In this day and age, anyone with even a basic knowledge of underground heavy metal is familiar with the diabolical history of black metal. The style as we know it today was born in the early 90s in Norway…yadda yadda yadda…church burning and murder…yadda yadda yadda…Deafheaven. From the subgenre's very beginning there have been black metal bands all over the world, but it's always been primarily associated with Europe. Here in the United States, we've always had at least handful of black metal bands. It's true that American heavy metal spent almost all of the 90s in an embarrassing haze of hyper-masculinity and white guy dreadlocks, but black metal was always there, bubbling up from the depths of the underground.
Early USBM pioneers VON, Profanatica and Judas Iscariot played a style of black metal that was mostly in line with their Norwegian contemporaries, but they were laying the groundwork for bands like Xasthur, Weakling and Wolves in the Throne Room to develop a truly unique take on the style. These days, USBM is a fully formed offshoot of traditional black metal. There's even regional scenes with distinct sounds like Cascadian black metal and Appalachian black metal. There was definitely a time when USBM wasn't taken seriously in the international heavy metal community, but that time is well and surely over with. There are many great black metal bands in the United States, and the purpose of this article is to celebrate some of them. Fifty to be exact – one from each state in the union.
It wasn't easy to compile this list. I've listened to so much awful black metal that I began to wonder if I'd need to take an extended break from the subgenre. Fortunately, I made it through the morass of poorly recorded Darkthrone clones and Nazi idiots with this list of pretty-good-to-great USBM acts. I used Metal Archives as my reference point, so if I missed a good band from your state, don't hesitate to post links in the comment sections. Also, almost every one of these acts has music available for purchase on Bandcamp, so, if you find a new favorite band, buy their album and support their future writing and touring endeavors. Anyway, that's enough blabbering from me. Please enjoy this objectively correct list of the best black metal band from all 50 states.
Wormreich – It looks like we're kicking this list off on a sad note since several of Wormreich's members were killed in a car accident last year. That band is soldiering on, and, for what it's worth, they really are Alabama's best. They're a fairly orthodox black metal band that sings about Satan, so you're not getting anything crazy to start off with, but stay tuned!
Cross Rot – These guys are about as far away from Wormreich as you can get. Alaska's Crossrot is filthy punk-infused black metal that doesn't concern itself with trivialities like production value. Now we're talking!
Avichi – It seems like Avichi has managed to fly under a lot of people's radars, and that's a shame because this one-man project is great. There's nothing ground breaking going on, but Andrew Markuszewski knows how to write a propulsive black metal song. There's plenty of blast beats and buzzing guitars to satisfy the kvltists, but Markuszewski works a lot of melodicism into his music to keep things fresh. If you aren't familiar with this guy's work, now's a great time to remedy that.
Ash of Cedars – These guys just released their debut EP last year, but, since it's so good and Arkansas's black metal scene is so awful, I'm not conflicted about crowing these newbies as the best that the Natural State has to offer. I'm a big fan of the way they mix traditional black metal with shreddy guitar and spacey synths to make truly disorienting music.
Ash Borer – According to Metal Archives, there are over 700 black metal bands in California. You'd think that would make picking the best band in the state a task of staggering difficulty. The fact that it really wasn't is a testament to how amazing Ash Borer are. I haven't found many bands that can write songs that are epic, frightening, and mesmerizing the way these musicians can. Not only are they easily the best black metal band in California, they're also one of the best in the country. I'd even put them up against any of the best bands in the world.
Cobalt – Look, I know there have been some real shitheads in this band, but Cobalt is one of the most ferocious black metal bands around today. That's not even up for debate.
One Master – I was tempted to choose Dhampyr for this slot, but he's originally from Rhode Island. Also, One Master is a really good band and true native sons of Connecticut, so I don't feel bad about this decision.
Conqbin – I was about the throw in the towel on Delaware. Then I discovered this crusty, raw black metal hybrid.
Black Witchery – Florida is full of generic black metal bands. There are a few stand-outs, but Black Witchery stands head-and-shoulders above them all. They are the true kings of Sunshine State black metal.
HellGoat – As far as I can tell, there are no really good black metal bands in Georgia, so I picked this band called HellGoat because that's a funny name. They're fine.
Darkest Path – This one-man symphonic black metal project won by default because I couldn't find music from any of the other handful of Hawaiian black metal bands listed on Metal Archives. Congratulations!
Ix – Another band that won by default. I was really hoping to hear Idaho's Arch Goat of Sodomy before making a decision. Alas, they don't seem to have anything available to stream online. Ix is actually pretty decent, though. They've got a sort of post-hardcore, atmospheric black metal thing going on.
Ævangelist – Ævangelist is fucking terrifying.
Ecferus – This is some bizarro black metal form one of the most boring states in the country (don't get mad Hoosiers, I'm from Ohio so I know boring). Usually I recoil from progressive black metal, but Ecferus know how to balance savagery and precision.
Satan's Almighty Penis – I mean, this is a no-brainer, right?
Apricity – Apparently Kansas doesn't have an over-abundance of black metal bands. I'm as surprised as you. Apricity is a black metal band that's still active and has music online I was able to listen to, so I chose them. They're one of those post-black metal bands the kids are going gaga over. If that's your bag, they just released and album on Bandcamp this past December. The band doesn't have music available on YouTube, but below is a link to their Bandcamp page where you can listen to the band's entire album.
Ad Infinitum – Kentucky has a stupid amount of good black metal bands. I actually wrote about some of them a couple years ago. Panopticon seems like the obvious choice but Austin Lunn moved to Minnesota to run Hammerheart Brewing Company, so that disqualifies him. That's no such a big deal though, because Ad Infinitum is a worthy successor. Cosmic, atmospheric black metal that will lull you into a trance.
Barghest – Most people would probably crown Goatwhore the kings of Louisiana black metal because most people are boring. Goatwhore is an aggressively mediocre band that got to where they are by touring incessantly. Good for them, but Barghest are the true rulers of the Pelican State's black metal community. They sound rotten and putrid like the stagnant waters of the Louisiana bayou.
Falls of Rauros – Falls of Rauros are from Maine. I didn't even bother listening to other bands. They aren't as good as Falls of Rauros.
Cemetery Piss – Maryland sucks when it comes to black metal, apparently. Luckily there are a trio of sleaze peddlers known as Cemetery Piss that are keeping it real (filthy) down in Baltimore. They cover Kraftwerk, too, so that's pretty cool.
Obsidian Tongue – This band is so so good. They're one of those underground bands you listen to and honestly can't understand how they aren't more popular. There are plenty of black metal bands in Massachusetts, but none are even close to as good as Obsidian Tongue.
Shitfucker – Shitfucker is the best. Fuck you if you disagree.
Obsequiae – Aria of Vernal Tombs. Nuff said.
Ange De La Morte – The pickings are slim in Mississippi if you're in the market for black metal, but, in the end, Ange De La Morte's raw, rambunctious brand of black metal edged out this other band I found called Vomitwolves who're ok but gets extra points for being called Vomitwolves.
Jute Gyte – Jute Gyte. Jute Gyte. Jute Gyte. Shut up, I don't care about your friend's band that's so kvlt and trve. JUTE GYTE!
Arkheron Thodol – There's not many bands to choose from in Montana. Arkheron Thodol aren't blazing any trails but they are competent songwriters and I was able to find some of their music online. So here we are.
Vickers – I was only able to dig up one black metal band from Nebraska. They're called Vickers and they don't seem to have any music online to stream. There are some terrible sounding video clips of them playing live on YouTube, though, so enjoy your status as Top Dawgs, fellas!
Acid Enema – Hold cow, Nevada, you folks have some trash black metal out there. This band Acid Enema seems to be your best offering and they aren't even really black metal. The music's a combination of speedcore and black metal, but it will have to do. Get your act together, Silver State.
Vattnet Viskar – After rooting around in New Hampshire's black metal offerings, it's become apparent that the Granite State loves hybrid black metal. There's lots of genre-bending bands like Ramlord and Leather Chalice lurking in the depths of the underground, but Vattnet Viskar is where it's at in New Hampshire. These dudes have been killing it since their first self-titled EP came out in 2012, and 2015's Settler was a career high for them.
Krieg – Lots of good black metal has come out of New Jersey over the years. Death Fortress, Woe, and Hæthen spring to mind immediately, but Krieg is the undisputed champion of Jersey black metal. Neill Jameson, the band's mastermind, is the Randal Graves of black metal and he's been cranking out an endless stream of albums, EPs and splits since the 90s.
Void Ritual – This solo black metal project would get top honors even if New Mexico's black metal landscape wasn't a barren wasteland. I interviewed Dan Jackson, the guy behind Void Ritual, on an episode of my podcast, Full Metal Hipster, if you're so inclined. Check out his full length called Holodomor and his split with Barshasketh on Bandcamp for some burly black metal goodness.
Yellow Eyes – I've made my love of Yellow Eyes known numerous times here on Metal Injection. I fully believe this Brooklyn band is the best black metal act in the United States right now, so, of course, they're getting the mention as New York's finest.
Young and in the Way – Young and in the Way have a thoroughly unkvlt name, but these North Carolinians hold it down with a steady barrage of crusty black metal fury.
Ghost Bath – Up until early 2015, the guy behind North Dakota's Ghost Bath actively pretended to be a band from China (complete with press releases written in broken English). That's a shitty, racist thing to do, but this is legitimately the best black metal to come out of North Dakota. Hopefully, their recent signing to Nuclear Blast will force them to grow up a bit.
Midnight – I'm from Ohio and Midnight is one of the only good things to come out of that rust belt wasteland. Sure, Midnight isn't black metal in the True Norwegian sense, but if you hunger for that OG Venom sound, you can't do any better than this solo Cleveland miscreant.
The Great He-Goat – This is a straight-forward black metal band with a funny name. I chose them because I got sick of listening to the terrible bands that populate Oklahoma's black metal community. They can write a decent song and play instruments with some proficiency. Step up your game, Oklahoma.
Agalloch – Come on now. I don't need to justify this choice, do I?
Woe – There are so many great black metal bands from Pennsylvania that I'm a little hesitant to give these New Jersey transplants top honors, but they've been living in the Keystone State for a while now,
and they are an excellent band.
Dhampyr – H.L., the guy behind Dhampyr, currently lives in Connecticut, but his fucked up, bad acid trip black metal is a fitting soundtrack to his and H.P. Lovecraft's home state.
Glamdring – Oh hey, a black metal band named for a Lord of the Rings reference. How quaint! Glamdring was the only South Carolina band I could find that was still active and not awful. Don't get me wrong, the music's good, but it would have been nice to have a few options to choose from.
Woman is the Earth – Now this is a pleasant surprise! It's refreshing to hear some black metal from musicians who actually know how to write songs. Woman is the Earth is a legitimate diamond in the rough. According to their website they're working on a new album, too. Huzzah!
Alraune – Like Kentucky, Tennessee is another southern state with a number of really good black metal bands. Act of Impalement, Forest of Tygers and Twilight Fauna are all must-listens, but Alraune is the current leader of the pack. Their 2014 album The Process of Self-Immolation is one of the best black metal albums of the 2010's.
Absu – Absu have been around the USBM scene since the early 90s, but they don't get nearly as much recognition as they deserve. These Texas hombres have riffs for days, and, unlike a lot of black metal, their music is actually fun to listen to. If you're looking for thrashy black metal that compels you to bang your head rather than stand around with your arms crossed like a goon, this is it.
Caladan Brood – I try and avoid comparing one band's sound to another, but damn if these Utah guys aren't engaging in some serious Summoning worship. That's perfectly fine with me, though. I love Summoning. Anyway, check out Caladan Brood.
Peucharist – There are only like 2 black metal bands in Vermont and Peucharist wins the number one seat because of their punny name and the fact that their "Lyrical Themes" section on Metal Archives says "Blasphemy, Satan, War, Death, Vomit, Drinking."
Bastard Sapling – Bastard Sapling play bare-bones black metal. It's not flashy or hyper-grim; it's just straight forward and good. It's working man's black metal.
Wolves in the Throne Room – WITTR get a lot of flack from 20-something dudes who live in Iowa and spend all their time complaining on the internet, but these Washingtonians had a profound effect on USBM. Also, they write really good music. Take a hike, haters.
Nechochwen – A black metal and neofolk hybrid about Native American history? I'm all in. Nechochwen are a great, but little known band. Their earlier stuff is fairly mellow and leans more toward folk and neoclassical music but their latest album, 2015's Heart of Akamon rocks hard. I interviewed them on my Full Metal Hipster podcast if you're interested in hearing more from them.
Shroud of Despondency – Upon initial listen, Shroud of Despondency sound like typical raw black metal, but there's much more them than frost-bitten grimness. There's a melodicism in their music that reminds me of NWOBHM bands. There's shades of death metal and punk rock happening, too. They're definitely a band that should be getting more attention.
Waxen – It turns out that Wyoming is awful at producing black metal bands that aren't really racist. Waxen is one of two active black metal bands I could find that wasn't populated by white power idiots, and the other band is pretty awful. What an anti-climatic way to end this list.