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

BLUT AUS NORD The Work Which Transforms God

Album · 2003 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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BLUT AUS NORD which began as the one-man band formed by Vindsval, was hardly anything out of the ordinary as this Mondville act from France joined a new legion of second wave black metal acts as they copied the likes of Darkthrone and Emperor while Scandinavia, particularly Norway was headquarters for the new depraved musical scene that was exploding onto the world’s stage. While starting out as a typical but satisfying atmospheric black metal band with the two 90s albums “Ultima Thulée” and "Memoria Vetusta I: Fathers of the Icy Age,” with Vindsval’s third attempt after working on other projects and focusing on BLUT AUS NORD, “The Mystical Beast of Rebellion” displayed that the French scene was taking the black metal scene to a new level with more intellectual subject matter as well as hitherto unthinkable experimental approaches that rankled the sensibilities of those stuck on the gerbil wheel of orthodoxies where many black metal purists find themselves stuck.

While the 20th century was clearly dominated by the Scandinavians, the 21st century saw French acts like Deathspell Omega, Peste Noire and Nehëmah transmogrifying the incessant brutality of the second wave into a more mysterious and even frightening leap of ingenuity. BLUT AUS NORD was one of the pioneers in this ascension of quality that added more progressive and experimental elements to the discordant angst and bombast of the 90s black metal scene. BLUT AUS NORD became a bona fide band in the 21st century with Vindsval on guitars and vocals along with GhÖst on bass and W.D. Feld on drums and keyboards. While “The Mystical Beast of Rebellion” pointed a new direction for BLUT AUS NORD to take, the following THE WORK WHICH TRANSFORMS GOD was the moment when the band hits its stride and struck a balance between traditional black metal, progressive rock and atmospheric experimentation which found a greater emphasis on both dark ambient and industrial textures.

The popularity of this album corresponded with the band signing on to a bigger record label. The band caught the attention of Candlelight Records and was immediately signed which resulted in the ability to craft an even more dynamic range of black metal possibilities and the ability to be exposed to a much larger audience. While a few brave black metal bands like Ved Buens Ende, Ulver and Dødheimsgard had delved into more avant-garde black metal expressions, most of these bands found little success until the French scene raised the expectations and crafted a more sophisticated expression of the grim brutal sounds that black metal had conjured up from dark forces. As a result of a label shift and a leap in artistic growth, BLUT AUS NORD launched itself with the intricate ugliness presented on THE WORK WHICH TRANSFORMS GOD which weaved the black metal orotundity with a psychedelic soup of dark ambient sounds, industrial backdrops and avant-garde methodologies peppered with off-kilter progressive time signature shifts and hypnotic death marches into a gravity-free abyss.

One of the most prominent features of this particular new wave of French black metal is the use of extreme dissonance that are interlaced with thick heavy atmospheres fortified with echoey delayed feedback, hypnotic looped rhythms and the use of eerie creepy tempos that find ghostly vocals reaching out from the void. The final track titled “Procession Of The Dead Clowns,” adequately sums up the entire experience of THE WORK WHICH TRANSFORMS GOD with jittery guitar riffs, suffocating atmospheric cloud covers and steady marches into the unknown. While very different than much of the 90s black metal scene, BLUT AUS NORD retained the tremolo guitar rampages, growled raspy vocals and occasional blastbeat drumming that despite emanating from drum machines doesn’t sound out of place in this lifeless sonic zone.

While much of 90s black metal can come off as a one-dimension tritone fascination that focuses on anti-Christian rants or misanthropic outrage, BLUT AUS NORD tackled more esoteric wisdom that while not discernible by the vocals are clearly expressed in the track titles, a trait that would become popular as occult theologies became the focus of thematic explorations over mindless juvenile angst. Godflesh obviously played a huge role in influencing the creepy crawly industrial tracks however BLUT AUS NORD crafted a unique musical vision that set itself apart from the legions of second wave imitators. Laced with a plethora of unsettling sounds that accompany the ceaseless plodding of drums and riffs, THE WORK WHICH TRANSFORMS GOD sounds as if it’s a musical world that drifts in and out of our dimensional reality as tunings veer slightly out of tune and back in an oscillating undulating wave of dissonance and even more dissonance. The hypnotic nature of the album finds mid-tempo stomps creepily infiltrated by weird squeals, screeches and psychedelic ooze. All in all, this is a masterful display of musical darkness wrapped in a metaphysical display of esoteric wisdom. A triumphant expression of the dark arts in music form.

BLUT AUS NORD Hallucinogen

Album · 2019 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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Purple is the new black! Well at least for a small strain of black metal bands that have engaged in steering the sub-genre of the metal world into a more psychedelic direction that was once only reserved for anti-Christian rants and misanthropic rage backed by incessantly brutal noise. In recent years many bands have expanded the black metal paradigm to tackle a more cosmic and esoteric approach with bands like Oranssi Pazuzu, Darkspace, A Forest Of Stars and a new legion of black metal artists that have merged the dark arts with post-rock, psychedelic rock and surreal dark ambient. One of the pioneers of the experimental and progressive realms of black metal, France’s BLUT AUS NORD has undergone many changes in its 25 year career releasing countless albums, EPs and splits.

While starting out as the one man project by Vindsval that crafted atmospheric black metal with dark ambient and dungeon synth sounds, the project became a fully fueled band project and with the release of 2003’s landmark album “The Work Which Transforms God,” launched BLUT AUS NORD into the big boy’s club of black metal artists with a groundbreaking mix of atmospheric gloom with black metal bombast, dark ambient rituals and laced with frigid cold industrial sounds. The band has continued to challenge the listener with progressive elements and touches of the avant-garde but for all intents and purposes has firmly and steadfastly remained a black metal band never allowing the additional elements to supersede the core sounds that Vindsval had set forth from the very beginning.

In the 2010s there has been a new trend in the ever expanding black metal universe, that being the merging of psychedelic elements with the already established atmospheric darkness into the black metal bombast. Bands like Oranssi Pazuzu have come from the underground into the mainstream and demonstrated how such sounds can take the listener to completely new dimensions of sonic possibilities and now some of the older more established bands are starting to take notice. With its 16th full-length studio album BLUT AUS NORD sheds the industrial elements that has served it well for the many albums and has instead adopted a more atmospheric approach that is rooted in the psychedelic side of the equation and with an album titled HALLUCINOGEN with what appears to be psychotropic fungal spores against a purple background of out space, it is obvious indeed that Vindsval has steered his baby in a new direction.

HALLUCINOGEN continues the trend of the mysterious prog laced black metal streams of consciousness that border on a post-rock menagerie of atmospheric swarms of sound that provide the proper contrasts however the new BLUT AUS NORD has abandoned the darkened industrial sounds for a spacier atmospheric delivery with a chorus of chanting intermittently giving some sort of sermon in the background while melodic black metal guitar riffs pummel away offering just a tinge of grating dissonance in the tuning but don’t stray too distantly from easy to follow journeys into orbit. The tracks are lengthy but not too long with the maximum time run of the opening “Nomos Nebuleum” sprawling past 8 minutes and the shorts just over 6. The seven tracks are all similar in their approach, namely sprawling soundscapes of distorted guitar, suffocating atmospheric cloud covers along with raging black metal vocals that are low in the mix that sound as if they are struggling to emerge from the din.

Overall, BLUT AUS NORD has taken a route that emphasizes the atmospheric constructs to the point where they have equal billing. While the lines are murky regarding more recent metal delineations of sub-genres, HALLUCINOGEN tends to sound more like the blackgaze and post-black metal of bands like Deafhaven than what BLUT AUS NORD has done in the past but still retains those familiar metal riffing marches with proggy touches. The dreamy choirs mixed with the harmonic interplay of the guitar and bass along with the controlled drumming that breaks into furious outbursts when called for, conspire to create an intricately designed methodology that even occasionally breaks into black’n’roll bursts of energy. BLUT AUS NORD has remained one of the most consistent bands of the genre and on HALLUCINOGEN it looks like this French outfit is not going to become irrelevant any time soon.

BLUT AUS NORD The Mystical Beast of Rebellion

Album · 2001 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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BLUT AUS NORD formed all the way back in 1994 as the solo project of Vindsval but as a black metal band only managed to release two albums in the 90s however on “Ultima Thulée” and “Memoria Vetusta I: Fathers of the Icy Age,” what began as a somewhat traditional atmospheric black metal project slowly developed into more progressive and experimental realms outside the orthodoxies of the typical Darkthrone inspired second wave. While its questionable if the project was intended to be a permanent ongoing one or just one of many to see which experiments find the biggest audience, after 1996’s “Memoria Vetusta I,” Vindsval set the project aside for five whole years while he dabbled in other bands such as “Children Of Maani” and “The Eye.”

After all was said and done, it seemed that the BLUT AUS NORD albums were gaining the most traction so that was the trajectory Vindsval has remained on ever since. It wouldn’t be until 2001 that BLUT AUS NORD would officially release the third album THE MYSTICAL BEAST OF REBELLION and for the first time session musicians were given credit. Vindsval handled the usual guitar and vocal combo pack, W.D. Feld performed on drums and keyboards whereas Nahaim handled bass duties. This third offering was basically a transition album from the project’s second wave black metal roots to the more esoteric experiments that followed. This album has appeared in two significantly different forms.

The original release with the darkened hues of brown and mysterious symbolic faces on the album cover consisted of only six tracks, each titled “The Fall” followed by “Chapter” and the accompanying Roman numeral. Often considered one of the weakest early BLUT AUS NORD albums due to the inconsistent quality, the album was re-released in 2010 with a completely different album cover. That one displayed a strange MYTHICAL BEAST that looks like what i would imagine to be a were-goat if such a thing existed. This re-release contains a second album or disc that adds an additional three tracks but due to the more progressive and experimental nature, these three tracks approach the 40 minute mark and essentially constitute a new album. I highly recommend this version if you set out to purchase this album as it’s this second bonus album that is far superior to the ho hum original track listing.

The original album is very much a mixed bag. In fact mostly an empty bag. The first four tracks almost sound like the same mix of repetitive guitar riffs and chord progressions with only minor variations undetectable to the passive listener. Sounding more like early Darkthrone than anything of the 21st century progressive era of BLUT AUS NORD, it’s almost as if Vindsval resurrected some demos out of the vault just to take up space. Not a stellar idea for an album that emerged five years after its predecessor. Hardly anything to get excited about given the quickened evolution of the black metal paradigms splintering into disparate factions. About as exciting as a faux bloodbath in Easter egg dye. It’s amazingly dull and monotonous. Only the beastly calls in between tracks stand out as something to pinpoint one’s attention upon. If there’s ever a black metal album that can put you to sleep, the first four tracks of this one should do the trick.

Luckily the album redeems itself from being a total waste of time with track 5, “The Fall: Chapter V” which suddenly transmogrifies into a bona fide interesting listening experience. The beastly calls announce the change and instead of a quickened buzzsaw guitar riff-fest in hyperdrive, the tempo is slowed down into a doomy dirge-like dread and the beast grunts continue as the track plods along with heavy distorted guitars, a murky hidden bass and a lazy drumbeat slowly build the gloomy atmospheric cloud covers and then begin to ratchet up the tension with bizarre guitar antics. Some kinds of guitar bends and a huge improvement in vocals over the generic nature of the earlier tracks. The finale “The Fall: Chapter VI” continues the developments and is equally enthralling however the album ends with an irritating 3 minutes of silence. I HATE THAT!!!!!

NOW, ABOUT THE RE-ISSUE, the ONLY ONE TO CHECK OUT REALLY

Given the lackluster selections presented on the original mostly demo quality release of THE MYTHICAL BEAST OF REBELLION, it was a wise decision for Vindsval to make it worthwhile for newbies to add a bunch of bonus material and i’m happy to say that this bonus material is far superior to anything on the original release. Stylistically these three newer tracks are intended to supplement the original material by keeping the theme intact. Therefore we get “The Fall: Chapter 7.7” followed by the two more same titles that tack on “7.77” and “7.777” which adds a little twist. These tracks display the same doomy plodding of the “Chapters V” and “VI” but takes those ideas to the logical conclusions. The tracks retain the same snail’s pace trot but are fortified with extremely angular riffs with jangly dissonance indicating that the emergence of Deathspell Omega’s popularity since the first release in 2001 clearly played a role in Vindsval’s approach.

The three tracks comprise a complete album’s worth of material. “Chapter 7.7” slinks over the eight minute mark, “Chapter 7.77” oozes past the nine and the grand finale “Chapter 7.777” clocks in at 21 seconds past the 19 minute mark however as lengthy as these tracks are, they all share the same characteristics. All slowly stomp down black metal alley with jagged razor sharp guitar angularities and deeply buried raspy vocals not so prominent as on the original release. The progressive elements are subtle but distinctly complex as the tritone attack of the guitars, bass and drums drift in and out of sync while darkened atmospheric overcasts keep the darkened doom effect in full obscureness. Overall both discs of this collection are extremely repetitive and hypnotic however it’s this second newer one that offers more subtle variations that keep the listening experience more active and also at this point BLUT AUS NORD has mastered the art of sonic terror, which has remained a steadfast trait of the underground extreme metal scene of France.

The original release of THE MYTHICAL BEAST OF REBELLION is perhaps the weakest album in the project’s lengthy canon and only worthy of 2 stars, however the second disc is an intricately designed slab of blackened doom metal worthy of a 4 star rating so if i had to average the two albums together then it’s an obvious 3 stars. I cannot stress though how imperative it is to only purchase the version of this album with the bonus tracks. I simply pretend that the second disc is what the original album was supposed to be and ignore what actually was put out in 2001. Still though even the original isn’t a complete waste of time, only about 2/3 of it is. Vindsval would completely resurrect BLUT AUS NORD from hibernation and never again allow so much time to lapse between albums. His next album “The Work Which Transforms God” took things to an even more sophisticated level and brought the project into the big boys club of extreme metal and things would never be the same.

BLUT AUS NORD Memoria Vetusta I: Fathers of the Icy Age

Album · 1996 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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Sure the Scandinavian nations were the first dementors of doom and din to usher in the first raging sonic fury of the black metal universe starting all the way back in the 80s when Bon Jovi was still “Living On A Prayer,” but as the 21st century wrested control over an expired millennium, it seems that the nation of France was poised to take the reins and steer the black metal beast into far more bizarre experimental arenas. Initiated by the Satanic theologies of Deathspell Omega, France has since consistently generated some of the most far-reaching examples of avant-garde and progressive black metal ranging from the medieval melancholy of Peste Noire to the psychedelic ambient surreality of Murmuüre.

The Mondeville based BLUT AUS NORD is amongst the early pioneers of more progressively infused black metal. Basically the solo project of Vindsval, the project started out in 1993 with two demo releases appearing before the 1995 debut “Ultima Thulée” which joined the wolf pack of black metal artists who were quickly expanding the subgenere’s range into an ever diversified sound spectrum. Defiantly ahead of the pack, the albums of the 1990s may not quite be as complex as the one’s that followed but on the second BLUT AUS NORD album titled MEMORIA VETUSTA I: FATHERS OF THE ICY AGE the blueprints were designed for a diversified soundscape to expand its tentacles into ever progressive pastures.

By incorporating icy atmospheres and expansive progressive meanderings, Vindsval was well on his way to becoming one of the 21st century’s masterminds of black metal evolution. MEMORIA VETUSTA I: FATHERS OF THE ICY AGE basically picks up where “Ultima Tulée” left off with the ideas presented evolving into more majestic monstrous black metal magic. All instruments once again played exclusively by Vindsval, MEMORIA VETUSTA I stands out in the sea of anti-Christian rage and Viking metal odes of yore and tackles the more esoteric subject matter that revolves around metaphysical subjects and all things deeply occult. The compositions are extended into massive sprawls of buzzsaw guitar distortion oscillating over the horizons of frigid winter landscapes accompanied by murky bass lines, percussive bombast and atmospheric cloud covers.

Upon first listen, BLUT AUS NORD can sound a lot like any other black metal band from the second wave of the 90s. Tremelo picking guitar style distorted to high heaven, buried raspy vocals screaming out from the suffocating din and an energetic percussive bombast that while not exactly blastbeating, still offers a veritable drum kit workout or two. Where BLUT AUS NORD stands out at this period of time is in the sophistication of how the compositions are constructed. Eschewing the simple straightforward approach, BLUT AUS NORD tackled more labyrinthine song structures that wend and win through various passages with an infinite supply of riffing variations and occasional outbursts into folky medieval sounding clean vocals that evoke a connection to the Viking metal scene of the north.

For those who are initiated, there actually is a storyline buried in the raw lo-fi outbursts of noise laden orotundity but for those not inclined to follow the epic tales of wolves and dwarfhills, then a completely ignorant approach is even more mystifying and probably even more gratifying as many of these storylines don’t pass the muster under closer scrutiny. Along for the ride on the undulating peaks and troughs of the guitar riffs are higher register guitar licks that often threaten to burst into fully fueled solos but they always stop short and simply repeat the melody in a more pronounced manner above the raging riff machine from whence it spawns.

All in all, MEMORIA VETUSTA I: FATHERS OF THE ICY AGE is a very mature second offering from one of France’s most enduring examples of progressively infused black metal and an excellent bridge into the more avant-garde and experimental releases to follow. Loaded with sophisticated twists and turns and icy atmospheres guiding the journey through a never-ending journey, BLUT AUS NORD’s earliest albums may not tackle the same eeriness that the later more acclaimed albums touch upon but are excellent examples of black metal in their own right. Musically, MEMORIA VETUSTA I falls somewhere between the intense fury of early Emperor albums and the slower tempos of Greek pioneers such as Rotting Christ. The compositions exhibit sophistication and variations but unleash them subtlety and in a very reserved manner. This is the type of music that engages in a stampeding repetition and just changes things up a little every now and then until you realize that everything has become something else. Best of all, this is a consistent album from beginning to end.

YGG Ygg

Album · 2011 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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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.

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