Atmospheric Black Metal

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The most commonly played among the sub-genres of black metal, Atmospheric Black Metal artists typically draw the genre into a less aggressive direction. While much of the black metal genre as whole may be deemed as atmospheric (especially when compared to other extreme metal styles like thrash metal and death metal), atmospheric black metal acts take things a step further. Keyboard use is common in the style, though not mandatory, while the music's pace tends to be slow to mid. Well known performers include Burzum, Darkspace and Fen.

Different types of atmospheric black metal artists may incorporate elements of ambient music, folk music, post-rock or sludge metal, as well as drawing on aspects of other black metal styles, such as Summoning, whose music is both atmospheric black metal and symphonic black metal.

Alternative names for the genre include Ambient Black Metal and Post-Black Metal, the latter typically referring to those artists who draw influence from post-rock and/or sludge metal.

Inclusive Atmospheric Black Metal Sub-Genres

Blackgaze is a sub-genre of atmospheric black metal so named for its resemblance to shoegaze music. It may include influences from the neoclassical darkwave and post-punk music genres.

Cosmic Black Metal or Space Black Metal (though this may refer to any black metal artist who writes about space) is an atmospheric black metal sub-genre that draws on space ambient music.

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WODENSTHRONE Loss Album Cover Loss
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MARE COGNITUM Phobos Monolith Album Cover Phobos Monolith
MARE COGNITUM
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SUMMONING Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame Album Cover Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame
SUMMONING
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PROGENIE TERRESTRE PURA U.M.A. Album Cover U.M.A.
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4.50 | 6 ratings
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atmospheric black metal Music Reviews

VATTNET Settler

Album · 2015 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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Warthur
The artwork for Settler by Vattnet Viskar (who'd drop the "Viskar" after this release) seems unusually bright and sunny for a black metal album, which prompted raised eyebrows at its release, but don't be fooled - we're not quite out of the howling darkness yet. See, the cover art depicts Christa McAuliffe, one of the astronauts who died in the Challenger disaster, on a zero-G training flight, so if you want gory, firey death, there's an implication of it right there.

But as others have noted, the album isn't solely about that. Following the trend in American atmospheric black metal bands to broaden the emotional palette of black metal-inspired music, Vattnet Viskar use the disaster to contemplate themes of exploration, competition, and the sacrifices people make for both. As you might expect, some Deafheaven-esque blackgaze influences make it in here and there, and the spaceflight theme prompts the band to seek to not only inspire terror but also convey an awe of the cosmos.

It's all well and good, and not as far from black metal tradition as purists might make out - cosmic and space themes have crept into black metal frequently over the years, and Darkspace have made a career out of just that - but the fact that the album isn't the major sonic departure from precedent that purists were afraid it would be is, in and of itself, a bit of a disappointment. Yes, there's sludge and blackgaze influences creeping in here and there, but all too often it slips back to a more generic atmospheric black metal sound, which when you consider the more audacious space trips groups like Darkspace and Progenie Terrestre Pura have each offered in their own distinct way feels like a missed opportunity.

It's still a very solid four-star album, but I feel like Vattnet have yet to truly break free from the atmospheric black metal pack. You only need to listen to one album from those other bands I've mentioned to get a really firm idea of what their sound is; I'm still not sure I know what the Vattnet sound is.

PROGENIE TERRESTRE PURA oltreLuna

Album · 2017 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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Warthur
Progenie Terrestre Pura are probably secretly aliens. Sure, they claim to come from Italy, but they give the game away with this album. See, Earth people typically wouldn't consider psybient and other electronic/ambient genres to be a natural fit with black metal - even in the world of atmospheric black metal, which has been known to dabble in the synthesiser from time to time - and they certainly would have picked up on the fact that if every member of your band has a role in working the synthesisers and/or drum machines your metal credentials are going to be questioned by purists.

And yet here they come with this bizarre industrial-black-ambient head trip to the outer reaches of the galaxy, taking the listener through a calvacade of different moods ranging well beyond the usual cold misanthropy of black metal, and they expect us to believe they're just ordinary human beings like the rest of us? Come off it, Progenie Terrestre Pura: just 'fess up and give us the secrets to faster than light travel so we can go visit your home planet and learn where you learned to play like this.

SEVEROTH Forestpaths

Album · 2017 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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adg211288
Ukrainian musician Severoth is a busy man, having released four albums in 2016, each for a different project: the band Endless Battle and their third full-length Roots of All Evil, the dungeon synth solo project Galdur and it's second album Age of Legends, the black metal solo project Морок and its second album In the Dungeons of Mind and finally the second album of self-titled and presumably flagship project Severoth, Самітність. His first and so far only album of 2017, Forestpaths, is a follow-up to this one.

In this project Severoth plays atmospheric black metal of the heavily ambient influenced kind. It's raw and cold, though not to the level of an album like Striborg's Autumnal Melancholy (2008). The ambient elements are a prominent feature and the main source of melody within the release, with the black metal guitar work severing more of a backdrop role while Severoth delivers some rather primal sounding growls over the top. I, at least, cannot follow a word of the lyrics and I think that would be true even if they weren't in Ukrainian but that's part of what makes a release such as Forestpaths work. You're not necessarily supposed to understand the words, but be entranced by the experience and as an album the six track release certainly does that, with its artwork also providing a great depiction of the kind of atmosphere the music conveys. I'd imagine taking it deep into the woods on a cold, snowy night would be the way to experience the full effect.

Like with many albums of its kind there is some blurring together of the individual tracks on Forestpaths due to there being little change in style on each track, but my experience with it is that Severoth succeeds more in this regard than others have thanks in no small part to the ambient elements, which have some wonderful melodies. Opener Мікрокосм particularly stands out in this regard, though I recommend that the album be experience as one complete journey. It's biggest change in overall style comes right at the end of the release during the second half of closing track Чумацький шлях where, the black metal now removed from the music entirely, the ambience takes on a decidedly folksy sound that lasts until Forestpath's conclusion. It's a nice section of music, but if there's a fault to be had with the album as a whole it's that Severoth made us wait that long to hear it. It would have been nice to hear more exploration of that sort of thing earlier in the album. All in all though Forestpaths is a very pleasing release from Severoth, so I have to say that this only acts as a minor niggle for me.

BOSSE-DE-NAGE Bosse-de-Nage (III)

Album · 2012 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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adg211288
Bosse-de-Nage (2012) is the self-titled third full-length album by US atmospheric black metal act Bosse-de-Nage. These guys had, up to and including this album, taken the curious approach of calling every full-length they released self-titled, so this album is more commonly known as Bosse-de-Nage III or simply III to differentiate it from Bosse-de-Nage (2010) and Bosse-de-Nage (2011), the latter being also known as II. They eventually broke this trend with their next full-length, All Fours (2015).

On III Bosse-de-Nage play the post-black metal form of the atmospheric sub-genre, which means tons of post-rock influences in both the heavy and softer sections of music, with no reliance on keyboards to create an ambience. For the most part the band's style is tastefully crafted and intriguing, very occasionally even hinting at an underlying progressive influence, though there are equally a couple of moments during the album's six tracks where it does seem as if their ideas could have used a little trimming down in order to become more coherent compositions, the tracks being mid to long length. The longest is The God Ennui and I'd say that this is especially evident there. But overall the band's music is very pleasant, with the exception of the intentional use of feedback to begin and close the release. That's pretty uncomfortable. Bosse-de-Nage aren't the only band of their kind I've heard make use of feedback and I struggle to understand what the deal with it is. Fortunately they limit it to the start and finish only.

What further characterises III as a record is its vocals. Primarily growled with some spoken words used in some places, the style used by frontman B. pushes Bosse-de-Nage's style away from the soothing post-black metal journey of the instrumentation and into the zone of depressive black metal. There's no better way to describe how his growls sound than to say that it seems as if he's upset about something all the time. This is even to the point that there are some instances in the album where it sounds like he's quite literally bawling his eyes out about something in growling form. I'm not sure what that could be but he sounds so fucking distraught about it that it actually makes those parts of the album difficult to listen to. It's like one of those really awkward moments when you're out in public and someone, usually a kid not getting their way, is making a scene. I find it highly doubtful that this is the image Bosse-de-Nage were intending to conjure up, but that's my impression of what these parts sound like.

Overall though, there's much more to praise here than not and maybe some listeners will find the vocal style appealing, though for my part I do think it detracts a bit from my total enjoyment of the album, which I have to describe as a difficult listen. That's not an uncommon occurrence with depressive black metal release of course, it's often part of the point. III is however such an album that hasn't yet managed to reward me for sticking with it as much as I'd like, though it's impossible not to acknowledge it as a very solid work from Bosse-de-Nage, despite a few issues.

FALLS OF RAUROS The Light That Dwells in Rotten Wood

Album · 2011 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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Warthur
Atmospheric black metal bands of nature-loving anarchists from the USA aren't just limited to Wolves In the Throne Room - Falls of Rauros have also been plying their craft for quite some time, and The Light That Dwells In Rotten Wood is a masterful work. The album largely rests on the three longer pieces, with shorter folk-influenced interstitials acting as pallete-cleansers. With mild post-rock influences in its compositional approach, this is a credible entry to the stable of atmospheric black metal albums hailing from the USA; I don't think it hits any major creative breakthrough, but it's a good listen and a solid release in this particular style.

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