20 Black Metal Songs To Soundtrack Black Metal Friday
Black Friday? Pfffft. Give us Black Metal Friday over that any day. So, as a call-to-arms to celebrate all things heavy, take a listen to the best in black metal…
20. Mütiilation – Transylvania
Whatever criticism you want to throw at Mütiilation for being badly recorded, badly played, out of tune, shit, will be thrown back at you as being part of the whole fucking point, and evidence that you are clearly not the right audience for their black art. Part of the infamous Les Legions Noir faction of the French black metal scene, rumours of sending dead rats in the post to enemies, violence and attempts to live off-grid in the woods about about this band. And their Vampires Of Black Imperial Blood sounds like the work of exactly the sort of people who’d do that. Whether you like it or not probably depends on how much of an evil bastard you are.
19. MGLA – With Hearts Towards None I
Mysterious, even by BM standards, Polish outfit Mgla (pronounced ‘muh-gwah’, the Polish word for fog) are shadowy. For starters, they keep their faces covered when they play live, and they don’t bother with song titles, simply naming each track parts I, II, III etc of the album. But such things as faces and titles are unnecessary when confronted with the sharp, menacing glory of songs like this.
18. Carpathian Forest – It's Darker Than You Think
What’s this revelling in filth, disgust, Satan and all things guaranteed to get you barred from the pub? It’s Carpathian Forest, a band always one step away from vomiting on you for a laugh, declaring, ‘I have no earthly tombstone, I have no Christian grave’. You wouldn’t get into a cab with them, but there’s something so delightful about CF’s un-PC vulgarity that you can’t help but love this.
17. Enslaved – Ground
We could pick any Enslaved tune (because they are A Brilliant Band), but with such a lot of black metal going on in this list, we’ve gone for the greatest example of the Bergen band really spreading their wings. Though it sounds more like Pink Floyd than Bathory (especially that guitar solo which may as well hold up a big sign saying, ‘I <3 David Gilmour’), Ground nonetheless invokes the same feeling of mountainous vastness and snowy grandeur as even the fastest Immortal song.
16. Winterfylleth – Gateway To The Dark Peak
Like so many Scandinavian bands looked to the mountains, forests and fjords of their homelands for inspiration, so to do British mob Winterfylleth summon up the glory of the English countryside in their music. Behold here, a mighty anthem that forsakes blasphemy for history and intelligence, as mighty and awe-inspiring as the moors and valleys that helped shape it.
15. Marduk – Panzer Division
‘FIRE!’ Like standing before a machine gun as it unloads all nine yards of its ammunition belt into your face, war-obsessed Swedish battalion Marduk really do not fuck about. This is black metal in its most aggressive and confrontational form, with pin-sharp musical skill (just listen to those blastbeats) joining forces with genuinely intimidating ferocity in an alliance of unholy shock and awe. One louder than the Salvation Army, certainly.
14. Beherit – The Gate Of Nanna
To Finland, where a group of teenaged misanthropes were clattering away noisily in the early ‘90s to create some of the most bestial, harsh sounds around. But it was when Beherit slowed down to a doomier pace, as they do here, that their malevolence truly came to the fore. And if you dig this, you should check out the excellent cover by fellow Finns in true doom legends Reverend Bizarre.
13. Forgotten Tomb – Todestreib
Occupying the corner of black metal that deals with the dark night of the soul, Italy’s Forgotten Tomb are not a barrel of LOLZ (although we have met frontman Herr Morbid and he was actually quite a laugh). Here, though, it’s all misery. This funereal, black vortex is best with headphones, solitude and dark nights, where the nightmare Herr Morbid creates truly comes to life in a horrifying way.
12. Immortal – At The Heart Of Winter
Brrrr! Feel that? That’s a full-force black metal blizzard, that is. While mountains, snow, and snowy mountains have all appeared in most BM bands’ lyrics, Immortal made them the main talking point. They even invented their own wintry kingdom to sing about, Blashyrkh. The intro of At The Heart Of Winter comes straight from a barren, isolated frozen tundra, while the riffs will chill your bones to the core. Euronymous stated that since Immortal were not Satanic, equals not black metal, but here’s evidence to the contrary.
11. Nifelheim – The Final Slaughter
You will never find a bigger bunch of black metal maniacs than Sweden’s Nifelheim. Led by Iron Maiden-obsessed twins Tyrant and Hellbutcher, they are, quite simply, the final word in thrashing, evil noise. Exhibit A: right here. Be warned: you may find yourself unexpectedly covered in leather, spikes and chains by the end. And you’ll like it.
10. Hellhammer – The Triumph Of Death
Cheerful? Oh yeah. The 10-minute dirge of this highlight (lowlight?) from Hellhammer’s Apocalyptic Raids is ridiculously heavy and evil, overflowing with horrific morbidity. As we’ve already seen, Tom G Warrior would push the envelope with Hellhammer successors Celtic Frost, but here he’s defined what primitive music can be, while also being absolutely compelling.
9. Sigh – Hail Horror Hail
Mayhem mainman Euronymous used to write to Japanese black metallers Sigh in the early ‘90s, suggesting helpfully that they should burn churches in their homeland. This would be tricky, pointed out band mastermind Mirai Kawashima, because there actually weren’t any to burn. But while churches blazed in Norway, Sigh eagerly set fire to the rulebook. The self-proclaimed ‘Most evil band in Japan’, they took the thrashings of Venom and Bathory, added Iron Maiden thrust, and then covered the whole thing in insane keyboards straight from the world’s funkiest sci-fi movie. An explosion of colour while so much black metal is black and white, Hail Horror Hail is the perfect distillation of their wicked, evil madness.
8. Watain – Puzzles Ov Flesh
As an open prayer to Satan, this terrifying cut from Watain’s incredible Casus Luciferi album is sublime. You can practically feel the smell of blood and incense assaulting your nostrils as the guillotine-sharp riffs attack your ears, and frontman Erik Danielsson sounds absolutely possessed, wide-eyed with Satanic fanaticism, as he sings of ‘Vomit faith’ and how ‘I am not one of mine’.
7. Blasphemy – Darkness Prevails
So primitive, punishing and powerful they made Napalm Death sound like Rick Astley, Canadian Hell patrol Blasphemy simply had no time for anything like melody or subtle, clever bits. Not when time could be better spent performing Satanic rituals in their local cemetery and making music violent enough to live up to their ‘black metal skinheads’ image. This essential cut from 1990’s barbaric Fallen Angel Of Doom album is a fist in the face of anyone stupid enough to think black metal should ever be easy to swallow.
6. Emperor – Into The Infinity Of Thoughts
With a sound that was as vast, imposing and majestic as the Telemark countryside from whence they hailed, the opening track off Emperor’s unbeatable In The Nightside Eclipse immediately positioned Emperor as a band as musically ambitious and accomplished as they were devastatingly powerful. The song’s musings on the darkness of a night up on the peaks is the perfect match for the harshly symphonic music that rises and falls like the contours of a mountain range. And then you realise mainman Ihsahn wasn’t even old enough to get served when he wrote it. Jesus…
5. Darkthrone – Kathaarian Life Code
Funny story: Brit label Peaceville signed Darkthrone as a death metal act, and their first album was a heavy, technical slice of brutality. When the mysterious Norwegian trio handed this in as their second album, it’s hardly surprising that they had a ‘WTF is this?’ moment, threatened to not release it, and asked the band what the hell they were playing at. As a reaction to the death metal ‘trend’ that was gaining momentum (which saw bands wearing tracksuits onstage – spit), the ‘Throne made everything harsher, darker and more evil sounding, making the first true Norwegian black metal album in the process.
4. Mayhem – Funeral Fog
We all know the bloody, smoky, blasphemous story of Norwegian black metal’s rise to infamy in the early ‘90s. But while the legend of Mayhem no longer needs re-telling, it’s quite astonishing how fresh and chilling the opening track off De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas remains. Euronymous’ guitar sounds like it’s strung with barbed wire, while singer Attila Csihar’s vocals sound like they’ve come straight from the mind of HP Lovecraft. Altogether now: ‘Fuuuuuuuuunnnneeeerrraaaaaaaal… FOG!’
3. Celtic Frost – The Usurper
To black metal in the '80s, Venom named it and set a general ‘doing whatever the fuck we like’ template, Bathory brought harsh sound and demonic, screeched vocals, but it was Celtic Frost who set it on a path to somewhere truly dark and esoteric. Hailing from a small, conservative village in rural Switzerland, mainman Tom G Warrior used music – first with Grave Hill, then Hellhammer, then the Frosties – as a way to escape a place he hated, where he was outcast from a young age. Beyond simplistic thrashings, The Usurper comes from somewhere truly twisted, a similar dark Upside-Down as parent album To Mega Therion’s artwork did – done by Swiss artist and Alien creator HR Giger. A truly incredible tune.
2. Venom – Black Metal
The title-track from Venom’s rackety 1982 masterpiece comes on like Motörhead’s dirtier, less sophisticated ASBO little brother, smearing its filthy fingers on every clean surface and upsetting anyone who’s not totally down with the idea of ‘Lay(ing) down your souls to the gods rock'n'roll’. Frontman Cronos insists that the phrase was intended to mark Venom out as being basically one louder than anyone else. He forgot to mention uglier, nastier, evil-er and generally bett-er.
1. Bathory – Total Destruction
Bollocks to the sales. Although the opening blast from Swedish pioneers Bathory’s beyond-dark 1985 second album, The Return……, is violent and morbid enough to play in the background as shoppers crush one another to death in the pursuit of a TV. As Quorthon gargles the titular chorus line, you can almost feel your blood begin to boil with Satanic rage.
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