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Black Metal

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"Its sound is raw, yet also epic and atmospheric, like Punk Rock meets Wagner, dressed as Alice Cooper."
Sam Dunn, Metal: A Headbanger's Journey

Primary Stylistic Influences:

Secondary Stylistic Influences:

Primary Stylistic Influences (Viking Metal):

Secondary Stylistic Influences (Viking Metal):

Primary Stylistic Influences (Post-Black Metal and Blackgaze):

Secondary Stylistic Influences (Post-Black Metal and Blackgaze):

Primary Stylistic Influences (Avant-Garde and Progressive Black Metal):

Secondary Stylistic Influences (Avant-Garde and Progressive Black Metal):

Black metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal. It is typically abrasive and usually makes use of fast tempos driven by blastbeat drumming; high-pitched electric guitars that are often played with tremolo picking note ; unconventional song structures, melodies, and chord progressions; and high-pitched shrieking vocals, usually with lyrics concerning anti-Christianity, Satanism, paganism, nature, misanthropy, depression or fantasy. It is prone to experimentation and certain elements typical to black metal are not always used by every band within the subgenre. Originally, many black metal recordings were created with low-quality production and recording equipment, and some bands still retain this recording style, favoring its primitive feelings over more modern recording equipment; however, other bands in the genre, especially in the progressive, avant-garde, and post-metal/shoegaze-influenced subgenres of the style, prefer higher quality recording techniques. Satanic and anti-Christian imagery and face paint have remained a staple part of this style of music since its inception.

The roots of black metal come from Venom's extreme take on thrash metal (Black Metal is obviously cited as a major Trope Maker, as well as Trope Namer), as well as bands like Bathory, Hellhammer, Celtic Frost and Mercyful Fate. Who was more important can lead to a Broken Base though ("Venom started it" vs "the media said that Venom started it!"), so be warned. (A safe bet is generally Bathory, who established many of the primary characteristics of the genre, of which the most important may be its vocal style). A second wave started in the late 80s/early 90s, with bands such as Mayhem, Darkthrone, Burzum, Immortal, Emperor, Rotting Christ, and Varathron. Black metal bands from the United States such as Von and Profanatica also formed around this time. Most modern black metal was built upon the groundwork laid by bands during this time period. Following a series of church burnings associated with black metal musicians and the murder of Euronymous of Mayhem by Burzum mastermind Varg Vikernes, the Norwegian black metal scene received considerable attention from the mainstream media.

Immortal is arguably the last of the major "Second-Wave" Norwegian Black Metal bands to still play black metal; most of their closest musical contemporaries left the genre altogether, as Darkthrone mutated into a retro-trad/crust punk outfit while Satyricon gave up the genre in favor of "Black Rock", a fusion of black metal and hard rock. "proper". Enslaved, who resisted classification as a black metal band from the start, around the turn of the century started performing progressive black metal, which purists would not consider to be "true" black metal but nonetheless gained them a worldwide audience. Members of Immortal themselves formed a "new" band (adding two members) in 2006 named "I" and released the critically-acclaimed album Between Two Worlds, which was one of the foundations for the "Black Rock" sound into which other bands (notably Satyricon) augmented their music; however, I has been inactive for over a decade as of this writing.

More frequently than not, later bands in this genre are dubbed "post-black metal" or "avant-garde black metal" because the genre name black metal is supposed to denote a very specific aesthetic. While bands of this ilk, such as Arcturus, Sigh, Solefald, Borknagar, In the Woods..., Ulver, Fleurety, Agalloch, Peccatum, Ved Buens Ende and others, can arguably be very different in style, they often use better production values and explore other genres of music at the same time. (A caveat should be noted about the term "post-black metal", as in recent years it has come to have two distinct meanings which are not interchangeable; the older meaning of the term represents to black metal what Post-Punk does to punk, namely using elements of black metal for purposes which are not necessarily themselves "black metal", while the newer meaning of the term refers to a fusion of black metal elements with Post-Rock. While some bands fit under both meanings of the term, a rather large percentage do not).

Thanks to a focus on Satanic (or just anti-Christian) lyrics and imagery, the mainstream media tends to frown upon the genre, but themes of fantasy (ie. Tolkien), paganism, depression and folklore are also common. Some black metal bands are even aligned with National Socialism. (On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, there are also the occasional bands aligned with anarchism or other left-wing ideologies, such as Wolves in the Throne Room, Blut aus Nord, Panopticon, Sorgsvart, and Skagos). Although there are exceptions, modern black metal as a musical style tends to make use of high-pitched tremolo picking, shrieked or growled vocals, blast beats, unconventional song structures and an emphasis on atmosphere over technical playing styles.

Black metal rarely features verse-chorus structures, generally favoring a more basic style that features extended musical sections and repetitive guitar riffs. Guitar solos are a rarity in black metal, although they are featured prominently in the music of some bands (i.e. Peste Noire, Drudkh, Shining, Enslaved, etc.; in short, the more musically progressive a black metal act, the likelier they are to feature guitar solos). Black metal often features very lo-fi, primitive recording quality reminiscent of the early days of the genre, but some bands have favored more professional recording techniques. While the harsh vocal style of black metal has become nearly universal, many bands still feature clean vocals, used either in conjunction with more extreme vocals or as the primary vocal style.

Unlike most other artists from other forms of music, many black metal bands do not play live. Many bands, such as Burzum and Xasthur, are one-man studio projects, but many bands with full line-ups also prefer to avoid playing live. However, many black metal bands are also known for their theatrical live shows, with the shows of bands such as Mayhem and Gorgoroth being particularly notorious (once Gorgoroth played live on Polish TV on a stage surrounded by barbed wire with severed pigs' heads impaled on stakes and surrounded by life-size wooden crosses with naked female models (hooded) tied on...something you definitely won't see on U.S. prime time television note ). Watain probably outdoes other bands on this: their shows are famous for pigs' blood being sprayed all over the place.

Not to be confused with Living Colour, who are African-American metal. (If you want an example of a band that qualifies as both, however, Zeal & Ardor might be your thing.)

List of black metal bands, categorised by subgenre:

"Traditional" Black, Raw Black, and Black/Thrash
"Traditional" black metal is the regular style of black metal, codified by the Second Wave (particularly in Norway). Raw black metal is a much harsher and simpler form of black metal codified by bands like Darkthrone. Black/thrash is, as the name suggests, black metal mixed with Thrash Metal; it tends to be applied to bands that combine the two genres that were not first-wave black metal and runs the gamut from raw, punkish, heavily Teutonic and South American-influenced acts (think early Sepultura and Sodom) to more melodic and technical acts reminiscent of the Australian sound (codified by Destroyer 666).
Due to the overlap between the three subgenres, they have all been lumped together.

Symphonic Black Metal
Black metal with symphonic and orchestral elements. These bands tend to be a lot cheesier, but also more ambitious then most black metal groups. The style favors ornate, gothic synths and orchestrations as well as decadent lyrical flourishes, as well as a surprising amount of melody. In general, these bands are the more popular black metallers outside of the original Norwegian circle.

First-Wave Black Metal
The original black metal movement started in the eighties; first-wave black metal bands are, for the most part, thrash bands with much rougher production; while some examples are subject to debate as to whether they're black or thrash, the Brazilian acts are generally viewed as the first "true" examples of black metal. Some of Bathory's music is an exception; a strong case could be made that the album Under the Sign of the Black Mark in particular is the Trope Codifier for black metal as it exists today. The same can be said for both Sarcófago's "I.N.R.I." and Sepultura's "Bestial Devastation" and "Morbid Visions"; the former band's album is particularly notable due to its extensive usage of blastbeats, which helped lay the template for black metal drumming to come.

Melodic Black Metal
As the name suggests, this is Black Metal with a much more melodic, and usually epic, approach than regular black metal. This genre tends to be much more accessible than regular Black Metal. Though first started in Sweden with bands such as Sacramentum, Dissection, and Dawn, the genre is often associated with Southern Europe and especially Greece, with bands such as Moonspell, Rotting Christ, Astarte, and Opera IX coming from those areas. There's also occasionally some overlap with Melodic Death Metal and/or Gothic Metal, but that depends on the band in question.

Folk/Black Metal
Black metal mixed with Folk Metal.

Viking Black Metal
Black metal with lyrics and imagery regarding vikings. The overall genre of Viking Metal evolved from black metal, and as such most viking metal bands are black metal; however, there are some viking metal bands, such as Ensiferum and Amon Amarth, that have nothing to do with black metal (and, as a result, aren't seen as "true" viking metal bands by some black metal fans). A lot of the time, viking black metal overlaps with folk/black metal. A good number of English black metal bands play Viking metal, but call it "Anglo-Saxon metal".

Black/Doom Metal
See the Doom Metal page.

Depressive/Suicidal Black Metal
Black metal with an ultra-depressive atmosphere and a lyrical focus on suicide, self-mutilation and other things to do with depression. This is quite a polarizing genre; either this is one of the most brilliant forms of black metal, or the most Narmful. Very often crosses over with ambient black metal and black/doom. Burzum is often a significant influence, with some bands in this genre (Nyktalgia in particular, especially on their first album) almost sounding like Burzum tribute bands. The Trope Makers of the genre are generally considered to be Bethlehem, Forgotten Woods, and Strid. Silencer and Lifelover could arguably be considered Trope Codifiers, as a lot of modern DSBM is influenced by one or both of them to the point that some bands are criticised as being "clones" of them.

Industrial Black Metal
Black metal mixed with electronic music, often but not always industrial.

Ambient Black Metal
Black metal with elements of dark ambient. The early developments of this genre can be found in early 90's projects such as Burzum, Moëvöt, Ildjarn, Mütiilation and Crimson Moon. Many bands (e.g. Forgotten Woods, Leviathan, Xasthur, Mütiilation) overlap with Depressive/Suicidal Black Metal.

Avant-Garde/Progressive Black Metal
Black metal either possessing significant avant-garde tendencies, influenced significantly by Progressive Metal, or both. Uncommon Time is not uncommon, Epic Rocking is frequent, and occurrences of Genre-Busting are not unheard of. A large portion of bands classifiable within the avant-garde metal subgenre either count as black metal, or are significantly inspired by black metal due to the genre's fondness for disturbing imagery, ideology, and atmosphere, all of which are pretty useful when you want to prog out as a band, as well as its mutability and strange song structures, two further helpful elements; as a result, it's arguably become one of the most largest subgenres of black metal. Some bands also overlap with blackened and/or technical death metal, due to the historically strong ties between tech/avant-black and certain dissonant blackened and tech acts.

  • Abyssal (also blackened death)
  • Ævangelist (also Death Metal, depending on the album)
  • Agalloch
  • Akercocke (a slight case of Genre-Busting; they also count as Blackened Death Metal and Progressive Death Metal)
  • Akhlys
  • Altarage (also blackened death)
  • Amiensus
  • Aosoth
  • Arcturusnote 
  • Ashenspire
  • Blaze of Perdition
  • Blut aus Nord (most of their work starting from around The Work Which Transforms God, though it really depends on the release, as they have about three or four different styles which they shift between)
  • Borknagar (starting at some point from around The Archaic Course, though it's not universally agreed upon when this happened; they gave up almost every pretense of being black metal around the time ICS Vortex formally joined and became a full-blown prog act with some blackened elements)
  • Botanistnote 
  • Celtic Frost (Ur-Example with Into the Pandemonium)
  • Code
  • Cobalt (Eater of Birds onward)
  • Convulsing (also blackened death)
  • Cormorant (began influencing their material around the time of Dwellings; on subsequent releases it has been their dominant style)
  • Deathspell Omega (Si monumentum requires, circumspice onward, if the Manifestations albums don't count)
  • Diabolical Masquerade
  • Dodecahedron
  • Dødheimsgard
  • Dornenreich
  • Emperor (later, particularly on Prometheus)
  • Enslaved (while they were always progressive to some extent, the progressive elements start to dominate the group's material around Mardraum and Monumension)
  • Epiphanic Truth (there are a number of descriptors that could fit their sound, but this is probably one of the best; they also have some Progressive Death Metal elements)
  • Esoctrilihum
  • Finsterforst (mixed with Folk Metal)
  • Fleurety
  • A Forest of Stars
  • Gevurah (everything up to Hallelujah!, Sulphur Soul is closer to traditional black metal)
  • Gnaw Their Tongues (mixed with Industrial and Harsh Noise; one of the more extreme examples)
  • Haunter
  • Hirilorn (see also Deathspell Omega, which began as a spinoff until Hirilorn split up)
  • IATT
  • Ihsahn (the amount of black metal really depends on the album; Das Seelenbrechen barely even qualifies as metal)
  • Imperial Triumphant
  • Infera Bruo
  • In Lingua Mortua (emphasis on the progressive part, thanks in no small part to keyboardist Lars Fredrik Frøislie's array of vintage '70s synthesizers)
  • Inter Arma (a Genre Mashup example, but their mix of sludge metal, black metal, post-metal, progressive rock, neofolk, and country could probably land them here)
  • In the Woods... (early)
  • Jute Gyte (an incredibly prolific project; depending on the release and even on the track, his work can also qualify as noise, ambient, electronic, or a number of other genres, but probably the majority of it has at least one foot rooted in black metal. Starting with Discontinuities, he began basing his music on 24 Equal Divisions of the Octave [i.e., with an extra note halfway between every half-step of the traditional 12-note Western scale], which made it even more avant-garde and arguably heavier than it was. Overall, this is probably one of the heaviest acts on this list)
  • Krallice
  • L'Acephale (mixed with a bunch of other styles, but this is one of the labels that fits them best)
  • Liturgy (with the arguable exception of The Ark Work, which adds a bizarre mix of noise rock, math rock, industrial, and IDM to their sound; there is widespread disagreement over whether it even still qualifies as metal. Their later material, while not dropping those influences entirely, is more rooted in black metal again)
  • Malthusian (also blackened death)
  • The Meads of Asphodel
  • Mirrorthrone
  • Misþyrming
  • Mitochondrion (mixed with Death Metal)
  • Moonsorrow (mixed with Folk Metal)
  • Murmur Band (Mixed with zeuhl)
  • Nachtmystium
  • Nagelfar (Not to Be Confused with Sweden's Naglfar - note the spelling difference)
  • Negură Bunget
  • Ne Obliviscaris (Genre-Busting example, but probably one of the more accurate labels for their sound)
  • Njiqahdda (On some releases)
  • Nocte Obducta
  • Nokturnal Mortum (since at least Голос сталі/The Voice of Steel if not much earlier; mixed with Folk Metal and Viking Metal, the former of which has become their dominant style on Істина/Verity)
  • Nyss
  • Occasvs (somewhere between this and melodic black, but ultimately quirky and weird enough for this)
  • Opeth (early material, mostly; by the time of Still Life they had already shed nearly every trace of black metal)
  • Oranssi Pazuzu (mixed with Psychedelic Rock)
  • Peste Noire
  • Petrychor
  • Plebeian Grandstand
  • Predatory Light
  • Schammasch (also gothic metal)
  • Serpent Column (tinges of melodic black metal and mathcore)
  • Shade Empire (depending on the release/track; mixed with Symphonic Black Metal)
  • Shining (Norway, from Blackjazz onward; more than a slight case of Genre-Busting, as they also incorporate elements of Industrial Metal, fusion jazz, and numerous other styles. Blackjazz marks the point where their material becomes consistently metal-oriented; before that, most of their material was acoustic jazz or Progressive Rock, although their live shows had always incorporated quite a lot of metal influence, and a few songs on In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be a Monster and Grindstone also qualify as metal, though not black metal)
  • Shining (Sweden, arguably on all new material since The Eerie Cold or Halmstad and certainly on Född förlorare; still very different in tone and influences from the Norwegian group, however, and still unquestionably depressive)
  • Sigh (Possible Trope Maker; as with In Lingua Mortua above, keyboardist Mirai Kawashima's vast array of vintage '70s synths gives this band a particularly progressive feeling, but the band's willingness to engage in Genre Roulette in the middle of a song also makes them a major codifier for avant-garde and experimental metal in general)
  • Sinmara
  • Solefald
  • Svartidauūi
  • S.V.E.S.T.
  • Thantifaxath
  • Thy Catafalque (earlier material; like Arcturus, their later material is clearly black metal-influenced, but has given up all pretenses of actually being black metal)
  • Thy Darkened Shade
  • Tribulation (particularly from The Children of the Night onward)
  • Ved Buens Ende... (Trope Maker)
  • Vektor (mixed with Thrash Metal)
  • Victory Over The Sun (formerly Cichy Duch; there are a number of potential categorisations for this band, but this is probably the closest fit. Beyond its music, this band is unusual amongst black metal projects for consisting entirely of one woman, and even more unusual in that she is transgender. Nowherer is composed entirely using microtones, using 17 Equal Divisions of the Octave rather than the traditional 12-note scale of Western music.)
  • Warforged (the Adrian Perez-era material; they abandoned this on The Grove | Sundial)
  • Weakling
  • White Ward (a mixture of this and post-black, with a fair bit of jazz influence as well)
  • Wolves in the Throne Room
  • Wormlust
  • Yuck (Black metal mixed with Grunge)
  • Zeal & Ardor (mixed with Soul, Blues, and Gospel Music - no, we're not kidding)
  • Zhrine (mixed with post-black metal)

Post-Black Metal and Blackgaze note 
Two closely related subgenres of black metal incorporating elements of post-rock and shoegaze, respectively. Generally more melodic and arguably more accessible than more traditional black metal. This is something of a polarizing genre; many people adore it but black metal purists often attack it as watering down black metal for a hipster audience.

Bestial Black Metal/War Metal
Based on the raw, thrashing style of proto-Black Metal bands such as Blasphemy, Sarcófago, Von and Beherit, Bestial Black Metal aims for pure, demonic aggression and speed, often featuring elongated blastbeats, chainsaw-esque guitar tones, extremely guttural vocals and short song lengths. Many bands show heavy influence from Death Metal, old school Thrash Metal and sometimes Grindcore. Lyrics usually eschew political or philosophical themes, instead focusing on blasphemous and taboo subjects such as anti-Christianity, desecration of religious symbols, sadism, sodomy and bestiality. Basically Black Metal's answer to Brutal Death Metal.

While not technically different subgenres as the bands described within have wildly varying musical styles, the following subtropes are ideologically different to most other forms of black metal, and are often considered subgenres of black metal; as such, all three have been given their own place on the list.

National Socialist Black Metal
As the name suggests, this is black metal with a lyrical focus on "national heritage" and "being proud of your race/culture". In normal terms, this translates as "black metal with nazi lyrics". Musicians hold far-right, nationalist political beliefs, and they use their music to get their views across. Ideologically, NSBM bands tend to synthesize neo-Nazism with black metal's customary anti-Christianity, viewing Paganism, Nazi esotericism and/or Satanism as superior beliefs, though it is possible for other far-right nationalist viewpoints to qualify if they embrace Nazi sympathies (far-right Mesoamerican heritage movements being a common one). Bands with a stronger pretense of philosophical sophistication may occasionally invoke Friedrich Nietzsche, Julius Evola or other thinkers influential to neo-Nazi thought, though more commonly NSBM lyrics will simply blend generic black metal misanthropy with shoehorned racist/antisemitic sentiment and vague notions of nationalism and pride. Stylistically, NSBM bands often overlap with either epic/Pagan/viking black metal or Rock Against Communism/RAC Punk Rock.
As a side note, don't just list artists with members (or sole members) holding far-right beliefs, such as Burzum (and many other bands). Make sure that the lyrics themselves are racist, or strongly nationalist, before adding a band. Crypto-fascist bands also don't count; while "werewolf", "heathen", "fatherland", "iron will", and similar terms are commonly understood to be dogwhistles, they are also ambiguous enough for bands with more covert far-right leanings to pass them off as occultist or militaristic in spirit rather than an overt expression of far-right sympathies. Basically, even if you know that the members have far-right sympathies and the lyrics can be taken as an allusion to them by people familiar with the jargon, it's still not NSBM unless the band explicitly (or so transparently that they have zero plausible deniability) makes their views known AND they are an integral part of the band's identity (as in, they are inextricably tied to it, either through their own deliberate efforts or by necessity due to NS/fascist circles being the only place where they can get booked and/or not get kicked off of bills that people who are unaware of their reputation have booked them on).

  • Absurd
  • Aryan Terrorism (side project of Knjaz Varggoth from Nokturnal Mortum)
  • Branikald
  • Dark Fury
  • Dub Buk
  • Forest
  • Fullmoon
  • Goatmoon
  • Grand Belials Kay (sister band Arghoslent also represents a Death Metal version of the genre)
  • Hate Forest (although it's worth noting that Drudkh contain almost exactly the same lineup except for the drummer and explicitly disavowed radical politics upon signing to Season of Mist)
  • Intolitarian (Nazi war metal)
  • Kroda (or Крода in Cyrillic script) (though the members themselves deny it, some of their lyrics are questionable and their choice of cover material is even more so. Note that the band's association with NSBM is rumoured to be the reason erstwhile composer Viterzgir departed the band)
  • M8L8TH (or М8Л8ТХ in Cyrillic script)
  • Nokturnal Mortum (formerly; their lyrical themes have been primarily based around Heavy Mithril since their 2009 album Голос сталі/The Voice of Steel, and frontman Knjaz Varggoth declared in 2014 that he was no longer aligned with national socialism or interested in promoting a political agenda. The band's rare political statements since then have mostly centred around maintaining Ukraine's independence from Russia, a major concern of most of Ukraine's citizens since the conflict over the Crimean peninsula)
  • Northern (an ambiguous case; their original run as Cold Northern Vengeance was largely apolitical in spite of Heathen's somewhat well-known political affiliations, but Northern has more overt dogwhistles and has repeatedly played racist/NS festivals, which presents far less plausible deniability)
  • Peste Noire (a somewhat ambiguous/borderline case)note 
  • Satanic Warmaster (though sole member Werwolf denies the connection, many of their lyrics carry Neo-Nazi/xenophobic undertones)
  • Silencer (another ambiguous case, as it's not clear whether the lyrics are intended sincerely or merely for shock value, particularly given that the front man of the band appears to have been literally mentally ill)
  • Spear of Longinus (black/thrash, also a fairly notorious who's who of far-right individuals within the Australian black and thrash metal scenes)
  • Temnozor (or Темнозорь in Cyrillic script)
  • Thor's Hammer (not to be confused with Thorr's Hammer, the American death/doom band featuring the future members of Sunn O))).)
  • Veles

Red and Anarchist Black Metal
Basically the complete polar opposite of NSBM. Most of these bands are fairly new, although Profecium formed in 1993.note  As a result this particular strain of black metal isn't as infamous or widely known as NSBM yet. There is a strong environmentalist streak in much of this music, and many bands from the Cascadian region of the United States and Canada fall here. There is also a strong overlap with crust punk. A few lesser known bands overlap with unblack metal below, but others are explicitly atheistic, pagan, or (in Profecium's case) Satanic in ideology.
As with NSBM, don't list an artist just because they hold far-left political views (Euronymous, for example, was an authoritarian Communist, but Mayhem does not count)); they have to express their ideology in their lyrics and/or packaging. (Unfortunately, in some cases, such as the explicitly anarchistic Ash Borer ["Godless, Masterless, Hopeless"], it's difficult to know whether the views are expressed in the lyrics since only the bands know what the lyrics are. Ash Borer take this one step further by not naming several of their songs.)

  • Aborym are openly antifascist, and their lyrics address this more overtly starting at around Psychogrotesque
  • Adamennon
  • Akvannote 
  • Ashenspire (they explicitly identify as RABM on their Bandcamp. Their first album, Speak Not of the Laudanum Quandary, is an examination of how the spoils of empire even now allow the British people to live in relative comfort "while others drown in their own filth in gutters that we dredged", per the album cover. Their second album, Hostile Architecture, is named for architecture that deters the public from using a space for "means unintended by the designer", which the album posits represents "a foundational contempt for the poor and working class, an exemplification of a status quo fortified in concrete", per the album description; it also uses hostile architecture as a metaphor for how society itself is structured)
  • Blut aus Nord note 
  • Book of Sand (experimental black metal)
  • Bull Of Apis Bull Of Bronze
  • Bustum (Croatia; confusingly, there is also a Polish group of the same name that has connections to National Socialism)
  • Cormorant (starting with Dwellings; the band's first frontman/lyricist Arthur von Nagel was outspokenly leftist, and the band's lyrics tend to be Horrible History Metal with a notable anti-authoritarian slant)
  • Dawn Ray'd
  • Dead to a Dying World (also sludge)
  • Deathspell Omega's recent work, though there is a large caveat here regarding the political sympathies of their presumed vocalist(s) (who don't write the music or lyrics; "presumed vocalist(s)" because we're discussing one of the most dedicated Anonymous Bands in black metal). Without naming any of their members, Deathspell explicitly address the ideological rift between themselves and "parts of the second circle" in their 2019 interview with Bardo Methodology: they clarify that they like working with ideological opponents because they feel shying from conflict is detrimental to art. The most notorious example, Mikko Aspa (presumed to have performed on most tracks from Si monumentum requires, circumspice onward), is strongly connected to authoritarian politics. Nonetheless, Deathspell Omega's opposition to authoritarianism is hardly ambiguous; they explicitly call totalitarianism (whether leftist or rightist) a "death cult" in the Bardo Methodology interview, and the Order's totalitarian rule in The Furnacesof Palingenesia directly causes the extinction of humanity, if not all life on Earth. Additionally, their largest literary influence by far, Georges Bataille, was a Marxist who wrote several literary deconstructions of fascism (though he was no fonder of authoritarian communism); their second-largest literary influence, Marquis de Sade, spent much of his career cataloguing the numerous ways the powerful abuse their stations to prey on the weak.note 
    • The Furnaces of Palingenesia (2019) is a scathing deconstruction of totalitarianism along the lines of Nineteen Eighty-Four. The many examples of self-aware irony it contains were a large clue on this count even before the Bardo Methodology interview clarified their intentions. Furnaces argues that humanity's innate corruption means that government by humans will inevitably lead to corruption and chaos, a message that is certainly compatible with anarchism.note 
    • The Long Defeat (2022), amongst other elements, contains an all but explicitly anarchist critique of hierarchies and the use of force to maintain them and criticises humanity's violence and degradation of the natural environment. The lyrics and the fable included with the album both recapitulate many themes they'd already expressed in their 2019 and 2020 interviews.
    • The band's earlier work is generally not explicitly political, but Drought (2012) is implicitly a metaphor for climate change (which they confirmed as intentional in their 2020 Cult Never Dies interview).
  • Epiphanic Truth's first album is a Concept Album about how humanity's greed and self-sightedness will lead to our downfall, and it explicitly denounces the pursuit of power and material wealth, meaning that they can probably fairly be placed here.
  • Ethereal Shroud
  • Fall of the Bastards
  • Falls of Rauros
  • Feminazgûl (a rare example of a two-woman black metal band, and instrumentalist and backing vocalist Margaret Killjoy is also trans)
  • Iskra (mixed with crust punk)
  • Jarost Marksa
  • Krallice, given the lyrics on Prelapsarian and Loüm, probably fit in here now
  • L'Acephalenote 
  • Leech
  • Liturgy (influenced by Marxism, per their own Bandcamp)
  • Neckbeard Deathcamp (a humorous take on the genre, but musically serious)
  • Panopticon (which has overlapped with Folk Metal in recent years)
  • Plebeian Grandstand
  • PunaTerrori
  • Profecium (Ur-Example/Trope Maker)
  • Sankara (communist war metal)
  • Skagos
  • Sorgsvart (mixed with viking metal)
  • Timebomb
  • Trespasser
  • Wolves in the Throne Room (probably the Trope Codifier, or at least the group most responsible for making people aware that left-wing black metal exists)
  • Zeal & Ardor can be read this way, though the bandís exact political stance is intentionally ambiguous
    • It has become far less ambiguous as of Wake of a Nation, which was made as a direct response to the killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Unblack Metal
Do you love black metal, but hate all that stuff about Satan? Well, this is the perfect genre for you! Unblack metal, also known as "white metal", is black metal with Christian lyrics and themes. These bands are often strongly hated by the rest of the black metal fandom because of the rather negative attitude held towards Christianity by said fandom.

The black metal genre exhibits the following tropes:

  • Album Intro Track: Probably around half of black metal albums contain these. They often vary widely in style from the remainder of the content on the album, ususally being either ambient or folk music.
  • Anonymous Band: An awful lot of bands don't release any information about their membership. Deathspell Omega are probably the most notorious for this.
  • Apocalypse How: A common lyrical theme.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Many non-Anglo-American bands write in their native languages. Additionally, a lot of bands will throw in lyrics from multiple languages. Solefald, for example, typically write in about four, while Deathspell Omega often throw in even more (Gratuitous Latin is particularly common).
  • Black Speech: Plenty of bands borrow Tolkienic motives for their names and some even write entire songs in pseudo-Black Speech. The growling makes it hard to tell the difference anyway. (Note that Summoning's "Mirdautas Vras" is in actual Black Speech.)
  • Bolťro Effect: Very common with post-black metal and avant-garde black metal bands.
  • Careful with That Axe: Freaking everywhere, with Silencer's Death - Pierce Me, Fleurety's A Darker Shade of Evil, and Bethlehem's Dictius te necare being particularly notable examples.
  • Creepy Awesome: Pretty much black metal's bread and butter. While most people would find this genre as Nightmare Fuel in musical, stage and ideology form, its fans instead appreciate the musicians' tremendous musical prowess and, in general, the pure adrenaline the music can give, so much that the rawer the sound is, the better it is.
  • Darker and Edgier: Second-wave black metal was this to the first wave, turning up the aggression of the music and being more serious about the Satanic/occultic themes. Quoting Canadian music web show This Exists:
    "The Norwegians really cranked that shit up with the second wave of black metal. And they stopped kidding. Ever. About anything."
  • Dark Is Evil/Dark Is Not Evil: Both are invoked, although the former more so than the latter.
  • Dramatic Wind: Very commonly used as a Stock Sound Effect, particularly when bands need to evoke winter. Paysage d'Hiver in particular does this basically every song. Their usage of wind is so prolific that their 7th album Winterkaelte needed to trim a whole 13 minutes of wind sound from the cassette version in order to fit it on a compact disc.
  • Drone of Dread: Very often with the more atmospheric bands in the genre. Darkspace is especially well known for this.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first-wave of black metal has a very Thrash Metal/Speed Metal/Death Metal/Hardcore Punk/Punk Rock/Grunge character to it, there weren't as much tremelo-picking, blast beats or shrieking vocals as there would be in the second-wave.
  • Echoing Acoustics: Many Norwegian bands such as Emperor and Mayhem recorded in the Grieg Memorial Hall to take full advantage of its acoustics. Also, if a band gets classified as "atmospheric black metal", nine times out of ten their production will contain a lot of this.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: Shows up a lot in Melodic Black Metal. Other genres display this a certain amount, too.
  • Epic Rocking: A fair portion of black metal songs. Arguably the rule rather than the exception, actually.
  • Evil Is Cool: A core principle of Black Metal.
    • More specifically within the genre, this may be the reason NSBM became a thing as well.
  • Fan Disservice: Females wearing corpse paint look more terrifying than sexy and the appearance are meant to evoke creepiness.
  • For the Evulz: Invoked as a motivation by some bands.
  • God and Satan Are Both Jerks: More than a few black metal bands have taken this approach.
  • God Is Evil: Many musicians and fans profess to hate Christianity for replacing the pagan traditions of Europe, leading to several widely publicized church burnings. Mayhem drummer Hellhammer spoke in a Guitar World interview about his dislike for "Christianity and its pitiful glorification of the weak," but went on to say that he was not a Satanist because "Satanists always end up burning themselves out, and I'm not going to do that." He cited paganism as his primary inspiration.
    • In an ironic turn of events, Hellhammer eventually lent his drumming skills to Unblack metal band Antestor, if only to piss off his former Mayhem band mates.
  • Gorn: Sometimes used as thematic, but it's not very common as with Death Metal.
  • Green Aesop: A common lyrical theme is nature or concern for the environment. Interestingly, this tends to hold true across all ideological alignments and is probably one of the few things you could get RABM and NSBM bands to agree on, apart from liking black metal.
  • Grim Up North: While BM scenes exist worldwide, most of the BM releases that many metalheads know of usually come from Northern European countries (Norway, in particular).
  • Guttural Growler: Many, if not all black metal vocalists have an incredibly harsh and gritty voice, while not singing (live).
  • Harsh Vocals: The primary vocal style used within the genre, though more avant-garde bands may incorporate clean singing into their music.
  • Heavy Mithril: When the lyrics aren't Satanic or philosophical, chances are they will be fantasy-based.
  • Horrible History Metal: Some bands, particularly Marduk, are known for this. World War II is an especially common subject for these bands.
  • I Am the Band: It's fairly common for bands to consist of only one or two permanent members who play all the instruments. Some good examples are Burzum, Xasthur, Panopticon, and Leviathan for one-man bands. Darkthrone and Summoning are particularly well-known two-man bands.
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: Pretty much a given when your primary vocal style is shrieked. The fact that a lot of musicians don't speak English as their first language doesn't help, even when the lyrics are in English.
  • Kill All Humans: A common lyrical theme. Most of the songs on Mayhem's Ordo ad chao are about this, and Botanist has been making a series of Concept Albums about a man who wants to summon an army of plants to wipe out humanity.
  • Lead Drummer: While there aren't as many of these as there are in death metal due to the decreased technical requirements needed to play black metal, there are some standouts, with Hellhammer, Trym Torson, Frost (1349, Satyricon), Nils "Dominator" Fjellstrom (ex-Dark Funeral), Simon Schilling (Marduk), Janne Jaloma (Dark Funeral), Darkside (Mgla), Kenny Grohowski (Imperial Triumphant), and Nick Barker being among the most famous examples.
  • Loudness War: This has been a problem with releases in the genre for about 15 years. The '90s releases weren't as plagued by it for the most part, with a few exceptions (Ulver's Nattens madrigal is one of the few metal albums to receive a remaster that is more dynamic than the original).
  • Metal Scream: All three types, albeit Type 3 is the most prominent.
  • Mind Screw: An awful lot of bands in the genre seem to do this deliberately (Sigh stand out for invoking the trope in the liner notes to Hail Horror Hail). A rather strong case could be made that this is a staple of the genre, especially the Avant-Garde/Progressive bands.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: An especially common lyrical stance.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Similar to its sister genre, death metal, black metal bands are a big fan of this trope, be it the imagery, the sound, or the lyrics, and what makes it worse than death metal is the sheer abundance of actual crimes committed by the black metal band members. In fact, so far, black metal is the only specific metal genre to have its own Nightmare Fuel page, until death metal got its own.
  • Nobody Loves the Bassist: In a lot of cases the bass in black metal is almost completely inaudible, whether by design or just due to a crappy mix. Some bands simply don't have a bass player at all (e.g. Darkthrone, Wolves in the Throne Room on their first album). Some other bands prove to be glorious aversions, such as Drudkh, Ved Buens Ende, Imperial Triumphant, Thantifaxath, and more recent Deathspell Omega.note  Former Deathspell vocalist Shaxul also has a project entitled Arphaxat which proves to be an inversion, as it has bass but no guitar. (However, as is typical with Shaxul's work, this is pretty primitive stuff in comparison with the much more complex direction DsO has taken since his departure).
  • "Not So Different" Remark: One lyrical approach in the Religion Rant Songs common in black metal is to portray God and Satan this way.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: See Black Speech above. Some bands use actual Latin, rather than just psuedo-Latin, in their songs, such as Funeral Mist, Sigh, and Deathspell Omega. The Italian duo Nazgûl take this one step further by writing all of their lyrics in Latin (and they're all Tolkien-inspired). The quality of Latin grammar in various bands' songs, of course, varies widely. Deathspell, for one, get it almost entirely correct, while many other bands are not so successful.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: The driving force behind NSBM, and also a stance in many of the more nationalistic bands in the folk and Viking metal subgenres.
  • Public Medium Ignorance: To many, Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth and maybe Emperor are the only Black Metal bands. This may be a contributing factor to the massive backlash against the former two bands in the black metal underground, although many people just don't think they're very good. To fans of other metal subgenres (or other genres of music in general), there is often a perception that all black metal consists of corpse painted Norwegians writing extremely lo-fi songs about Satanism and Dungeons and Dragons in between rounds of arson and murder, which doesn't really hold true past the second wave and even then only applies to a few bands from that movement.
    • Unfortunately, this trope applies as well for the general Heavy Metal genre, due to atrocities done by few black metal musicians.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The live shows of Mayhem and Gorgoroth. To a certain extent the whole genre could be considered an example.
  • Religion Rant Song: The most common lyrical theme.
  • Rock Me, Asmodeus!: There's a reason why the trope's name is written in bold and italics. Well, that's because THIS IS THE VERY FOUNDATION OF THE GENRE. (In fact, it's even sometimes called Satanic metal) Given that genre founders like Venom, Bathory and Mercyful Fate all invoked this trope, it's not surprising that it has been utilised by legions of bands in the genre.
    • This does tend to be averted by bands in the Post-Rock/Black Metal, Blackened Shoegaze, Red/Anarchist Black Metal, and National Socialist Black Metal scenes, which naturally leads genre purists to declare They Changed It, Now It Sucks!. Or even, in extreme cases, to declare said bands not actually black metal due to lack of satanic lyrical content.
    • It is also perhaps worth pointing out that the actual sincerity of bands who use this in the genre can vary widely. Some of them, such as Mayhem under Euronymous, Deathspell Omega, and Gorgoroth, are 100% sincere theistic Satanists. Others, such as later Mayhem and most of the first-wave bands, are using it mostly for shock value, or, like King Diamond, are the non-theistic variety of Satanist and thus don't actually believe in the existence of God and Satan.
    • Varg Vikernes of Burzum criticises the prevalence of this trope in Black Metal on his website, arguing that genuine Satanism historically did not exist. Every recorded case of "devil worship" in pre-modern times, he argues, has actually been a case of genuine Pagan practices that were literally demonised by the church. He may be a colossal Jerkass, but he has something of a point here. (It may be worth pointing out that some of Vikernes' older material, such as "Dominus Sathanas" and his lyrics for Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger, nonetheless plays this trope straight. Word of God says he was using Satan as a metaphor for Odin).
    • Among second-wave Norwegian bands, the main ones who consistently avert this trope are Enslaved, who write almost exclusively about Nordic history and mythology, and Immortal, whose lyrics concern an imaginary world called Blashyrkh, plagued by war and suffering and ruled over by the mighty Ravendark. Both bands could also count as Token Good Teammates, since they were never involved in any of the arson, murder, or other questionable activities some of the other scene members got into, nor have they ever expressed sympathy for fascism or other questionable political ideologies.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: Romantic, big freaking time.
  • Sampling: Happens occasionally. The Seventh Seal is a particularly common source of this - excerpts of the soundtrack show up in, at the very least, Funeral Mist's Salvation, Panopticon's On the Subject of Mortality, L'Acephale's Stahlhartes Gehäuse, and Agalloch's The Mantle.
  • Satan Is Good: Sometimes evoked by Satanically-themed Black Metal bands; that, or the more often used: Satan is evil and Evil Is Cool.
  • Scare Chord: Deathspell Omega, quite atypically for a Black Metal band, have a chant section in their song "Carnal Malefactor" (frequently mistakenly assumed to be Gregorian chant, it's actually in Old Church Slavonic). What qualifies the song for this trope is that immediately after the chant's conclusion (before it's even finished echoing, in fact), they go straight back into blasting black metal, and if you're not prepared for it, it is terrifying.
  • Serious Business: And in this case, the musicians can be as serious as the fans.
    • Refreshingly averted, if not inverted, with Immortal.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Black metal bands are (in)famous for featuring very verbose lyrics, many of them written in Gratuitous English and focusing on either philosophical or fantastical themes. Deathspell Omega are likely the most competent band at this, as their lyrics display a very strong understanding of philosophy and theology.
  • Spikes of Villainy: Common fashion for black metal musicians.
  • Spin-Off: Viking Metal.
  • Stage Names: Almost all black metal bands use them, if they even list their members at all.
  • Supergroup: Twilight (no, it has nothing to do with the book series) is one of these for USBM, having contained members of Xasthur, Leviathan, Nachtmystium, Krieg, Isis, and now even Sonic Youth. Krallice is also a supergroup, although its members were mostly known from Progressive Metal and Avant-Garde Metal bands, and it's since become probably the best known project for all of them except Colin Marston.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: Particularly common in the ambient black metal genre, and often used as intros or outros.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Used by many bands in the genre. Strongly averted by most of the avant-garde and progressive groups however.
  • Trope Codifier: For the first wave, Celtic Frost and/or Bathory; for the second wave, either Mayhem or Darkthrone. For individual subgenres:
  • Trope Maker: First-wave black metal was kickstarted either by Venom (also Trope Namer) or Bathory. It's unclear who first played second-wave black metal, but people will generally agree on Mayhem.
  • Uncommon Time: A surprising number of bands in this genre employ this from time to time, probably for the purpose of making the music even more disorienting. This occurs particularly frequently among avant-garde and progressive black metal bands, naturally (Uncommon Time might actually be more common on recent Blut aus Nord releases than Common Time, and good luck finding a song of theirs from this decade that doesn't use it at all), but it can also be heard on two songs on Mayhem's early, and not at all avant-garde or progressive, EP Deathcrush (specifically, if you're wondering, the title track and "Chainsaw Gutsfuck").
  • Ur-Example: Venom for the First Wave and the genre as a whole as well as being the Trope Namer; Bathory, Mayhem, Sepultura, and Sarcofago for the Second Wave and beyond; Sigh and Ved Buens Ende for Post-Black Metal; Blasphemy and Von for Bestial Black/War Metal.
  • Widget Series: A particularly relevant example, especially thanks to its strange melodies and the corpse paint. Among bands, however, Immortal is probably the most "widget" of them all. In terms of individual countries...
    • Sigh are a classic Weird Japanese Thing.
    • Deathspell Omega, Blut aus Nord, Alcest, Plebeian Grandstand, Peste Noire, and Esoctrilihum are Weird French Things.
    • Mortuary Drape and Opera IX are Weird Italian Things.
    • Oranssi Pazuzu are a Weird Finnish Thing.
    • Svartidauði, Misþyrming, Wormlust, and Zhrine are Weird Icelandic Things.
    • Batushka are a Weird Polish Thing.
    • Root and Master's Hammer are Weird Czech Things.
    • Rotting Christ, Necromantia, Varathron, and Thou Art Lord are Weird Greek Things.
    • Negură Bunget are a Weird Romanian Thing.
    • Drudkh and (sometimes) Nokturnal Mortum are Weird Ukrainian Things.
    • Cobalt, Krallice, Weakling, Liturgy, Imperial Triumphant, Devil Master, & Xexyz are Weird American Things.
    • Anaal Nathrakh, The Axis of Perdition, Woods Of Trees, and A Forest of Stars are Weird English Things.
    • Altar of Plagues and Malthusian are Weird Irish Things.
    • Dodecahedron and Terzij de Horde are Weird Dutch Things.
    • Thy Catafalque is a Weird Hungarian Thing... or was until its creator moved. Now it's a Weird Scottish Thing. The lyrics are still in Hungarian though.
    • Nagelfar, Nocte Obducta, and The Ruins of Beverast are Weird German Things.
    • Schammasch is a Weird Swiss Thing.
    • Zeal & Ardor is a Weird Swiss/African-American Thing.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: It's quite common to see "f"'s" changed to "v"'s, "c"'s changed to "k"'s and "u"'s changed to "v"'s in song titles and so on, so "cult of doom" (for example) becomes "kvlt ov doom".


Video Example(s):


Dimmu Borgir

Dimmu Borgir is a Norwegian symphonic black metal band from Oslo, Norway, formed in 1993. The name is derived from Dimmuborgir, a volcanic formation in Iceland, the name of which means "dark cities" or "dark castles/fortresses" in Icelandic, Faroese and Old Norse. The band has been through numerous lineup changes over the years; vocalist Shagrath and rhythm guitarist Silenoz are the only original members who still remain, with lead guitarist Galder being a longstanding member.<br><br>The song example is "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse".

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / BlackMetal

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