Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Top 10 Black Metal songs


The Norwegian police - Protect & Serve Satan.
(Pic : Peter Beste via blackmetal.hu)

Ah, black metal! With its low-fi quality, focus on atmosphere and association with  the occult it's perfect for the run up to Halloween. The difference compared to other "spooky bands" is that, more often than not, black metal bands really buy into it.

I don't listen to much black metal. I don't own a wristband covered in spikes, I don't wear corpse paint and I'm not Norwegian. So this list is as much "black metal songs Owen has listened to" as what I think a Top 10 would be.

Most black metal sounds as if it's recorded on toys - like those plastic drum kits with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck on the front - but with someone screeching through white noise. Most if it is, to be frank, a load of shit. But there are pieces of nutritious corn within that shit.

10. Venom – Black Metal

                         

Wor Toon's Venom produced this seminal track (and album) in 1982, including the first use of the term "Black Metal" (AFAIK). Also, they're one of the first metal bands to use Satanic imagery as a positive thing, while the likes of Black Sabbath did it with a "this is something to be afraid of" vibe. It sounds more thrash/speed metal than what evolved into black metal, but it clearly inspired later bands.

9. Dimmu Borgir – Sorgens Kammer (Del II)
       

                         


A controversial choice, seeing as Dimmu Borgir – despite being one of the bigger and more successful black metal bands – are seen as "sell outs". That's because black metal fans tend to be unforgiving when it comes to "purity", or "kvlt". This track marked the moment Dimmu Borgir shifted from a purer form of black metal to the more progressive, theatrical sound they're associated with now.

8. Immortal – At The Heart of Winter

                         

Without question, black metal bands like the cold, snow and being in the north. Immortal are associated with sillier videos and taking the black metal aesthetic to its extreme, but they're one of the few black metal bands with a sense of humour. Perhaps including the best intro of any black metal song, At the Heart of Winter is a grim epic, and a worthy, frostbitten national anthem of Mighty Blashyrkh.

7. Dissection – The Somberlain

                         

From their debut album of the same name, it's a black metal/melodic death metal classic (yes, there's a difference), and is said to be highly influential on both subgenres. A pulsating, relentless track that grinds the skull into dust, and creates a cold atmosphere of mournful dread.

6. Mayhem – Freezing Moon

                         

You can't have a black metal list without featuring Mayhem who, along with Gorgoroth, are the runaway "bad boys" of black metal (understatement of the century, their history reads like an Eli Roth horror). Not the most cheerful lyrics, vindicated as the lyricist committed suicide and band "mates" made necklaces out of his skull fragments, using his suicide scene as an album cover. I told you the band's history was horrific, didn't I? To prove how iconic/infamous Mayhem are, the intro sounds similar to Impaled Northern Moonforest's parody of the subgenre.

5. Darkthrone – Transilvanian Hunger (sic)

                         

The perfect example of black metal's low-fi aesthetic. To the untrained ear it's barely audible, and sounds like being stuck in the middle of a blizzard. A Gothic epic about vampires, what's not to like about that? It's also one of the few black metal songs that sounds better in acoustic.

4. Dimmu Borgir – Broderskapets Ring


                         

Another controversial choice as 1996's StormblÄst is either considered weak and boring, or hailed as one of Dimmu Borgir's masterpieces. A slower, more mellow, more melodic track here, but keeping the epic scale and atmosphere of dread typical of black metal. I don't think you'll find many black metal songs making unironic use of a piano either.

3. Bathory – A Fine Day To Die


                         

One of the old school. Despite having one of the creepier openings, it's about presumably Viking battles instead of a celebration of the occult. It sounds like a battle too; the contemplative, depressive "calm before the storm", crossing suddenly into the battle itself. I'm sure anyone who turned the volume up will know the moment the parts change.

2. Emperor – Inno A Satana

                        

What is it about debut albums? It's poorly mixed - you can barely make out the vocals - but in black metal what's new? An example of the more blatant Satanism and Paganism, this atmospheric track combines monk-like chanting with a soaring, symphonic background which puts you in a place you would rather not be. There are also hints of Opeth within this, especially the intro. It's great for getting Jehovah's Witnesses – and pretty much anyone - off the doorstep.

1. Satyricon – Mother North


                        

It's one of the first black metal music videos, perhaps helping cement black metal stereotypes. You also can't tell whether it's a heartfelt soundscape of a Nordic lifestyle and belief system long lost, or social misfits who like to wear face paint, play drums really fast and "sing" in constipated screeches. Yes, the video's silly and the vocals are cheesy, but if you were looking for one song to encapsulate all of black metal this would be it.

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