Omega_Switch's Listism, Pt. 1: Black Metal


Jul 29 2009, 5h11

Herein lies a simple and relatively predictable shitfest of a list, composed of my top 75 favorite black metal albums. This was originally going to consist of 100 albums, but I decided that 100 albums was simply too much for such a sad excuse for a list. This is probably my third time to cover this subject matter after about 3 years on, but I don't care. I have time to kill, and, if you're actually reading this, then so do you.
Here's the full list: LINK IST KRIEG

1. Emperor- Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk (1997)

One of the most epic albums ever produced. Simply put, this immaculate creation will crush your soul, given enough time. This album has stayed at #1 in my mind ever since I got into black metal years ago, and it hasn't moved since.

2. Drudkh- Autumn Aurora (Also: Forgotten Legends) (2004, 2003)

Another incredibly epic album, but of a completely different kind. Whereas most BM albums focus on being as grim, sinister, and ugly as possible, Autumn Aurora is a true diamond in the rough. What it lacks in evil aggression it more than makes up for with truly magnificent songwriting and execution; sublime reverence to the power of nature and the shifting seasons. Forgotten Legends is just as epic, albeit slower and gloomier.

3. Burzum- Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (Also: Filosofem) (1994, 1996)

No BM list would be complete with mentioning Burzum. Forget the hype, Hvis lyset tar oss is as oppressive and tortured as any album has the right to be. It set the pace for the atmospheric BM scene, and also set the benchmark, which has yet to be surpassed- with the possible exception of Drudkh.

4. Mayhem- De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (Also: Wolf's Lair Abyss) (1994, 1997)

Yet another predictable inclusion... Mayhem are the true masters of black metal. With these two releases, they defined the 2nd wave straight-forward assault- as opposed to Burzum's atmospheric and Emperor's symphonic black metal. Give them some time, and the immense power of their sound should become apparent, as gloriously ridiculous as these albums are

5. Blut aus Nord- Ultima Thulée (1995)

If there's one album whose original cover accurately portrays the album's sound, it's this one. Ultima Thulée encapsulates a frost-bitten world, beaten by the relentless winter, covered in the barren ice, and sculpted by the sheer wind. As one of the first so-called ambient black metal albums, Vindsval got his formula just right with his first try. Some say The Work Which Transforms God is his/their best release- I won't argue that it's the most accomplished/innovative-, but I vastly prefer this one.

6. Bethlehem- Sardonischer Untergang Im Zeichen Irreligiöser Darbietung (1998)

The "suicidal" or depressive black metal scene has become a self-parody in it's short existence, but Bethlehem showed how it's done properly well before the supposed scene even formed. Their first two albums are quite distinguished, but the apply-named S.U.I.Z.I.D. is by far their best work of tortured art. Ridiculous in every sense, it somehow remains one of the most captivating black metal albums I've ever listened to.

7. Weakling- Dead as Dreams (2000)

USBM has been plagued by countless generic clones of Burzum and the like, with a few original artists coming through the murk- I Shalt Become and Leviathan come to mind. Weakling only released one album, but that one album- Dead as Dreams- contains as much epic songwriting and emotional vigor than almost any band's discography that I can think of combined. In a sense, they were the Esoteric of black metal. They're music is densely layered, incredibly solid and difficult to listen to in its entirety, but also incredibly rewarding- taking into consideration the stark differences in styles here. If you can get through this album in one listen, more power to you, because you'll be glad you did.

8. Darkthrone- A Blaze In The Norther Sky (1991)

If there's any album that's responsible for setting off the 2nd wave of black metal, it's this. But that's not why it sits at #10 on my. It's placed here because it is also one of the best 2nd wave albums ever. It is one of the grittiest albums I've ever heard, but it's so damn good because of it. While their following albums tend to lump on into unfocused territory, but this album is so purposeful- it aims to kick you in the ass and violate your ears in every way possible. Needless to say, it set the benchmark for raw black metal in the 90s.

9. Wolves in the Throne Room- Two Hunters (2007)

Many purists will Wolves as "trendy" band who caters to the weak, as this band doesn't submit to the pseudo-satanic garbage that plagues black metal. Forget these claims, this band is the pinnacle of black metal today. Give Two Hunters several dedicated listens, and you might begin to understand why... or, better yet, just see them perform live. Truly entrancing atmospheric black metal with more spirit and artistic merit than most BM bands could ever dream of possessing.

10. Bathory- Under the Sign of the Black Mark (1986)

Without a doubt in my mind, Under the Sign is the quintessential first-wave album. It embodies everything that early black metal was- raw, primitive, satanic, and completely unpolished-, since his first three albums defined early black metal- fuck, they CREATED black metal. There isn't much to say about this one, aside from the above, and that it's a drunken storm of mindless hatred and aggression. And it's so fucking good...

11. Ulver- Bergtatt (1994)

Ulver have become well known for so many musical innovations that it's truly remarkable, and it all started here- well, unless you count their first demo. Bergtatt is one of the most balanced and accessible black metal albums ever produced, in that it combines beautiful folk aesthetics with well-composed and produced Norwegian BM. The formula doesn't sound all that impressive, but the results are. It's the perfect introduction to the world of Ulver, and is flawlessly polarized with Nattens Madrigal.

12. Dissection- The Somberlain (Also: Storm of the Light's Bane) (1993, 1996)

As the indisputable kings of melodic black metal, Dissection practically invented the sound with The Somberlain. With a dash of Swedish death metal, as well as considerable Iron Maiden-esque influences, Dissection created a black metal formula that is as beautiful as it is brutal. Many claim Storm of the Light's Bane to be their best, but I see both albums as equals- I just prefer their first one, which is slightly less polished, but equally epic.

13. Enslaved- Below the Lights (Also: Isa) (2003, 2004)*

This is an album I have difficulty including here, since it really does have more an "extreme progressive" metal sound than a black metal sound- also noted by the band members-, but it's got enough black metal style to justify its inclusion. And it's just too great to not include. Monumension pushed the boundaries of Enslaved's signature viking-influenced music, injecting 70s prog-rock influences and more ambitious songwriting. Below the Lights marks their creative peak and most accomplished work to date.

14. Windir- Arntor (1999)

Speaking of epic... Arntor is the very essence of the word. Taking viking-influenced melodic black metal to the limits of its potential, Windir create an amazing work of art. It features sublime production values- which don't pervert its sound, unlike 1184-, incredible songwriting, and immense atmosphere. What else could you ask for?

15. Negură Bunget- OM (2006)

This is an album that I put off listening to for quite some time. The first listen proved unremarkable, but later I found just how brilliant this album is. The Drudkh comparisons are inevitable, but OM has a more abstract and experimental sound than any of Drudkh's efforts. It's difficult for me to describe just what makes this album so effective, but with more listens I'm sure I'll be even more convinced of its brilliance.

16. Emperor- In the Nightside Eclipse (1994)

Some will probably blast me for putting Anthems above this, but I don't care. In the Nightside Eclipse is still a brilliant album, and in a different way. It uses rather minimal structures with symphonic touches to evoke incredible atmospheres, and this formula is just as effective. I just prefer Anthems, sorry.

17. Sacramentum- Far Away from the Sun (1996)

While Dissection started the melodic BM scene, Sacramentum perfected the sound with this album. If anything, I prefer this to Storm of the Light's Bane, even though this is heavily influenced by it.

18. Satyricon- Dark Medieval Times (Also: Nemesis Divina) (1993, 1996)

Yes, Satyricon have "sold out" and catered to the mainstream by returning to the rock roots of black metal. So what? While the quality of their post-RE releases are questionable, their first three albums are pure black metal brilliance, with DMT in particular. It is so deliciously raw, oppressive, and epic, and the songwriting from these then-budding musicians is sublime. The Shadowthrone and Nemesis Divina are just as great- the latter being a pure storm of violent black metal, albeit more polished.

19. Lunar Aurora- Andacht (Also: Elixir of Sorrow) (2007, 2004)

This often overlooked German band has produced some of the finest black metal of the past decade. For proof, look no further than albums like Andacht, Elixir of Sorrow, and Zyklus. With their raw and immersive style, they put a new spin on the term "oppressive". Andacht was their magnum opus, and was far more polished and concise than their previous albums.

20. Darkthrone- Transilvanian Hunger (Also: Under a Funeral Moon) (1994, 1993)

Of coarse... the notorious Transilvanian Hunger. While A Blaze sparked the flame for the 2nd wave, this album helped spawn countless raw BM projects that practically mimic this album. While it's not as inspired as A Blaze, it's minimalist atmosphere is incredibly effective. Under a Funeral Moon also deserves major props.

21. Walknut- Graveforests and their Shadows (2007)

As one of the most promising BM bands to come out in the past few years, Walknut have blessed us with their truly oppressive- damn I use that word too much...- and melancholic atmospheric BM, in the vein of Drudkh's Forgotten Legends. They are by no means a carbon copy, as their sound retains a sense of originality and spirit that few others can match.

22. In The Woods...-Heart of the Ages (1995)*

Known for pushing the boundaries within the realms of progressive metal, In the Woods... did exactly that with black metal in this release. At first, it seems boring and pointless, but, given time, it reveals itself to be a masterful release. Nothing quite like this has been produced since.

23. Deathspell Omega- Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice (2004)

Honestly, I had a difficult time understanding all the hype surrounding this band. Then I gave this album a firm listen, and I finally understood. Immaculate songwriting meets massive atmosphere and, for once, intelligent satanic lyrics. Yes, this album deserves all the hype it receives... but still, fuck the "orthodox" black metal scene.

24. Ulver- Nattens Madrigal (1997)

While Bergatt was a beautiful and accessible BM album- perfect for newcomers-, Nattens Madrigal is its polar opposite. It is one of the rawest and most primitive albums ever produced, and has become notorious for its means of production. Don't let the abysmal production job fool you, for underneath the murk lies incredible songwriting. If anything, this is just as accomplished as Bergtatt.

25. Shining-III - Angst - Självdestruktivitetens Emissarie (2002)

This is the only Shining album worth owning. Once again I will use the word oppressive to describe an album, but it's more appropriate here than with any other. This is Shining at their grimmest, most extreme, and self-destructive

26. Immortal- Pure Holocaust (Also: Sons of Northern Darkness (1993, 2002)

Even though they are the reigning self-parody of black metal, their music speaks for itself. Pure Holocaust took their debut and thrashed it into bits with its immense speed and icy atmosphere.

27. ColdWorld- Melancholie² (2008)

The past few years have been surprisingly good for black metal, and ColdWorld is yet another newcomer to produce some of the best BM I've heard in ages. Melacholie is a surprisingly well-crafted and produced monster, much in the vein of Lunar Aurora's Andacht, but it's polished sound does not demean its atmosphere- it accentuates it. With his sound, ColdWorld paints vivid imagery of the beauty and struggle of the depths of the cold, isolated winter.

28. Enslaved- Blodhemn (Also: Vikingligr Veldi) (1998, 1994)

While Eld is often cited as their best black metal album, I definitely favor Blodhemn, which seems to be a more inspired release. It's their most straight-forward assault, with an enraged sound blasting like a war cry. Vikingligr Veldi is just as noteworthy, displaying early Enslaved in a different light, whose minimal and progressive approach is just as devastating.

29. Drudkh- Blood in Our Wells (2006)

After The Swan Road, Drudkh's songwriting seemed to become much more ambitious, utilizing the same repetitious and entrancing nature with more varied structures. The result here is just as immense as their previous efforts, but in a different sense. It's a crushing album, needless to say.

30. Taake- Nattestid Ser Porten Vid... (1999)

31. Lurker Of Chalice- Lurker of Chalice (2005)
32. Darkspace- Dark Space III (Also: Dark Space II) (2008, 2005)
33. Burzum- Det Som Engang Var (1993)
34. Summoning- Stronghold (1999)
35. Abigor- Verwüstung / Invoke the Dark Age (1994)
36. Borknagar- Borknagar (1996)
37. Absu- Tara (2001)
38. Tormentor- Anno Domini (1988)
39. Limbonic Art- Moon In Scorpio (1996)
40. Nachtmystium- Instinct: Decay (2006)
41. Krohm- The Haunting Presence (2007)
42. Leviathan- Tentacles of Whorror (2004)
43. Immortal- Battles In The North (1995)
44. Fen- The Malediction Fields (2009)
45. Marduk- Opus Nocturne (1994)
46. Paysage d'Hiver- Winterkaelte (2002)
47. Gorgoroth- Antichrst (1996)
48. Sear Bliss- Phantoms (Also: Glory and Perdition) (1996, 2003)
49. Lifelover- Konkurs (2008)
50. Diabolical Masquerade- Nightwork (1998)
51. Amesoeurs- Ruines Humaines (2006)
52. Judas Iscariot- To Embrace the Corpses Bleeding (Also: Thy Dying Light) (2002, 1996)
53. Forgotten Tomb- Springtime Depression (2003)
54. Darkestrah- Epos (2006)
55. Velvet Cacoon- Genevieve (2004)
56. Samael- Worship (1991)
57. I Shalt Become- Wanderings (Also: Requiem) (1996, 2008)
58. Silencer- Death - Pierce Me (2001)
59. Nagelfar- Virus West (2001)
60. Geist- Kainsmal (2005)


  • DreadfulYgg

    Fantastic list, I agree with many of your choices.

    Jul 29 2009, 8h45
  • Nearco

    The rather glaring omission of Xasthur aside it's a good effort. Not listened to Anthems for ages, class album.

    Jul 30 2009, 21h31
  • Apollyon_

    Great list, nice write ups. :)

    Jul 31 2009, 1h55
  • Omega_Switch22B

    Thanks for the comments. Nearco- Xasthur's first LP, the only one that I can really come to say is an excellent release, is listed at #71 on the full list. All of his following LPs seem to be rendered pointless after that album. And I'm going to disappoint a lot of fans by saying that Defective Epitaph is probably my second favorite from him... Sarcastic_Smile- Haha, thanks, but that's just my opinion. II and V are also great albums, but III just presents their sound/atmosphere so perfectly that I don't really see any point in dwelling on their other albums. V is probably the only other album I'd recommend from them, though. II and IV are good, but the former is ridiculously repetitious and the latter just builds off of III- and is no where near as powerful, imo.

    Ago 1 2009, 5h51
  • necrokult

    In The Woods... what a band and totally agree with your album choice.

    Ago 2 2009, 15h40
  • coiled122

    Now that's a good list.

    Ago 9 2009, 5h19
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