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Requiem

Top 10 Black Metal Albums of the 21st Century

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Few would dispute that the 1990s was a golden era for black metal. However, as we are now well entrenched in this vapid and digitalised century, it behoves us to recognise the masterpieces that have been presented to us from the aether of black 21st century immortal spirits. I would argue that we're living in a new age of excellence when it comes to black metal.

This list was way harder to compile than I anticipated, with black metal a broader genre than ever before. In many ways, I regret including so many 'popular' bands at the expense of underground masterpieces, but I had to just follow my cold black heart.

Perhaps someone else can compile a list of ten works of greatness that are off the commercial radar. Here’s the Requiem perspective. (The century begins in 2001, so y2k albums are out).

Requiem's Top 10 Black Metal Albums of the 21st Century (2001-current) from Great to Greatest

10. Marduk - 'World Funeral' (2003)

The first of two Marduk entries, this has a special vibe that just brings this album into greatness. The production is really quite unique, Legion's voice is amazing and Morgan has written a heap of riffs that just pack darkened power - the slow songs in particular give chills. The death focus works better than on much of Marduk's oeuvre, and it's glorious. The ultimate death worship. 

9. Immortal - 'Northern Chaos Gods' (2018)

Demonaz surprised everyone with this masterpiece. It's dark, heavy, powerful and also epic and glorious. It really puts albums like 'Sons of Northern Darkness', as good as that is, in its place, not to mention giving Abbath a rocket up the ass. The Horgh/Demonaz combination here is superhuman really. A triumph. 

8. Drudkh - 'Autumn Aurora' (2004)

I wish I had more room for special albums like this one. The haunting yet warm atmosphere just propels a sense of Ukranian pastoral romanticism. This is easily my favourite Drudkh album and I personally feel that the essence of this band became adulterated once they folded the Hate Forest project and injected more variety and pace into Drudkh. They're also annoyingly arty these days. This album, though, is a masterpiece of honest expression. 

7. Rotting Christ - 'Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy' (2013)

The rotters have put out several brilliant albums this century, but they all had something that held them back for me, whether it was a commercial sheen to the sound or a lighter philosophical atmosphere. This album, however, just exudes darkness and authenticity. It has a power to it - perhaps philosophical, but also aural - that far surpasses the handful of albums they put out previous to this in the 21st century. The decayed brilliance of '666' to close the album is enough to make this list. 

6. Dimmu Borgir - 'Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia' (2001)

I wasn't sure if I should include this album, because as much as I love it, I don't find it particularly full of the black metal spirit. In fact, I love it more as a dark/traditional metal release with blackened aspects. It needs to be included, though, because if I'm calling Dimmu Borgir black metal, which I do, it simply must rank. The strings, the atmosphere, Vortex's voice, and the power. I truly love this album. As a black metal album, though, it only ranks at number 5, because there's another spirit I'm going for with this list. 

5. Gorgoroth - 'Quantos Possunt ad Satanitatem Trahunt' (2009)

Like this spirit. I think if this album had a title that was easier to remember it would be much more of a classic in the black metal consciousness. This was Infernus' comeback after finally ridding himself of those pretenders Gaahl and King ov Smell, and it's a return that for me is up there with Gorgoroth's greatest works. It's mid-paced, melodic yet dark and authentic. The riffs. Oh the riffs! 

4. Rotting Christ - 'Rituals' (2016) 

Speaking of worship. The second and highest ranking Rotting Christ entry is an authentic journey through a landscape of death worship. Yes, the riff structures are all stolen from previous Rotting Christ albums, but the dark energy on this album conjures death-deities everytime I play it, and the production is rougher and darker than before. Compare the sound and attitude of this album to the follow up, the weakened gothic pop of 'The Heretics'. Heretical indeed. This is a beast and my favourite Rotting Christ album of all time. 

3. Saor - 'Guardians' (2016)

I'm editing this list because I realise I've forgotten one of the greatest albums that I've ever heard. With a Scottish grandfather, Scottish lore and romance has always been a part of my family's tradition, and this album just seems to drive a definitive nail straight into my heart. The songs are epic, atmospheric, haunting and above all, emotional. Andy Marshall, the one man band, is one of metal's treasures. A grand expression of Scotland through atmospheric black metal. 

2. Mgla - 'Exercises in Futility' (2015)

Despite being out for four years now I'm a recent convert, previously having written Mgla off as another trend Eastern European band. While they are definitely that, they actually deserve it. This album is a philosophical journey to the outer reaches of rebellion in the modern age, replete with a melodic maturity that underlines everything that happens on the record. Just when I think I must be overrating this like everyone else, I put the first track on again, and when that guitar picking begins I bow down in eternal worship as the magic begins. 

1. Marduk - 'Frontschwein' (2015)

Anyone who knows me (and no one truly ever can... muahahaha) knows that I'm going to put this album at number 1. Mortuus' voice is beyond, yet also so human; Morgan's riffs and the layering of those riffs just raise the hairs on the back of my neck time and time again; Widigs' drumming is martial yet tribal and creative. I've written in depth about this album in the Marduk thread, so here I'll just say that the attitude of 'Frontschwein' slays all these other albums with a panzer blast to the glory of warfare and destruction.  

Special Mention goes to Taake - 'Noregs Vaapen' (or any Taake album for that matter). I'm very unhappy that I can't get it into the list. All Taake albums are masterpieces of black art. 

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1 hour ago, RelentlessOblivion said:

I could only come up with 9 albums that I'd be happy putting in a top 10 list like this. Funnily enough Req didn't mention any of them.

Don’t keep us in suspense.

Also, as you can tell from my list, when it comes to absolute top tier for me I prefer melodic and powerful albums when listening to modern black metal.

That’s why you won’t find the ‘post-modern art’ bands like Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega, or even Negura Bunget. Those bands generally do nothing for me and I hate it when things get too esoteric and progressive.

On the other hand, the more clinical riffage of 21st century Satyricon, Thorns and Gehenna is awesome, but not special or deep enough to make this august list. Bland metal like modern Darkthrone can FOAD. 

I also don’t rate bands with thrash influences quite as highly, although I can enjoy them. Similarly bands that simply reproduce a 90s sound generally don’t appeal as they often come up short when compared to their forebears and true masters. Having said that, bands like Taake and Kampfar were very unlucky not to get an album on my list. 

20 years is a lot of years to just pick 10 albums!

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Well the albums I'm happy putting on the list

Melechesh - Sphynx

Middle-Eastern inspired grooving black metal. Full of energy this is some of the most memorable modern BM and it's a fun listen.

Deathspell Omega - Paracletus

Creepy, dissonant, avant-garde/black metal in the style of Blut Aus Nord and others. It's not for everyone but it does a lot for me.

Agalloch - The Mantle

Folky, atmospheric, grandiose black metal. Perfectly blending softer and more distorted passages with fantastic melodic sensibilities.

Immortal - Sons of Northern Darkness

Freezing cold black metal that doesn't skip on the heavy.

Taake - Over Bjoergvin graater himmerk.

Melodic, cold, tight performances by all the musicians. A masterful display of Norwegian Black Metal

Absu - Tara

Thrashy, aggressive black metal with lyrics inspired by celtic folklore. The drumming is an absolute highlight.

1349 - Beyond the Apocalypse

A new black metal band that fits perfectly amongst the legends of the genre. Their sound harkens back to the glory days without sounding like a clone of any other band.

Primordial - Storm Before Calm

Melodic, at times atmospheric, at times aggressive. This album has it all and it's well worth hearing.

Behemoth - The Satanist

This is, imo, the single best album Behemoth have ever written. Punishing atmospheric black/death metal that is perfectly executed.

Akercocke - Words that Go Unspoken, Deeds that Go Undone

There's no real way of describing this it's creative, atmospheric, creepy, strange black metal and it's wonderful.

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While I do not have a top-ten list worked out, there are a few albums that I think should be mentioned.  Thus, in no particular order:

"A Grand Declaration of War" - Mayhem (2000)

As their first full-length album without Euronymous, it makes sense that Mayhem would explore a new musical direction.  However, I would never have expected them to move in such an avant-garde direction.  I think the technical riffs and spoken word vocal delivery make this album a work of genius.

"Areifatoi" - Der Sturmer (2013)

While it is only a short ep, I think it shows Der Sturmer at their best.  I strongly dislike a large portion of their early material, but they seem to have improved greatly over time.  This release showcases straightforward, mid-paced bm.  While the first two tracks are good, the final song, "Voices of the Glorious Dead," is astounding - a true masterpiece.

"Conflict is Control / Poisonous Gas Thrower of Jigoku" - Konflict / Reek of the Unzen Gas Fumes (2016)

This split album highlights two of the best active bm bands in East Asian.  Konflict (Sri Lanka) play an unrelenting mix of bm/noise/grindcore, and create a massive wall of sound that only relents for short noise interludes.  Reek of the Unzen Gas Fumes takes similar influences, but instead creates technical, riff-focused songs.  Both bands have excellent vocalists and push digital drum programs to their logical extremes.

"Estrangement" - Drudkh (2007)

While I agree that this is not nearly as great as "Autumn Aurora," I still love this album.  The riffs convey a wide variety of emotions (from melancholy to triumph), and the awesome guitar solos provide respite from the otherwise enveloping ambiance (while still retaining the continuity and atmosphere of the song).

Also, @Requiem, I 100% agree with your picks for Marduk, Mgla, and especially Drudkh.

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5 hours ago, Balor said:

While I do not have a top-ten list worked out, there are a few albums that I think should be mentioned.  Thus, in no particular order:

"A Grand Declaration of War" - Mayhem (2000)

As their first full-length album without Euronymous, it makes sense that Mayhem would explore a new musical direction.  However, I would never have expected them to move in such an avant-garde direction.  I think the technical riffs and spoken word vocal delivery make this album a work of genius.

"Areifatoi" - Der Sturmer (2013)

While it is only a short ep, I think it shows Der Sturmer at their best.  I strongly dislike a large portion of their early material, but they seem to have improved greatly over time.  This release showcases straightforward, mid-paced bm.  While the first two tracks are good, the final song, "Voices of the Glorious Dead," is astounding - a true masterpiece.

"Conflict is Control / Poisonous Gas Thrower of Jigoku" - Konflict / Reek of the Unzen Gas Fumes (2016)

This split album highlights two of the best active bm bands in East Asian.  Konflict (Sri Lanka) play an unrelenting mix of bm/noise/grindcore, and create a massive wall of sound that only relents for short noise interludes.  Reek of the Unzen Gas Fumes takes similar influences, but instead creates technical, riff-focused songs.  Both bands have excellent vocalists and push digital drum programs to their logical extremes.

"Estrangement" - Drudkh (2007)

While I agree that this is not nearly as great as "Autumn Aurora," I still love this album.  The riffs convey a wide variety of emotions (from melancholy to triumph), and the awesome guitar solos provide respite from the otherwise enveloping ambiance (while still retaining the continuity and atmosphere of the song).

Also, @Requiem, I 100% agree with your picks for Marduk, Mgla, and especially Drudkh.

Interesting choices, but Ballers I took great pains to exclude albums released in 2000 because that was technically the final year of the 20th century. Now you’ve made it look like I prefer ‘Chimera’ over ‘Grand Declaration of War’, which isn’t true! 

You’re such a rebel Balor!

 

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5 hours ago, RelentlessOblivion said:

He includes GDoW and I include The Satanist which barely has any BM left in it so much for your thread Req :D

I don’t mind a fairly loose definition of black metal. These days it’s a broad church, if you’ll excuse the expression. Behemoth are close enough. 

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18 minutes ago, Requiem said:

I don’t mind a fairly loose definition of black metal. These days it’s a broad church, if you’ll excuse the expression. Behemoth are close enough. 

The Satanist is comfortably my favourite album from them as well. In saying all of this I think by winter's end I'll actually be able to put a top 10 together and suspect only Sons of Northern Darkness will remain from my original list.

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There is no denying that the 90's was the most interesting period for black metal but the 2000's definitely has it share of classic stuff. My top ten from the 90's is set pretty much in stone, but the 2000's offers a much more diverse range of albums which makes it way harder to create a top 10.

 

1. Taake - Hordalands Doedskvad

Just an all round classic album to me. Hoest really captured that raw Norwegian BM sound yet somehow managed to improve on it without losing the feel of it. The first two albums were awesome but on this one all the stars alligned and a masterpiece was borhn.

2. Inquisition - Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm

I'm not into that whole satanic cosmology stuff they sing about. But hell, these guys have an inmense sound for being just a two man band. And Dagon is just an endless source of riffs. On this album they perfectioned their sound and weren't afraid to try some new things. They went for a much more diverse and brighter sound here and it really payed off and they finally came into their own.

3. Sorciers des Glaces - Ritual of the End

I always thought the Norwegians were the only one who could capture that icey cold, thin sound. But i'm glad Sorciers des Glaces proved me wrong. I'm probably somewhat biased because this was the first album i heard by them. But this one still sticks out for it's incredible thin but harsh melodic sound. Great to see a band produce such an album in these times. Songs last up to 9 minutes but never get boring thanks to their diverse sound.

4. Mykraverk - Nær Døden

Discovered these guys by pure coincidence but was hooked the minute i heard the first song. Love the natural sounding production of the album and the folky elements that keep popping up along the way which give it it's own idenity. It's nothing too groundbreaking but these guys do it so good that it almost feels like the old days all over again. Definitely one of the biggest suprises for me in 2018.

5. Avsky - Scorn

These guys have some of the most hateful vocals i've heard which is always a great quality to me. Their sound is somewhat a mix of black metal and some slower almost sludge-like influences. On this album they really got the hang of that mixture and it makes for some damn awesome music that you can actually headbang to. Songs rarely are shorter then 8 minutes but their diverse sounds make up for that. Too bad they haven't done an album since 2010. I really wish they would put some new stuff out. I sometimes compare them to Craft although these guys do it way better IMO.

6. Deathcult - Cult of the Dragon

This is just straight up old school Norwegian BM although with some slight punkish influences. Sounds like it was recorded in your basement but that's part of the whole charme as so often with black metal. I find it hard to explain why this album resonates so much with me. But i'm just a sucker for these raw sounding bands. Oh yeah, useless bit of trivia but Hoest also plays bass in this band.

7. Urgehal - Goat Craft Torment

These guys didn't invent the wheel, they just play straight up old fashioned satanic black metal. They tick of every black metal cliché you can think of yet it works here. Trondr Nefas really was a true riff master and on this album he truly shines (also check out his other band Beastcraft). This is one of those simple album that you can always put on no matter what mood your in. It simple, straight forward black metal in it's purest form.  Kind of like McDonalds, it's noting too special yet it's so tasty. The last two albums that came after this one were not really my cup of tea. But with this one they really peaked.

8.  1349 - Hellfire

1349 is just one big hommage to the early 2nd wave sound. Previous albums were a little monotone but here they found the right balance. Ravn is just such a great vocalist and Frost's blast beats are pure bliss on this album. In theory i shouldn't even like this style but this one of the exceptions were i don't mind the endless blasting and furious tempo's. Excellent album for when you had a long and tiring day.

9.  Vargrav - Netherstorm

I've always had a love/hate relation with symphonic black metal. The first Emperor album was great but everything after that i hated. Same thing with Dimmu Borgir. So it's rare for me to like a symphonic black metal album. The reason why i enjoy this album so much is probably cause it reminds me so much of "In The Nightside Eclipse". Is has the same reverb-laden production and the synth are there but not too much in the foreground. Vargrav regurgitates what Emperor did first but tweaks it just enough to make it his own.

10. Warmoon Lord - Burning Banners Of The Funereal War

I only recently discovered this band but this album has been on repeat for several months now and i still don' get tired of it. The sound is somewhere inbetween old school Gorgoroth although with some light synth elements. I know i mentioned it several times already but this is another example of imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If you long for the days of long gone and this album will transport you right back to '93 and deliver the same quality.

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23 hours ago, Benjaminc81 said:

There is no denying that the 90's was the most interesting period for black metal but the 2000's definitely has it share of classic stuff. My top ten from the 90's is set pretty much in stone, but the 2000's offers a much more diverse range of albums which makes it way harder to create a top 10.

 

1. Taake - Hordalands Doedskvad

2. Inquisition - Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm

3. Sorciers des Glaces - Ritual of the End

4. Mykraverk - Nær Døden

5. Avsky - Scorn

6. Deathcult - Cult of the Dragon

7. Urgehal - Goat Craft Torment

8.  1349 - Hellfire

9.  Vargrav - Netherstorm

10. Warmoon Lord - Burning Banners Of The Funereal War

Awesome list.

It’s good to see some different names there. I’ll check out some of these albums that I haven’t heard soon. 

Is there a particular style or attitude that appeals to you when it comes to 21st century black metal?

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On 7/6/2019 at 12:19 PM, RelentlessOblivion said:

Hmm we share a couple of bands in our lists but not albums. Suppose that's the great thing about metal - everyone's tastes are unique.

That's indeed the great thing, there is something for everbody's taste. I love doing listings like these cause they make me check out new things or re-evaluate stuff. Like for instance the Taake album you mentioned in your list. I always considered Hordalands Doedskvad the undisputed classic. But now you make me want to listen to Over Bjoergvin graater himmerk again to see if i maybe missed something all this time (not that it's a bad album). A lot of times you need to listen albums mulitiple times before they click and your personal mood also plays a large role. So it's always good that other people challenge your taste or decisions.

43 minutes ago, Requiem said:

Awesome list.

It’s good to see some different names there. I’ll check out some of these albums that I haven’t heard soon. 

Is there a particular style or attitude that appeals to you when it comes to 21st century black metal?

I probably should elaborate/explain on why i chose those albums. Going to do that right now 😉

As for a particular style... Can't say i have one particular style i prefer. Although i'm a sucker for that old school Norwegian BM sound. Just simple straightforward tremolo riffing but with a touch of melody along the way. Stuff like Dark Funeral for example is just boring to me. Endless blast beats and monotone riffs don't cut it. Although there are a few exceptions like "Transilvanian Hunger".

So i'd say the 2nd wave sound is definitely my favourite preferably with some light hints of folk or viking influences. Nothing too exciting for the average black metal listener but just enough variety to keep things fresh (for me at least). I'm not a fan of the whole abstract black metal sounds like the newer Blut aus Nord or Deathspell Omega stuff. Just sounds like they are trying too hard to sound different and unique.

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8 minutes ago, Benjaminc81 said:

That's indeed the great thing, there is something for everbody's taste. I love doing listings like these cause they make me check out new things or re-evaluate stuff. Like for instance the Taake album you mentioned in your list. I always considered Hordalands Doedskvad the undisputed classic. But now you make me want to listen to Over Bjoergvin graater himmerk again to see if i maybe missed something all this time (not that it's a bad album). A lot of times you need to listen albums mulitiple times before they click and your personal mood also plays a large role. So it's always good that other people challenge your taste or decisions.

Meanwhile you made me re-think the 1349 album I chose. I must say though I don't have as much black metal from the 2000s s I'd like which does impact on my list a good deal. For example I've been listening to Sun Worship's Elder Gods a lot this week and it would easlily knock off the Melechesh or Taake albums I mentioned. A darker take on the Cascadian black metal sound which I certainly appreciate.

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Lazy me will do this in piecemeal so:

Blut Aus Nord 'The Work Which Transforms God - 2003'

Let's start with some real soul destroying bleakness shall we?  Arguably a more mainstream sound when compared to what came before it, 2003's BAN offering retained the dissonance but dropped down a couple of gears on the repetition front.  The discordance still sits tall at the table but the menacing lead work adds to the depth, the variety and the atmospherics of the record brilliantly.  Clever use of effects and just plain old fucking weird noises just put this album out there on a twisted, deformed limb that helps the release really stand out from the rest of the post 2000 discography.

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I forgot about Dissection - 'Reinkaos' (2004)

At the time a lot of people were disappointed because they were expecting 'Storm of the Light's Bane' part 2, and I've sure we've all been disappointed by that line of thinking over our listening careers. But I thought this melodic album was brilliant and actually contained a lot of dark energy and some absolutely killer melodies and riffs.

Would I swap out Mayhem's 'Chimera' to bring it in? Not sure, but it would be close. Perhaps I'll have this as my number 11. 

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To my understanding, black metal ended in 1993. Just like punk rock ended in 1978. WTF they are doing with those labels now is a little south of making sense to me. With that caveat, I accept that genre theory requires a set of standards, and if these standards may be retrofitted onto any particular band's sound (and/or "image" in a more general sense), they get sorted into that category. I may not personally agree with that sort of thinking, but I accept it for what it is. Some feel very strongly about that shit.

That being said, there are some newer bands that have been taking the essential musical tricks of the trade to new and interesting places, such as Batushka and Rotting Christ. Akercocke and Der Weg Einer Freiheit have also done some great work. But lots of water has passed under the bridge since back in the day, when black metal was considered something new and edgy. Teenage chicks are now walking around in tee shirts that say Darkthrone and Mayhem, for fuck's sake. (Also Sex Pistols, for that matter.)

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Cultes Des Ghoules ‘Henbane’ 2013

Be aware dear listener for here lies nefarious music for nefarious means and grim nights of even grimmer storytelling around sacrificial altars strewn with carcass after carcass of lambs and virgins.

’Henbane’ is what a young person who knows how to describe good things would term to be “sick”.  It drips with a sneery sarcasm, unforgiving and unrepentant for its disdain for humanity.  Surprisingly measured in its delivery and approach the record comes off as both memorable and disturbing in equal amounts.  

Krieg 'The Black House' 2004

Aside from having bleak as fuck artwork that speaks to my very soul, 'The Black House' is just as fucking punishing a listen.  Draining in terms of both the emotional intelligence required to sit through it and the sheer physical energy it evokes in your body as I throw myself around my room to it, there's no place to hide when this record is on.

Akhlys 'The Dreaming I' 2015

Naas Alcameth is a renowned genius and album number two from his Akhlys project further cements this.  It is like an exploration of the true heart of darkness.  On the journey topics such as madness, desolation and nightmares are explored.  Full of dark ambient as well as authentic BM this is a real treat, always driven by a sense of discovery and balance that gives each new hellscape time to embed with the listener.

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I also forgot about the band Shining in general. 

I would place their most recent album 'X Varg Utan Flock' up there somewhere in the top 10, if I could safely eject one of my existing top 10 place-getters. For intensity of delivery and the perfect merging of the various Shining elements, it works the best for me. The Chopin piano piece is just icing on the self-harming cake. 

A classic 21st century black metal album. 

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I'm always hampered by these lists since I only use albums which are in my collection and it's been several years since I've bought any new albums. I might need to change that rule at some point as it precludes things like that Shining record, the Sun Worship album I already mentioned, Blut Aus Nord, Mgla, and so on...

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On 7/13/2019 at 4:27 AM, MaxFaust said:

To my understanding, black metal ended in 1993. Just like punk rock ended in 1978. WTF they are doing with those labels now is a little south of making sense to me. With that caveat, I accept that genre theory requires a set of standards, and if these standards may be retrofitted onto any particular band's sound (and/or "image" in a more general sense), they get sorted into that category. I may not personally agree with that sort of thinking, but I accept it for what it is. Some feel very strongly about that shit.

That being said, there are some newer bands that have been taking the essential musical tricks of the trade to new and interesting places, such as Batushka and Rotting Christ. Akercocke and Der Weg Einer Freiheit have also done some great work. But lots of water has passed under the bridge since back in the day, when black metal was considered something new and edgy. Teenage chicks are now walking around in tee shirts that say Darkthrone and Mayhem, for fuck's sake. (Also Sex Pistols, for that matter.)

Out of curiosity, what would you consider the last true black metal album?

5 hours ago, Requiem said:

I also forgot about the band Shining in general. 

I would place their most recent album 'X Varg Utan Flock' up there somewhere in the top 10, if I could safely eject one of my existing top 10 place-getters. For intensity of delivery and the perfect merging of the various Shining elements, it works the best for me. The Chopin piano piece is just icing on the self-harming cake. 

A classic 21st century black metal album. 

Their cover of the Halloween theme song is awesome, but I could never get into much of their other material.  I think I will have to spend some more time listening to them.

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On 7/25/2019 at 1:29 AM, Balor said:

 

Their cover of the Halloween theme song is awesome, but I could never get into much of their other material.  I think I will have to spend some more time listening to them.

re Shining:

Get 'X Varg Utan Flock', drink a bottle of cheap red wine, pump it up to fucking 10, get your razor blades ready and channel your rebellion. 

 

6 hours ago, Doctor_Adder said:

Interesting how many lists Taake turns up on. Clearly a sign of quality. 

They are a quality band. There's a sense of authenticity in them/him and a real sense of songmanship. To my ears Watain are all clatter and crash, while Taake are the slicker more compelling black metal archetype. Plus Hoest is a very charismatic frontman/songwriter. 

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    • Whichever tier of thrash metal you consigned Sacred Reich back in the 80's/90's they still had their moments.  "Ignorance" & "Surf Nicaragura" did a great job of establishing the band, whereas "The American Way" just got a little to comfortable and accessible (the title track grates nowadays) for my ears.  A couple more records better left forgotten about and then nothing for twenty three years.  2019 alone has now seen three releases from Phil Rind and co.  A live EP, a split EP with Iron Reagan and now a full length.

      Notable addition to the ranks for the current throng of releases is former Machine Head sticksman, Dave McClean.  Love or hate Machine Head, McClean is a more than capable drummer and his presence here is felt from the off with the opening and title track kicking things off with some real gusto.  'Divide & Conquer' and 'Salvation' muddle along nicely, never quite reaching any quality that would make my balls tingle but comfortable enough.  The looming build to 'Manifest Reality' delivers a real punch when the song starts proper.  Frenzied riffs and drums with shots of lead work to hold the interest.


      There's a problem already though (I know, I am such a fucking mood hoover).  I don't like Phil's vocals.  I never had if I am being honest.  The aggression to them seems a little forced even when they are at their best on tracks like 'Manifest Reality'.  When he tries to sing it just feels weak though ('Salvation') and tracks lose real punch.  Give him a riffy number such as 'Killing Machine' and he is fine with the Reich engine (probably a poor choice of phrase) up in sixth gear.  For every thrashy riff there's a fair share of rock edged, local bar act rhythm aplenty too.

      Let's not poo-poo proceedings though, because overall I actually enjoy "Awakening".  It is stacked full of catchy riffs that are sticky on the old ears.  Whilst not as raw as perhaps the - brilliant - artwork suggests with its black and white, tattoo flash sheet style design it is enjoyable enough.  Yes, 'Death Valley' & 'Something to Believe' have no place here, saved only by Arnett and Radziwill's lead work but 'Revolution' is a fucking 80's thrash heyday throwback to the extent that if you turn the TV on during it you might catch a new episode of Cheers!

      3/5
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    • https://www.metalforum.com/blogs/entry/52-vltimas-something-wicked-marches-in/
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    • https://www.metalforum.com/blogs/entry/50-queensryche-the-verdict/
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    • https://www.metalforum.com/blogs/entry/48-candlemass-the-door-to-doom/
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