100 Greatest Black Metal Bands

Black metal is an extreme subgenre in the realms of Heavy Metal. This extreme subgenre showcases varied musical aspects that include shriek/growl vocals, extreme tempo changes, heavily distorted guitars, blast beats and jaw dropping song structure. This article brings to life an in-depth perspective on the best black metal bands.

Black metal has gone onto become the most popular extreme subgenre of Heavy metal in recent years. Every country has its share of black metal fans. The aggressive style and fast tempos in this music genre has opened new pathways for music. A subculture that has gained significant ground over the years, black metal is known for its unconventional brutal sound encompassed with melodic elements.

History and Roots of Black Metal

The roots of black metal took shape in the 80s when a number of thrash metal bands and death metal bands started experimenting with new sounds leading to the first wave of black metal. The prototype sound back in the 80s was an amalgamation of speed riffs combined with odd time signatures in the context of thrash metal and death metal. The sound evolved in the late 80s with bands adding textural dimension and sophistication to song structure.

Bands such as Bathory, Celtic Frost, Venom, Hellhammer and Mercyful Fate are considered as the torch bearers of the first wave of early black metal.

Through the 90s a second wave of black metal mesmerized audiences globally. The Norwegian black metal scene came into its own with bands like Emperor, Mayhem, Immortal, Burzum and Darkthrone leading the way. Many bands in Europe and US came into existence inspired by the Norwegian black metal scene. Through the mid 90s many Scandinavian bands emerged bringing in a fresh new sound which became an integral part of the second wave of black metal. The epic black metal sound in the 90s has lead to emergence of subcultures/subgenres inspired by this extreme genre. Since the early 90s various offshoots of black metal such as Pagan Metal, Viking Metal, Symphonic Metal, Blackened Death Metal have sprung forth to a tremendous reception among extreme metal audiences.

While ideologies and thematic interpretations associated with black metal have been criticized in mainstream culture, there is no denying black metal has the biggest cult following globally. Misanthropic views expressing anti- Christian sentiments and promoting various forms of Satanism through songs has earned black metal quite a reputation in varied circles, and the movement has spawned a movement in the black metal genre. Regardless of the whiplash black metal has received from mainstream circles, this non-mainstream genre has gotten bigger over the years.

Instrumentation and Music in Black Metal

While screaming, shrieking, snarling, and high pitched vocals form an integral part of traditional black metal, the sound has evolved. In recent times the death growl has gained prominence among vocalists in black metal bands. The heavily distorted treble guitar sound which encompasses un-muted tremolo picking forms the core impetus of song structure. Dissonance in scale patterns and intervals are used to create an atmospheric sense of gloom and dread. Alternative tunings are seldom used by guitarists in black metal bands, and largely guitar solos are in context to song structure. The bass guitar in black metal soundscapes is used heavily in obscure atmospheric melodies in stand-alone passages. Fast double bass drumming or a combination of blast beats are used in accordance with song structure.

Attire and Imagery in Black Metal

Black metal attire has had fashion aficionados taking notice. A number of black metal artists/bands appear in black during their live performances. Accessories such as bullet belts, spiked wristbands, combat boots, inverted crosses, and pentagrams are popular with band members. Many black metal bands express their anti religious or anti Christian sentiments through ritualistic stage performances or through music videos that include mock crucifixions, impaled heads, and depiction of sexual perversion. An important feature of black metal attire during live performance is the use of corpse paint. Face paint, fake blood or real blood is used by members to create a diabolic and demonic corpse-like appearance. Imagery and artwork depicted on album covers and inlays of CDs is often dark or pale black creating a gloomy atmosphere.

Black metal has grown from strength to strength since the 90s. Many new black metal bands post 2000 are bringing in varied influences to their style of music. The first wave of black metal that emerged in the 80s did lay the foundation for the future. The second wave of black metal that came into being through the Norwegian metal scene propelled black metal to another level. Scandinavian black metal bands have played a major role in getting the genre gain momentum in Europe and US. The new breed of black metal bands has incorporated melodic aspects in the brutal aggression aesthetically.

Post 2000 unbalck metal bands started emerging promoting and advocating Christianity through lyrics and imagery. While Christian Black metal has been accepted in the realms of the black metal sound, many black metal bands consider the ‘Christian Black Metal Scene’ as oxymoron. While perspectives may differ, one thing’s for sure… Black metal will only get bigger and remain the purest form of nonmainstream forever. Keep the flag waving! Black Metal is here to stay. Expression has always found freedom in music and it always will. Live free! Keep Rocking! Spread Metal!

The list below is an epic showcase of the best black metal bands. This list is not an attempt at ranking bands, but rather an attempt at celebrating the passion of black metal.

100 Greatest Black Metal Bands

  1. Mayhem
  2. Emperor
  3. Gorgoroth
  4. Immortal
  5. Mercyful Fate
  6. Darkthrone
  7. Bathory
  8. Hellhammer
  9. Celtic Frost
  10. Burzum
  11. Dimmu Borgir
  12. Behemoth
  13. Venom
  14. Carpathian Forest
  15. Satyricon
  16. Ancient
  17. Dark Funeral
  18. Enslaved
  19. Borknagar
  20. Marduk
  21. Taake
  22. Dissection
  23. God Dethroned
  24. Shining
  25. Thorns
  26. Rotting Christ
  27. Watain
  28. Ragnarok
  29. Xasthur
  30. 1349                                                                                                
  31. Old Man’s Child
  32. Windir             
  33. Graveland
  34. Deathspell Omega                                                                    
  35. Antestor
  36. Ov Hell
  37. Samael
  38. Enthroned
  39. Judas Iscariot
  40. God Seed
  41. Moonspell
  42. Gehenna
  43. Abigail Williams
  44. Antaeus
  45. Wolves in the Throne Room
  46. Agathodaimon
  47. Von
  48. The Kovenant                                                 
  49. Nachtmystium
  50. Root
  51. Impaled Nazarene
  52. Tormentor
  53. Sigh
  54. Beherit
  55. Xanthochroid
  56. Parabellum
  57. Aura Noir
  58. Sabbat (Japanese Band)
  59. Blasphemy
  60. Profanatica
  61. Krallice
  62. Funeral Mist
  63. Den Saakaldte
  64. Master’s Hammer
  65. Archgoat
  66. Demoncy
  67. Grand Belial’s Key
  68. Strid
  69. Blut Aus Nord
  70. Ancient Rites
  71. Gospel of The Horns
  72. Cradle of Filth
  73. Absurd
  74. Devilish Impressions
  75. Ondskapt
  76. Destroyer 666
  77. Mortician
  78. Angelcorpse
  79. Horde
  80. Averse Sefira
  81. Ceremonial Castings
  82. Melechesh
  83. Hortus Animae
  84. Belphegor
  85. Koldbrann
  86. Alastis
  87. Sear Bliss
  88. Hecate Enthroned
  89. Bal-Sagoth
  90. Countess
  91. Horna
  92. Naglfar
  93. Hate
  94. Lord Belial
  95. Infernal
  96. Satanic Warmaster
  97. Kampfar
  98. Nargaroth
  99. Tsjuder
  100. Sanctifica

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