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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PROGENIE TERRESTRE PURA oltreLuna Album Cover oltreLuna
PROGENIE TERRESTRE PURA
4.80 | 10 ratings
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WODENSTHRONE Curse Album Cover Curse
WODENSTHRONE
4.68 | 14 ratings
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WODENSTHRONE Loss Album Cover Loss
WODENSTHRONE
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MARE COGNITUM Phobos Monolith Album Cover Phobos Monolith
MARE COGNITUM
4.74 | 10 ratings
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SPECTRAL LORE III Album Cover III
SPECTRAL LORE
4.58 | 10 ratings
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ULVER Bergtatt: Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler Album Cover Bergtatt: Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler
ULVER
4.36 | 40 ratings
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BURZUM Hvis Lyset Tar Oss Album Cover Hvis Lyset Tar Oss
BURZUM
4.27 | 54 ratings
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FEN Winter Album Cover Winter
FEN
4.36 | 14 ratings
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NEGURĂ BUNGET OM Album Cover OM
NEGURĂ BUNGET
4.25 | 41 ratings
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SUMMONING Dol Guldur Album Cover Dol Guldur
SUMMONING
4.36 | 12 ratings
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ESOCTRILIHUM Mystic Echo From A Funeral Dimension Album Cover Mystic Echo From A Funeral Dimension
ESOCTRILIHUM
4.46 | 7 ratings
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MESARTHIM Isolate Album Cover Isolate
MESARTHIM
4.50 | 6 ratings
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atmospheric black metal Music Reviews

BOTANIST Ecosystem

Album · 2019 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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Kev Rowland
It is fair to safe that I’m not a massive fan of the only other release I have heard from Botanist, and I’m still not too sure about this one, but my mind is slowly starting to get around to understand what this incredibly different and experimental form of black metal is trying to achieve. They/he (apparently there is a collective, but I’m not sure if this is still a solo project by The Botanist or something else) like to be described as Green Metal, yet in normal parlance they would be thought of as a highly creative Experimental Avant-garde Black Metal outfit. Apparently, this is concept about the ecosystems of redwood forests on the West Coast of the United States, calling into question whether humanity has an operating 'ecosystem' of its own. Musically it is often based around a strident piano with heavy use of sustain, drums very much to the fore, with other instrumentation coming in and out.

It can be incredibly unsettling at times, like taking RIO to the extreme, and Art Zoyd being an obvious reference point, yet there are other times when it is quite brutal in its attack. Against that it can be lulling and gentle, the vocals being gently sung as opposed to be ripped from the throat by demons of Hades. This mix of instrumentation, sparse arrangements and vocals combine with a musical direction which is all over the place and in itself that is quite unsettling as the listener is never sure what is going to happen next, and whether it is a journey they really wish to complete. This certainly isn’t for the unwary, and due to the manner it straddles so many genres, it may find itself being too far removed from what is generally expected, to be accepted even by those who want their music to be weird and challenging. As for me, although it may not be something I will listen to repeatedly for pleasure, for some quite perverse reason I am very glad I have heard it. Most definitely this is one to play on Bandcamp before purchase, and it will take quite a few listens to don’t totally discard after the first one.

XASTHUR Nocturnal Poisoning

Album · 2002 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Starting out as a band in the not so black metal city of Alhambra in the Los Angeles region of sunny California, XASTHUR began as a band project in 1996 but due to clashes in personality and musical differences would soon become the solo project of Scott “Malefic” Conner who proved that you don’t have to emerge from the frigid northern regions of the planet to create some of the darkest and chilling sounds in musical form. The moniker came from a combination of “Hastur” and “Xenaoth” which ultimately came form a Necrononicon book and refers to a demoness who kills people in their sleep. And that pretty much is what this debut album NOCTURNAL POISONING is all about!

By the turn of the millennium the second wave of black metal had fully splintered into myriad directions with some bands taking a more symphonic approach while others going the direction of taking things even further into the darkness where lo-fi rawness was retained and subdued rage was turned inward into self-hatred and depression. Following in the footsteps of other depressive black metal bands like Bethlehem, Deinonychus and I Shalt Become, XASTHUR carried the torch of nurturing depressive themes, nihilism, hatred and self-mutilation while keeping an atmospheric otherworldly storm of gloom and doom humming along behind the distorted tremolo picking and raspy vocal angst.

NOCTURNAL POISONING emerged after a series of demos and splits and showcases a lengthy sprawling run of hideously grotesque black metal assaults that implement rhythmic marches that meander on with atmospheric mood setting keyboards that linger in the lugubrious zone. The album is a lengthy one and squeaks just over the 69 minute mark which makes this one a bit long to take in but in many ways the steady stream of depressive caustic guitars, blastbeats and atmospheric gloom and doom offer a hypnotic respite into a cathartic purging of demons from the soul. With aggressive assaults teased out into rampaging streams of consciousness, XASTHUR mastered the art of steadily injecting this sonic venom into your psyche and pushing all the dopamine buttons as it is literally addictive.

Black metal may all sound the same to the uninitiated but true believers know it’s all about the subtle differences beneath the bantering bombast and distorted din. XASTHUR is in the same field as bands like Leviathan, Stirborg, I Shalt Become and France’s Mutilation in that is remains true to the original second wave stylistic approach of early Darkthrone, Mayhem and Emperor but slows the tempos down a bit and adds keyboard delivered atmospheres for the sake of creating a frigidly horrific sonicscape that amplifies the depressive nature of this beast. Melefic is the god of this blackened universe and plays all instruments, rasps all vocals and pens all lyrics. This is a really decent black metal release if you want the darkest, bleakest examples of the genre where all hope is extinguished and the underworld is your eternal sentencing. Perhaps a bit too long for its own good as many tracks meander aimlessly but a perfect album for a cold bleak day when the right mood hits.

WHITE WARD Love Exchange Failure

Album · 2019 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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Warthur
White Ward's Love Exchange Failure has an album cover which looks like it might belong to, say, one of M83's ambient-synthpop releases, perhaps from around the same era as Before the Dawn Heals Us. As with the likes of other groups in the corner of atmospheric black metal called "blackgaze", appearances can be deceiving: this remains an album with a strong black metal presence.

It's not, by any means, purist black metal - rather, it's a broader sort of blackgaze-postrock-dark jazz soundscapearama, a musical mashup in which the sounds and techniques of black metal are merely part of the sonic toolkit that White Ward bring to the table - an essential enough part of the toolkit that those interested in the experimental reaches of the genre would likely be interested, but there are other important tools here too (the aforementioned postrock and jazz influences), to an extent that if you greatly prefer your black metal albums to be black metal all the way through without a break the quieter interludes may bug you. (That said, of course, atmospheric black metal in general isn't averse to including such elements on an album, so really that's a caveat which applies to the entire subgenre.)

STONE RAM GrauzaM

EP · 2018 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
One of the newer mystery bands out there, STONE RAM has only released a few singles in 2019 followed by this short three track EP titled “GrauzaM” which i assume refers to the German word “grausam” which means “cruel, horrible.”

Absolutely no info on this band but i sampled this short EP on its Bandcamp page just to check out some new sounds from far flung places. This band comes from Montrose, CO which is located in the western part of the state.

This band is also difficult to describe since all three of the tracks are completely different but each exciting enough that i really want to hear a full album from this guys. While the album cover resembles a typical black metal band, this group is anything but.

The opening “The Darkest Life I’ve Ever Known” is a gloomy dark ambient track with moaning synthesizer sounds and ghoulish whispers emerging from the darkness. A pretty cool opener for sure. It sounds like dude is “ghouling” in German but i’m not sure.

“Primal Obsession” is a riff based track. While the atmosphere is more in the black metal world, the riff is rather melodic and more like melo-death metal but really slowed down to mid-tempo while dude’s vocals are sort of croaking along in a semi-spoken manner. The drums lazily accompany the guitar but also provide some fills. There are spoken word samples that remind me of Skinny Puppy or Ministry so there is an industrial feel but the track then changes into a death metal styled riff session only with black metal creepiness. The process repeats.

“Till Fjell In Kaldt Av Gunnen” is the longest track but less than five minutes. It starts out with more film samples but then turns into a caustic black metal type of track with slow plodding guitar riffs and a slow drumbeat to match. The vocals are submerged beneath the din and are barely audible while the receptive guitar riffs hypnotizes. After the intro starts to seem like its dragging for too long, the steam picks up and the track flirts with death metal riffing along with some folky elements that sounds like Tyr but alternates between these. After an atmospheric ambient break with some Darth Vader breathing back to death metal business only once again it’s an interesting hybrid between death and black with the folk musical scales.

This one really makes me want to hear more! These musicians present many great ideas on this short 10 minute and 11 second EP that makes me excited to hear any potential debut album that will emerge. They got something that many are lacking and i can hear the potential oozing from its blackened pimply pores!

IMMORTAL SETH Darkness Fate

Album · 2012 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
While heavy metal’s most misbehaved offspring is well known in Western nations for its extreme blasphemy and anti-Christian stance, black metal is a more recent phenomenon in Islamic nations where in the most extreme cases can actually result in the death penalty when the theological gatekeepers deem certain content to be, well, blasphemous. No other nation is as conservative in this manner as Saudi Arabia, home of Mecca where Muslims make peregrinations to the epicenter of holiness. Until the internet age came along, Saudi Arabia was pretty much a completely closed off nation with only trickles of outsiders venturing in and more often than not watching their every move lest they rile the holy ire of the theological tyranny.

Times have changed even if the clergy firmly remain ossified in a theological stupor and since the age of the internet, what can’t physically penetrate the borders of the world’s strictest of Islamic republics, can certainly trickle in through cyberspace. Once reserved as an anti-Christian miscreancy with church burnings and sonically explosive live rants in concert, black metal has slowly but surely made it into these last bastions of religious dominance of the planet. With only about 12 acts that don the black metal tag from with the borders of Saudi Arabia, most of these acts remain anonymous in fear of their very lives as they berate the Islam traditions in the same manners as Norwegian angsty youths ruthlessly attacked anything remotely Christian.


One such act residing in Saudi Arabia’s capital city of Riyadh is the one-man band called IMMORTAL SETH. Having no resources much less record labels to host such frightful prospects that threaten the status quo, IMMORTAL SETH has found refuge not only through the internet but also with the Ukrainian label Depressive Illusions Records where this act’s first and so far only album DARKNESS FATE has been released in 2012. And even though this is technically an independent full album release, it just barely extends past the 28 minute mark so in many ways, this black metal act has been quite conservative itself in releasing music at least under this moniker. IMMORTAL SETH, despite its exotic location in the desert nation of roughly 32 million inhabitants, doesn’t care to blend too much of its local flavors in its pungent and caustic worship of European black metal acts but it does let them out on occasion.

IMMORTAL SETH lies somewhere between the purity of Darkthrone second wave black metal and some of the more modern atmospheric acts that offer a bit of keyboard glazed ambient backdrops to soften the orotund buzzsaw guitar attacks and blastbeat frenzies that pretty much evoke the quintessential black metal worship. DARKNESS FATE is roughly divided into three styles of sound. First there is the purely dark ambient segments which includes the entire opening track “Calling The Unknown” which seem to borrow from Western classical music traditions and translate them to dungeon-esque synth runs but in the process end up sounding a little cheesy. This also includes the track “Darkness Fate” as well as the throwaway bonus tracks at the end. There are also moments when the synth add-ons emerge within tracks.

For the most part, DARKNESS FATE is a rather by-the-books orthodoxy of black metal bombast right out of the second wave playbook. Raspy vocals, tremolo guitar picking, tritone blasphemy and percussive gusto to match, the unremarkably un-Middle Eastern stylistic approach comes across as any old angsty youth blowing off steam with his new recording equipment in the hopes of creating the next big thing in the underground world. The exception where IMMORTAL SETH actually allows his homegrown roots to shine is on the short middle track “Reborn” which delivers dark ambient in bellydance style and the other track “Dead End.” With Middle Eastern percussive rhythms and those instantly addictive musical scales, the caustic black metal quickly becomes a lo-fi worshipping session for what sounds like the Secret Chiefs 3 however metal and ethnic flavors remain segregated not allowed to play. Having gotten all that ambient mellowness out of his system, “The Rising” returns with the most angry explosive vocal attacks with guitars to match only its bogged down by the cheesy keyboards which sound cheap and in the long run ruin the overall feel for this album. The second Middle Eastern short track is delivered int he appropriately named “Dead End” which offers some acoustic guitar and leads into “Arabian Night” but the cheesy keyboards ruin the overall presentation. Add to that the ethnic folk parts are just really weak and don’t even begin to deliver the vitality that true Arabic music presents.

IMMORTAL SETH is more notable for its geographical environmental conditions than for the music itself. Ultimately there’s really nothing on DARKNESS FATE that hasn’t been done to death at this point and even though generic albums can be forgiven if done properly, the elements are misplaced leaving an unsatisfying feeling in the end. The ambient sections are too long and don’t gel well with the heavier metal. The album just comes off as lopsided and the Middle Eastern intermissions seem ridiculously out of place. What i really would’ve hoped to hear with on an album like this is a true mixing of ethnic influences with the black metal. Perhaps IMMORTAL SETH is busy in some undisclosed Riyadh dwelling crafting his true musical visions but for the most part, this just sounds like a warm up for something that never comes.

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