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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atmospheric black metal Music Reviews

YGG Ygg

Album · 2011 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Kharkiv, Ukraine is quite the prolific nook of Eastern European black metal with many bands emerging from its proximity however a closer look will yield the discovery that many of the same artists are involved in many different band projects and the atmospheric black metal YGG is the perfect example. This band so far has released one self-titled album which emerged in 2011 and has remained silent ever since. This is basically a side project of Nokturnal Mortem with bassist / vocalist Vrolok and drummer Odalv hooking up with the newbie / vocalist / guitarist Helg to create a slice of repetitive yet hypnotic atmospheric black metal unlike Nokturnal Mortum and more in the vein of the Russian band Walknut.

Yes, this is a trio but despite only bass, drums, guitars and vocals listed on most credits, there is also plenty of other sounds including something called the vargan or Russian Jew’s harp in intros especially in the annoyingly long 5 minute intro of the album which should be a dead giveaway as it reminds me of Nokturnal Mortem’s equally long intro on “Goat Horns.” Likewise since this is atmospheric black metal there are lots of keyboards albeit kept in the backdrop. Credits are unknown but they are so simply played that anyone could pull off the task of performing them making the identity of the musician irrelevant. The term YGG is interesting. In the Urban Dictionary it is an abbreviation of “You Go Girl” while another musical group of the same name is a trio of MCs that is short for: You Get Grime or You Grime Gods. This one is probably short for Yggdrasil.

Not much to say about this album. If you are familiar with atmospheric black metal then you’ve heard all this before. While the subject matter is Pagan in nature, the lyrics are unintelligible with the usually raspy screams emerging from the din. The musical flow is a lot like early Burzum with a focus on a stream of hypnotic flow of atmospheric black metal bombast rather than any sort of actual diversity in how the composiitons proceed. Unlike many black metal albums the bass and guitar are clearly separated into their own while the vocals are sort of frantic like early Summoning. The atmospheric elements are only audible during the more subdued moments but are present throughout the album’s hour plus 4 minute run. This album is often considered the unofficial followup to Walknut’s one and only album “Graveforests And Their Shadows” which came out in 2007 although there is no relationship other than the stylistic similarities.

YGG created a mixed bag of an album for my tastes. Everything is perfectly executed with the subdued tremolo picked energetic outbursts, better than usual percussive bombast and by the books screamed vocal outbursts but in the end nothing about this album really stands out from the legion of black metal bands that have come and gone over the years. There is nothing remotely epic as heard on Nokturnal Mortem’s best offerings however this is an interesting album in that despite the lack of creativity perfectly exhibits an atmospheric black metal approach that is flawless in its execution and therefore offers a perfect hypnotic trance inducing hour’s worth of atmospheric black metal hypnagogic splendor. Slightly better than average but not exactly a classic either. YGG needed to find some ways of differentiated itself from the multitude of Burzum copycats. Didn’t happen except for maybe a bit more intensity.

ELLORSITH Orbhàis

EP · 2018 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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UMUR
"Orbhàis" is the 2nd EP release by Scottish black/death metal act Ellorsith. The EP was released through Dark Descent Records in April 2018. The band´s first release was the "1959" EP from 2014 and in 2016 they released a split with Mannveira. I was personally quite intrigued by "1959" when it was released because of it´s combination of black and death metal elements, dark atmosphere, and concept story revolving around the "Dyatlov Pass Incident". A real-life incident which took place in the Ural mountains in 1959 Soviet, where 9 hikers led by Igor Dyatlov mysteriously died. There are quite a few theories regarding the incident, and everything from murder, to a compelling natural force (which was the official Soviet statement), to UFOs, to nuclear missile testing have been suggested (the group´s tent was tore open from the inside, and all 9 hikers left the tent without their shoes/boots in the freezing cold, and were found dead in odd positions on the mountain side).

So four years down the road and Ellorsith release another EP instead of giving us a full-length album...I´m not happy. But of course that should be read as a positive, as my sour mood is just due to me wanting more than an EPs worth of material (4 tracks and a playing time of 21:32 minutes). Ellorsith again deliver an intriguing combination of atmospheric black metal and death metal. The vocals are firmly placed in death metal growling territory, but the riffs, the occasional blast beats, and the cold and dark atmosphere of the music points in a more black metal oriented direction. It´s a powerful and clever combination, which works really well for the band. One other feature they use often are open chord dissonance, not completely unlike the riff style of artists like Ved Buens Ende, Virus, Void, and Code. It creates a dark mystique which is quite charming.

"Orbhàis" features a raw organic sound production, which suits the material perfectly. It´s not a lo-fi sound production, but definitely not in the clean end either. Ellorsith are obviously a well playing band too, so upon conclusion it´s another high quality release by the band. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved. Now give us that full-length...

NEGURĂ BUNGET Maiastru sfetnic

Album · 2000 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
After the ho hum debut album “Zîrnindu-să,” the Romanian extreme metal band NEGURĂ BUNGET found the stars aligning on the following EP "Sala Molksa” with the addition of Sol Faur (Cristian Popescu) as the second guitarist which really lifted the band’s sound up several notches. Add to that the more sophisticated progressive songwriting techniques as well as a better integrated strain of local folk music elements finding their way into the mix and the band had successfully strayed from mediocrity to becoming one of Eastern Europe’s most innovative atmospheric black metal bands. This trend continued on the second full-length album MăIASTRU SFETNIC (“Masterful Guide”).

This album shows an even more progressive development in the songwriting with six long tracks that stretch out over the 9 minute mark with the only exception being the 6 minute “A-vînt în abis.” Once again Hupogrammos (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Negru (drums) and Sol Faur (bass, guitars) conjure up an aggressive mystical experience that uses aggressive black metal as the template to create lengthy progressive workouts that result in a creepy journey through the Transylvanian forests with spooky atmospheric embellishments coinciding with buzzsaw guitar riffs and pummeling bass and drum rhythmic sections. The experience is augmented with connections to antiquity through the use of Romanian folklore and traditional sounds that would continue to increase up to the band’s most famous offering “Om.”

At this point the band exists in a rawer form of adrenalized second wave black metal however the music is enshrouded in a mystical brume of symphonic and artistic touches and overall comes off as rather hypnotic despite the orotundity and rage seeping out of every cadence ready to go in for the kill. The opener “Vremea Locului Sortit” sets the stage for the lengthy black metal workouts but tracks such as the idiosyncratic “In-Zvicnirea Apusului” add surprisingly incongruent extras, in this case the inclusion of theremin sounds which as far as i know had never been used in a black metal context up to this point. Despite the second wave black metal template, the compositions are carefully thought out with the atmospheric elements not simply playing in tandem with the aggressive guitar, bass and drums but rather playing together as partners with a greater focus in mind.

While many an extreme metal band with its eye on the progressive prize were implementing more elements of avant-prog and jazzy dissonance, NEGURĂ BUNGET was taking a different route altogether. This band was opting to retain the melodic and aggressive aspects of bands like Emperor and simply tease them out into much more epic runs, therefore the playing times were lengthening and the compositional sophistication came through the variations between the nooks and crannies. The production while filthy and raw, still feels frosted over by a fresh falling of icy cold snow but also portends that monsters are at large and awaiting any unsuspecting passers-by to succumb to their predatory nature. The music all in all is ominous and creepy but maintains an easily accessible stylistic approach. The vocals while exclusively in the raspy shouted camp are buried beneath the din and emerge from the pits of hell to deliver an anguished torturous frenzy.

There are many atmospheric metal albums that can sound cheesy but not the case with MăIASTRU SFETNIC which successfully integrates the elements into the filthy rawness without ruining their menacing effect. This is a great album to get lost in as the repetitive tracks meander on but change things up just enough as to prevent tedium from setting in. This is actually a really great black metal album that paved the way for the 21st century scene and single handedly put Romanian black metal on the map. While not as masterful and mind-blowingly beautiful as the band’s magnum opus “Om,” MăIASTRU SFETNIC is an excellent slice of amazingly consistent black metal that cops an Eastern European epic flair and displays the vast improvement of musicianship since the band’s 90s output.

YAKUT Fractal

Album · 2012 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
YAKUT is the one-man project of Kentforth (of 6 Degrees and Eastwood) from the frigid Siberian remoteness of Tomsk, Russia. This project was started in 2002 and technically still active however to date YAKUT has only seen two releases. The 2008 EP “Длиною в жизнь…” and this 2012 full-length release FRACTAL.

This DIY project takes liberties in mixing up a few genres. The sounds heard mix everything from atmospheric black metal and post-rock to trip hop and even some jazz but is pretty much simply referred to as avant-garde black metal. While the majority of the music is is a mix of instrumental meandering and heavier parts that include ferocious screamed raspy vocals. A few clean vocals sneak in.

For black metal this is extraordinarily melodic with a constant atmospheric background. The guitars are the buzzsaw type but set back in the mix so that the atmospheric elements have qual billing. Unlike much black metal, the bass is independent and fully audible. The drums are merely lazy beat keepers with a few notable exceptions.

While as unintelligible as many black metal lyrics, the themes focus on the cosmos, despair, pain and egocentrism and share the similar characteristics of many regions of that world that create this music where winter is long and the sunlight is limited.

The production is not bad but the project does have a DIY home recording sort of feel to it but that’s not a bad thing because it keeps a lo-fi veneer to the heavy distortion of the guitars. The tracks actually vary quite a bit making this an interesting listening experience which is an accomplishment considering how many DIY black metal projects can result in tedium.

While the atmospheric black metal parts can resemble early Burzum, the non-metal parts can sound very avant-garde, even jazzy at times. Also some alternative metal riffing styles pop up but generally speaking the guitar riffing is the standard tremolo picking at high speeds. While i don’t mind the trip hop bits, sometimes such as the intro on the title track they sound a little out of place as if Portishead suddenly joined in but then was interrupted by an angry outburst of bombastic black metal!

Overall this is a decent album although the electronica sounds at odds with the black metal at times but is saved by a keen sense of melodic drive and the metal bombast comes through especially in the angry vocals. While FRACTAL won’t go down in history as one of the best examples of the atmospheric black metal style, it’s much more interesting than i expected and deserving of more than a single listen for sure.

DELIRIA Nausea

Album · 2017 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Known as the Industrial City and a huge Hollywood sign spelling out its name on the mountain that lurks over it, South San Francisco is usually just drive through territory from the city of San Francisco to the SFO International Airport without much going on or much to speak of but as it turns out, there has been black metal being made somewhere within its spindly city limits that slink and wriggle all over the most northern reaches of the Santa Cruz mountain range. Nestled somewhere deep in this city unknown to the rest of the world is the atmospheric black metal band DELIRIA who mysteriously formed in 2017 and then released their only album so far NAUSEA.

While the band has recently expanded to five members, it started out as the trio of David Scanlon (guitars and various instruments), Adam Rupp (vocals) and Jared Klein (drums). This album only contains these three musicians delivering four tracks, three of which are normal length extending up to seven minutes with a fourth that goes on for over seventeen. Scanlon appears to be the bandleader on this on as he writes all the tracks. This album received a professional production touch at the Fang studios and came out the same year as the band’s official formation.

What we have here is a rather interesting if not remarkable style of atmospheric black metal. The tone is set up right on the very first track “Bad Faith” which begins with an arpeggiated clean guitar series of chords that delivers what sounds more like one of those 80s acoustic intros for thrash metal songs. It follows with a richer sound of a 12-string acoustic repeating the same exactly melodic sequence and it takes a few minutes before you actually realize that this is a black metal album and not an indie folk rock act. The lazy drumming joins in and at least it sounds like it’s in the rock genre but this introduction becomes tedious even as spoken words emerge from below but just as they do the black metal finally kicks in after three minutes of build up.

All four tracks basically follow the same pattern as the first. Soft clean buildups on acoustic guitars with atmospheric touches that erupt into an over-produced black metal guitar sound. The usual black metal traits are all present. The tremolo picking, the blast beatdrumming style, buried bass line and a thick cloudy atmospheric background. The second track “No Exit” starts with what almost sounds like a country rock type of groove it is grungy and accompanied by a lazy drumming style, the vocals are quite subdued in the mix and quite unintelligible. While the first track sounding OKish, this one sounds a little silly. Hmmm. Not a good sign is it? Carry on now.

The title track sounds like a reworking of “No Exit” with a different melodic tinkering. Yeah, it has some outbursts of heavier guitar work and some blasts of drum rolls but basically the same. It’s all quite clear at this point that this album isn’t anywhere close to being as colorful as the album cover suggests. Best for last? Not quite. The seventeen and a half minute closer “Hell Is Other People” pretty much begins like the first track with a clean guitar sequence and then begins to sum up the preceding tracks as if it were to remind us what we just heard. The only break from the monotony comes toward the end as the black metal fades out and an Italian pop song of the 60s perhaps closes the album. Now THAT was unexpected.

This album is fairly standard atmospheric black metal but really lacks any original touches. Add to that the production just doesn’t work and neither does the way the clean parts merge into the more aggressive. The juxtaposition of cheery melodies belies the fact that black metal is supposed to be scary and when it comes right down to it, the compositions are fairly bland as they are mere marches that don’t implement enough musical mojo to make this an interesting listen . It’s the kind of music that makes good background music as nothing is particularly bad per se but it’s certainly in the second decade of the 21st century, neither is it something that blows me away in any way whatsoever.

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