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Death Metal 101
December 8, 2008 4:10 PM   Subscribe

MetalFilter: Okay, metalheads... tell me what I simply must hear in the death metal and black metal genres.

I spend a lot of time listening to music, but have never really gotten too deep into metal. I tend to listen to a lot of indie rock. The furthest I've gone into metal is having seen In Flames live once, and I've got a bunch of Dillenger Escape Plan albums.

I'm very intrigued by death metal and black metal, and want to know what YOU think I should hear. So far, I've gotten myself copies of Darkthrone's "Transilvanian Hunger", and Enslaved's "Frost" at a friend's recommendation.

I have browsed through the death/black metal related threads already on MeFi, but most are kinda specific about what they're looking for. I want to know what you'd force down a friend's throat if they expressed interest in the genres.

Bonus points for more recent stuff that's very good, in addition to the "classics".
posted by smitt to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
Opeth. As I understand it (feel free to correct me, metalheads), they're both black and death metal, with a healthy dose of prog as well. Plus they're, you know, totally sweet.
posted by neckro23 at 4:28 PM on December 8, 2008


Darththrone, Nachtmystium and Krallice (per my husband, the metal expert)

There's alot of metal beyond death and black. Much of it is available on awesome vinyl too!
posted by pokeedog at 4:36 PM on December 8, 2008


Opeth. As I understand it (feel free to correct me, metalheads), they're both black and death metal, with a healthy dose of prog as well.

Not black metal at all. They play almost entirely progressive metal now, though they retain some of their death metal influence. Check out Orchid, which features a lot more death-ish stuff and (IMO) some of their best instrumental passaes - particularly on "The Apostle in Triumph".
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:38 PM on December 8, 2008


I'm not a huge fan, but some of my buddies are. I think Deathspell Omega is worth hearing.
posted by box at 4:46 PM on December 8, 2008


WATAIN
posted by The Straightener at 4:48 PM on December 8, 2008


Passing on this information from a metalhead friend of mine that doesn't have the $5 right now:

"ok, step one: Opeth's album Orchid is, if one wants to peg it as something, Death-Doom more than anything

besides that, for Black Metal (band, album): Mayhem, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas; Anaal Nathrakh, The Codex Necro; Carpathian Forest, Strange Old Brew; Satyricon, Nemesis Divina; Ulver, Nattens Madrigal; Burzum, Aske.

For Death Metal (band, album): Vital Remains, Dechristianize; Death, Individual Thought Patterns; Cryptopsy, None so Vile; Hate Eternal, I Monarch; Nile, Black Seeds of Vengence"

He claims these are the essentials of Black and Death.
posted by piratebowling at 4:51 PM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's not part of the "canon," per se, but Weakling's Dead as Dreams is my favorite black metal record. One of their guitarists was in the Fucking Champs, and the main dude is in Asunder now, whom you may have heard of if you're into doom at all. It has a really huge, layered sound that I like to blast through headphones. The vocalist sounds like he is in sheer agony, which might be a turnoff, but hey - this is black metal we're talking about. Here is their unofficial myspace, which has one track, and some more info:

http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=81206922
posted by evisceratordeath at 5:00 PM on December 8, 2008


Sorry, didn't make that into HTML. Here.
posted by evisceratordeath at 5:01 PM on December 8, 2008


Piratebowling's got a decent black metal list, I would add Dissection's albums The Somberlain and Storm of the Light's Bane, Naglfar's albums Vittra and Diabolical and Dawn's Slaughtersun. Death metal I'm not the best person to ask about because I think the genre started to seriously suck somewhere around 1991. I don't listen to much beyond the old school stuff I grew up with; Death, Entombed, Obituary, Pestilence, Atheist, Carcass, etc. Some of the newer that have a retro-feel like Death Breath, Ghoul and Engorged I kind of dig.
posted by The Straightener at 5:02 PM on December 8, 2008


I love black metal, especially the weirder stuff. Here's what I will recommend:

Borknagar! They're easily one of my favorite acts, and tracing the discographies of their current and former members is like perusing a Who's Who of Scandinavian progressive folk/avant/black metal.

If you want even something more experimental, I also heartily recommend Vintersorg and the rest of Andreas Hedlund's musical projects. They all are very weird, and very wonderful.
posted by spinifex23 at 5:03 PM on December 8, 2008


Whatever happened to Venom?
posted by Max Power at 5:15 PM on December 8, 2008


Here's a description of Watain's stage show from their latest US tour:

"Last night I went to see Watain. I walked in and was assaulted by the stench of death.
These guys had a bunch of goat heads that were rotting up on posts while they played.
But even before they played the entire club smelled horrible. The bartenders had vicks to put under your nose.

Anyway, I took a shower when I got home, and this morning, and I can still smell it.
Gross."

Apparently they brought the goat heads from overseas and kept them in the tour bus without refrigerating them the entire tour so by the latest few dates the show was super, extra kult.
posted by The Straightener at 5:17 PM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anything by Opeth. Definitely Individual Thought Patterns and/or Symbolic. And Heartwork and Swansong.
posted by Rhomboid at 5:17 PM on December 8, 2008


(And just to be clear, both Death and Carcass had a ton of albums prior to those, which purists can argue are even more quintessential death metal. But I find that in both cases their latter works are their best.)
posted by Rhomboid at 5:18 PM on December 8, 2008


Death:
Bolt Thrower

Black:
Xasthur
Nortt
Blut Aus Nord
posted by rhizome at 5:27 PM on December 8, 2008


Emperor
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 5:29 PM on December 8, 2008


I'll nth Opeth. My own thoughts on them are here. Yes, for the billionth time we all know that Opeth is not technically black metal, belonging instead to one of the other 329 sub-sub-genres of heavy metal, but the poster wasn't being that specific.

My Opeth favorites are Deliverance and Damnation, preferably listened to back to back. For something recent, I like the Faceless. I just ignore the vocals at this point.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:09 PM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I know next to nothing about Death Metal and Black Metal, but Opeth is awesome. Also, Samael has a song called 'I Love The Dead' that I fell in love with some 10 years ago. It is the darkest, blackest, most evil thing I've ever heard. It's the most beautiful song about making love to corpses I've ever heard, frankly.
posted by Bageena at 6:13 PM on December 8, 2008


Here are some of my favorite metal albums, some more death and black than others:

At The Gates - "Slaughter of the Soul"
Death - Symbolic"
Hypocrisy - "S/T"
Meshuggah - "None"
Opeth - "Blackwater Park"
posted by bwilms at 6:59 PM on December 8, 2008


I'll copy my answer from a previous thread:

Ahab - The Call of the Wretched Sea
Facebreaker - Bloodred Hell
Anaal Nathrakh - Eschaton
Mors Principium Est - Liberation
Demilich - Nespinthe
Sentenced - Amok/North From Here
Rotting Christ - Triarchy of the Lost Lovers
Hypocrisy - The Arrival
Conducting From the Grave - Trials of the Forsaken
Witchery - Don't Fear the Reaper
Graveworm - Engraved in Black
Hecate Enthroned - Kings of Chaos
Rudra - Kurukshetra
Xasthur - Subliminal Genocide
Samael - Ceremony of Opposites
Ufomammut - Snail King

...and maybe add a few more:

In Flames - at least anything before Reroute to Remain
October Tide - Rain Without End
Bloodbath - any album
Sepultura - anything before Against
Drastus - Roars From the Old Serpent's Paradise
Morbid Angel - Altars of Madness
Obituary - The End Complete
Deicide - Legion
Cannibal Corpse - Tomb of the Mutilated
Possessed - Seven Churches
Unleashed - Sworn Allegiance
Venom - Black Metal (not really Black Metal, but the first band to use that term)
Bathory - any album
Sarcofago - any album
Emperor - In the Nightside Eclipse and Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk
Gorgoroth - anything with Gaahl
Behemoth - Grom
Arcturus - Aspera Hiems Symfonia

...too many more to list!

It may also be important that you check out the Emergence section of the Death Metal Wikipedia article, as well as the Black Metal article, at least from The First Wave down. Also read Lords of Chaos and The Satanic Bible.
posted by Demogorgon at 7:16 PM on December 8, 2008


I'm not sure that they qualify as death or black metal, but Warhammer 48k is probably my favorite metal band (they refer to themselves as psychedelic grind core...)

I think they might be defunct now since members are strewn all over flyover country...but their two albums (Uber Om [listen] and An Ethereal Oracle) are both pretty sweet.
posted by schyler523 at 7:25 PM on December 8, 2008


I'm more Heavy Metal than Death/Black Metal, and honestly every metal subgenre is getting mixed up in my head, but besides Opeth, I recommend Arch Enemy and Dimmu Borgir. These guys have been around for a while. Sunn O))) is a great one, though they're more like "drone metal" - REALLY dark stuff. Sounds like you're listening to an engine of hell.
posted by curagea at 7:29 PM on December 8, 2008


Great suggestions above; in particular, I second or recommend the following:
Everything by Mayhem, Emperor, and Darkthrone. Absolutely the genesis of the genre.
Bathory: Again, almost any album
Dissection: The Somberlain
Weakling: Dead as Dreams
Tvangeste: Firestorm
Deathspell Omega: Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice
Arcturus: La Masquerade Infernale
Leviathan: The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide and Tentacles of Whorror
Morgul: Sketch of a Supposed Murderer and the Horror Grandeur

Note that some of these are modern (but very well-regarded) groups, others (Deathspell Omega, Morgul, Arcturus) are somewhat on the avant garde end of the metal scene. What I've listed isn't anything like a complete listing of all the good black metal bands, but if you listen to those albums, you'll have a good idea of the breadth of the genre, and you'll hopefully be able to find something you like.

If you might want to try some slower stuff - generally classified as doom metal, death/doom, or something to that effect, you might want to start with albums like:
Swallow the Sun: The Morning Never Came
My Dying Bride: Turn Loose the Swans
Dusk: Majestic Thou In Ruin
Forty Days Longing: the Head of the Demon (female vocalist doing black metal vocals - I wish this were more common!)
diSEMBOWELMENT: Transcendence Into The Peripheral

Speaking of slow stuff, there are also great stoner or drone metal bands that are worth checking out (Sleep, Om, Earth, Kyuss, Sunn O))), Eyehategod, etc.), and more extreme doom metal bands (Skepticism and Pantheist play funeral doom; Khanate is aural torture), but that may be wandering a little far afield from your death metal/black metal request.
posted by ubersturm at 7:40 PM on December 8, 2008


(I'm much more into black metal than death metal, so I'll focus on that. Within black metal, I tend to like the melodic/epic stuff more than the raw/buzzy stuff, so my suggestions are probably pretty weighted in that direction.)

As far as the classics of the black metal genre go, it sounds like you've already gotten into Darkthrone and Enslaved (Enslaved is a band I'm particularly fond of- I'd recommend the albums Eld, Mardraum, and Below the Lights in particular)- I'd say the other big names in the original Norwegian black metal scene are Emperor, Mayhem, and Burzum. Emperor is definitely a band I'd strongly recommend checking out- the album In the Nightside Eclipse was the one that got me into black metal. It remains my favorite of theirs, though most people recommend the second album, Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, over it- both are worth hearing. I'm personally not terribly fond of Mayhem for the most part, but they are an extremely influential band within the genre, and worth checking out for that reason alone. As for Burzum- well, Varg Vikernes is not a figure to be admired, to say the least, but he is genuinely talented, and I think his albums would be considered classics within the black metal scene even if not for the shock factor of his crimes and beliefs- as it is, they have been incredibly influential. He had a particular talent for creating a kind of hypnotic effect through repetition, and avoiding monotony from there through subtle variations that develop as the song progresses, an effect a great many bands have tried and failed to recreate. I'd recommend the album Filosofem in particular, and the album Hvis Lyset Tar Oss for the first track, which is justly considered a black metal classic.

A few others worth noting- the Japanese band Sigh have a reputation as being the ultimate in weird, eclectic black metal, which they are, but they're also just a great band in general. Check out Scorn Defeat for fairly traditional black metal with a touch of the eclectic element that would eventually become their defining characteristic, and Imaginary Sonicscape for a very psychedelic album that's only barely black metal, but is nevertheless one of my all-time favorites- for all the eclectic oddness, it's an amazingly accessible album, with some very memorable and indeed downright catchy songs.

Agalloch isn't quite black metal, but if you like Opeth, they're definitely worth checking out. I think they're actually rather different from Opeth (Opeth drawing their non-metallic influence from folk and progressive rock and their metallic influence from death metal, Agalloch being influenced by neofolk and post-rock on the non-metal side and black metal on the metal side), but since both frequently use clean vocals and acoustic parts they're often compared to each other. I personally prefer Agalloch to Opeth (who I do think are quite good, but somewhat overrated), but both are certainly worth hearing.
(Agalloch might be also be a good transitional band if you're used to indie rock- I don't know if that includes post-rock for you, but Godspeed You Black Emperor! is one of their strongest influences, and you can definitely hear that in their music.)

Another band in the Opeth/Agalloch vein is Orphaned Land, an Israeli band somewhat like Opeth but with Middle Eastern traditional music in place of Opeth's prog/folk elements. Fantastic band- I highly recommend their most recent album, Mabool.

For very recent stuff, Lunar Aurora's Andacht is an absolutely amazing black metal album, IMO- one of the best I've ever heard. Incredibly atmospheric, powerful stuff, both furiously intense and startlingly emotional in a way that I think transcends the usual black metal cliches.
Another recent album I'd recommend in the extreme metal field is Primordial's To The Nameless Dead- it isn't quite black metal (or death metal), but it's a fantastic, epic album.
I'd also second the recommendation of Weakling's Dead As Dreams, and if you like that album, I'd recommend Wolves in the Throne Room as a band doing something somewhat similar.

I guess I'll leave it at that- hope you find some stuff you like there.
posted by a louis wain cat at 7:57 PM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's tough to give you a good recommendation without knowing more about your musical taste. Do you like fast stuff? Slow stuff? The shrill shrieking vocals, or the cookie monster vocals? There's a lot of variety within the genres of black and death metal.

Some notable Death Metal bands include Cryptopsy, Suffocation, Morbid Angel, Origin, Nile, and of course, Cannibal Corpse. You might want to check out my husband's website, Soul Killer Webzine. He has a LOT of links, reviews, information about bands, etc.

Yeah, he likes death metal.
posted by cleverevans at 10:18 PM on December 8, 2008


Type O Negative is really solid, too, Bloody Kisses being their best seller for good reason. A little more on the goth/pop end of things.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 10:58 PM on December 8, 2008


Some newer black metal with some shoegaze elements that might be easy to get into given your indie rock past: Wolves in the Throne Room, Agalloch, Drudkh.

My favourite death metal band is the relatively brainless and melodic Amon Amarth. They kick fucking arse.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 2:29 AM on December 9, 2008


Surprised no one has mentioned Paradise Lost yet.
posted by Grrlscout at 2:41 AM on December 9, 2008


On behalf of my co-worker who reads but doesn't usually post:
I know a lot of people who have started exploring black metal recently. Opeth comes up a lot, but I think that Mikael Akerfeldt might grimace slightly if you mentioned his band in the same breath as groups like Burzum or Gorgoroth. Opeth is VERY accessible however, and Blackwater Park is the place to start.

I'm not a musician, so I don't get off on the technical aspects of a lot of bands. What I look for is the atmosphere it generates, especially when it comes to black metal. Some invoke coldness, or evil, sadness, or loss, but the following list are the ones that really touch me in some way. Taking away all the absurdity of genre (the murders in the early 90s, Gaahl of Gorgoroth's cartoonish nonsense, &c.), black metal does have a lot of power and beauty in the songwriting.

Weakling - S/T
Krallice - S/T
Blut Aus Nord - Mort
Wolves in the Throne Room - Two Hunters
Ulver - Natten Madrigal
Abigor - Nachthymnen
Satyricon - The Shadowthrone
In the Woods - HEart of the Ages
Drudkh - Blood in Our Wells
Agalloch - Ashes Against the Grain
Alcest - Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde [this is what would happen if Slowdive wrote metal]
Arcturus - Aspera Hiems Symfonia
Ulver - Bergtatt
Dissection - Storm of the Light's Bane

Of that list, if there were three that you MUST HEAR, I suggest:

Dissection - Storm the Light's Bane
Weakling - S/T
Ulver - Bergtatt

Anyway, hope that helps!
Happy listening!
posted by susanbeeswax at 10:43 AM on December 9, 2008


Krallice.
posted by naju at 1:53 PM on December 9, 2008


All these posts, and no Children of Bodom yet. Most of their catalogue is alright, but "Are You Dead Yet" is a work of fucking art.
posted by liet at 8:57 PM on December 9, 2008


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