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Black Metal History

Those of the Unlight: A Black Metal History Primer (1990 – 1993)

The gulf between Mayhem's seminal Deathcrush EP in 1987 and their first proper full length in 1994 was an industrious but often low key period in the genre's ascendance.

The gulf between Mayhem's seminal Deathcrush EP in 1987 and their first proper full length in 1994 was an industrious but often low key period in the genre's ascendance.

– 1993 –


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Abruptum dropped All on vocals, swapped existing julti-instrumentalist It over to vocals instead, and recruited multi-instrumentalist Evil to record the unprecedented epic Obscuritatem Advoco Amplectère Me, which consisted of two 25-minute tracks made of huge ambient swathes with freeform black metal passages interleaved within. Evil would go on to take over the band from It, refashioning Abruptum as a solo project in an increasingly electronic vein.


Absu were still more death than black by the time of their debut, Barathrum: V.I.T.R.I.O.L., an album that is nonetheless notable for both its occult imagery and gradual shift into the black metal sound the band would become known for.


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Drawing Down the Moon was Beherit's debut album as a black metal band, but already they were foraging for new sounds: space rock keyboards, synth-modulated vocals… along with Samael, this was one of the first second wave black metal bands to make a sharp turn toward purely electronic sounds on mid-90's recordings.


Gods of War is to date Blasphemy's final studio album, a session that found them running through a reliable – if brief – traditional black metal set that  has held up fairly well over the years, but at the time might have struck many as a bit same-old, same-old.


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Varg Vikernes recorded no less than four albums plus an EP worth of material between January 1992 and 1993, though less than half of it would be released before his August 1993 arrest for the murder of Euronymous. The Aske EP (released March 1993) is notorious for featuring a picture of the immolated Fantove stave church, a post-arson photo op that Vikernes was suspected of snapping himself.


Under a Funeral Moon was written with a bone to pick: Darkthrone mainman Fenriz was not terribly happy that his previous album, A Blaze in the Northern Sky, was "polluted" with traces of the death metal sound that the band had only recently shed at the time, and along with cohorts Nocturno Culto and Zephyrous he set about writing and recording an album in the pure black metal vein, contemptuous as his revered scene mavens in the Helvete Black Circle crowd were toward any and all things death metal. To this day Under a Funeral Moon and its follow up, Transilvanian Hunger, are often cited by most fans as their favorite Darkthrone album.


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Dissection released the first of their two classic era black metal albums in 1993. The Somberlain was a more melancholic,  laid back album compared to much of what was passing for black metal at the time. The patient, well-produced sound would be a great influence on later Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth, the latter of whom are often considered two of the great "sell outs" of the black memtal genre… which may explain whiy Dissection rarely seems to come up these days outside retrospective conversations about the old days.


Preceded by the Wrath of the Tyrant demo – and later re-released as a two-fer under that demo's name – the Emperor EP made its biggest mark as the band's side-long contribution to a split with fellow up-and-coming Norwegians Enslaved under the title Hordanes Land.  Speaking of which…


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Hordanes Land was initially the title of Enslaved's debut EP before it was repackaged mere weeks later along with Emperor's self-titled EP under that same name (guess they couldn't have exactly gone with "Enslaved Emperor present the Emperor split",  eh?) Both bands would go on to redefine black metal in radical yet controversial ways.


Still toying with their sound, Immortal turned up both the treble and the velocity for Pure Holocaust. The tinnier guitar sound was no doubt a remedy to account for the busier percussion – this time provided by none other than Abbath himself – but, above all, this album represented the clearest break yet from Abbath's death metal roots with Old Funeral and even the early Immortal demos.

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Mikka Luttinen has always been the only continual member of Impaled Nazarene, and already on LP #2, Ugra-Karma, the band overhauls had begun. Surprisingly, in this case, it led him to more of a traditional black metal sound closer to his neighbors in Norway, an association he once adamantly took exception to, but seems to have (at least briefly) mellowed toward by 1993.


Marduk went in a faster, more black metal direction for their second album than they did for Dark Endless, a back-and-forth dichotomy that has stretched across their 20+-year discography. The album also opened the doors for the band's longtime revolving door lineup, being the final appearance of both Joakim Göthberg and Magnus "Devo" Andersson on their respective instruments, although each would reappear on later albums in entirely different instrumental roles (!)

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1993's Thy Mighty Contract found Rotting Christ exhibiting heightened instrumental skills while still retaining their raw character. At this point Rotting Christ were still largely following the lead of their Scandinavian peers, although subtle, contined tweaks to the band's sound would further distinguish them in later years, even as they arguably veered away from their black metal roots.


Satyricon began modestly enough as an able-bodied but emotionally dependent facsimile of their veteran counterparts in the Norwegian scene. Though many would go on to berate them for their abandonment of the classic black metal sound over the years, this capable-yet-derivative demo demonstrates a band on trajectory for second string status over the long haul.

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Sigh would go on to psych out the black metal world with their acid rock meets Frank Zappa via Mr. Bungle dabblings in anti-black metal over the years, but by the time of their first album, Scorn Defeat, they were still playing a pretty mean version of the real thing. One of the final albums released on Euronymous' Deathline Silence Productions – several months after his death, in fact – this would mark the last traditional black metal release by the band before they started throwing everything but the kitchen sink at their increasingly bewildered fans.



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