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09.10.15 TheSpirit's Black Metal 100 Pt.1 08.13.15 Black Twilight Circle discography revie
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TheSpirit's Black Metal 100 Pt.1

An ongoing series of lists that feature my favorite black metal albums of all time. Expect to see artists from every BM subgenre; expect to see "mainstream" artists next to their more underground peers; expect to see some artists making multiple entries. Consider all of these albums as recommendations and records that you need to hear.
Vault of Heaven

Vault of Heaven sounds like Darkthrone stumbling home after a long night of drinking; a project of hardcore legend Mark McCoy, it's no surprise his attempt at black metal would come with a distinct punk swagger. This style has been done to death (Bone Awl, Grinning Death's Head, etc..) but there is something very distinct about Arts take on the subject. It's raw, filthy, and sloppy, but it's also meticulously constructed. It has all the head-stomping groove that makes blackened punk so fun - it even still has the element of excitement like it was written on a whim out of a night of drunken debauchery and bullet belt bravado - but it doesn't confine itself to the tropes that see most other black/punk bands coming within striking distance of each other. It's more than just three chords, d-beat drumming, and screeching vocals. Vault of Heaven is one of a kind, and if you haven't heard it, you haven't heard the best blackened punk has to offer.
2Forest Mysticism
Demo Collection (2006-2011)

The side-project of Woods of Desolation's enigmatic D. Forest Mysticism is an audiophile's worst nightmare and a black metal fan's wet(test) dream. It's atmospheric black metal that sounds like it has been run through a washing machine; melodies bled together, vocals faded into the background, and water-logged drums. Most of their work is almost completely indecipherable, but that's what makes it so great. As all of these things coalesce together, you're left with surprisingly epic, and euphoric black metal. It's hypnotic in the best sense of the word, creating an immense soundscape that you can't help but lose yourself in. In fact that's one of its best features; it's so expansive that repeated listens have you exploring a new path every time, discovering more and more to love about the album. You'll never feel so good about being this lost ever again.
Infernalistic Flames of Luciftias

Opting to take their black and white band photos wearing ski-masks and standing in crude poses, you just know that this Danish trio are out to create some of the nosiest black metal racket out there. And on Infernalistic Flames of Lucifitias, they succeed; it's tinny, cold, and accentuates the inherent punkiness of black metal, without ever really sounding punk. It's loud, uncomfortable, and buried underneath a fuckton of white noise, everything pure black metal should be. Also, the song titles are just awesome: "Stuffing A Nun's Cunt with Maggots" and "Black Morbid Darkness of Evil"? Does black metal get any better than that?

If Addaura was edible, you would find them in Whole Foods. Borne out of the Cascadian black metal movement of the late 2000's, their WIITR-inspired music, is very organic. Nature inspired riffs twist, turn, and build off themselves, like new limbs branching off a tree. It's very melodic, and super hypnotic; the subtly shifting guitars pull you in, and the repetitive, ritualistic drums lull you into a state of meditation. Stylistically all the songs are pretty similar, but they each have their own quirk; in "White Deer" it's gentle acoustics and sublime female chants, while "Bereavement" brings everything to a halt with a crushing doom segment. Overall, this is the perfect kind of black metal to lay your head down, close your eyes, and just listen to.
5Axis of Light
By the Hands of the Consuming Fire

Axis of Light prove that being punk-y black metal, and off-the-charts epic black metal are not mutually exclusive things. They are both; at times they will remind you of Bone Awl's d-beat simplicity then in an instant widen their sonic palette to include black metal's penchant for sweeping and atmospheric textures. The best part of this demo is definitely the vocals though. They are just demented, deranged, and just downright disturbing. This is best kind of raw black metal right here.
6Dimmu Borgir
Enthrone Darkness Triumphant

First off, if you don't think a band like Dimmu Borgir deserves to here, go fuck yourself. For as terrible as they are now, once upon a time these guys were fucking great. Enthrone Darkness Triumphant is the undeniable proof of that. It's beautiful, it's morbid, it's everything you would want out of this kind of black metal. The symphonic elements work in the foreground, but they never distract from the black metal tempest, or act as a diversion for weak songwriting; because there isn't any. Enthrone Darkness Triumphant is the album that gained Dimmu their worldwide audience and though that popularity made them lose sense of themselves, here, it was their lack of ego that helped craft one of the best symphonic black metal albums ever recorded.

When I hear something is going to be folk black metal, I can't help but think of the overdone and overwrought European flavored style that most bands haphazardly throw together. What I tend to forget is that the "folk" element is really relative to where the band is coming from. Hailing from Scotland, Saor's Aura is a folk/black metal album that brings something new, exciting, and breathtaking to the table. It's not just that fact that their folk influences stem from a land often unexplored in black metal -it still could have been terrible- but also that Saor are great songwriters. The metal instrumentation blends so well with the atmospheric elements, and you really do feel like you're wandering the beautiful green plains of Scotland, wind blowing up your kilt and all. It has a very Summoning Tolkien-esque metal quality to it, and if that doesn't entice you to check it out, well, you're dumb.

And speaking of Summoning, Stronghold is the band's fourth full-length album and my personal favorite. It doesn't deviate at all from their previous releases and that's fine; this Austrian duo is fucking fantastic at what they do. Despite sticking to a very simple template (rich atmospherics, minimal black metal arrangements and programed percussion) each track has it's own distinctive feel. The melodies they create are beyond epic. Much like world of Tolkien in which they aim to emulate, listening to them evokes a sense of wonder that no other band is able to create, or even come close too really.
9Odz Manouk
Odz Manouk

The flagship group for the now defunct label Rhinocervs and the solo project of ex-Ashdautas vocalist, Yagian, Odz Manouk is one of the most interesting black metal groups I've ever come across. Like a lot of the bands that have spawned from the BTC, Odz Manouk's brand of black metal won't remind you of Norway's frozen fjords, but a pit of unending darkness. The music is just slightly left of center; dissonant, off-kilter riffs broken up by moments of intense, unnerving melody. It's the aural representation of standing at the edge of that endless chasm. It just radiates evil, fear, and everything that would be your worst nightmare, but at the same time it's alluring to the point where you feel compelled to jump right in. That's why I love it so much, and that's why you need to listen to it.
10Drowning The Light/Acherontas
Drowning the Light / Acherontas

Acherontas is Greek black metal band that once went by the name of Stutthof and Drowning the Light is an Australian atmospheric black metal project with over 50 releases under its belt. This split between them was released in 2010 and it represents a high-point in both of their discographies. Though I don't generally like to use this term (because it seems pretty redundant) Acherontas is best described as orthodox black metal. They summon evil melodies through ritualistic instrumentation and though it's abrasive, it's also very melodic and very memorable. Drowning The Light has been known to be inconsistent, but his track here, "Without Regret…" is amazing and the slightly better of the two song. It's more straightforward style-wise, but when the keyboards kick in during the second half, the dichotomy of trebly guitar and airy atmospherics coalesce to create something that is almost grandiose beyond words. Overall, this is a short but amazing split.
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