Black metal with its roots dating back to as early as the early 80’s has to be one of the most misunderstood yet the most powerful of all genres in metal history. A genre which drew its influences from the speed/thrash metal genre was known for its occult imagery and a rawer stripped-down sound came into existence in parts of Europe with Hellhammer probably being the first ‘extreme metal’ band later on went on t o culminate into Norway and the other Scandinavian countries where “Black Metal” would come into its own and develop a following greater than when it was in its initial stages.
Here is a list of the most influential EP’s/Demo/LP’s of the genre of the 80’s and 90’s.
Because of the one album per band rule we had to exclude a few mighty records which were as influential as the albums mentioned below.
1. Hellhammer – Satanic Rites (1983)
Satanic Rites along with Death Fiend/Triumph of Death demos is considered to be one of the most (if not the most) influential records in the Black Metal genre. Dating back to as early as 1983 this record is one slab of bone crushing Black Metal with influences of doom.
2. Sodom – In The Sign Of Evil (1984)
Released in 1984 this record definitely is a precursor to modern Black/Death metal. This album is just another example that you don’t need an extravagant production budget or anything like that to create an exemplary heavy metal record. Though they later on went on to play thrash metal, this EP remained one of the most influential records in Black Metal history.
3. Bathory – Bathory (1984)
Drawing influences from Motorhead and Venom this record did announce the arrival of the most fastest, rawest and vilest of all genres-Black Metal. This along with all the other (including the Viking-era Bathory) albums are unique and sheer musical brilliance. Quorthon is the man!!
4. Sarcofago – I.N.R.I. (1987)
This album hits you hard. When this one’s over it does take time to recover from the effects of the assault that you have been exposed too. Drawing influences from Hellhammer and the likes this laid the foundation to the Brazilian extreme metal scene.
5. Tormentor – Anno Domini (1989)
Better known for his contribution in Mayhem’s De Mysteriis… Attila Csihar delivered his finest with his first band Tormentor. This band from Hungary really took the underground metal scene by storm and it opened a whole new world for Attila. A true masterpiece in every sense of the word.
6. Mayhem – De Mysteriis dom Sathanas (1994)
After facing a dilemma of whether to include De Mysteriis… or Deathcrush EP for the list I finally chose this 1994 gem which came out of the coldest pits of Norway. The thing that stands out for me would be the lyrics and wonder how viler it would have sounded if Dead himself gave voice to his own creation.
7. Darkthrone – A Blaze In The Northern Sky (1992)
Tired with the Death Metal scene prevalent at that time two guys(read legends) from Norway went on to record the finest Black Metal album of all time. This album is harsh, cold black metal served straight. Beginning with bizarre chants courtesy of Fenriz this album descends into utterly barren and bleak madness.
8. Vulcano – Bloody Vengeance (1986)
Formed in 1981 Vulcano was perhaps the first Brazilian extreme metal band. They released their first full-length in 1986 and holy mother of Satan what an album it was. Released in the same year as Reign In Blood, Vulcano played a similar brand of uncompromising, no bullshit metal only thousand times faster than Slayer did. All in all a very important release in the history of Death/Black/Thrash.
9. Morbid – December Moon (1987)
Formed in 1985, the band was originally called Scapegoat but went on to change their name to Morbid, presumably after the Morbid Tales EP. Though they never released a proper full-length but this EP with Dead on vocals (this was his first band) is considered a classic in the underground. Drawing influences from Celtic Frost and Mercyful Fate this EP created an aura that was unique and cold.
10. Blasphemy – Fallen Angel Of Doom (1990)
Considered as the fathers of modern day Black/Death or ‘War Metal’ genre this record from the Canadian cult act Blasphemy has been influential in more ways than one. Minimal production has been a key factor in extreme metal bands but some tend to go too far making it barely audible but this is not the case for this album…minimum but still gives you the maximum hit.
11. Beherit – Drawing Down The Moon (1993)
Formed in ’89 by Nuclear Holocausto (Marko Laiho), Black Jesus (Arjo Wennström) and Sodomatic Slaughter (Jari Pirinen), with the purpose of performing “the most primitive, savage, hell-obsessed black metal imaginable” these maniacs took the underground world by storm with their Dawn Of Satan’s Millennium EP in 1990. Then after a few more EP’s,split and compilations finally in 1993 they released the monumental ‘Drawing Down The Moon’. The album was highly experimental within the black metal scene, as the band used whispers and space-like electronic and synth sounds to strengthen its hypnotic atmosphere and Laiho’s love for ambient music was more evident in their later releases like H418ov21.C and Electric Doom Synthesis, both of which were great in their own way.
12. Mystifier – Goetia (1993)
Words aren’t enough to express how I feel about this album. Every single song is a journey and experience in itself. Lyrically I think it cannot get more evil than this, pure devil-worship. Every time you listen to this there is something new you discover. (I have so much to say about this record but I am falling short of words.)
13. Von – Satanic Blood (1992)
Disbanded immediately after the release of this demo this is among the earliest Black Metal records to have come out of United States. The song just blast forth, with usually one speed, and very limited variation in riffing or vocal patterns but that doesn’t mean it gets boring or repetitive. The songs are well constructed and short, the longest song being around the 3 minute mark. In terms of lyrics, one of the most well written records I have come across.
14. Abruptum – In Umbra Malitiae Ambulabo, In Aeternum In Triumpho Tenebrarum (1994)
Slow, sluggish and pure evil… The second full-length from the Swedish duo of It and Evil is pure manifestation of evil. The more you listen the more you develop a taste for this record. Another gem coming out from the depths of Deathlike Silence label.
P.S.-I have absolutely no fucking idea to what the album name means.
15. Master’s Hammer-Ritual (1991)
If I was asked to name three underground releases that never got the credit they richly deserve, Master’s Hammer would definitely be in that list along with Kvist’s For Kunsten Maa Vi Evig Vike and Arckanum’s Kostogher. One of the earliest examples of ‘folk or epic’ Black Metal this record filled with thrash and jazzy influences is a masterpiece. Master’s Hammer along with Root were the kings of Black Metal in Czech Republic.
16. Sabbat – The Dwelling (1996)
Hailing from Japan Sabbat (formed in 1984) are the torch-bearers of the Asian metal scene and still remains Asia’s finest act till date. The biggest difficulty was to choose just one album from their nearly flawless discography. If Envenom had a more thrashier approach this record was more black than thrash. ‘The Dwelling’ consists of one 59 minute 48 second song called “The Melody Of Death Mask” is based on a character who commits a series of murders to serve his purpose as a true ‘artist’. Listening to this album is like reading a good book once it finishes, you feel dazed and blank for a few seconds and need time to get back from the world of fantasy and horror.
17. Emperor – In The Nightside Eclipse (1994)
“Mightiest am I, but I am not alone in this cosmos of mine.
black hills consists of black souls, souls that already dies one
Behind the stone walls of centuries they breed their
Boiling their spells in cauldrons of black gold…..
Far up in
the mountains, where the rain fall not far, yet the sun cannot reach.”
Ihsahn was only 17 when he wrote this. One of the most classic releases to have come out of Norway, Emperor’s debut remains their best, though many prefer ‘Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk’ more. The album did not possess the primeval hatred of Ildjarn, but is chaotic and melodic at the same time.
P.S. Check out Thou Shalt Suffer’s Into The Woods Of Belial, a Death Metal demo consisting of Ihsahn, Samoth from Emperor and Vidar from Ildjarn.
Click Here To Stream The Full Album
18. Burzum – Hvis lyset tar oss (1994)
This album needs no introduction. The brilliance and complexity that Varg creates in his music never fails to amaze me. Burzum is something more than music… it’s a journey, a journey for the mortal soul. Ignorant cunts hail him (or hate him) because of all those church burnings and shit but they should sometime shut up and admire the music he has created for over two decades.
19. Moonblood – Blut und Krieg (1996)
Hailing from Germany, Moonblood has to be one of the finest and consistent bands of Black Metal history and this album perhaps their crowning triumph. The influences of Burzum and Darkthrone are quite evident but by no means it’s repetitive and unoriginal. The epic folkish melody are drawn out over mid-paced drumming to produce a hypnotic atmosphere and Gaamalzagoth’s shrieks seem to have come out straight from hell. Great album and a must listen.
20. Gehenna – The Second Spell (1995)
One of the most unique and original bands among the Black Metal genre Gehenna released their second full-length in 1995 and it still remains a fine example of ‘Symphonic’ Black Metal. Keys are a very important part of Black Metal and this album is no exception. The strong amount of melody and atmosphere keep you entranced all throughout the album. On a personal note I feel it surpasses any Emperor record in terms of symphony. A must listen for the fans of Emperor and Limbonic Art.
21. Urgehal – Arma Christi (1997)
Norway has produced so many gems and so many are left for me to unearth and one of those bands which I have come across recently is Urgehal. Drawing influences from the first-wave of Black Metal this is a great record and has high replay value. Only downside for me about this album would be the production but that part is suppressed by the sheer musicianship.
22. Kvist – For Kunsten Maa Vi Evig Vike (1996)
When it comes to melodic Black Metal this would be THE record for me. As I had mentioned before this is one of the most underrated albums and needs the appreciation it richly deserves. The best thing about this record is the way the guitar and keyboard work in harmony all throughout the album and neither really overpowers the other. This record is a perfect mix of the dark-folk creation of early Satyricon and Emperor. Listen to this if you haven’t already.
23. Satyricon – Nemesis Divina (1996)
It was impossible for me to choose between Dark Medieval Times and Nemesis Divina because both hold a special place in my heart. Satyricon being one of the more popular bands in Black Metal was also one of my first bands of this genre. Though just like Cradle Of Filth they became more of a crowd-pleasing band rather than the raw, evil entity it used to be but this album along with Dark Medieval Times is a gem.
24. Cradle Of Filth – The Principle Of Evil made Flesh (1994)
Everything went downhill post Dusk..and Her Embrace for Cradle Of Filth which started out to be one the most promising bands of the Black Metal genre. Before the over-produced crap they went to record there existed a harsh, raw and primitive Cradle Of Filth that symbolized-TOTAL FUCKING DARKNESS. Sad someone like Dani Filth lost his way after such a promising start. Well money and fame does change you a lot, in this case it was for the worst.
25. Carpathian Forest – Black Shining Leather (1998)
An ultra-classic of a record from an otherwise mediocre band. For me Carpathian Forest starts and ends with Black Shining Leather (Defending The Throne Of Evil was average). No other album highlighted the bass in Black Metal the way they did in BSL. 45 minutes of sheer brilliance.
26. Dimmu Borgir – Enthrone Darkness Triumphant (1997)
What the fuck happened to them after this release? I mean, how can a band which produced one of the finest Symphonic (melodic) Black Metal albums become just a worthless piece of shit. Only the ignorant and the elitists disregard each and every Dimmu Borgir album but if you find a little bit of time to shove your ultra-kvltness up your ass do give this album another chance.
27. Limbonic Art – Moon In The Scorpio (1996)
The best symphonic Black Metal album of all time. None shall surpass this, atleast I haven’t come across one yet. Be it production, atmosphere, melody this is just a perfect record. I think the drums are programmed but who the fuck cares.
28. Enslaved- Vikingligr Veldi (1994)
This along with Bathory’s Twilight Of The Gods are my most favourite releases of the ‘Viking’ Black metal genre. Brilliant writing, excellent production along with great musicianship makes this a classic.
P.S. Before Trym Torson joined Emperor he was a member of Enslaved.
29. Venom – Black Metal (1982)
Credited for coining the term ‘Black Metal’ they released this full-length in 1982 is more punk/thrash than Black Metal. A very influential band no doubt, but never actually liked them that much. Venom has been a very influential band nonetheless.
30. Ildjarn – Forest Poetry (1996)
Very few bands worshipped nature the way Ildjarn did. Total misanthropy minus the ambience of Burzum or the folk influences of Ulver this record is pure raw Black Metal. The music’s so raw it corrodes your soul.
31. Ulver – Nattens Madrigal (1997)
After the monumental debut ‘Bergatt’ in 1995 they followed it up with another great release the next year and then in 1997 they released something special. The present Ulver is just as great but this was their moment of glory. Everything about this album is just perfect even the low key production adds more to the aura this band creates.
32. Forgotten Woods – As The Wolves Gather (1994)
The best thing about this band is that in each and every album they have released they had a different approach towards the brand of raw, hateful metal they created. The Curse Of Mankind is an equally brilliant release but for me As The Wolves Gather holds a special place in my heart. A criminally underrated band.
33. Graveland – Thousand Swords (1995)
Rob Darken introduced a totally different brand of Black Metal through this album and despite the horrible production the musicianship in this album is great at parts. Not a masterpiece but an essential.
34. Havohej – Dethrone The Son Of God (1993)
I VOMIT ON GOD’s CHILD !!!!
Paul Ledney (ex-Incantation) is the man behind this twisted solo project. This is straight–forward black metal with the guitars being sluggish at parts and lyrically speaking this shall drive the Pope to suicide.
35. Veles – Night On The Bare Mountain (1995)
This Polish kvlt-act Veles released this monumental album in 1995 and it has remember a classic ever since. I equally like Black Hateful Metal but the rawness this album possesses is second to none. Racist or not I do not care as long as the music is good.
36. Judas Iscariot – Thy Dying Light (1996)
A solo project by Akhenaten this was the second release in the bands discography. Raw, harsh and grim would be the best way to describe this. Drawing influences from Immortal and Darkthrone Judas Iscariot’s Thy Dying Light is a must listen.
37. Immortal – Pure Holocaust (1993)
This album will literally freeze your balls. Not the perfect release but undoubtedly an essential one from the sons of Northern darkness.
38. Samael – Worship him (1991)
Samael’s Worship Him is considered to be ‘proto’ or ‘early’ Black perhaps because of the not so fast-paced song structures which are generally associated with Black Metal; however it is exceptionally dark and atmospheric. The whole album has the sound and feel of some occult ritual that you aren’t supposed to be watching. It’s hard not to get lost in the trance-like guitar tone and the evil shrieks of the vocalist. Not a big fan of their later releases but this one’s a gem.
39. Goatlord – Reflections Of The Solstice (1991)
Black, Death and Gloom. Goatlord’s debut full-length introduced a whole new different style of music. I think it would be difficult to categorise Reflections Of The Solstice to a particular genre because each and every song are unique mainly structured on thick doom riffs topped with faster drum sections. The US mix of this full-length was released the following year under the name “Goatlord” and then they suddenly faded into obscurity. I heard they had reformed.
40. Impaled Nazarene – Tol Cormpt Norz Norz Norz… (1993)
A swirl of knives driven straight through your heart; this would be the best way to describe this album.
41. Rotting Christ – Thy Mighty Contract (1993)
THY MIGHTY ALBUM !!!
Truly, speaking I am really not aware of their releases post Non Serviam and will soon check them out but for now this is to me their best album. Started as a grindcore band and the influences of which are evident and this is what makes the album even more great.
42. Sigh – Hail Horror Hail (1997)
You automatically know a band is kick-ass when it’s under the label of Deathlike Silence. Scorn Defeat was so good on so many different levels that many consider it to be their best release but for me it is the ’97 release that made them the giants of the Asian underground. Blues, jazz and black metal combined into one album to produce a feeling parallel to none.
43. Inquisition – Into the Infernal Regions of the Ancient Cult (1998)
The finest third-wave Black Metal band. Originally hailing from Colombia, Inquisition released their first full-length in 1998 and never looked back. Inquisition is a band that belongs to its own league. Everything about this band is just perfect and with just two members it simply amazes me how they can create such a heavy and complete sound.
P.S. They started out as a thrash metal band which was also great, total Kreator worship.
44. Bulldozer – The Day Of Wrath (1985)
More of a black/thrash record than Black metal this band personified chaos, occultism and violence in this band like few other bands could do. Bulldozer along with Necrodeath represented ‘extreme’ thrash metal in Italy. The sound is not polished but the instruments can be heard perfectly.
45. Mercyful Fate – Mercyful Fate (1982)
King Diamond wrote about Satanism and occultism way before it was cool. This EP is pure evil and essential in the history of Black Metal.
46. Arckanum – Kostogher (1997)
This was love at first listen. I do not know if others consider it to be as great a record that I actually think it to be but to me this is the best Black Metal album people never heard. Beautiful, all the songs are perfectly built and each and every one are connected. One of the best one-man Black metal bands of all time.
47. Varathron – His Majesty At The Swamp (1993)
The same year as Rotting Christ released the monumental ‘Thy Mighty Contract’ another band from Greece came up with an equally brilliant album. The music is deep, hellenic and beautifully put together. Underrated gem.
48. Agatus – Dawn Of Martyrdom (1996)
It’s Greece again. Dawn Of Martyrdom is another great release from the Hellenic Black Metal scene and developed a following from in the Black Metal underground. The music is very dynamic and never bores you but this might require a few time for you to get used to it.
49. Necromantia – Scarlet Evil Witching Black (1995)
Greece has had some kick-ass Black Metal bands and Necromantia is no exception. This band has a totally different take at Black Metal and the use of piano, saxophone and key-boards are done to perfection. A very good release.
50. Obtained Enslavement – Witchcraft (1997)
I would regard Pest as one of the best Black Metal vocalists of all time. At times you could feel the hate that spawns within him and the next moment you feel the sorrow and regret in his vocals. Each song in this album is marvelous and anyone who likes Black Metal will love this, Symphonic Black Metal done to perfection.
NOTE : This being restricted to just 50 albums I missed out on a lot of equally brilliant bands like Root, Primordial, Summoning, Windir, Countess etc. and I’ll like to do another list on this soon. I have always wanted to do something like that and this is my first attempt at writing, hope I wasn’t that bad.
Written By: The Scene Kid