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
WODENSTHRONE
4.85 | 6 ratings
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PROGENIE TERRESTRE PURA oltreLuna Album Cover oltreLuna
PROGENIE TERRESTRE PURA
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SPECTRAL LORE III Album Cover III
SPECTRAL LORE
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MARE COGNITUM Luminiferous Aether Album Cover Luminiferous Aether
MARE COGNITUM
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FEN
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DRUDKH Кров у наших криницях (Blood in Our Wells) Album Cover Кров у наших криницях (Blood in Our Wells)
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PURE WRATH
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MARE COGNITUM
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NEGURĂ BUNGET
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atmospheric black metal Music Reviews

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.

A FOREST OF STARS Opportunistic Thieves of Spring

Album · 2010 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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Warthur
A Forest of Stars offers up a broader range of sounds than expected for black metal, even in the experimentation-happy realms of the "atmospheric" subgenre of it. Between them Mister Curse on shrieked vocals, T.S. Kettleburner on guitar and bass, and John "the Resurrectionist" Bishop on drums provide all the tools for the black metal side of the equation, but the inclusion of the Gentleman on synths and pianoforte and Katheryne, Queen of the Ghosts on violin and flute allows them to incorporate ambient, folk and Victorian chamber music influences into their sounds.

On this second album, they indulge themselves with long song structures that allow all of these diverse sounds to come together in a psychedelically-tinged blend. Like much of the atmospheric black metal subgenre, this isn't an album for dipping into and out of - you'll want to listen to it all the way through to get its full effect - but I'd say it's decidedly worth setting that listening time aside for.

MYRKUR Mareridt

Album · 2017 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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It's fair to say the M (2015), the debut full-length album by Danish atmospheric black metal/dark folk solo project Myrkur, the moniker of musician Amalie Brunn, made quite a splash in the metal scene when it was released, albeit one that resulted in a decidedly mixed reaction. While M was nothing if not a divisive album, it's obvious that a lot of the criticism it received got well out of hand, to the point that some of the album's detractors even launched personal attacks on Brunn as a musician and as a person. Fortunately Brunn seems to have been quite thick skinned to it and rather than be perturbed she's now back with her second full-length album, Mareridt (2017).

Mareridt is in some ways similar in M, but it's also very different once you get into it. The biggest change has to be that Myrkur has used a lot more pure folk elements this time around to the point that I'd even say these make up around half the album, what with full folk songs like Crown included and the influence cropping up in at least a small way in almost every track. There's still enough metal here to think of Mareridt as a metal album though. Most of the metal songs use atmospheric black metal rhythms, though that actually only means that four of them do; Måneblôt, Elleskudt, Ulvinde and Gladiatrix, as Mareridt, Crown, De Tre Piker and Ketteren are all pure folk songs, which leaves only three further tracks on the album that don't belong primarily to either genre. The atmospheric black metal parts, when present, feel much more honed and focussed this time, making them easier to recognise even with Myrkur's atypical use of clean vocals as her primary singing style.

The metal parts on Mareridt are more varied compared to M though thanks to a greater presence of doom metal influences, something I detected only ever so slightly on M. They're much more pronounced here, particularly on the tracks The Serpent and Funeral, the latter of which proves aptly named for its style as it seems closer to funeral doom metal to me than anything. Slow, heavy, subdued and sombre work and easily the darkest sounding song on the album. It also features Chelsea Wolfe on vocals and guitars. It's a short song, as are all the songs on Mareridt, lasting only three minutes, but it's enough to show that the two ladies work well together. One can only hope this will one day lead to a proper collaboration between the two. It's just screaming to happen with this track, which barely scratches the surface of what may be possible if they joined forces for a whole album.

Regarding the vocals, there are actually less growls on Mareridt than ever before in Myrkur's music, only really being used in a major way on singles Måneblôt and Ulvinde (with a little bit in the background on Gladiatrix). With those two tracks released first it was actually really surprising how growl-free the rest of Mareridt is, but maybe that is for the best. Myrkur does decent growls, particularly the ones on Måneblôt are easily the best and fiercest she's ever done, but clean singing is where she excels. Her ethereal voice works equally well with her folk music tracks, but also against the atmospheric black metal guitars. She's proof, if any was needed by this point, that it's perfectly possible for at least the atmospheric branch of this particular genre to exist without the traditional vocal style. With that said, the growled parts do really add some extra punch and if there's a criticism to be had it's that the album could do with a couple more of these moments. But only a couple more.

While the lower amount of metal may lessen Mareridt's appeal to the metal crowd, the album flows between its soft and heavy parts incredibly well, feeling natural and not forced. While I regard M highly, Mareridt certainly feels a lot more refined and ultimately comes across as the stronger release. While there are individual track highlights to be had, namely Måneblôt, Elleskudt, Funeral and Ulvinde, the overall short running time makes it a very easy album to experience in one sitting and that's the only way to do it if you want to hear all the elements work just right. The only real eyebrow raising moment is it's finale, Børnehjem, which features a voice over that sounds like a demonic little girl. It's basically an outro fortunately, but it makes me feel as if the audio track of a cheesy horror film got mixed in by mistake. I don't think it sounds bad, more like out of place with the rest of the release. Still, I can't hold the final 2:22 minutes against Myrkur when the rest of Mareridt is such quality work. It probably won't win over her most fervent haters, but those who enjoyed the self-titled EP (2014) and M, as well as acoustic live release Mausoleum (2016), are sure to find much to enjoy here.

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