ultimate darkness, that will be forever lost in the sands of time.
A truly poetic and profound work, When The Night Falls is a glorious enchantment, that every enthusiast of atmospheric BM will enormously enjoy and appreciate.
14 – Utstøtt – Járnviðr
The aggressiveness and the rapid pace of the songs are outstanding qualities on this work. The fluid and dynamic features of the melodies – beautifully consecrated by refined, but pervasively abrasive guitar lines – creates an organic structure within the songs that makes them exceedingly vivacious, cohesive and alive, as a colorful diagram of planetary symphonies receiving the elementary conditions of reality in a more proverbial and distinct configuration of sensibilities. With a formidably original outlook, and a quintessential creative visionary disposition, the general style of Utstøtt in Járnviðr is simply sensational, splendorous, and filled with an inimitable grandiosity.
The cover of Burzum, Dunkelheit, deserves to be highlighted. Although too similar to the original, this version is spectacularly beautiful, and comes charged with a sentiment of nostalgia that definitely will remind you the glorious days of the genre. Displaying a vastly genuine and inventive ordeal, Járnviðr, by Utstøtt, is a magnificent, consistent and very peculiar album, that proves all the way through – in every minute of it – why deserves to be recognized as one of the best black metal records ever released.
15 – Sargeist – Unbound
With a wrathful and ravenous style, in the best raw old school traditional layer – despite the high quality production values –, the heavy and dense atmosphere, the nefarious melodies and the vociferating, but abrasive, meticulous and harmonious guitar lines conceives a panorama of digressive musical stability that perfectly delivers its sonorous cosmogony as a continuous conjuncture of sinister symphonies, compromised with the drastic execution of an everlasting doom. With songs greatly configured in a simple, but dynamic layout that explores the melodic possibilities of its lugubrious tonalities, Unbound not only honors the genre in all of its somber perspectives, but definitely establishes a new horizon of creative and spectacular splendor into the stylistic diagram of its expansive, majestic and grandiose realm of lost anger. Despite its dark and impenitent fury, the songs are marvelously refined, and displays a consistent essence that summarily revolves around the legacy of its own artistic principles. The album sounds impeccably conceived in the afflictive abysses of the human conscience, and with all the vitality of its colossal and mordacious strength, is perfectly sensational, from the beginning until the end.
With exceedingly rapid and aggressive harmonies, definitely, devoted BM enthusiasts will enjoy the implacable and hazardous fury of Unbound, that abundantly dilacerates with insidious devastation each dissonant dimension of its brutal conception of a universe where chaos, darkness and glory rules indistinctly, for the complete demise of the human race.
Well, this is it – at least for now! I hope you have enjoyed my personal selection of favorite black metal albums. You may not have liked everything that is here, but remember, it’s my list. Nevertheless, I will definitely love to read your opinions – positive or negative – about it. Thank you for your attention, and see you soon in the next list!