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Pagan Black Metal is a sub-genre of Black Metal music that musically sits somewhere between the traditional black metal sound as pioneered by the early Norwegian black metal scene and Melodic Black Metal. The atmosphere of the genre is generally raw and primitive sounding yet the guitars tend towards a less abrasive and more melodic tone. In addition, pagan black metal makes use of a degree of folk influences, either played on real instruments or replicated through modern technology. Clean singing will often be featured alongside black metal growling. It shares some similarities to Viking Metal, and due to its folk elements many pagan black metal artists have also produced releases that may be considered fully-fledged Folk Metal.

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NAGELFAR Hünengrab im Herbst Album Cover Hünengrab im Herbst
4.64 | 15 ratings
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HAVUKRUUNU Uinuos syömein sota Album Cover Uinuos syömein sota
4.62 | 4 ratings
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HAVUKRUUNU Kelle surut soi Album Cover Kelle surut soi
4.40 | 6 ratings
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CNOC AN TURSA The Forty Five Album Cover The Forty Five
4.40 | 5 ratings
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АРКОНА Храм Album Cover Храм
4.33 | 6 ratings
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NOKTURNAL MORTUM Weltanschauung Album Cover Weltanschauung
4.25 | 14 ratings
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WYRD Heathen Album Cover Heathen
4.33 | 3 ratings
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NOKTURNAL MORTUM The Taste of Victory Album Cover The Taste of Victory
4.17 | 3 ratings
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KAMPFAR Mellom Skogkledde Aaser Album Cover Mellom Skogkledde Aaser
4.08 | 6 ratings
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DARKESTRAH Epos Album Cover Epos
4.04 | 5 ratings
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PRIMORDIAL Imrama Album Cover Imrama
4.00 | 9 ratings
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PRIMORDIAL Storm Before Calm Album Cover Storm Before Calm
4.00 | 6 ratings
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Album · 2020 · Pagan Black Metal
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Time Signature

Genre: black metal

Okay, I'll be the first to admit that, while I appreciate black metal as a genre, I am by no means a black metal afficionado, and I'll also be the first to admit that there are some genres of black metal that I simply just don't understand. However, every now and then, I happen across a black metal release that just clicks with me.

Ymir's eponymous 2020-release is one such release. It's not totally lo-fi in production (which might be a reason why I like it), but not polished either. It has a lot of the black metal tropes that so many know and love like the blastbeats, the tremolo picking, the dark atmosphere, and the harsh vocals. One thing that I like is that, while we are not dealing with super complex compositions, there is a nice balance between variation and repetition, so the listener is treated to both the trance-inducing effect of repetition and the excitement of changes and transitions. Another thing that I appreciate is how darkly melodic the entire effort is. Oftentimes, the melody emerges from the tremolo-picked parts themselves, but there are also the occasional melodic leads, which are often simple and melancholic. It all makes for a type of black metal that I feel I can appreciate.

Fans of early 90s black metal as well as of more melodic black metal should find this release appealing. It could also be a gateway for 'noobies' from the more polished contemporary black metal scene into the darker and rougher style of the 90s.

TAGAT Ourar n Itran

EP · 2014 · Pagan Black Metal
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Black metal coming from the African continent is quite rare but even stranger is when it comes from a predominantly Islamic nation like Morocco which is where this band TAGAT emerges from. Having formed in the southern city of Agadir, this duo of Ulzasen and Oshen conjure up a veritable maelstrom of black metal fury with a dash of local Amazigh folk flavors.

The Amazigh better known as the Berbers exist in many of the northern African nations and are considered the native peoples of many of the Arab speaking nations. TAGAT formed all the way back in 2002 and existed until 2017 but in that lengthy time only managed to record and release this sole EP titled OURAR N ITRAN which is a mere three songs that only clocks in at 13 minutes and 25 seconds.

The short EP begins with ethnic flavors of a women’s chorus sprinkling tones that contrast with the black metal fury that follows. Black metal hybridizes quite well with many local folk flavors with bands like Romania’s Negura Bunget taking their style of Romanian folkened black metal all the way to the international scene however TAGAT wasn’t quite that accomplished.

The main problem with OURAR N ITRAN is that the folk elements are simple intros and outros of the three songs and the black metal is typical second wave in the vein of Darkthrone and other early pioneers from the Norwegian scene. Neither of the other two tracks really develop into anything unique and daring but the juxtaposition of the Amazigh elements including the history and mythology of the region in the lyrics offers a glimpse into a promising style that could blossom but to date TAGAT has still not released any new product.

This is certainly not a bad EP but with only three songs feels like a preview for an album that never came to be. The Berber peoples constitute a variety of rich cultural heritage and the possibilities of mixing their folk music with extreme metal seems promising but for this little EP it didn’t quite happen. What’s frustrating about this one is that i know that it could be done much better. Good but not essential by any means.


Album · 2018 · Pagan Black Metal
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REGNAT HORRENDUM is the side-project of the band Moongates Guardian which is famous for imitating the symphonic Tolkien inspired black metal of Austria’s Summoning. Both of these bands come from the Kaliningrad region of Russia, you know that little eastern most edge of what was the Soviet Union that remained in Russian territory even though it is separated by Lithuania and Belarus? Yeah, that one! This is a fairly new project having only formed in 2017 however in only three years REGNAT HORRENDUM has released two albums, two EPs and a split with Old Scythia.

While regarded as Pagan black metal for its Earthy based themes derived from ancient polytheistic pastimes, this band is more often referred to as a symphonic black metal band but in reality both those aspects only describe a part of this band’s formula. While the themes may be Pagan and the distorted guitars and raspy vocals screeeeeeeam black metal, the melodies and musical flow are more akin to the Finnish folk metal declarations of Ensiferum with a touch of drinking metal immediacy of Korpiklaani. Thyrfing and Falkenbach are two other bands often associated with REGNAT HORRENDUM.

HEATHENLAND is the band’s debut released in 2017 and cuts nine tracks that race past the 46 minute mark and in their wake leave breadcrumb trail of Summoning style symphonic black metal that relishes in danceable drunken Viking at the bar melodies and oft cheesy keyboard-led movie soundtrack drama that threatens to derail the entire album but somehow remains thematically stable. While the melodic themes are right out of the folk metal world, the incessant blackened guitar riffs and angrier-than-thou wrath of the vocals keep this procession of incongruent sounds anchored in the domain of black metal bleakness.

In fact this is a very strange album indeed as musically it has little in common with black metal at all whether it be atmospheric, symphonic or blackgaze or whatever. The Summoning influences are clear in how the keyboards dominate the musical procession with harmonizing melodies over the rampaging guitar tracks but the folky Viking festivities keep this one from ever feeling like a true black metal album which may be a bit put-offing for many especially the kvlter-than-thou crowds. There is no doubt that REGNAT HORRENDUM has crafted an intricately designed album that weaves disparate metal elements together quite seamlessly and HEATHENLAND is graced by a slick production that keeps the grimy rawness of the black metal elements authentic. There are often call and response between raspy black metal vocals and guttural death metal growls.

While i can completely understand why many will not exactly embrace the stylistic approach going on here as it sounds like the Grim Reaper has crashed a Viking wedding and is singing farewell liturgy to the bride but in all honestly i kind of like this one quite a bit! It’s all so familiar with catchy Baltic folk melodies, brutal black metal riffs harmonizing with soaring atmospheric swirls and decently designed arrangements but just off the cuff enough to make this stand out from the burgeoning pack of melodic metal bands out there. Of course there is a certain cheese element going on here especially in some of the keyboard runs and at times the whole thing comes off as a bit of a Dethklok sort of joke but in the end i find this quite enjoyable and i really appreciate the energetic display of metal in conjunct with the soft pacifying piano melodies and other soothing synth elements. Summoning influenced for sure but no clone.


Album · 2004 · Pagan Black Metal
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While black metal has found its beginnings as primarily a European musical expression, it really didn’t take long at all after the initial second wave explosion of the 90s to drift far and wide like a cloud of radioactive dust after an initial impact to blanket the entire globe. Bands like Kekal from Indonesia, Inquisition from Colombia, Shub Niggurath from Mexico, Taarma from Afghanistan and Deiphago from the Philippines have all experienced varying degrees of success on the world’s stage but perhaps one of the most unusual of black metal bands to emerge was DARKESTRAH which came into existence in the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan, a nation even in the 21st century still remains off most people’s radar.

DARKESTRAH, a portmanteau of dark and orchestra, was formed in 1999 by drummer Asbath in the capital city of Bishkek and released two demos “Pagan Black Act” and “Through the Ashes of the Shamanic Flames” before catching the attention of the German lane Curse of KvN Sadistic in 2003. The band would relocate to Leipzig, Germany and released its first album SARY OY in 2004 to critical acclaim in the underground world of black metal for its innovative mix of kvlt black metal sounds with the traditional folk music of Kyrgyzstan which implements the unique sounds of instruments such as the kyl-kyjak, a two-stringed upright bow instrument, the komuz which is an ancient fretless stringed instrument like the flute, the temir-komuz better known as a jew harp. In addition to the black metal raspy vocals set below the caustic din, the folky segments exhibit the sygyt which is a form of Central Asian throat singing.

Most similar to Romania’s Negura Bunget for its homegrown ethnic flavors seeping into the fabric of black metal, DARKESTRAH sounds like no other because the Central Asian folk sounds are in a world of their own and are quite effective in conjunct with the black metal bombast. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of DARKESTRAH is how the band adds highly complex progressive elements which include unorthodox time signature shifts, lengthy sprawling compositions that go through a series of changes as the three tracks narrate the concept of an ancient Kyrgyz tale about three sisters of nature. It’s also notable that lead vocalist Kriegtalith is female although in extreme metal gender specific vocal styles are indistinguishable. With only three tracks that make up a full album’s worth, DARKESTRAH crafts its compositions like classical scores with various movements.

The first two tacks hover around the 11 minute mark. “Part I - Sary Oy” emulates the wind swept Central Asian lands and introduces the Pagan themes with homegrown instruments that slowly evoke the atmospheric elements and the spirit of the land before the black metal erupts into full fury. While the mix is impressive the one weakness of the album becomes clear from the getgo and that is the rather amateurish mixing job of the keyboards and other elements. While not horrific, it’s clear that this band was still learning how to craft an epic sounding album. The second track “Part II - Jashii Oy” is the odd song of the bunch as it introduces a rather frenetic time signature rich guitar sequence that reminds me a bit of John Frusciante’s guitar parts in the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ hit “Snow” only this has a keyboard taking the spotlight. The track drifts on in a groovy electronic mode for six minutes before hitting its stride in metal turf. This second track is entirely instrumental.

The most epic track is the closing “Part III - Kysil Oy” which at nearly 26 minutes swallows up 2/3 of the entire album’s run. This track is also the most progressive as it drifts in and out of varying motifs that begins with the ambient sounds of howling winds accompanied by traditional Kyrgyz instruments but then around three minutes the black metal guitars kick in only is a drifting sort of sustained chord sorta way until it ramps up into a fast tempo fury accompanied by some keyboards that unfortunately sound a bit cheesy due to the mixing inadequacies however this sequence also delivers some of the most progressive constructs of the whole album with labyrinthine proggy workouts at breakneck speed. A piano sequence remnant of the previous track briefly kicks in at nine minutes or so before around ten minutes all the bombast drops out and it becomes an ambient track for several minutes. The rest of the running time sounds more like a church organ rich ritual along with a more demented version of Philip Glass around the “Glassworks” and “Koyaanisqatsi” era.

SARY OY has been a decisive album for sure as it will not appeal to black metal purists for its lengthy excursions completely out of the metal realms however for those interested in amazingly original experimental and progressive music then DARKESTRAH delivers all the goods on this one. The only pitfall with this debut album is the production and mixing job which are not horrible by an means but there are moments, most notably the keyboard oriented ones that things just don’t sound as tight knit as they should. If you base your musical happiness on production then this will most likely disappoint but if you can forgive the inexperience and focus on the music itself then this one is completely satisfying on many levels. Steeped in Western classical undercurrents and decorated with ethnic flavors and black metal bombast, SARY OY is quite the satisfying experience of experimental Pagan black metal emerging from one of the most off the radar regions of the planet. Blackened folklore metal rarely sounds this sophisticated and DARKESTRAH found a way to stand out from the very start.

VARGSKRAFT Aullidos de Libertad

Album · 2015 · Pagan Black Metal
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The bleak sonic soundscapes of pagan black metal don’t always emerge from the frigid northern bleakness of Scandinavian winters but some that don’t sure sound like they do. Such is the case of the Argentinean band VARGSKRAFT which resides in the extreme southern city of Comodoro Rivadavia which is located on the Atlantic coast approximately equidistant between Buenos Aires and the tip of Tierra del Fuego in the isolated middle section of Patagonia.

Despite the huge distances from the frosty Nordic highlands of Sweden, the inspiration nevertheless finds the band’s name sporting a Swedish moniker that means “wolf power.” The band was formed in 2015 and i assume is still together but so far has only released this mere three track EP titled AULLIDOS DE LIBERTAD which is Spanish for “Howls of Liberty.” Considering Argentina’s in flux of European immigrants throughout the 20th century, it’s not surprising that many of the Nordic influences reside there as there are many European outposts in Argentina and Brazil.

The band consists of five members which includes VargVand (bass), Panzer (drums), DysterEnsomhet (guitars) and Velkan (vocals). Considering many non-European or North American bands fail to understand the intricate nature of constructing black metal, there are of course always exceptions and VARGSKRAFT is definitely one of those rare outliers who has mastered the art of pagan black metal and shows an amazing amount of promise crafting some of the best black metal on the market. So what in the world are these guys waiting for? Release a real album already! Another interesting feature is that the lyrics are in Spanish and can actually be deciphered at points. The subject matter covers the expected range of pagan topics such as mysticism and nature.

The bad news is that AULLIDOS DE LIBERTAD consists of only three tracks that almost hit the sixteen minute mark but VARGSKRAFT doesn’t waste a microsecond in delivering some of the highest quality black metal with all the expected twists and turns. Firstly, Velkan has the most effective vocal style for this style of music with just the amount of raspiness that could win him a slot in any of the established Norwegian bands that needed a replacement. Perfect fit for Mayhem, Darkthrone, Gorgoroth or even Swedish bands like Dissection. The instrumental interplay is impeccable and although there could be more dynamic shifts, it’s actually fairly well done for a first time endeavor.

VARGSKRAFT has also mastered the art of delivery which is often the most difficult intricacies to master. Despite the rather tritone tremolo guitar antics, the compositions keep things interesting as the energetic rampages meander through different chord progressions while the bass and drum attacks are clearly audible. The production is excellent for black metal and perfectly allows just enough lo-fi indie charm to shine through the darkened cloud covered skies. Perhaps the biggest drawback of AULLIDOS is that it’s simply lacking any sort of originality but the performances are so well executed that it’s an entertaining listen nonetheless. I could totally see this band emerging as one of the newest best things if they find their own voice. Whether they do that remains to be scene but this is a promising debut EP.

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