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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PROGENIE TERRESTRE PURA oltreLuna Album Cover oltreLuna
PROGENIE TERRESTRE PURA
4.91 | 7 ratings
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WODENSTHRONE
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SPECTRAL LORE III Album Cover III
SPECTRAL LORE
4.73 | 8 ratings
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MARE COGNITUM Luminiferous Aether Album Cover Luminiferous Aether
MARE COGNITUM
4.69 | 7 ratings
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DRUDKH Кров у наших криницях (Blood in Our Wells) Album Cover Кров у наших криницях (Blood in Our Wells)
DRUDKH
4.41 | 24 ratings
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WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM Two Hunters Album Cover Two Hunters
WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM
4.41 | 21 ratings
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PURE WRATH Ascetic Eventide Album Cover Ascetic Eventide
PURE WRATH
4.74 | 5 ratings
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FEN Winter Album Cover Winter
FEN
4.49 | 11 ratings
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MARE COGNITUM Phobos Monolith Album Cover Phobos Monolith
MARE COGNITUM
4.50 | 9 ratings
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SUMMONING Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame Album Cover Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame
SUMMONING
4.44 | 9 ratings
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NEGURĂ BUNGET 'n crugu bradului Album Cover 'n crugu bradului
NEGURĂ BUNGET
4.38 | 12 ratings
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FEN Carrion Skies Album Cover Carrion Skies
FEN
4.47 | 7 ratings
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atmospheric black metal Music Reviews

EVILFEAST Elegies of the Stellar Wind

Album · 2017 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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adg211288
It's been quite a while since the release of Wintermoon Enchantment (2011), the last full-length release by Polish atmospheric black metal solo project Evilfeast. Although there's been both an EP and a demo in the meantime, musician GrimSpirit has emerged back in full force at the tail end of 2017 with Elegies of the Stellar Wind, an album that may just upset any established lists of the best black metal releases of the year once you hear it.

Comprised solely of long songs (the shortest is over eight minutes) with no messing around with separate intros, interludes or outros, Elegies of the Stellar Wind is clearly written with being immersive in mind and it's very effective in succeeding at that. This is the kind of atmospheric black metal record where it's almost like a paradox against what metal music is usually about, featuring traditional raw and cold riff work that often merely serves to lay the groundwork for an even colder ambience (actually the first thing you'll hear when the album kicks off with The Second Baptism... Shores in Fire and Ice), to do its thing.

There are plenty of parts where the ambient elements are withdrawn and the focus is purely on the raw riffs and growling vocals of course (which every so often are switched to clean singing, which features prominently when used, especially in the final track Inclinata Resurgit... Rebirth of My Noble Dark Kingdom), such immediately following the ambient introduction of the opener. The album's certainly at its best and most majestic when the two worlds combine though. I'm reminded of a mix of the likes of Striborg and the raw yet atmospheric sound heard on albums such as Autumnal Melancholy (2008) and Midnight Odyssey through the majestic ambient parts such as on the Shards of Silver Fade (2015) album.

While the extremely raw sound of the album may prove a detriment to all but the most fervent of black metal listener, to those among us who appreciate the style that Elegies of the Stellar Wind delivers the record is quick to establish itself as being something special. The mood captures both the winter season that the album was released in while also giving off some dark, medieval vibes. It's enough to be drawn in straight away, then keeps hold of my attention throughout, despite the considerable total length of 67:24 minutes. The first listen can easily be spent just revelling in all the fine details coming off the synths that it's only on the next go around that an appreciation starts to form for the real old school black metal guitar riffs that GrimSpirit has crafted. I usually prefer my black metal to sound a bit less fuzzy than this, but I have to admit that anything more would throw the combine atmosphere of guitars and synths off kilter. It's a delicate thing to balance, but one which is handled to perfection here.

It may not be pretty or polished, yet Elegies of the Stellar Wind resonates high up on the levels of creativity. It's an excellent release and even surprising work that despite it's late year release has quickly cracked my black metal top five for the year. It's because of that late in the year release date that I nearly missed it in time to include it in my annual best of year list. That would have been a shame, so don't make the same mistake I almost did.

MYRKUR Mareridt

Album · 2017 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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MorniumGoatahl
A while ago I reviewed the debut album of Myrkur, M. This was during the build up period for this, her second full-length release, Mareridt. Just to you don't have to double back and read what I said about her in regard to that album allow me to summarize: I'm very much in the middle ground when it comes to this artist, whose work has both received strong praise and been deemed controversial, depending on who you ask. For me, to quote, M was simply an 'OK' album.

I also voiced the opinion that rather than the black metal that she is usually (erroneously in my opinion) associated with that some kind of folk metal wouldn't be a more fitting genre for her to pursue. That view has kind of come to pass on Mareridt. It is more folk than M. But the folk parts are typically used outside of the metal elements, so it instead feels like a half folk album and a half metal album, rather than an actual fusion of the two. The metal songs do have riffs that resemble black metal and like with M this is not the only style Myrkur draws from (doom also being noteworthy) and with her clean vocals now used maybe 98% (maybe even 99%) of the time, I actually find this even harder to think of as a black metal record, even by trendy blackgaze standards. This is one genre association that I believe I am doomed to never understand. Just because an artist/label says that's what they play that doesn't mean it's true!

But with that issue aside, I do have to say that I feel a lot more positive about Mareridt as an album than I have ever done about M. The song-writing has felt stronger right from the first listen. There's an issue of identity though. Mareridt is too metal for folk fans to completely enjoy and also too non-metal to be of complete worth to the average metalhead. It ultimately comes over as the kind of album that was written without the artist sure of exactly what they wanted to make, so it's left sitting dead centre on the line between two worlds. And that's the key problem with it: it's exactly the same problem that I found M to have. To quote my earlier review of M, 'the album gives me the impression that Myrkur isn't really sure where she wants to be musically.' There's obvious growth as a musician to be found on Mareridt, but not enough decision making. This one I'll declare as a step in the right direction though.

KALMANKANTAJA Routamaa

Album · 2017 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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adg211288
Not content with just releasing Demonwoods (2017) earlier in the year, Finland's productive black metallers Kalmankantaja are already back for another dose of their newfound atmospheric sound in the form of Routamaa (2017), their eleventh album. The band was only started in 2011, releasing their debut Kuolonsäkeet (2013) a couple of years later. The band used to play depressive black metal, but have moved over to atmospheric black metal with their recent releases, with Demonwoods completely shedding any depressive vibes that were still prevalent on their two prior albums Waldeinsamkeit (2016) and Tyhjyys (2016).

Where Demonwoods was made up of two long songs with a short interlude between them, Routamaa instead features six tracks of much shorter durations, ranging from the 4:35 long Ikijää to the 7:27 long Varjon ja Tulen Jumala. This actually ends up with the release being a little bit longer overall, despite Demonwoods title track being a near full ten minutes longer than anything here. The change in songwriting approach may be a conscious attempt from Kalmankantaja to not make the same album twice. If so, the band haven't really been successful or unsuccessful in that regard. Shorter compositions are by their nature generally more direct, which these are, but style wise Routamaa is more or less on the exact same page as its predecessor: atmospheric black metal without any atypical elements, stripped back to its base ingredients without excessive reliance on ambient and/or post-rock.

While calling the music a fairly standardised sound for the atmospheric black metal genre was a description that could also be applied to Demonwoods, the former was at least marked by its long format songs, which were made more noteworthy by having twists and turns take place within them. These six found on Routamaa are solid enough and very listenable, with the very melodic Kylmä Ikuinen standing out from the bunch, but all come across as less interesting by comparison. Though still of what I think of as a mid-length in general it does seem as if considerably less happens within these six songs. The production gives the album a tad harsher sound this time around which may appeal more to certain crowds, but at the end of the day, for me, I can't find Routamaa to be anything more than another atmospheric black metal album coming out of what is one of metal's most over-populated sub-genres. Decent supplemental material if you enjoy the band's other work, but if you don't know them yet and are interested in a recent album, get Demonwoods instead.

PANOPTICON Kentucky

Album · 2012 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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progshine
Black Metal, in general, is a genre that does not work for me. Several times I tried to listen to the classic bands of the genre and never really liked anything. What is considered the nature of the genre (the precarious, amateur and coarse production) is for me a destruction of the ears.

I had no idea who Panopticon was, and I thought 'Kentucky' was one of those one-man-band thing that Black Metal has so much. When I was reading about the album I saw that people use the term 'Atmospheric Black Metal' for it (a pompous name that it means not so violent). However, 'Kentucky' is different! The production is not so bad and for Black Metal standards is even good. But not only that, Austin L. Lunn (the name behind the project) tried to merge Black Metal with ... Bluegrass ...

Okay, I admit, that caught my attention alone. But the truth is that 'Kentucky' does not mix both genres at all. I hoped Black Metal would be overrun by banjos and acoustic guitars, what we have instead are Bluegrass vignettes between the Black Metal tracks, which makes the album clumsy at times. There is not a fusion of the two genres, what we have, in fact, are two genres in the same album, we could even separate the album in Part 1 and part 2, who likes Black Metal hears one part, who likes Country another.

But in the end Kentucky surprised me, I (save rare exceptions) had never managed to make sense of Black Metal (still don't), and it's the first time a record of the genre has provoked a feeling that is not dislike. Actually 'Kentucky' is a good record. It suffers from the evil of the century, it is too long, it should have been shorter, no fillers, because Black Metal can be very tiring.

But it's worth a listen, even just out of curiosity.

WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM Thrice Woven

Album · 2017 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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Warthur
Wolves In the Throne Room took a good while to come up with a true black metal successor to Celestial Lineage; Celestite, the album that came between that and this, was fairly evidently a momentary diversion into electronic ambient music for the sake of stretching their musical muscles rather than a long-term future direction for the group.

With Thrice Woven, they return to the atmospheric black metal field with the lessons learned from Celestite integrated into their sound, with various ambient interludes woven into the album. These are always delicately and carefully constructed - we're not going full dungeon synth Casio keyboard early Mortiis here - and both the ambient sections and black metal sections are great, but at the same time they feel like just that - distinct sections which don't really feel like part of a cohesive whole. They do sit next to each other real purty though.

Whilst this isn't as essential as some Wolves In the Throne Room work, at the end of the day even second-tier Wolves represents a great ride as far as atmospheric black metal goes, and the wolves would seem to be secure on their thrones for the time being.

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