The 10 Best Black Metal Bands

The extreme subgenre of heavy metal, black metal music gained a lot of popularity during its first wave in the 80s, brought about by bands from thrash and death metal genres. During the 90s, the Norwegian scene introduced what is now known as the “second wave” of black metal music.

In the last 40 years, the black metal scene has been developing throughout the world and is still gaining popularity. Today, there are a lot of influences of black metal music, but in North America and Europe, still, the biggest influences are the bands from Norway and Sweden.

Characterized as a music style with shrieking vocals, high-frequency distorted guitars, and fast blast beats, black metal songs don’t usually follow conventional song structure. Although this is true for most black metal bands, some bands, especially from Greece, don’t follow the Norwegian black metal traits.

With so many different styles, there were bound to be many different subgenres to black metal music, such as ambient black metal, folk black metal, industrial black metal, etc. In this article, I will take a look at the 10 best and most influential black metal bands in the world.

1. Bathory

Bathory is a Swedish band that has been active since 1983 and is considered to be one of the pioneering bands in the genre. Fans of black metal music often credit Quorthon, who founded Bathory, for creating the shrieking vocals that many different bands adopted.

Besides the shrieking vocals, Bathory’s production is also what other bands took influence in. The “lo-fi” production, which often sounds like the albums are produced with such a low budget that it sounds like a homemade recording, really took on, and still to this day, black metal bands are producing their songs in this manner.

After the first four studio albums, Bathory transitioned their music to a style that’s now known as Viking metal, making them pioneers not only in one genre but two. Unfortunately, Quorthon’s death in 2004 is what made the band stop playing. Nevertheless, they are considered one of the world’s most influential black metal bands.

2. Emperor

The first Norwegian band on the list is Emperor, which is regarded as one of the most influential black metal bands by critics. A band that has been active since 1991 (with a couple of breaks in between), Emperor was also the first to introduce symphonic elements to black metal.

Among others, members of the band were also involved in the Norwegian church burnings along with Varg Vikernes. There was also an interview with Ihsahn, a founding member of the band, where he promoted arson. 

A band as original as Emperor, adding up to what was then pretty much set in stone, improved black metal music and still continues to influence a lot of young bands that started playing.

3. Mayhem

One of the founding bands of the Norwegian black metal scene, Mayhem, formed in 1984 in Langhus, is also one of the most influential black metal bands. Unfortunately, as their music inspires many young artists and bands, their legacy is mostly remembered by their controversial careers.

With one member committing suicide and an image of his corpse on the album cover, the murder of another member, and many actual church burnings, a lot of fans associate Mayhem with these facts, in conjunction with their music.

4. Darkthrone

Originally a death metal band, Darkthrone’s members Fenriz, Nocturno Culto, and Zephyrous started playing black metal after hearing Mayhem’s Euronymous. Shortly after forming, their first albums, “A Blaze in the Northern Sky” (1992), “Under a Funeral Moon” (1993), and “Transilvanian Hunger” (1994), are considered one of the most influential albums of the whole genre.

In 1993 Darktrhone’s guitarist Zephyrous left the band, leaving Fenriz and Nocturno Culto to continue to create 14 more albums, none of which competed to their peak, namely their three previously-mentioned albums.

5. Immortal

Immortal, famous for their guitar riffs that can really easily get stuck in your head, have earned their spot on the list. Hailing from Bergen, Norway, Immortal was founded in 1991 and is still active, although not in the same formation. 

Abbath Doom Occulta, Immortal’s former frontman and guitarist left the band in 2015 and went on to form a new band called Abbath. Since then, Demonaz and Horgh have continued to play live and have also released a new studio album.

6. Mgla

The first non-Scandinavian band on the list is Mgla, founded in Krakow, Poland, in 2000. What started as a studio project quickly turned out to be one of the best black metal bands.

One big difference between Mgla and almost any other black metal band is that they took advantage of the new technologies and produced their music a little bit more professional, departing from the “lo-fi” style that every black metal band seems to be going for.

7. Dissection

Dissection is a Swedish black metal band formed in 1989 by Jon Nödtveidt, who was also the band’s songwriter, guitarist, and lead vocalist. After releasing two studio albums in 1997, the band split up due to Nödtveidt’s involvement in the Keillers Park murder.

Years later, the band was reformed in 2004 and continued to create the third and final studio album, “Reinkaos.” Shortly after, the band would split up again after announcing their short tour. Some former Dissection members have gone on to create new bands.

8. Gorgoroth

Gorgoroth is a Norwegian black metal band founded in Bergen in 1992 by the guitarist Infernus. Since then, Gorgoroth has released nine studio albums and is one of the world’s most influential black metal bands.

Infernus, being a theistic satanist, formed Gorgoroth to express his satanist beliefs; therefore, they are widely known for their anti-Christian lyrics.

9. Celtic Frost

The first Swiss extreme metal band on the list is Celtic Frost, founded in 1984 in Zürich. The band was formed by two members of Hellhammer band, which was dissolved the same year that Celtic Frost began.

The most interesting thing about Celtic Frost is that their music evolved through many different genres, from thrash and black metal all the way to gothic and doom metal by the time they released their latest album. 

10. Satyricon

Satyricon is a Norwegian band formed by Satyr and Frost in 1991 in Oslo. Throughout their career, they have released 10 studio albums. The first album of Satyricon was considered to be exactly what black metal should sound like. What followed next was a lot of experimentation with their music.

Conclusion

Whether you enjoy black metal music or are something that you haven’t found yourself listening to, some bands have greatly influenced the whole genre and ideology. So much so that it’s impossible to fit all of them in a list of ten.

Emperor Featured Image (Top-Left) by: Jonas Rogowski, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Mayhem Featured Image (Top-Right) by: Cecil, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Immortal Featured Image (Bottom-Left) by: Jarlehm, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Gorgoroth Featured Image (Bottom-Right) by: Jonas Rogowski, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Emil Pachkovski is a drummer and filmmaker. He is an audiovisual artist that loves to create and explore the abstract art of music and visuals.

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