How to get into black metal


An experienced music listener who is new to black metal asked for a doorway into the genre. This raises the question of how to appreciate black metal, which like most things in life is mostly mental preparation. Without context, black metal seems like any other loud genre, and it becomes harder to distinguish the newer tryhard junk from the original.

The best way to gain context is to walk through the history of the genre from oldest to newest. This approach, common in art, literature and philosophy, allows people to see what developed from what and what the reasoning for that was and therefore, what the reasoning is behind what is here now.

The result of this query was a simple list to urge people to explore this genre further. This list originates in the history of black metal music, but also in influences that can be identified among the bands as immediately relevant. Toward the end it extends more into general conjecture based on what shows up later in highly different form among the black metal works of relevance listed above it.

I. Proto- Metal

  1. Bathory – The Return
  2. Slayer – Hell Awaits
  3. Hellhammer – Apocalyptic Raids
  4. Sodom – Persecution Mania

II. Interim

  1. Sarcofago – INRI
  2. Merciless – The Awakening
  3. Blasphemy – Fallen Angel of Doom
  4. Von – Satanic Blood

III. Black metal

  1. Immortal – Diabolical Full Moon Mysticism
  2. Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
  3. Burzum – Burzum/Aske
  4. Emperor/Enslaved – Split
  5. Darkthrone – Under a Funeral Moon
  6. Beherit – Drawing Down the Moon
  7. Varathron – His Majesty in the Swamp
  8. Havohej – Dethrone the Son of God
  9. Impaled Nazarene – Ugra-Karma
  10. Samael – Worship Him

IV. Second Wave

  1. Gorgoroth – Antichrist
  2. Graveland – The Celtic Winter
  3. Ancient – Svartalvheim
  4. Sacramentum – Far Away From the Sun
  5. Ildjarn – Forest Poetry
  6. Summoning – Dol Guldur
  7. Zyklon-B – Blood Must Be Shed
  8. Gehenna – First Spell
  9. Behemoth – From the Pagan Vastlands

V. Extended Contemporary

  1. Demoncy – Joined in Darkness
  2. Sammath – Godless Arrogance
  3. Mutiilation – Remains of a Ruined, Cursed, Dead Soul
  4. Absurd – Asgardsrei

For immediate death metal background to black metal:

  1. At the Gates – The Red in the Sky is Ours
  2. Carnage – Dark Recollections
  3. Godflesh – Streetcleaner

For heavy metal background to black metal:

  1. Mercyful Fate – Don’t Break the Oath
  2. Venom – Possessed
  3. Angel Witch – Angel Witch
  4. Destruction/Tormentor – Demos

For hardcore punk background to all metal:

  1. Discharge – Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing
  2. Amebix – No Sanctuary
  3. The Exploited – Death Before Dishonour
  4. Cro-Mags – Age of Quarrel

For electronic music background to underground metal:

  1. Kraftwerk – Trans-Europe Express
  2. Tangerine Dream – Phaedra

For progressive rock background to metal:

  1. King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King
  2. Yes – Tales from Topographic Oceans
  3. Camel – Camel
  4. Greenslade – Greenslade

For classical background to metal:

  1. Anton Bruckner – Symphony No. 4
  2. Richard Wagner – Tannhäuser
  3. Franz Schubert – Unfinished Symphony
  4. Mozart – Symphony 41
  5. Haydn – Symphony 82
  6. Bach – Partita No. 5 in G major

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11 thoughts on “How to get into black metal”

  1. Big Boner 4 All says:

    Why not Hvis Lyset Tar Oss instead of their debut?

    Why Absurd?

    Why not Emperor – In the Nightside Eclipse

    Why Carnage and not Sentenced Far Away from the Sun or Necrophobic?

    Why not Transilvanian Hunger of Pure Holocaust ?

    1. This is an attempt at an introduction through history. The Burzum debut shows the basics of the black metal sound, same with the Emperor/Enslaved split. Absurd is included because it is good and a later (1998) recording. Carnage is emblematic of all that the Swedish style did well at its best. Otherwise, you would end up including all of the major releases, which misses the point. Same response to the question about Immortal and Darkthrone: I picked the earliest example of their mature style.

      1. Phil says:

        Wasn’t Dunkelheit written before Burzum’s debut? I always thought that song was the best thing he did.

  2. Nuclear Whore says:

    I don’t understand the Carnage entry.

    Regards, Old School Death Metal fan

  3. Nuclear Whore says:

    Another thing: please do not consider this previous comment of mine arrogant in any kind. It was just a humble question.

  4. Dualist says:

    Check out Polyphony – Without Introduction. It’s actually composed quite like death metal. Instead of just dragging out the same theme and extending it to 20 minutes it makes a collage out of the variations of many subsequent themes.

    Only 1000 LP’s were ever pressed but I rate it as about the best prog recorded. See what you think:

  5. kazoo says:

    Venom – Possessed? Very few care about that album(or listened to it), how was it influential? Why not Welcome to Hell or Black Metal?

    1. fenrir says:

      how many people “care for it” is not important. What’s important is what it does musically. It is a good beginning…

      1. kazoo says:

        It is important when talking about influence. Good beginning to what(in black metal)?

        If I’m misunderstanding “For heavy metal background to black metal:” I apologize.

  6. MF says:

    I would think Under the Sign rather than The Return. Fenriz says in that Until the Light Takes Us lecture that it was that album that got them all into black metal.

  7. Razmachine says:

    The Return is THE definitive black metal album. It’s not proto-metal, it’s the first 100% raw black metal album.
    Mayhem, Immortal, Burzum and all the others are part of the Second wave, not the first. First wave is Bathory, Sodom and the likes.

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