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13 Non-BM Artists That Black Metal Fans Will Enjoy
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In the famous words of Nargaroth: “Black Metal ist Krieg.” Yet, even the fiercest black metal warriors often remember to take the time to appreciate other forms of music. After all, the movement’s heroes have mined inspiration from diverse and sometimes unexpected influences, such as Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Jean-Michel Jarre, and Thorbjørn Egner — a late Norwegian children’s songwriter, author, and playwright.
When in doubt about what to play, Black Sabbath is always the perfect go-to. Ulver left black metal behind long ago. Nevertheless, anything that they release should go straight to your playlist. The same applies to Katatonia, who began as black/death/doom pioneers and have become prog kings. A more unusual suggestion would be the sometimes impossibly bleak world of dissident Soviet and post-Soviet rock.
Today, we present 13 incredible non-black metal artists that black metal fans should love. We have incorporated a variety of types of artists. Thus, there should be something to satisfy almost your full range of musical cravings.
Formed in 1989, the legendary and most excellent Seigmen is an amazing band you’re most likely missing out on. Despite their fame in Norway, Seigmen isn’t well known here in America. Notably, Seigmen won a Spellemann / “Norwegian Grammy” in the rock category for their 1995 album, Metropolis.
An especially cool moment in their history was when they helped Crown Prince Haakon celebrate his 40th birthday in 2013 — the prince joined the band on guitar. Seigmen have that certain je ne sais quoi that makes them more “black metal” than most black metal bands. Thus, their songs have been covered by BM artists like Shining and Vreid. Definitely check out the other projects of Seigmen’s members: Ljungblut, Zeromancer, Anal Babes, etc.
Mayhem’s late co-founder Euronymous was a great admirer of the now deceased German experimental musician Conrad Schnitzler, who briefly played in Tangerine Dream. In 1986, Euronymous visited Conrad Schnitzler’s Berlin home. Euronymous stated that he was warmly received. However, the amusing truth is that Schnitzler and his wife did not let Euronymous inside until the morning after he first appeared at their door — seeing that Euronymous had slept outside, Schnitzler ran out shouting. Euronymous then won him over with his friendliness and was only thereafter treated hospitably. Euronymous later wrote to Schnitzler to request a piece of music. Thus, Schnitzler’s “Silvester Anfang” famously begins Deathcrush (1987). Euronymous would probably be quite jealous of the fact that Mayhem’s original drummer, Manheim, would eventually collaborate with Schnitzler.
Euronymous also enjoyed the late Klaus Schulze, who was a member of Tangerine Dream at the same time as Schnitzler; Pink Floyd; Kraftwerk; Brian Eno; Marillion; Human League; Depeche Mode; Tears for Fears; Kiss; and — yes, Necrobutcher confirmed in his book — 1980s disco.
London After Midnight
Although London After Midnight performs with live members, it is the one-man project of Sean Brennan. LAM’s early work is classic, yet Mr. Brennan told Gothic Beauty Magazine: “I had no budget when I recorded any of my CDs in ’90s, they were all done on broken and minimal equipment, under pressure and under very trying circumstances.” In the old days, Brennan even made his demo tapes by hand. Of course, that all sounds very “black metal” indeed.
LAM’s addictive music is dark in the most titillating sense. Brennan initially aligned himself with the deathrock scene, but once the LA public began rebranding LAM as a goth act, he decided to disassociate himself from what he felt was an unhealthy environment. Despite the fact that Brennan does not want his band to be viewed as goth, LAM is recognized as one of the best bands in that category. For six weeks, LAM’s latest album, Oddities Too (2022), remained at number one in the Deutsche Alternative Charts.
Alice in Chains
“Black is all I feel, so this is how it feels to be free.”
Once you grasp Alice in Chains’ content, most bands pale in comparison. AiC’s music, lyrics, and visual art — the best of which was filmed and photographed by Rocky Schenck — continue to speak to listeners with inexhaustible profundity. Although AiC has created some great songs even after the death of frontman Layne Staley, it is AiC’s material with Layne that we would like to highlight here. Let’s take a moment to remember the contributions of AiC’s original bassist, the late Mike Starr, as well.
For the purposes of this list, the supergroup Mad Season, which featured Layne Staley, is another fantastic option. The song “Slip Away” is an especially moving gem with vocals by Mark Lanegan, who passed away last year, and a heartrending outro by Mike McCready.
The New Orleans-based supergroup Down is, of course, fronted by Pantera’s Philip H. Anselmo. Down seamlessly blends darkness, soul, and aggression. Their harrowing debut album, NOLA (1995), just might reduce you to tears and/or make you punch something. Phil is not only a great admirer of black metal, but he has experimented with it in certain projects, such as Viking Crown — his late Necrophagia bandmate Killjoy briefly acted as this group’s vocalist. Anselmo even named one of his former bands “Superjoint Ritual” — though the name was eventually shortened to “Superjoint” — after a lyric from Darkthrone’s “The Pagan Winter.” Phil was famously a part of the Norwegian/American BM supergroup Eibon that didn’t quite work out. Eibon also included Fenriz; Maniac, who quickly exited; Satyr; and Killjoy.
Fenriz co-founded Valhall in 1987 as a result of a chance meeting with brothers Kenneth and Ronny Sorkness. Robin Olsen soon completed the band’s original lineup. For reference, Fenriz co-founded Black Death, the group that became Darkthrone, shortly beforehand during the Christmas break of 1986. The Valhall team helped out with Black Death and would remain supportive. Ronny actually recorded the intro for Darkthrone’s second demo, A New Dimension (1988). Tulus’ Thomas “Sarke” Bergli and ex-Ulver’s Erik Olivier “AiwarikiaR” Lancelot were among the musicians to take Fenriz’s place on drums during the limited period when he stepped away from Valhall to focus on Darkthrone.
Although Valhall began as a blackish band, they had already morphed into a full-out stoner doom group of “Suicidal Hippie[s]” by the time of their first studio album, Moonstoned (1995). Phil Anselmo’s Housecore Records released Valhall’s third album, Red Planet (2009). If you haven’t already, check out Fenriz’s solo projects and his work with Storm — they conquer unexpected artistic territories. The same can clearly be said of Darkthrone, which has managed to create a ton of amazing albums by moving away from black metal, though their music still retains black components.
Who in their right mind could resist lovely little songs like “Necrophilic Orgy in Entrails & Cum”?! Gorelord was the one-man death metal project of Frediablo — the brother of musician Fug. The two played in several bands together, such as Necrophagia, whose fans included Darkthrone, and the BM supergroup Wurdulak. Gorelord shared two split CDs and one split video with Wurdulak. Besides that, Gorelord issued a demo and three albums. There was talk concerning a fourth album. Although we hope that this project will resurface, the chances do not seem promising.
Trondheim’s Manes is a band with a long and complicated history. Manes began as a black metal outfit. As such, they rank among the best and most influential. During their BM period, Manes released three demo tapes and their debut album, Under ein blodraud maane (1999). Sargatanas provided vocals and Tor-Helge “Cernunnus” Skei handled all instruments. Although Sargatanas would not continue with Manes after this era, he reunited with Cernunnus in 2011 to form the incredible Manii, who play old-school black metal and should be releasing a new album this year.
After Under ein blodraud maane, Tor-Helge took a break from Manes before re-emerging with the support of a new lineup. Manes’ sophomore album, Vilosophe (2003), is the milestone that marked their radical stylistic shift. Although Manes has totally shed their past skin, they will always be “black metal” at their core in the abstract sense. There is definitely an inner link between old Manes and the avant-garde “neo-Manes,” as Tor-Helge has called his group. Manes presently boils components of metal, rock, trip hop, jazz, electronica, and so forth in a wicked cauldron of awesomeness. We should note that Manes’ last two albums and latest single were mastered by none other than Fug, whom we just mentioned above. Fortunately, Manes has recorded tracks for a sixth album.
The Many Non-BM Projects of Kim Carlsson
It’s a bit useless to speak about genres when discussing Kim Carlsson’s work because he’s such an innovator. Yet, what we can say is that over the years Kim has launched a variety of projects that suit this list perfectly: A Symphony to the Void; Nothing but Nothingness; Consider Suicide; Horns Emerging — originally started with Audrey Sylvain, who soon left; and Ritualmord — co-founded with ex-Lifelover’s LR, whose place has been filled by ex-Lifelover’s 1853. Kim has been known to collaborate with guest artists. Although Kim is a monster frontman, he often proves how much you can express without vocals.
Metalheads should know that Carlsson co-founded the legendary Lifelover as “( )” with the late Jonas Lars “B” Bergqvist in 2005. Lifelover blended a variety of elements, but they are, of course, regarded as DSBM pioneers. After Lifelover’s demise, which followed B’s tragic death, ex-members formed Kall, a fantastic band that transcends BM. Carlsson also remains active in Hypothermia, which he started in 2001. Hypothermia’s most recent release, the EP Kaffe & blod II, was unleashed in 2017. Hypothermia, whose music has evolved over the years, has been described as black metal and later post-metal/rock. Yet, above all, Hypothermia is defined by “ritualistic meditative soundscapes,” as Carlsson told Philosopheme.
Isafjørd is the post-rock project that you need to know. The Isafjørd duo consists of Ragnar Zolberg — solo artist, Sign co-founder, and ex-Pain of Salvation member — plus Aðalbjörn “Addi” Tryggvason — Sólstafir’s co-founder, vocalist, and guitarist. Ragnar has played live with Sólstafir.
The name Isafjørd is a tribute to the town that Ragnar and Addi’s fathers each came from. Isafjørd’s triumphant debut, Hjartastjaki, was released this past December. The album is pure gold. The very different voices of Ragnar and Addi combine beautifully. Meanwhile, mixed influences come together to create art that is both nostalgic and refreshing. The melancholic Hjartastjaki stirs your emotions and conjures landscapes with remarkable effect.
To our great chagrin, the brilliant Aphrodisiac has only released one album. Aphrodisiac’s Nonsense Chamber (1997) showcases the talents of three musicians who have collaborated in various projects throughout the years and continue to do so: Dødheimsgard’s mastermind Yusaf “Vicotnik” Parvez; Aura Noir and ex-Ulver’s Carl-Michael “Czral” / “Aggressor” Eide, who co-founded the legendary Ved Buens Ende with Vicotnik; and Fleurety’s Svein Egil “Zweizz” Hatlevik. As a guest, Ulver’s Kristoffer “Garm” Rygg contributed the track “Children, It Is I.” Nonsense Chamber features titles like “Johnny Came Home from Staten Island in a Body Bag” and “An Indecent Exposer of Consciousness.” The music itself is just as inventive. Cerebral, absurd, spellbinding, creepy, and erotic, Nonsense Chamber is one of the most unforgettable descents into insanity. On this album, you can hear everything from the voice of Jeffrey Dahmer’s attorney to a woman repeating the words of the great philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. The renown Stephen O’Malley is credited with the album’s design.
On a related note, check out Stagnant Waters — a project featuring Vicotnik’s Doedsmaghird collaborator Camille Giraudeau, Zweizz, and Pryapisme’s Aymeric Thomas. Stagnant Waters includes black metal and everything else under the sun. We also recommend Zweizz’s solo work, which also blends black metal with other textures.
Formed in 2020, Spirit Tomb is the solo project of the veteran artist Leon Kristoffer of Norway. Leon Kristoffer combines gorgeous music, poetry, and visual imagery for an immersive experience. Spirit Tomb takes you on a phantasmagorical journey through grief, loss, and catharsis. It serves the Proustian function of awakening even your most distant memories. Spirit Tomb’s compositions feature an elegant blend of piano, cello, and vocals. Leon Kristoffer astonishes you with his great finesse, charisma, and dramatic ability. Intense and deeply personal, Spirit Tomb is so heartfelt that it threatens to thrust you into a state of the delirium. Even the production is perfect, thanks to Leon Kristoffer’s background as a highly accomplished engineer.
Spirit Tomb’s debut EP, The Lotus of Dahlia, dropped on April 14. The video that was released to accompany this effort stars Leon Kristoffer, features his concepts, and is completed by his editing. It was shot, however, by the talented Nicolai Karlsen. Expect films for Spirit Tomb’s future releases as well. Keep in mind that The Lotus of Dahlia is only the first installment in the “Aandegrav Trilogy.” Watch out for LPs Spiritus Lacrimarum (See the teaser below!) and The Haunted Palace.
All the Art of Ville Valo
This January, we spoke with Ville Valo of the sadly disbanded HIM regarding his amazing new solo album, Neon Noir (2022). During that conversation, Ville confirmed that he is, in fact, a black metal fan. Ville has elsewhere admitted that black metallers have unfortunately not always treated him kindly. Nevertheless, the “Love Metal” visionary does have many admirers within the BM community, including Nergal of Behemoth. Nergal actually tried to recruit Mr. Valo as a guest vocalist for New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol. 1 (2020) — the second album by Nergal’s blues/folk/Americana-influenced project, Me and That Man.
Although Ville’s music may be very sweet, he is also clearly a master of darkness. As such, his devilish appeal might just make you go insane. If you haven’t already, check out the twisted demos for HIM’s sophomore album, Razorblade Romance (2000). Razorblade Romance could actually be viewed as a gateway drug to DSBM artists like Shining and Lifelover. In the event that RR really makes you crave sharp objects, just know that real razorblades have been included inside copies BM albums like Abruptum’s Evil Genius (1995).
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