5. Suffocation, Effigy of the Forgotten
Although it's over twenty-five years-old, Effigy of the Forgotten might still be the most brutal death metal record in existence. Thanks to crunchy riffs, tasty beatdowns, and the subterranean growls of Frank Mullen, Effigy of the Forgotten birthed the New York style of death metal–a style still evident today in djentcore and deathcore. Often overlooked however is just how alarming this record is. Effigy of the Forgotten sounds like being stuck in the inner world of Jason Voorhees. This is serial killer music, for sure. Get out the butcher knives if you want to consume.
4. Possessed, Seven Churches
You can debate all you want about whether or not Seven Churches represents the debut of death metal, but you better recognize that this album is devastating. Released back in 1985, which has to be considered one of the greatest years in the history of metal, Seven Churches took the speed and aggression of thrash and married it to the Satanic imagery of early black metal. On top of this, the band from the Bay Area was smart enough to spice up their release with direct references to some of the most terrifying movies in history, most notably The Exorcist. As if you don't need another reason to love/fear this record, then the fact that it takes its name from the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse named in the Book of Revelation should tell you all you need to know about Possessed's aesthetic.
3. Portal, Vexovoid
"Inscrutable" is a good way to describe Portal. "Thick as a molasses" is another way. This band from Brisbane, Australia is as mind-numbingly heavy as they are mysterious. Forgoing tired corpsepaint in favor of weird, clock-like masks, Portal's live show is like a cabaret spectacular produced by acid-addicted demons. Vexovoid, the band's fourth full-length album, takes extreme metal to the nth degree through sheer terror. The swirling, guitars-in-a-wind-tunnel feel is thoroughly unsettling, plus The Curator's vocals are nothing sort of unnatural. This album will keep you up at night.
2. (Tie) Darkthrone, Under a Funeral Moon
Fenriz has claimed that Under a Funeral Moon is a pure black metal record. That's hard to argue against. "Natassja in Eternal Sleep" gets my vote for one of the best black metal songs ever recorded, while Under a Funeral Moon is slightly better than A Blaze in the Northern Sky, which is rightfully considered a classic. In Under a Funeral Moon, the band's trademark super-fuzzy distortion is ratcheted up in order to create a giant fog bank of sonic evil. This ethereal thickness, along with the album's spooky and mysterious cover, makes for a near-perfect heavy metal release.
2. (Tie) Sunn O))), Black One
Drone metal may be monotonous, but it's highly effective. Sunn O))) 's fifth studio release is a wall of feedback pierced through with the groans of the dead or dying. Indeed, Malefic's (Xasthur) vocals on "Báthory Erzsébet" were recorded from inside of a coffin. That's hard to beat insofar as horrifying music is concerned. While the album is essentially just one long song, Black One never allows its listening to get even slightly comfortable.
1. Burzum, Filosofem
Filosofem is high strangeness that is nothing short of brilliant. Recorded while Varg Vikernes was still in prison for murdering former Mayhem band mate Euronymous, Filosofem is part dark trance and part true Norwegian black metal. The album's best known track, "Rundtgåing av den transcendentale egenhetens støtte," sounds like the soundtrack to some bizarre silent film that was intentionally lost because it was so destructive to the soul. More importantly, the simple repetitions of Filosofem, from the riff of "Jesu død" to the synthesizer melody of "Burzum," are ritualistic in nature, thus making Filosofem something of a aural grimoire.