The Ten Best Black Metal Songs

I am a Black Metal fiend; there’s no use in denying that. Recently I came up with the idea to compile a list of the ten best Black Metal songs around, and the results are what you see here. Before I get to the list, I should say that this, like any list of the “best” anything is really only my opinion; feel free to disagree with me. I hope you do, in fact. So without further ado, the list.

10) Nokturnal Mortum – Carpathian Mysteries

Sure, they’re a bunch of Neo-Nazi assholes. But that didn’t stop Nokturnal Mortum from making some good music. Carpathian Mysteries Appeared on the band’s Lunar Poetry demo way back in 1996, and the band has yet to write a better song. Carpathian Mysteries truly captures the feeling of a cold Ukrainian night in the dead of winter. It seems like the type of song the Don river Cossacks would have listened to (assuming they listened to metal, that is.)

9) Taake – Hordalands Doedskvad, pt. III

Norway! Land of mountains, fjords and (perhaps most importantly) fog. Such is the image that inexorably comes to mind when listening to the Doedskvad album. Part III, however, by virtue of its stirring and memorable central riff, brings that image to mind even more strongly than any other song on the album. This is the kind of song that makes me want to become fluent in Norwegian and move into a tiny shack on top of a mountain somewhere in Trondelag. Or maybe Hordaland, for that matter.

8 ) Immortal – Call Of The Wintermoon

Ah, Immortal. No other band has captured the aesthetic of running around the woods in silly outfits quite so perfectly as they have. Though the video the band made for the song is one of the most unintentionally (or, perhaps, intentionally) hilarious moments in the history of metal, Call of the Wintermoon is still one of the best black metal songs yet recorded. It’s one of those songs that I can’t help but be reminded of while walking around on clear winter’s night. More importantly, it also helped to establish Immortal as one of the leading black metal acts in Norway, and indeed the world.

7) Emperor – Cosmic Keys to my Creation and Times

“Haunting” and “strangely beautiful” are not adjectives one commonly uses to describe black metal songs, but in this case they are oddly appropriate. The synthesized choral melody lies at the heart of this, the most memorable of Emperor’s songs, which despite its furious blastbeats and tortured, howling vocals, is still very much beautiful in its own mysterious way. Emperor is perhaps the most renowned of the melodic Black metal bands, and songs like this (and Thus Spake the Night Spirit, which nearly made the list,) help to validate that reputation.

6) Bathory – Woman Of Dark Desires

A tribute to Elizabeth Bathroy, the namesake of Bathory, black metal pioneer Quorthon’s band. This song, like much of Bathory’s early work, clearly illustrates the thrash origins of black metal. Woman of Dark Desires is one of the most memorable songs from Bathory’s early days, before Quorthon decided he’d had enough of the Satan business and went on to pioneer viking metal. Now that’s ingenuity for you.

5) Burzum – Dunkelheit

Dunkelheit was the first track on Filosofem, the last Burzum album before Varg Vikernes was shipped off to prison for the murder of Euronymus. Varg always pursued a more atmospheric brand of black metal than most bands of the day, or indeed most bands that have appeared since. Dunkelheit, with its hypnotic central riff, is perhaps the apogee of Burzum’s style of black metal.

4) Darkthrone – In the Shadow of the Horns

Darkthrone is among the most prolific bands in black metal history, with a dozen full-length albums to their credit. Their style has changed over the years, true enough, and though I rather enjoy Darkthrone’s newer sound, it’s classic Darkthrone that truly formed the archetype for many black metal acts to follow. A minimalistic sound–mid-tempo blastbeats alternating with more typical rock drum patterns, and simple guitar riffs–with shoestring-budget production to match. Evidently, it’s been a formula for success for Nocturno Culto and Fenriz. In the Shadow of the Horns, from A Blaze in the Northern Sky, may be the most memorable song from Darkthrone’s early days.

3) Dissection – Thorns of Crimson Death

A lone dark horseman–Death himself, in the flesh–riding through the frozen wastes. Such is the image which adorns the cover of Dissection’s Storm of the Light’s Bane. Thorns of Crimson Death captures perfectly the essence of that image. Beyond that, it is one of the most masterfully-crafted songs in all of black metal.

2) Satyricon – Mother North

A seminal fan favorite, and not without damn good reason. Mother North shows off both Frost’s uncanny skill as a drummer, and also Satyr’s talent for constructing mesmerizing guitar riffs. Like Emperor’s Cosmic Keys, Satyricon’s Mother North manages to be as eerily beautiful as a black metal song can be. There is also a good deal of variety in the song, as it effortlessly drifts between furious blastbeats and oddly-danceable mid-tempo variations. Satyricon has also changed its sound in recent years, but Mother North will remain their masterpiece.

1) Mayhem – Freezing Moon

You probably saw this one coming if you know anything about black metal. Mayhem, with their sordid history of suicide and murder, is the quintessential black metal band, and Freezing Moon is the quintessential Mayhem song. Mayhaps this seems a bit of a cop out, but few songs have achieved as legendary a status as has Freezing Moon. Penned by the late Per Yngve Ohlin (a.k.a. Dead,) Freezing Moon is at first glance a run-of-the-mill song about death and whatnot. But what is great about Freezing Moon is that there is a real feeling of passion; the listener gets a sense that the band actually believes in what they’re playing. And few people have ever believed in death as much as did Per Yngve Ohlin, who committed suicide in a rather gruesome fashion some sixteen years ago. The legend, they say, lives forever, and Freezing Moon is an extricable part of that Legend.


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