We’re all listed out after totalling up the scores for the albums of the year and putting together our Top 100 Black Metal Albums of All Time special issue. But author Dayal Patterson, a man in league with unfathomable evil, kindly dipped into his wellspring of arcane ancient darkness to muster the energy to give us one more list, a top ten to mark the unholy birth of his 2.636lb magnum opus, Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult.
For the story behind this mammoth tome, check out our post here. But read on for Patterson’s list. It isn’t in any order and it’s a personal top ten as opposed to the more academic, most-important/best-BM albums of all time list.
VENOM Welcome to Hell (Neat Records, 1981)
“I think we have to put in Venom’s Welcome to Hell because that effectively kick-started the genre. Black Metal is the more obvious album because it gave a name to it—maybe I should have gone for that—but they are both essential. It’s not really an album; I guess everyone knows this but it was demo tracks released without the band’s consent, and it sounds pretty raw because of that. Then again, I think that became quite an important part of black metal, that lo-fi approach. It was a long way from what we call black metal now but that was the inspiration for the Norwegian bands, a lot of the second generation bands who followed; they considered it black metal, and I think after writing this book I would as well. Those first three Venom albums really are timeless. They get better and better with age. Black Metal is the better album—maybe you can stick those together?—but Welcome to Hell is the more historically important. That is where it was born, if it was born anywhere. With Black Metal they had a bit more time in the studio, refined things a bit, the songwriting is better. Venom were hugely successful; they never did the whole band-in-a-van thing, they were headlining big venues almost straight away. When you look at a band like Immortal you can see a lot of Venom; I always thought Immortal were more of a First Wave than a Second Wave band, despite the corpsepaint—their attitude is very Venom, larger than life. Venom was all about entertainment and I think that is what it was about back then. None of those [black metal] rules came in until later one. You were allowed to be a bit of a rock star back then. In the ’90s—Fenriz and Apollyon talk about that in the book, and Samoth as well—stuff was labelled black metal, but in the ‘80s it was almost like you had to find the black metal in releases. You had to extract it, and those early ‘80s albums by Sodom, Destruction and Kreator, bands like that, you could hear it, you could discover the black metal in it. A lot of it was down to interpretation.”
EMPEROR In the Nightside Eclipse (Candlelight, 1994)
“From an academic point of view and a personal point of view you can’t really question that album. That was one of the first five black metal albums that I got; I was lent that by a couple of older guys that I was hanging around with at school. That cover art made quite an impact, but just the sound of that album is timeless, and it is incredible to think that it was made by people who were in their mid-teens. The first releases that got me into black metal were In the Nightside Eclipse, the first Cradle of Filth album, Gehenna and Gorgoroth, and apart from Gorgoroth, the other albums all had keyboards—I got into extreme metal via Carcass and Bolt Thrower, Entombed, Brutal Truth and Deicide, and to hear those keyboards, that really leapt out at me. Before that you had Nocturnus and a few bands using keys—and Bathory—but Emperor were one of the very first to do it. That album sounds immense, and is almost like an albatross around the neck of the black metal genre; how did these kids create something that is so hard to surpass, even by the band members themselves? I don’t think Emperor reached those heights again. As great as Ihsahn’s career is, and as great as some of the stuff Samoth has done, and Faust and Tchort have been involved in, this is going to be the album that they are remembered for. I guess that’s got to be weird for the musicians; they are in their 30s and people still want to hear what they did when they were teens. That’s the sound of early ‘90s black metal, all the danger and the mystique. I think all black metal should be about touching something that is greater than yourself, whether that is Satan, nature . . . There should be that transcendental element to it.”
BURZUM Filosofem (Misanthropy, 1996)
“An album that has the same producer and is also incredibly transcendental but takes the opposite approach. It is just Varg’s vision, but if one piece of work in metal every touches the sublime and really feels like your reaching something deeper than oneself, the opening track, “Dunkelheit”, is that. The whole album is fantastic. I remember when it came out at the time, Terrorizer’s top 30 of the year said it was “marred by keyboard tracks” because it has this 25-minute ambient track—but to me that is a fantastic piece of ambience . . . very minimalist, haunting and serene, and it contrasts beautifully with the fury of the metal tracks on there. It’s a bit divisive but I know a lot of people really worship it; Niklas [Kvarforth] from Shining, that’s one of his favorite records.”
GORGOROTH Antichrist (Malicious Records, 1996)
“It’s a very short album. I think it’s a about 26 minutes long. You’ve got these melancholic tracks—and there’s always that black-thrash and German thrash influence in there as well. You’ve got the first two vocalists on this because Hat left before the recording was finished and they brought in Pest; you’ve got this bird-like screeching from Hat and then you’ve got Pest who has got this almost rock ’n’ roll/thrash vibe to it. He says in the book that he’s trying to pronounce the lyrics so you can hear them. “Possessed by Satan”, that song—if the other two albums we just spoke about were refined and transcendent, this is the opposite, with as ugly a riff as you could imagine. The lyrics are all about burning churches and being at war with Christianity. The whole thing is so ugly it couldn’t be any more powerful. There is a lot of arrogance on that album; I think on the liner notes Infernus congratulates himself.”
DARKTHRONE A Blaze in the Northern Sky (Peaceville, 1992)
“A really obvious choice but it’s like Nightside Eclipse; it’s obvious for good reasons. That created a blueprint for Norwegian black metal to a degree: The photos of the bands, the portrait on the cover, the monochromatic aesthetic, the sound. It’s a shame that so many bands took so literally from Darkthrone. That wasn’t such a good thing. That album is incredibly powerful; it’s just amazing riff after amazing riff. The vocals are excellent. The drumming is excellent. And it is the sound of rebellion in many ways because not only is it anti-religious but there is also a rebellion going on against their past. Obviously they were a death metal band, and quite a technical death metal band at that, but they dropped all that and told Hammy from Peaceville to stuff it, that they didn’t care if Peaceville wouldn’t release this album because Euronymous would. A lot of bands who proclaim to be rebellious conform to what their label tells them to do but this is an album the label didn’t want. This was an album the bass player didn’t want but they made it anyway. There is a lot of Celtic Frost in there, and have the songs are from the death metal period but blackened up—so there is a bit of that in there and it is probably not as pure a black metal album as Under a Funeral Moon.”
VLAD TEPES / BELKÈTRE March To The Black Holocaust (Embassy Records, 1995)
“They were two of the main bands from the Black Legion in France. And that album, again, takes everything the Norwegians had done and just went a bit further. It is inspired by the black thrash of the ‘80s, and there is a lot of Bathory in there. It is very inspired by Darkthrone and Emperor but it is even nastier sounding. It is a bit looser, and they’re jamming it out a bit more. The Belkètre half is one of the most uncompromising black metal releases out there. It is very, very unsettling. That is one of the best splits, and both could have been albums in their own right. That was one of the few official releases from Les Légions Noire; most of the releases were bootlegs. It’s just been rereleased on double vinyl but at the time nobody liked it. I bought mine for a pound, it was in the bargain bin and now it goes for 200 times that on eBay. It was hated but has stood the test of time where a lot of those more polished bands fell by the wayside.”
ARKONA Imperium (Astral Wings, 1996)
“From a Polish band who are still going today, this is not an album I talk about much in the book because you couldn’t say it was a hugely influential album. You couldn’t really say it was hugely important; it didn’t inspire anything, didn’t do anything new, but it was one of those perfect Second Wave black metal albums and it has got this really possessed vocal style, somewhere between screamed and shouted. It really sounds like some kind of religious zealot going crazy. It’s also nice because it combines the Norwegian school of BM and the Polish school: It has got that keyboard-heavy atmospherics of bands like Graveland and Infernum but it is a little bit more epic, a little more stirring. There are a lot of synths but also a lot of good riffs.”
CRADLE OF FILTH The Principle of Evil Made Flesh (Cacophonous, 1994)
“I’m aware this is probably a bit uncool but that’s probably a good reason to put it on here. Revisionists have tried to say that Cradle of Filth were never black metal but I know the guys from Hades really like that album, Samoth too, and at the time it was very much considered black metal. It had a gothic edge to it. It was their best moment, an excellent marriage of different styles; the whole thing feels very archaic. I think a lot of what went wrong with symphonic black metal was that it tried to be bombastic—and there’s a place for that; Dimmu do some great bombastic black metal, and Limbonic Art too—but it was most effective when Gehenna and Cradle used keyboards in a very archaic way. The synth lines were just organs and piano, very minimal, and it wasn’t trying to be an orchestra.”
BLACKLODGE Solarkult (End All Life Productions, 2006)
“I think this is the pinnacle of industrial black metal. There is definitely a place in my heart for industrial black metal. Mysticum, of course, were the kings and were possibly my favorite bands, certainly one of them, but the reason I like that Blacklodge album is because it is the best marriage [of industrial and black metal]. It is more industrial than Mysticum and it is more controlled—Mysticum is like this furious spirit trapped in the machine but Blacklodge is just this ever-twisting labyrinth of music, very angular, everything is very well planned. It is very industrial but it still carries the black metal; it has the black metal riffs, and it definitely has the black metal spirit. I don’t think it has been surpassed. DHG did some good stuff, other bands around the mid-90s, that Moonfog period went a little industrial, but none have done it as well as Blacklodge.
MAYHEM De Mysteriis Dom Sathanus (Deathlike Silence, 1994)
“You don’t need to explain this one—again, it’s a clichéd choice but it is possibly the best black metal album, certainly one of the best. You can just listen to it all day. Eight excellent songs, and it was such a long time in the making. It was released in ’94 and some of those songs were on Live in Leipzig in 1990, so it was a really long gestation. And, of course, there is always that question of what it would have sounded like with the original vocalist because, obviously, Attila’s defined those songs. It’s nice to have that as a companion listen to Live in Leipzig because his vocal style changed the spirit of it. But all for the better, probably. It is very linear, more linear than any of the other albums that I have talked about but it has the spirit, the depth and the atmosphere of Nightside Eclipse.”
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