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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Key To a Vanishing Future
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SYLVAINE
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Tálcunnana dëhajma
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Crystalline Exhaustion
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atmospheric black metal Music Reviews

OSTOTS Madarikazioa

Album · 2022 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
The Basque regions of Spain and France aren’t widely known around the world except for the rare interest of linguists who have deemed the Basque language as an isolate not related to any other. Basque metal likewise hasn’t exactly taken the world by storm either but with decades of separatist tendencies and a constant tension brewing between the nation states that the Basque people find themselves in, it only makes logical sense that angsty extreme metal would crop up in that part of the world.

While i couldn’t name a single Basque metal band before, now i can! OSTOTS is the one-man atmospheric black metal project of IA which was started as far back in 2004 near the city of Bilbao. With an endless stream of EPs and splits, OSTOTS has certainly been no stranger to deepest recesses of the metal underground and returns in 2022 with his fourth full-length album MADARIKAZIOA which is Basque for “The Curse.”

Interesting that this album is not available as a digital download and so far released on vinyl only but fear not insatiable black metal addicts who find their pockets devoid of ca$h, this one is on YouTube for all to enjoy. I’m not familiar with OSTOTS so have no reference to compare previous works but according to record label Altare, MADARIKAZIOA follows in the path of “Lainoak Estaltzen Duena & Hilda Jaio tracks (from the split LP with Gaua).” What that means is a rampaging style of buzzsaw guitars, inaudible bass, consistent atmospheric key changes and ferocious drumming that shows major skill.

The black metal aspects are more in the depressive department but unlike most in that category, OSTOTS employs quickened tempos and that classic pissed cat vocal rage that reminds me of early Negura Bunget amongst others. The riffing offers a bit of groove as well with a more angry version of black’n’roll but the overall atmosphere of the album is dark and depressing with caustic tones and furious rage stampeding across the soundscape with eerie detached keyboards offering the final depressive icing on the cake. The production seems to find that perfect balance between lo-fi second wave and the bit more polished of the 21st century.

Overall this is quite the enjoyable black metal album even if not reinventing the wheel in any way. In many ways as generic as the album cover art yet i’m a sucker for extremely effectively executed extreme metal with above average instrumental interplay. The attention paid to the varying tones, timbres, tempos, distortion, vocal phrasing etc conspire to infect your soul with an extremely well crafted atmospheric black metal experience. OSTOTS is the real deal and i couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the world of Basque flavored black metal than MADARIKAZIOA.

ILLUMINATION Worship Death More Than Life

EP · 2022 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Joining the ranks of a new wave of space themed atmospheric black metal bands that adopt aspects of the world of death metal, Brazil’s ILLUMINATION formed in Rio de Janeiro in 2020 and released last year’s demo “Occult Science” which caught the attention of the Mexican label Personal Records and a year later ILLUMINATION debuts with its first EP titled WORSHIP DEATH MORE THAN LIFE.

Graced with wickedly cool cover art, WORSHIP DEATH MORE THAN LIFE embodies the frigid bleakness of the visual artistic expression with a depressive style of black metal made all the frostier with a bleak suffocating atmospheric backdrop. This EP of seven tracks clocks in at 27 1/2 minutes and features an excellent array of speed fueled jangly guitar chords plucked in full tremolo affect with blackened distortion and rampaging angst. The vocals however are somewhere in between the raspy world of black metal and the more guttural growls of death metal which makes this a distinct hybrid that doesn’t really sound totally at home in either genre.

Atmospheric excess is the name of the game for ILLUMINATION which works quite well in the world of oft monochromatic black metal. This EP is fueled with nice opening mood enhances including the 2 minute intermission “UY Scouti” and the closing “Dead Photons” which are short instrumentals that focus on the sonic terror of Luciferianism and sci-fi fantasies. “Thy Darkness” on the other hand does sound more like a black metal act with angry gurgled vocals in the vein of classic black metal acts like Immortal and a gazillion others. This band excels at both providing authentic black metal chops and nice ambient / atmospheric accompaniments.

What works so well about ILLUMINATION is that although it hasn’t branched off into its own subsection of the deathened black metal universe quite yet, it seems as if it could very well do so and each track is distinct thus providing the EP with the diversity of styles and sounds that is very much needed to make an enthralling listening experience. One of the highlights is “Venus Shukra” which features a typical black metal bleakness but is fueled by an anthemic folk metal musical scale but also adds interesting arpeggiated guitar sections, spoken word declarations and lots of ambient excursions before erupting into a Mayhem styled black metal rampage.

With the explosion of black metal acts in the last decade it’s hard to believe that this genre could spawn so many competent and dynamic acts but ILLUMINATION is yet another excellent band to enter the scene and also showcases Brazil’s ever growing relevance on the world’s stage by producing a whole slew of excellent bands in recent years. I love this one much more than i could’ve imagined and eagerly await the band’s full-length debut. WORSHIP DEATH MORE THAN LIFE may sound like a suicide pact but in a way it makes you wanna live if for no other reason than to hang out long enough to see what this band will produce next!

SYLVAINE Nova

Album · 2022 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Kathrine Elizabeth Shepard better known by her stage name SYLVAINE has spent the last decade utilizing her skills as a classically trained multi-instrument to craft her unique mix of post-rock, shoegaze and black metal which showcases not only her instrumental talents but her siren-like vocal deliveries and best of all an uncanny ability to craft dreamy soundscapes that sign a truce with their caustic kin of angsty black metal shoegaze = blackgaze in a way unlike any other.

SYLVAINE is back with her 4th full album NOVA which once again features her as the solo performer with the assistance of Dorian Mansiaux as a session drummer and a competent violinist and cellist. Each album has subsequently found SYLVAINE adding more elements of ferociously fueled black metal in the company of her established dream pop fueled post-rock and one listen to her newest release NOVA will make you consider if the ethereal darkwave Dead Can Dance has suddenly added black metal to its neverending recipe.

Existing somewhere between the world of dreamy world of ethereal wave and the more caustic nature of blackgaze, SYLVAINE has crafted a unique niche that captures the essence of all the aforementioned musical genres and deftly merges them into a unifying force which is what makes NOVA such a divine musical experience that features SYLVAINE alternating between heavenly diva mode to raging raspy nastiness and at key moments providing the heaven and hell call and response dualities which give this album a bizarre one-woman beauty and beast effect.

The metal-free opening title track sets the tone of the album which relies more on a stellar layering effect of the production values which allows the dream pop characteristics of the strong melodies to capture your soul while SYLVAINE’s angelic lyrical delivers melt your soul but as the second track “Mono No Aware” suddenly breaks into the more orotund heavy riffing of black metal, the album takes a complete 180 as the two tracks are seemingly from two completely separate artists. The beauty of NOVA is how from this point on the two disparate stylistic approaches slowly begin to integrate.

Overall NOVA is more of an ethereal wave / post-rock album than a black metal one as the bombastic metal moments are reserved for contrast while the dreamy atmospheric lushness dominates the album’s running time of nearly 50 minutes. Whether you consider this music a form of dark neofolk, dream pop, neoclassical darkwave or post-blackgaze dream folk isn’t really relevant. When all is said and done, SYLVAINE has a unique way of throwing all these styles in a blender and making them her own even when recalling the works of Myrkur, Lisa Gerard or other similarly minded artists.

I guess what’s missing from this album is a more dynamic array of vocal styles. True SYLVAINE has mastered those angelic dreamy sequences and even has the chops for those raspy black metal attacks but other than those two comfort zones there isn’t much variation. NOVA is either set to arpeggiated clean guitar mode with swarms of ethereal counterpoints or black metal angst. While the two merge from time to time, the emphasis is on ethereal astral travel beyond the confines of Earthly limitations. While the black metal aspects are a welcome breaking of the mediative spell, they would be more effective if they were left off the leash a bit more as the album begins to start feeling a bit samey towards the end. Any way you slice it, SYLVAINE is a formidable talent who continues to show growth and maturity so keep your eyes on this talent.

TRHÄ Tálcunnana dëhajma

Album · 2022 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
First of all the site has a character limit for titles but the real album title is:

Tálcunnana dëhajma tun dejl bënatsë abcul’han dlhenisë ëlh inagat, jahadlhë adrhasha dauzglën nu dlhevusao ibajngra nava líeshtamhan ëf novejhan conetsë danëctsë kin, ëf tu dlhicadëtrhënna bë ablhundrhaba judjenan alhëtangrasë shidandlhamësë inkom

The atmospheric black metal / space ambient act TRHÃ remains an enigmatic mystery with little to nothing known about it except for the fact it’s a one-person project of Thét Älëf who constructs a bizarre mix of lo-fi black metal mixed with ambient and atmospheric backings. Having only emerged in 2020, TRHÃ has been quite ambitious with an album and EP emerging in 2020, an album, 3 EPs and a split with Celestial Sword in 2021 and now in early 2022 another album.

This release has to be the most ridiculously titled album of the year so far with an unpronounceable lengthy title in some fictitious language. “Tálcunnana dëhajma tun dejl bënatsë abcul’han dlhenisë ëlh inagat, jahadlhë adrhasha dauzglën nu dlhevusao ibajngra nava líeshtamhan ëf novejhan conetsë danëctsë kin, ëf tu dlhicadëtrhënna bë ablhundrhaba judjenan alhëtangrasë shidandlhamësë inkom” features 31 words in a fictitious language from who knows where but only features one lengthy title track that just misses the 45-minute mark. This release is basically a lengthy procession of raw lo-fi black metal accompanied by dungeon synth and ambient electronica.

Similar to black metal acts like Paysage D’Hiver, Bekëth Nexëhmü and Knokkelklang, TRHÃ is more interested in conjuring a bleak ominous layered atmosphere of sounds that the black metal buzzsaw guitar, bass and drums can rampage to. This is about as lo-fi as you can get as it adopts those early second wave production values such as early Darkthrone to offer a monochromatic view of a dungeony scenario. To be honest the whole thing is rather cartoonish as the keyboard melodies are often like jingles and the raspy vocals often sound like a helium balloon installation gone wrong. The constant screaming reminds me of early Summoning more than anything.

This album has been getting its lion’s share of attention due to the over long album title but in reality isn’t anything that gets me too excited since there are plenty of similarly minded black metal albums that are much better. Paysage D’Hiver for example has a huge canon of albums that maximizes all the effects of this stylistic approach without ever becoming cheesy whereas this release has plenty of head scratching moments that rub me the wrong way and break the spell of the mood that is intended. This is a worthy release to check out but unfortunately the keyboard tones totally derail the experience for me and leave me wanting to fulfill this experience with one of Paysage D’Hiver’s now classic albums.

PURE WRATH Hymn to the Woeful Hearts

Album · 2022 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Indonesian metal is truly coming of age with new bands simply killing it in terms of creativity, quality and delivery of kick ass head banging splendor! PURE WRATH is just one example of how various regions of the world that have been suppressed due to political stagnation, foreign interference and the like have been roadblocked in so many ways. Well no longer! Creative souls lurking in every nook and cranny of the globe are sallying forth to claim their stake in the larger metal universe and catching the attention of the larger metal world at large. Yay!

PURE WRATH comes from Bekasi which is a suburb of sort of the Indonesian capital city Jakarta. This is basically the solo project of the one-man band Januaryo Hardy better known as Ryo who has played in other “real” bands like Cadavoracity, Omnivorous, Perverted Dexterity and Vomit Larynx! While completely in control of the project, like many so-called solo artists, Ryo is actually accompanied by other musicians and in this case in addition to his vocal, guitar, bass and synthesizer performances recruits the efforts of drummer Yuril Kononov, pianist / cellist Dice Midyanti and guest guitarist Nick Kushnir.

Despite the help on board, basically Ryo himself has crafted his own black metal universe where he steers his own existential angst into musical form mostly resulting form the the tumultuous history of his own homeland that resulted in the mass killings that took place in 1965-66. HYMN TO THE WOEFUL WORLDS is PURE WRATH’s third full-length and is somewhat of a concept one revolving around a single woman who survived the massacres and the ultimate demise of her son. Of course this is black metal and you can’t really hear the lyrics but i’m sure there’s transcripts out there somewhere!

Lyrically PURE WRATH delivers some hard pills to swallow in terms of truth telling regarding the locality of the horrors and atrocities that many would prefer to bury and be done with. Musically Ryo displays his competence in the world of metal music by not only delivering a beaut of atmospheric black metal but showcases a diverse palette in layering melodies over black metal bleakness and atmospheric ambience. Despite the atmospheric and ambient qualities that this album exudes in abundance, the black metal sounds are in pure raging form as in the spirit of 90s second wave classic from Mayhem, Darkthrone, Immortal and Satyricon but in the slower more contemplative moments, PURE WRATH can be quite beautiful with cello laced symphonic ecstasy showcasing the come down moments when rage becomes exhausted.

As far as subject matter is concerned, this is a hard hitting album indeed with references to true events from Indonesia’s checkered history but as far as musical performances are concerned this one isn’t really anything out of the ordinary as far as the by now well established mix of atmospheres and second wave black metal are concerned. Truly a competent album if not taking the genre into any new pastures but there is a raw emotional tug to this album that beckons unlike many others these days and dare i say that it is from the fact that this is from Indonesia rather than from Norway? I mean come guys, what the fuck does someone from Norway really have to complain about despite the frigid temperatures that exist outside of the saunas? This is truly emotive black metal rage from the heart. Bravo!

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