Norwegian black metal, or “norsk svartmetall,” is the ultimate reason for existence. Every time a new black metal single drops from Norway, “suddenly life has new meaning.” That may not be a very brutal thing to say, but it is as true as the indisputable statement: “Kristian Espedal is the coolest man alive.” Although Norwegian black metal should have been “The Great Northern Trendkill,” it is common knowledge that the unholy art form has been perverted by the type of obsequious posers who should just “walk on home.” Nevertheless, there are many fantastic bands that have kept things real in 2021.
If you love Norwegian black metal, you were probably delighted by many of this year’s releases. We were blown away by Mayhem’s EP Atavistic Black Disorder / Kommando, Gaahls Wyrd’s EP The Humming Mountain, and Darkthrone’s studio album Eternal Hails……. Thanks to these works of genius, it feels as though Santa’s elves have already arrived to bestow the most splendid gifts. Now that December is actually here, however, it’s time to make an inventory of all the naughty albums and EPs that will make you want to burn more than just the coal in your stocking. So purchase your Fantoft-shaped Kirkebrann candles now, take out your original “Aske” zippo lighters, and get ready to rock.
For the purposes of spreading the Gospel of great bands, we will be generous with our definition of “black metal.” (That is, despite the fact that yours truly is a scrooge, who generally uses the term “black metal” even more sparingly than a certain white-bearded inhabitant of France used money to record Filosofem. We say this in order to stave off the wrath of BM purists.) Obviously, black metal doesn’t have to be from Norway to be as savage as a “Chainsaw Gutsfuck,” as proven by many of the subgenre’s pioneers and leading figures. Darkthrone’s Nocturno Culto has stated: “For me, black metal is not geographical, but universal and that anyone who has the right attitude and thought can do it, wherever they are from.” Nocturno’s more loquacious half, Fenriz, has aired songs by black metal groups from all over the world on his radio show. Nevertheless, Norway is clearly not only a very special country, but it is also an extremely significant place historically for black metal. During the second wave of BM, Norway quite clearly gave the world some of the greatest music ever recorded. Therefore, the land of cultural luminaries such as Liv Ullmann and Karl Ove Knausgård seems like a great place to start our journey. Grab a Nøgne Ø holiday brew for a taste of Scandinavia, and enjoy 10 of this year’s most awesome Norwegian black metal releases that you probably have not heard.
1. Umoral — Der Sola Aldri Skinner
Der sola aldri skinner, which means “Where the Sun Never Shines,” is an obscene masterpiece. This album is the follow-up to Umoral’s first release, their self-titled EP, Umoral (2007). Der sola aldri skinner had been in the making for many years before it was finally completed. Mayhem’s “Teloch,” Morten Bergeton Iversen, who is a founding member of Umoral, recently asked via social media whether the album was worth the wait. The answer is a resounding “YES!”
Der sola aldri skinner features the best cover art of the year by far. It displays the infinite regression of the image of a woman with spread legs. Yet, it is what is on the inside of this fine gatefold sleeve that really counts. Umoral invites you “To Enter the Flesh.” Prepare yourself! Within this Temple of Debauchery, you will find a “Side A — Anus” and a “Side B — Rectum.” Der sola aldri skinner gives you the sensation of a Sunday stroll through a burning Notre-Dame that is infested with spiritual vermin. This album is an onslaught that makes you feel as if you are being pelted by shards of exploding stained glass that once depicted motifs like the Good Shepherd. It is an avant-garde work of abject art that can be compared to the transgressive literature of Georges Bataille. The 11-track album has an awe-inspiring sense of atmosphere. Der sola aldri skinner opens boldly with “Du Som Skjender Hvert Kroppens Hulrom”/“You Who Violate Every Body’s Cavity.” “Therapist the Rapist” will definitely haunt your tympanic cavities. The song is catchy as hell. Although Der sola aldri skinner reeks of onanistic, Egon Schiele-like of exhibitionism, it reawakens the mystery of sex by obscuring its riddle under the veil of bestial aggression, sadistic humor, and its own vile grime. What could “Tnuc Eht Fo Tluc Eht Fo Tilc” possibly mean?! Take a couple of seconds to figure it out. Der sola aldri skinner is where absurdism, hedonism, and mysticism meet to try to slaughter one another. Demon sodomy even makes a guest appearance on the track “Miracle.” If your name is Alex DeLarge, Der sola aldri skinner will be your new feel-good, go-to album. It is an instant dose of catharsis. In today’s friendly era of “Vagina Monologues,” “Shut Up and Worship My Cunt” will surely come as a relief to many antisocial women. The song is an anthem for those who are leonine in nature, as opposed to those who have adopted the domicile manner of house cats.
As Fenriz said, “sometimes the titles or pieces of the lyrics are like eye candy… and maybe other people can get the candy?!” Umoral definitely brings home the candy with the titles “Smothered in Kindness and Approachability” and “Characteristics of a Tiny Soul.” Each one of this album’s songs is an “Indiscreet Jewel,” to quote Diderot. They hang together like constellations to create a magnificently constructed whole. Umoral’s spirited brutality is truly admirable. This album project strength, force, and chaos. Der aldri skinner will certainly introduce you to “a new level of confidence and power.” It is hilarious, unrelenting, and unapologetic throughout. Every time you listen to it, it will get even more outrageous. Der sola aldri skinner is the kind of release that you will want to pay close attention to in order to catch ever filthy word and nuance. In short, Umoral delivers black metal exactly as you need it but have never been creative enough to envision it.
Umoral’s members cannot be praised enough for this album’s unique sonic landscape. Everything from the miscellaneous noises to the vocals is genius. Ex-Dødheimsgard’s “Zweizz,” Svein Egil Hatlevik, who co-founded Fleurety in 1991, gives the kind of bizarre yet brilliant performance that makes one exclaim: “Das ist Kunst!” You already know that Teloch is a beast on the guitar. He plays bass on this album as well. Filip Roshauw, who is sometimes known as “Flipz,” joins on guitar and backing vocals. Roshauw has made guest appearances with Fleurety, which happens to be a band so original that you will have to check them out for yourself. Umoral previously featured Mayhem’s Hellhammer on drums. He was replaced by ex-Tsjuder’s drummer “Anti-Christian,” Christian Håpnes Svendsen, who has moved on since recording Der sola aldri skinner. Special guest “Cunt Krizlakh,” Kristoffer Momrak, plays the flute. (We are not sure that a better jab at Monsieur Cachet has ever existed.) Thomas Sagbråten handles the keyboards.
Also from the Mayhem camp, the band’s founding ex-drummer “Manheim,” Kjetil Esten Haraldsson Manheim, saw the release of Order’s The Gospel this fall. Mannheim’s Order bandmates are Mayhem’s original vocalist, “Billy Cockroach”/“Messiah,” Eirik Skyseth Norheim; guitarist Anders Odden of Cadaver and Satyricon (live); and bassist “Stu Manx,” Stig Amundsen. We highly recommend The Gospel, which is from a group that was hit by tragedy early on — Order’s original bassist, René Jansen, passed away in 2014. Mayhem’s Ghul also participated in Veile’s EP The Ghost Sonata, which was released this August.
2. Mork— Katedralen
Katedralen is Mork’s incredible 5th studio album. If you have been paying attention to black metal at all during this century, the chances are that you will have some degree of familiarity with Mork. The band was founded in 2004 by Thomas Eriksen. Mork is signed to the famous Peaceville Records. Eriksen has even teamed up with a local brewery to create his own beer, “Mork — Gravøl.” Now that is a sign of success! “Gravøl” means “funeral beer.” It is also the title of the final track on Mork’s third album, Eremittens Dal (2017). Although the name Mork may be a bit confusing due to its similarity to the word “mørk”/“dark,” Thomas Eriksen has simply stated that Mork = Mork.
Katedralen, which means “The Cathedral,” was released on March 5th. Although Mork is a one-man band, Eriksen performs with a touring lineup. (One of Mork’s live drummers, Asgeir Mickelson, used to play with the next band on our list.) Darkthrone’s Nocturno Culto contributed his vocal excellence to Katedralen’s second song, “Svartmalt,” which translates to “Painted Black.” Although the Rolling Stones-inspired title may sound audacious, Eriksen and Nocturno pull it off with flying colors. “Dagene gjentas. Villedet i et knust speilhus. Hva som gjenstår er en siste utvei I mørket. Jeg maler dette, livets lerret. Tykke strøk av smerte. Det klareste bilde. Svartmalt.”/“The days are repeated. Misguided in a broken mirror-house. What remains is a last resort in the dark. I paint this canvas of life. Thick strokes of pain. The clearest picture. Black painted.” Nocturno also sang on the track “Hudbreiderens revir” from Mork’s second album, Den vandrende skygge/The Wandering Shadow (2016). Dimmu Borgir co-founder Silenoz made an appearance on Eremittens dal as a guest vocalist. On Katedralen, Silenoz returns to play the pipe organ at the beginning of the first song, the ferocious “Dødsmarsjen”/“The March of Death,” as well as on the last track, the epic concept-song “De Fortapte Sjelers Katedral”/“The Cathedral of Lost Souls.” Eriksen had been mulling over the idea for the album’s finale as well as the Katedralen epithet for the last 10 years. Kampfar’s Dolk joins Eriksen on vocals on Katedralen’s killer 6th track, “Født Til Å Herske”/“Born to Rule.” Make sure to watch the music video. The participation of so many superstars on Katedralen is due to the fact that there is no shortage of Mork believers. Dayal Patterson, one of the best metal authors as well as a publishing house founder, included the band in his book Black Metal: Into the Abyss (2016).
“Arv” or “Heritage” is a striking composition about the passing of Eriksen’s father from a heart attack at the age of 60. Eriksen uses both dirty and clean vocals. The music video was filmed in a cold bunker of the Fredriksten Fortress in Eriksen’s hometown of Halden. One can infer that Eriksen’s massive intellect and meticulous attention to detail, which are present throughout the grandiose album, are traits that he has inherited from his father, which makes the tribute all the more touching. Surprisingly, Eriksen likes to record his songs in one take if possible. “Arv” is followed by “Evig Intens Smerte”/“Eternal Intense Pain,” which will satisfy your need for your daily dose of torment. Next up is the especially catchy “Det siste gode i meg,” which Eriksen has roughly translated as “The Loss of Good Within Me.” Although this song will tear you to shreds, it will also make you want to sing along: “La evighetens svarte flamme gro. Blodet iser I årene. Jeg er kald der jeg var varm. Samme hva som skjer, er jeg likegyldig.”/“Let eternity’s black flame grow. The blood freezes over the years. I am cold where I was hot. No matter what happens, I am indifferent.” Two tracks later, Katedralen finally leads its listeners down “den mørke stien av anger og sorg”/“the dark path of regret and sorrow” to “den endelige stoppeplass der de samles til evig opphold i mørkets soning”/“the final stop where they gather for eternity in atonement of darkness.” Katedralen is a deeply personal magnum opus that comes directly from Eriksen’s inner depths. It is an innovative work of exceptional beauty with a voice that is so strong that it is confounding. The 37-year-old Thomas Eriksen is “Lysbæreren”/“The Light Bearer” for a new generation of metalheads. For this musician, the sky is the limit. He is currently in the process of making a new Mork album.
Thomas Eriksen is also host of what is arguably the very best metal podcast, The Thomas Eriksen Show. Eriksen began his show the same weekend that Covid-19 restrictions first went into effect in Norway. He has interviewed artists like Gaahl, Apollyon, and Manheim. Eriksen’s in-depth discussions are always incredibly informative and enjoyable. His questions are excellent. Eriksen is obviously an authority when it comes to black metal. His guests, who are often friends, trust him as a fellow musician, which leads to a very cozy atmosphere and unexpected revelations. It is refreshing to hear a podcast host who is tactful as well. Another bonus is that Eriksen makes a habit of including snippets of banter in Norwegian to head off interviews, so that listeners can get a taste of his guests’ dialects.
Watch Nocturno Culto take the stage with Mork in 2017:
3. Sarke — Allsighr
Sarke’s Allsighr is downright fabulous. It takes all of 45-seconds at the very most to fall in love with this album. Yet, this release demands several listens in order to fully appreciate it. Nocturno Culto’s voice is instantly recognizable. Thomas “Sarke” Bergli, who is also known for Khold and Tulus, revealed to Thomas Eriksen that the Darkthrone legend initially said “no” when asked to participate on the first Sarke album. Although Nocturno was a member Satyricon in the ’90s, he considered Darkthrone to be his “one and only” for a long time. Nocturno is one of the greatest metal musicians and innovators ever. Nevertheless, Sarke is more than worthy of his collaboration. Nocturno has fronted each of Sarke’s 7 albums.
Allsighr is an incredibly easy album to listen to. Although the music has a majestic sense of rugged strength, there is nothing abrasive about it. For those who think that Allsighr is not black metal enough, the title of Darkthrone’s 2007 album could be quoted, but we would never make a statement that impolite. Instead, we suggest listening extra-carefully to discern Bergli’s intentions. Bergli composes Sarke’s songs and writes the lyrics. He told Thomas Eriksen that he started Sarke in order to create music inspired by others. You will hear everything from Birmingham to the American South on Allsighr. Bergli played drums in the über-cool and criminally underappreciated doom metal band of “Moonstoned” “Stonehead[s]” and “Suicidal Hippie[s]” known as Valhall. The group had a big influence on him. You can hear some Valhall-esque psychedelic paranoia in Sarke. Valhall was founded by Fenriz and friends in 1997. In fact, Bergli was Fenriz’s replacement during the brief period when the Elvis of Scandinavia stepped away from the band to focus on Darkthrone. Oddly enough, playing with Valhall introduced Bergli to black metal through the likes of Mayhem. Fenriz is a master of mixing metal with other genres, as proven by Isengard and Fenriz’ Red Planet, for example. It is common knowledge that Nocturno and Fenriz have also brilliantly infused Darkthrone with mixed influences. As far as Sarke’s seamless blending of select inspirations is concerned, the band is somewhat reminiscent of Fenriz’s side projects. That is not to say that they sound alike, because they do not (and besides, Fenriz’s impulses are ever-changing), rather there is a similarity of mentality. Sarke weds what is chill, lavish, and regal with what is brutal. The result is 100% smooth. Allsighr is quirky and whimsical but less silly than what sometimes comes from everyone’s favorite Norwegian brunet, Mr. Gylve Fenris “My Ship Has Sailed Without Me” Nagell. That said, Allsighr is not without humor.
It is impossible to pigeonhole Allsighr. It is the best of the ’70s onwards. Like Bergli, Nocturno is especially fond of the ’70s and the ’80s. We can only think that helped him collaborate on Sarke’s material. At times, the album even takes the liberty of becoming jazzy. It is the kind of groovy, menacingly flamboyant release that makes you want to kick back and reminisce. In the best way possible, Allsighr will make you feel “Imprisoned” in your “own thoughts… for an endless time to come.” “Glacial Casket,” for instance, helps Allsighr remain balanced with just enough coldness to keep you frozen to your headphones. “Beheading the Circus Director” is an especially unusual gem of a song both lyrically and musically. “Grim Awakening” is particularly catchy: “Obsessed with negativity. Obsessed with what’s below. My mystical curiosity. Beginning to grow. Growing from within. I leap into cruelty. I leap into hate. A grim awakening will seal my fate.” Sarke will give you: “The feeling of disobedience. The feeling of sin… [and] primitive rawness.” The album does its epithet justice: “Allsighr — The goddess of moons and dreams. Allsighr — The mother root of divinity and mortality.” Throughout Allsighr, Steinar Gundersen’s guitars are absolutely sick. The same, however, applies to Bergli’s bass, Cato Bekkevold’s drums, and Anders Hunstad’s keyboards. Gundersen and Hunstad have performed live with Satyricon like Nocturno, who recorded with the band as well. Bekkevold was a member of Enslaved for 15 years and also had a long stretch with Red Harvest. You can watch Bergli, Nocturno, and former Sarke members Asgeir Mickelsen and Terje Kråbøl, whose brother Stian also played with Sarke, in the movie Saga (2016).
4. Doedsvangr — Serpents ov Old
Doedsvanger is an international effort, which was founded in 2014. The name means “Fields of Death” and “Dead Womb.” The group is composed of highly seasoned musicians. Shatraug, who plays bass and guitar on Serpents ov Old, boasts merits that qualify him as an archdemon of Finnish black metal. He has been a member of the most excellent Horna from the beginning. Shatraug originally founded Sargeist as a solo project. He has also played with Behexen. BST, who lives in France, also contributes guitar and bass parts to Serpents ov Old. Doedsvangr’s Norwegian vocalist, Doedsadmiral, participated in the EP Fenriir by Nordjevel, which was released this spring and is also worth a listen. (Speaking of devils, you may have heard ex-Emperor’s Faust on drums with Djevel on the album Tanker som rir natten, which was released this May.) On Serpents ov Old, Anti-Christian, pounds away on drums with such diabolical excellent that it will make you wish that you could turn his tracks up. This year, Anti-Christian also saw the release of Umoral’s Der sola aldri skinner, #1 on our list, as well as the late-April premiere of Nattverd’s Vandring (2021), which is another great album. Anti-Christian has left Nattverd like Umoral.
Doedsadmiral told Black Reich Zine: “I started the band in 2014, purely to play a different style of black metal than I do with Nordjevel, and Svartelder also.” He clarified: “We didn’t meet and rehearse the album. It was written from our own studios. Nowadays with internet and all, it’s no problem with communication and sending files. And we also recorded in our own studios, and sent all files to BST at his studio, where he put everything together. He also mixed and mastered the album.”
Serpents ov Old is Doedsvangr’s second release. It follows their debut album, Satan ov Sun (2017). Although Serpents ov Old is the band’s sophomore album, it makes no rookie mistakes. Serpents ov Old is epitomizes the best of Finnish and Norwegian black metal in all of its ideal, gargling glory. It is exactly what one would expect from such an accomplished band of black metal veterans. Nevertheless, Doedsvangr’s drive and monstrous energy are truly astonishing.
5. Deathcult — Bestial Recordings
It seems today that all we see is moralizing in movies and compassion on TV. But where are those warped old-fashioned values on which we black metallers used to rely?! Do you detest weak-willed, over-produced, plastic “black metal”?! As many of the subgenre’s toughest have morphed into family guys, certain musicians have allowed their music to turn into “dad metal.” But what is even worse, are the rare occasions when the brats that they spawned think that they are being innovative by writing black metal break-up songs. Hell, some of the sparkly nonsense that passes for ambient black metal today makes My Little Pony seem badass.
Bestial Recordings deserves the ultimate compliment: You would never know that any of its creators have personal lives. Bestial Recordings was released on August 10th, the 28th deathday of Euronymous. The 4-song EP runs over 22 minutes. This raw slice of madness could be dubbed “Maximum Hatred.” It is really that “Fucking Hostile!” This alone is reason to love it. If you are new to black metal, however, you may not discern the magic of Bestial Recordings. Darkthone famously posed the question: “Does your metal know what metal really means?” If the answer is no, you will curse the speakers on which Bestial Recordings plays, and that might not be a bad thing. Again, Deathcult’s aim is to create hate-filled music. They have been doing exactly that since their first demo, Cruel Rehearsals, in 2006. Thus, if Bestial Recordings puts you in a grumpy mood, Deathcult has succeeded in spreading their favorite sentiment.
Yet, Bestial Recordings is quite amusing. The EP kicks off with “Pseudocommando,” which makes its message very clear: “I am no fun. I am nothing. I am no one. My life is nothing, an evilness. I hate everyone and everything!” Next up, “Cynocephalus” is sure to awaken your brutal instincts. It is a crowd-pleaser for curmudgeons and misanthropes. This song is followed by the atmospheric instrumental “Premonition of Violence,” which has a bit of an alien vibe. It elicits the images of flies, propellers, gruesome discoveries made during ceasefire, and every eerie Tarkovsky sequence that you have ever seen. The project concludes with “Dogs of War.” You can hear the almighty Beherit at work throughout the EP, which is also slightly reminiscent of Slavia’s Norwegian Black Terror Assault (2005), for example. (Deathcult’s Hoest and Thurzur would later play bass with Slavia in 2007 and from 2007-2009 respectively.) The credits for Bestial Recordings are written as follows: “Music and lyrics by Skagg. Noize by Thurzur… Skagg — Vocal/Guitar, Hoest — Bass/Vocal, Thurzur — Drums.” (Note: Although Hoest has been accused of racism, he has said that neither he nor his music are racist. We do not condone any form of racism.)
Deathcult has excellent chemistry. Why, one might ask? Bandmates Skagg and Thurzur are brothers, whose real names are Stian Lægreid and Jan Atle Lægreid. Before you take Bestial Recordings too seriously, just remember that the Lægreid brothers played guitar and drums in a heavy metal band called Internal Manes. Once upon a time, the brothers jammed along to lyrics like: “At the end of the road there’s a rainbow. And the angels look down from the stars. See the colors of nature surround you. There is hope in this world here of ours… Bloody treason?! No good reason for it.” Skagg and Thurzur have played both live and in studio with Taake, Hoest’s well-known one-man band. Skagg, who is Deathcult’s main songwriter, has also played live with Gorgoroth, but what will truly knock your “crispy socks” off is his work with Gaahlskagg. The EP Erotic Funeral (2000) is awesome beyond words. Who could possibly resist a song like “Skullfuck” in which Gaahl sings: “And the last you see is me naked ready to reverse your eyeballs and skullfuck you”? Thurzur joined in on drums for the recording of a Gaahlskagg album that was sadly ruined. Hopefully, Gaahlskagg will be revived one day. Gaahl and Skagg also formed Sigfader together in the late ’90s.
In 2005, Skagg and Thurzur moved to Bergen. Skagg told This is Black Metal the following regarding his relocation and befriending Hoest: “We quickly became allies and he moved in with us at our home share where we had a rehearsal area in our living room. We were all living together; me, Hoest and Thurzur. So it was only natural for him to join Deathcult.” During this interview, Skagg offers a great explanation as to why the trio refers to their music as “Cruel Norwegian Black Metal”: “True Norwegian Black Metal was in the nineties. Cruel Norwegian Black Metal is the old flame with new intent… more sinister.” Beware: Deathcult is working on a new album.
If you are a black metal enthusiast, you have probably already rocked out to Taake’s new split EP with Helheim, Henholdsvis (2021), which also slays. Taake delivers exactly what one might hope for while Helheim covers Taake’s “Orkan” and Emperor’s “Heksesabbat.” This was a great year for Helheim. The Viking black metal band also released their 11th studio album, WoduridaR.
6. Vulture Lord — Desecration Rite
The occasion of the release of Vulture Lord’s Desecration Rite was so momentous that a limited-edition stout was brewed in honor of this long-awaited album. Desecration Rite will satisfy your nostalgic cravings. Vulture Lord effortlessly fuses black metal with a healthy amount of thrash. As odd as this may sound, if you love Pantera, this is the black metal album for you. Vulture Lord’s influences date mostly from 1984 to 1994. Although Vulture Lord was founded in 1995, Desecration Rite is only the “Deathfuck” band’s second full-length album after Profane Prayer (2003) and the 4-song EP Blasphemy (2006). (No wonder why Desecration Rite figuratively screams: “I Am the Graves of the ’90s.”) Thus, this comeback album inspires curiosity and admiration. Two of Desecration Rite’s 9 songs were written in 2003, five date back to 2005, and one more has its origin in 2010. Despite this, Desecration Rite feels surprisingly fresh. This heroic, time-capsule of a recording has more than enough fuel, fire, and momentum to maintain your interest until the end.
All members of Vulture Lord, except the group’s vocalist, Sorath Northgrove, have played with the now defunct Urgehal. This year, Sorath and Vulture Lord’s drummer, Uruz, who has played with the colorful and brilliant Mr. Niklas Kvarforth’s Shining, also celebrated the release of Ulvehyrdre’s Englemakersken, which was produced by Vulture Lord’s guitarist, Malphas, who is a current member of Carpathian Forest. In 2021, Malphas also celebrated the release of Endezzma’s The Archer, Fjord and the Thunder. Diabolus, who left Vulture Lord, has maintained his relationship with the band. Thus, he contributes guitar and rhythm guitar tracks to Desecration Rite’s final track, “Perverting the Bible,” which he wrote. Diabolus and guitarist Trondr Nefas, who passed away at 34 in 2012 had collaborated on writing and making demos for what eventually became Desecration Rite. Nefas composed all of the Desecration Rite’s songs, except “Perverting the Bible,” of course. It seems that you can thank Northgrove for the album’s lyrics. On “Bloodbound Militia,” Northgrove sings: “Together we’ll reign in hell. Eswiel (former project). Enzifer. Endekrist (ex-member). Malphas. Diabolus. Nephas. Uruz. Sorath. [Morten] Shax.”
You have to love the guitars and drums on Desecration Rite. The album features just enough grandstanding to lead you on and make you crave more. More solos, please! Listening to Desecration Rite, you wonder how many Red Bulls it takes for Vulture Lord to sustain the slog of such relentless labor with such zeal. We must say that Desecration Rite boasts an especially awesome title track. “Beneficial Martyrdom” is pleasantly cheeky. Yet, every song on the album is a winner. Vulture Lord’s delightfully irreverent attitude will spark so much joy that you could light your cigarette from it. Vulture Lord has never played live, but they are gearing up for upcoming shows in 2022. Acquaint yourself with songs like “Stillborn Messiah” now so that you will be prepared to hear them in concert. Even if you are a person of faith, you will not be able to resist chanting amusingly brazen lyrics like “2001 — The second coming of the bastard son.”
In January, Vulture Lord will release a split EP with the Polish group Black Altar called Deathiah Manifesto. The guests include members of Mork and the legendary Vader — an important inspiration to Fenriz and many others.
7. Dold Vorde Ens Navn — Mørkere
Since this list was created, Metal Hammer has ranked Mørkere #8 on their list of the best black metal albums of 2021. Thus, the chances that you have heard Mørkere have slightly increased. If you have indeed heard this album, which debuted in full on November 12th, listen to Kirkebrann and Visegard’s split release Kirkegard. This late November surprise, for which only 50 physical copies are to be distributed, features Nattefrost from Carpathian Forest as a guest. Nattefrost’s bandmate Vrangsinn participated by mixing Kirkebrann’s vocals. Similarly, Visegard’s bassist, Slakt, is a former member of Carpathian Forest. In Carpathian Forest, he worked with Malphas from the previous pick on our list. Morfeus, formerly of Limbonic Art, handled Visegard’s production. Kirkebrann’s drummer, Tommy Thunberg, a.k.a. “Tommy Guns,” is a Dødheimsgard bandmate of two of DVEN’s members. Kierkegard may just be one of the best black metal releases of the year. Alternatively, you can check out Ene’s debut album, Lang Kald Natt, which will have you following in “Satans black tracks”/“Satan’s Black Tracks.” This rapturously cold, minimalistic album will cleanse you from the occasional filth that you will encounter in modern metal.
Mørkere, which means “Darker,” is DVEN’s debut album. The band is fronted by Ved Buens Ende’s co-founder “Vicotnik,” Yusaf Parvez. Vicotnik also very notably started Dødheimsgard with “Aldrahn,” Bjørn Dencker. Vicotnik soon asked Fenriz to join Dødheimsgard. You can listen to Fenriz rocking out on bass and vocals on Dødheimsgard’s first two demos and the group’s debut album. Vicotnik told Thomas Eriksen that he met Fenriz while he was working at the Stovner Rockefabrikk. DVEN’s bassist, “Cerberus,” Kai S. Halvorsen, was also a Dødheimsgard member, whose participation you can hear on EP Satanic Art (1998). DVEN’s drummer, Øyvind Myrvoll, has worked with Myrkur, Gaahl and King ov Hell’s God Seed, Aura Noir, Fleurety, etc. (Vicotnik has also been associated with Fleurety, with whom you can watch him cover “Freezing Moon.”) Myrvoll has been a member of Dødheimsgard since 2019 as well as a member of Teloch’s Nidingr from 2012 onward. (Although these bands have not released new material since 2015 and 2017 respectively, limited batches of Nidingr’s Wolf-Father  and Sorrow of Infinite Darkness  are out now on cassette tapes that are filled with gold glitter in the former case and silver glitter in the latter case.) DVEN’s guitarist, “Haavard,” Håvard Jorgensen, was a founding member of Eczema, which morphed into Satyricon. Haavard played on Satyricon’s first and second demos, All Evil (1992) and The Forest is my Throne (1993). Haavard told Thomas Eriksen that he is not exactly sure where his credits with Satyricon end, but in any case, the reason for his departure was disgust due to church burnings and violence in the scene. Haavard was also an original member of Ulver. He and remained with the band through their departure from black metal with Themes from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1998), on which Fenriz makes a grand entrance on the album’s bombastic concluding track. (Not that we mistake Ulver’s 1996 album, Kveldssanger, for black metal.) Haavard’s reason for giving up his career as a musician until asked to help with Myrkur’s debut album, M (2015), however, was simply that he had become a father and needed to support his family. DVEN was born out of a meeting between Cerberus and Haavard at the latter’s home in 2006. The two began writing music together and wound up with 4 tracks. This is when the duo enlisted the help of their friends Myrvoll and Vicotnik. The quartet released their first EP, Gjengangere i hjertets mørke, in 2019.
DVEN’s Mørkere has so much artistic merit that you do not need to be a metalhead in order to appreciate it. This fluid album has an incredible range. Mørkere’s beautiful and delicate execution reflects great care. The dirty, clean, and sometimes chanted vocals all demand your full attention. The lyrics are thoughtful and very clearly enunciated. The album’s world-weary sense of ennui can be summarized by the lines: “Et sinn som aldri hviler en smerte i disonans…”/“A mind that never rests. A pain in dissonance.” Unlike Deathcult, for example, this band actually believes in personal evolution. As a result, Mørkere seems very organic. (Deathcult feels organic as well, but in a way that is akin to roadkill.) This avant-garde album has a progressive feel. There is a gentleness to it. At times, a symphonic component is also apparent. The violin, viola, and cello all made guest appearances on the melodic Mørkere. That said, DVEN holds fast to their ’90s roots. Although primitive aggression is subdued, it is nevertheless present in a more nuanced form. Each member of DVEN has a distinct personality, and this certainly enriches what the band has to offer musically speaking. Vicotnik, for example, is like a performance artist.
We will now digress and mention that Vicotnik spoke with Thomas Eriksen about the scream that he contributed to Isengard’s “Thornspawn Chalice.” Vicotnik was awoken the next morning by Fenriz, who was playing Vicotnik’s recording. Fenriz laughed: “Haha. Woken by his own scream.” The reason for this story is that, as stated earlier, if there is one project that turned out great, off-beat black-ish metal, it was Isengard. DVEN carries on the spirit of experimentation.
8. Whoredom Rife — Winds of Wrath
Whoredom Rife is a band that focuses on paganism and the unfriendly tradition of bucking the authority of Jesus Christ. The group, which was founded in 2014, consists of vocalist “K. R”/“Krell,” Kjell Rambeck of Bloodthorn, and instrumentalist “V. Einride,” Vegar Larsen, who was a member of Keep of Kalessin (a band which Fenriz in no way shape or form called “cr**” for their participation in Eurovision). V. Einride, who is more commonly known as “Vyl,” also performs live with Gorgoroth. You can watch Vyl in the documentary Blackhearts (2017), in which Nocturno Culto also stars.
From the very beginning, Winds of Wrath delivers exactly what black metal fans could hope for in 2021. It proves that “Black Metal ist [immer noch] Krieg.” You can hear many of the “truest” influences at work. Whoredom Rife will make you believe in the eternal return of the same black metal spirit that you were raised on. All 6 tracks on this November release are absolutely lethal. However, “The Gospel of Hate” is particularly attractive song. The inclusion of two Norwegian-language tracks, “Hav av Sykdoms Blod” and “Einride,” comes as an appreciated bonus. The music, however, has been somewhat overshadowed by attention received by the album’s art, which was partially inspired by Hieronymus Bosch. The group works with scholar and artist José Gabriel Alegría Sabogal, who was born in Germany and lives in Peru.
This year, Syning’s self-titled debut premiered with V. Einride on drums. Last year, Whoredom Rife unveiled an EP and a split release with Taake in which Taake covered (Get this?!) “Heartland” by Sisters of Mercy. V. Einride and Hoest settled upon the name Pakt while touring in South America. The two of them both happen to play live in Gorgoroth and have a long friendship. In 2020, Whoredom Rife also released the EP Ride the Tide.
9. Vreid — Wild North West
Vreid was formed in 2004 from the ruins of Windir after Valfar passed away at 25 of hypothermia en route to his parents’ cabin. Valfar was Windir’s frontman and founder as well as a multi-instrumentalist. Historically, many of Vreid’s lyrics have been inspired by nature and/or war. Yet, the group has also been responsible for amusing songs like “Sokrates Must Die” and “Hello Darkness,” both of which appeared on their last album, Lifehunger (2018).
By metal standards, Vreid’s Wild North West is a wholesome, family-friendly voyage. This black n’ roll album may not be every extreme metalhead’s cup of spiked tea. “Dazed and Reduced,” for example is not black metal at all. All the same, Wild North West is a thoroughly good release. The penultimate track, “Into the Mountains,” which is a world apart from Windir’s satanic “On the Mountain of Goats,” features Valfar’s demo keyboard tracks from 2002. The song is clearly a homage to Valfar: “… the forest locked me in… Cold silence enfolds me at the journey’s end.” The third verse is probably the most impactful part of the song. Windir and Vreid’s bassist, Hváll, also used vintage riffs that he had recorded to further regain the experience of “working with” Valfar. “Into the Mountains” is also a tribute to Sogndal, Vreid’s place of origin. Vreid’s logo was displayed on the jerseys of Sogndal’s soccer team for the duration of the 2021 season. Like Mork and Vulture Lord, Vreid has scored their own beer. If you live where Balder Brygg is distributed, you can crack open a bottle while you watch the 55-minute film Wild Northwest (2021), which the band released in conjunction with the album. But for now, get ready to be swept away by the music alone.
10. Uten Håp — Endless Dusk
“There is no way out. Embrace the corruption.” These final two lines from Endless Dusk’s penultimate track, “Inside,” could be the album’s tagline. Uten Håp, which means “Without Hope,” delivers depressive black metal that will make you want to jump… for joy. That’s how good it is. Uten Håp is the one-man project of Danthor Wildcrow. He founded Uten Håp in 2017.
Endless Dusk is an intensely intimate album, which has moments that are as cutting as a suicide note. Yet, Wildcrow also ventures into phantasmagorical territory that is oddly groovy as he explores the psychedelic crawl holes of the mind. Endless Dusk is both ethereal and grounded in the dirt of a reality that even taints the narrator’s escapist fantasies. Wildcrow proclaims: “We reign the realms of the void in the mud of my dreams.” The album’s work is to bring you to a point at which all eventually fades into ghost-like memory and you lose your corporality. Endless Dusk is a cold album that will give you a case of “Frost Veins” as you wait “for a sun that never comes.” Nevertheless, it exudes the kind of warmth that one might feel from a wound as “blades [settle] in[to] your mind.” Do away with preconceptions. Endless Dusk is a far moan from the many spastic, histrionic teen-emo manifestations of depressive metal that you might have heard. (We are not referring to daring bands like Lifelover, but rather wimpy clone bands.) Endless Dusk is the work of a mature soul that has been chiseled by many seasons of pain.
For nearly 7 minutes, Endless Dusk’s opening, the 10-minute track “The Void,” remains pretty static. We point this out, because this might be difficult for impatient listeners to endure. However, such an introduction definitely serves a purpose insofar as it recreates the monotony of depression and its internal clanging, which is persistent as tinnitus. This opening reminds one of a cross between factory noises and death bells. “The Void” sets the tone for feelings of fatalistic powerlessness, a predominantly passive acceptance of the worst, and a stifled state of mind as it wraps you in its maternal embrace. By the end of the album, you will feel like “Hissing larvas [are] taking over your mind.” Among much else, you will love Wildcrow’s deep growls, which anchor the project by providing a consistent undercurrent of strength. Endless Dusk is neither Uten Håp’s rawest nor their most aggressive album. This is neither a pro nor a con. Because anguish is often indifferent to words, Wildcrow has often preferred to refrain from using lyrics in the past. After you have enjoyed Endless Dusk, we recommend that you dive into Uten Håp’s previous releases as well.