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, but is sometimes also used interchangeably with atmospheric black 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.

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FEN Winter Album Cover Winter
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4.36 | 14 ratings
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ESOCTRILIHUM Mystic Echo From A Funeral Dimension Album Cover Mystic Echo From A Funeral Dimension
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SUMMONING Dol Guldur Album Cover Dol Guldur
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4.35 | 13 ratings
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atmospheric black metal Music Reviews

BLUT AUS NORD Odinist: The Destruction of Reason by Illumination

Album · 2007 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
While beginning as the one-man solo project of Vindsval, the French experimental freak show known as BLUT AUS NORD really came into its own once the lineup was expanded to a trio that included drummer / keyboardist W.D. Feld and bassist GhÖst. Already having crafted some of the most chilling atmospheric black metal albums in the vein of Burzum, the trio version of BLUT AUS NORD shocked the black metal world with its lauded masterwork “The Work That Transforms God” which ironically transformed the world of second wave Norwegian style black metal into a stranger nebulous world of surreality that incorporated as much dark ambient psychedelia as it did black metal heft.

After reaching the apex of its industrial dark ambient infused alternative universe where black metal was forced to perform unthinkable acts with thick gnarled atonal guitar antics painfully decrying the jagged prog infused percussive beats, the album “MoRT” found this stylistic approach finding its logical conclusion with seemingly nowhere left to go but BLUT AUS NORD proved to be a wily beast that was content with experimenting and then perfecting said experiment and then moving on altogether without abandoning the underpinning of the band’s experimental and progressive black metal stylistic approach. While downright normal compared to “MoRT,” the band followed up with ODINIST - THE DESTRUCTION OF REASON BY ILLUMINATION which borrowed its title from the magickal world of none other than Aleister Crowley.

Decidedly less otherworldly and more anchored in contemporary atmospheric black metal that had taken the 2000s by storm, ODINIST retains the general characteristics that had graced the band’s previous two albums, namely the buzzsaw guitar riffs casting larger than life distorted feedback, bantering bass lines buried beneath the sonic swells and the irregular drum rolls that colluded to craft a bizarre atonal callithump through hellish soundscapes. However on ODINIST all that came before is toned down manyfold in order to craft a somewhat more accessible, or at least more orthodox black metal experience. While “MoRT” cast the strangest of sonic spells with a never-ending supply of jagged irregular jazz-fueled percussion, ODINIST takes on the more standard approach of blastbeats and less jagged progressive time signature attacks. This is all relative of course as ODINIST is much more avant-garde than the average black metal album.

Likewise the compositions lie more in the realm of standard black metal than the experimental freeform avant-garde tendencies of the previous two albums. While the newbie to this band may find this one to be more accessible due to the more standardized approach complete with the expected raspy vocals and less frenetic zigzagging effect, ODINIST to my ears sounds like a few steps down in quality and creative expression as the album tends to feel to safe for its own good in comparison to the albums that preceded and the excellent “777” trilogy that followed. While ODINIST hits all the marks that makes BLUT AUS NORD stand out from the pack, the album feels like it’s running on automatic pilot rather than tackling something completely fresh however occasional such as on tracks like “Ellipsis,” the doppler effect style of “MoRT” is more prominent.

In many ways ODINIST feels like a Viking metal style album with scattered melodic nods to Norwegian folk music with even the title referring to the god of Norse mythology. On board with the caustic black metal which had been amped up from the previous works, the dark ambient and industrial elements still teem with life however they are also kept on the leash as the compositional style is more predictable and less prone to crafting intangible elements that leave the listener in a cold bewildering reality devoid of any Earthly connections. ODINIST in its 37 minute run is nothing but a decent and compelling atmospheric black metal album experience however i can never shake the feeling that it just doesn’t rise to the standards that BLUT AUS NORD had set so high just the year before. Not my personal favorite but a must for fans no doubt.

BLUT AUS NORD MoRT

Album · 2006 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
While second wave of black metal was without a doubt the product of Norwegian wrath against humankind and religious practices with plenty of church burnings to add some visuals, the relative adaptive nature of the buzzsaw guitar led bombast and simple song structures allowed various elements to hybridize quite quickly making black metal one of the most versatile subgenera in the entire metal universe. While Darkthrone, Emperor, Immortal and Mayhem may have led Norway’s darkened dramatic take on the 80s metal that evolved into the 90s, it became clear in the 2000s that France was taking the lead having created some of the most unique experimental examples of taking black metal into surreal new realities.

The one man band BLUT AUS NORD also known as Vindsval took the atmospheric black metal approach of Burzum and Naglfar and adopted some of the first traces of psychedelic rock as far back as “Ultime Thulée” in 1995 but once the BLUT AUS NORD project became a fully fueled band beginning with 2003’s “The Work Which Transforms God,” Vindsval and friends took the black metal world by storm by crafting a new level of sophistication that had never been achieved with depressive chugging atonal guitar riffs enshrouded by suffocating atmospheres and crafting a sonicscape that reflected the frequencies of true hellish underworlds.

Three years later this Mondeville outfit took the stylistic approach on the breakthrough album to its logical conclusion with the fifth full-album MoRT which featured Vindsval on guitar and vocals along with bandmates W.D. Feld on drums and keyboards and GhÖst on bass. The album which pretty much was a continuous flow of bleak mind-numbing surreality which featured eight tracks symbolizing a “Chapter” of a greater nebulous concept never quite defined. The overall mood of the album is terrorizing as MoRT allows you to enter a strange new world where nothing is familiar and excels in atonal deformity unlike anything else that has been experienced before or after.

Beginning with terrifying processed vocals and dark ambient swirls, the atonal amorphous guitar riffs swim in a gelatinous vacuum with abstract drum beats, dissonant swells of distortion and thick depressive atmospheres that sound like single musical notes are tortured until they cease to exude a life force. In many ways MoRT exudes the absolute perfect fusion of black metal textural sensibilities with icy dark ambient atmospherics crafting a perfect balance of calculated metrics. Twisted progressive time signatures slink and slither like magically enhanced serpents writhing out of cold fiery pits in the bowels of the deepest recesses of the underworld, a place so devoid of light and human tangibility that one is reduced to a spiritual cryogenic state of the soul.

Perhaps one of the most adventurous black metal experiences one could possibly encounter, it’s fair to say that BLUT AUS NORD changed the black metal world exponentially with “The Work Which Transforms God” and this even more bizarre example of MoRT which would apparently shift the tectonic plates leading many other French black metal bands like Deathspell Omega and S.V.E.S.T. to adopt some of the deranged harsh tactics employed on this sonic display of freakery. Perhaps the least metal of BLUT AUS NORD’s canon, MoRT excels at being utterly outside the boundaries of virtually anything orthodox in any musical genre. The processed unintelligible vocals that erupt occasionally only add an emphatic sense of horror to the incessant parade of soul splitting awe that lasts for 47 minutes of sonic terror.

Needless to say, MoRT is unlike any other musical experience you could imagine existed and is perhaps one of the most terrifying albums that has ever been produced. Taking on aspects of black metal, dark ambient, progressive rock and even freeform no wave accompanied by a series of deep processed otherworldly growls and the occasional liturgical choirs peaking out of the din, MoRT is without a doubt one that will disturb even the most hardened music lover upon first listen and will send any uninitiated passerby to the insane asylum. This music requires learning an entirely new language in many ways to comprehend as it craftily displays some of the most extreme possibilities of a black-metal-in-opposition approach. While BLUT AUS NORD has crafted some excellent albums in its multi-decade career, it’s this one MoRT that i find the most original and utterly fascinating in its unapologetic experimental rampage.

WILT Ruin

Album · 2018 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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voila_la_scorie
Wilt's second full-length, according to a review I read, sees the band returning to their atmospheric black metal style. Apparently, their debut full-length album, "Moving Monoliths" added a strong dose of doom metal. If there's any doom metal on this album, "Ruin", I failed to notice it.

Lyricist and vocalist, Jordan Dorge says that the album is a concept album that is inspired by the book, "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy but Dorge wrote his own narrative. One more powerful contributor to the album was the suicide of a dear friend of the band. Dorge also states in an interview that Wilt are inspired by the landscape and climate of Manitoba which is vast, open, and in the winter bitterly cold and bleak.

The review I mentioned above drops band names which the reviewer was reminded of while listening to "Ruin". Wiegedood, Drudkh, Winterfylleth - none of these bands being ones I have heard yet. My first thought, however, was that the beautiful lead guitar melodies reminded me a lot of Deafheaven, whom I saw live in Tokyo in 2019 when they opened for Empreror. But while Deafheaven oscillate between sweet melodies and intense music, Wilt combine the intense black metal riffing with the beautiful melodies. They have that post rock feel and make me think of someone who has spent days grieving but manages to look up through the tears and smile or a snow-blasted landscape with only the skeletal remains of an old collapsed homestead that, despite its impression of harsh bleakness and decay, is still beautiful to behold.

The album carries this atmopshere of anguish and emotional pain until the final track, "Requiem", which takes a decidedly positive turn as if someone's agony is over because they have ascended to the next world.

I loved this album when I first heard it and returning to it after a few weeks of not listening to it, I find it still has an impact. If you love atmospheric, melodic black metal with postrock/Deafheaven melodies, then do check this one out!

VERKRAG 13 Victims

Album · 2009 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
VERKRAG is the one-man project of Anton von Niekirk who is from Bloemfontein, South Africa and was created after he disbanded from Sanguinarius. VERKRAG is the Afrikaans word for “rape” and so it goes that the subject matter of this guy revolves around evil sex, perversion and hedonistic behavior. Self-described as psychotic black metal, VERKRAG is really a mix of atmospheric black metal with industrial elements with some tracks sounding a bit like Burzum and other more like Godflesh.

13 VICTIMS was VERKRAG’s only album that was released in 2009. This run of nine tracks really is obsessed with everything sexual, everything nasty and everything just plain fucked up. Think of this as the black metal version of the 2 Live Crew with horny bitches in heat moaning, sluts talking shit and wanting to suck cock and all that nice potty porno talk. The vocals are the typical black metal raspiness but VERKRAG narrates his tales in a partial rap which sounds a bit ludicrous but different enough to stand out.

The music is melodic and crafts a climactic buildup as tension grows to a crescendo. The compositions are actually pretty good with nice jangly black metal guitars, decent diverse drumming patterns and a bass line that is actually audible. There is a lot of attention paid to atmospheric backdrops and lots of special effects with samples and dramatic intros. Dude often sounds like some pervert from a nursing home who got lost on the street and is mumbling among the crowds!

I dunno. I can understand why many would absolutely hate this. It’s kinda silly and in so many ways is so very very wrong but i have an interesting eclectic appetite for weird shit and this definitely is no throwaway waste of time. I actually like this one a bit however it is a little off the cuff and the so-called crazy man conversation lyrics get a little old after a while. Still though the black metal parts are done quite well even when considering how the keys are mixed in. The production is crystal clear and yet the whole thing sounds really creepy as if VERKRAG had been listening to a lot of Devil Doll before unleashing his perversions to the world!

WINTERFYLLETH The Reckoning Dawn

Album · 2020 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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Kev Rowland
THE RECKONING DAWN CANDLELIGHT/SPINEFARM There are going to be a great many people really pleased with this album, and to be honest I’m one of them, but there are also going to be quite a few disappointed and I’m one of those as well. The reason being is that this is their first full length metal album since 2014’s, ’The Divination of Antiquity’, but I confess I loved their last album ‘The Hallowing of Heirdom’ which was acoustic, folky, and just so damned wonderful. Mind you, back then I said I had problems recognising it was the same band who had brought out the mighty ‘The Mercian Sphere’ in 2010, so it is going to be interesting to see which path they follow in the future (may I suggest both?).

Recorded and produced once again by Chris Fielding (Primordial, Napalm Death, Conan, Electric Wizard, Fen), Winterfylleth again show why they are recognised as one of the top black metal acts in the UK. This is dramatic, hard-hitting, polished, and highly atmospheric, and it is that latter, which is actually the strongest element of the album, and therefore also the weakest. Fielding and the band have gone so heavily for atmosphere that there are too many times when the guitars are somewhat muted, and while turning it up incredibly loud does mitigate that somewhat, there just isn’t the cut through I want to hear. There are times when they do bring in different elements, such as acoustic guitar, and these provide real change and dynamics, and I wish they have brought more of that into the album as a whole. Solid, and well worth hearing, just not as essential as the last one.

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