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10 WTF Black Metal Cover Art Moments: …And Some History

Incredible doesn't even begin to describe it.

Meme found via Pinterest.

In black metal, "We don't make mistakes; We just have happy accidents." The joy of corpsepainting is that the messier your makeup is, the more deranged and therefore brutal you will look. Too poor to afford cosmetics?! No problem. Black metal is a poor man’s art for those who are rich in spirit (as well as a few wealthy entrepreneurs like Satyr). Thus, early-90s Fenriz of Darkthrone used pencil lead around his eyes in lieu of proper products. Granted, now that it's 2022, many of the movement's founders refuse to wear face paint because it has long been appropriated by posers. All the same, countless great black metal acts still sport corpsepaint: Sarkom, Mork, 1349, (of course) Abbath, etc.

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In any case, today, we will be focusing on a different kind of art — bizarre cover art. Although it was not a true BM release, Mayhem's Deathcrush (1987) is a great example of the boundary-pushing maverick spirit. Its cover famously features a photograph of two severed hands hanging in a marketplace as a warning to potential thieves. Euronymous and Necrobutcher found this gruesome image by digging through the murder and torture files within a new agency's archives. Mayhem was angry that the first pressing of Deathcrush arrived with a fuschia background and suspected that the Dutch company responsible had purposely erred in order to spite them. Nevertheless, this mishap demonstrated Mayhem's ability to turn lemons into lemonade. Although red covers were later printed, the bright pink version has not only become legendary, but it is an expensive collector's item. Mayhem's eccentric use of a striking picture of sculptor Guido Rocha's "O Christo Torturado" / "The Tortured Christ" on Pure Fucking Armageddon (1986) has also withstood the test of time.

In order to further explore our topic, we must raise the question: What is a typical black metal cover? One might say that the series of photos that were used for Darkthrone's classic "Unholy Trinity" is the best answer: All three were sent to Peaceville Records at the same time — a thing that isn't done. Fans will know that the candelabra that Fenriz holds on the front of the second installation, Transilvanian Hunger (1994), is a homage to the late Pelle Ohlin of Mayhem. Fimbulwinter's underrated Servants of Sorcery (1994) also offers one of the best pictorial representations of BM in all of its forest-dwelling mysticism. Similarly, the snapshot on the original version of Tsjuder's Demonic Possession (2002) captures the essence of what it means to be "grim and frostbitten": It features Draugluin howling while holding a battle axe and standing in the snow. Likewise, the torch-lit cover of Tsjuder's next album, Desert Northern Hell (2004) captures the essence of what we love about BM in all of its impish glory.

One stamp of authenticity for True Norwegian bands is having worked with tattoo artist and Bergen-native Jannicke Wiese-Hansen. She has created logos and covers for groups like Burzum and Immortal. Needless to say, Immortal has some of the most iconic album designs: Besides the image for Nargaroth's Black Metal ist Krieg (2001), in which René Wagner poses as Varg Vikernes, no photograph in the history of BM is as meme-able as the one gracing Immortal's Battles in the North (1995). To take this adorable snow-kissed portrait, Abbath's father drove his son and Demonaz to a glacier, where the temperature was -15°C. Visually speaking, Immortal has so much to offer and sets the bar high when it comes to their comical trademark scowls as on the front of Blizzard Beasts (1997). Yet, the award for the very best BM frown just may have to go to Armagedda for the cover of their debut effort, The Final War Approaching (2001).

No cover has earned more envy than that chosen for Burzum's Filosofem (1996), which showcases a picture of a woman called Op under Fjeldet toner en Lur / Up in the Hills a Clarion Rings Out by the famed Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen (1857-1914). Kittelsen's work can also be found on Burzum's Hvis lyset tar oss (1994) and Thulêan Mysteries (2020). In addition, Kittelsen's art has appeared on albums, EPs, and compilations by several other outfits: Carpathian Forest, Wongraven, Solefald, Ulver, etc. It might seem strange, but BM groups have made use of paintings by an endless list of great artists: William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Walter Langley, Vasily Perov, Thomas Benjamin Kennington, José de Ribera, Henryk Siemiradzki, Konstantin Flavitsk, and so forth.

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Many of the best BM album designs have an artistic and/or scholarly flare. The goat drawing on Bathory's 1984 self-titled debut record may look cheesy, but the reworked illustration was actually nabbed from Erica Jong's Witches (1981). The theatrical covers of Slagmaur's Skrekk lich kunstler (2007) and Tulus' Pure Black Energy (1996) are masterpieces in their own right. Looking at Hoest on Taake's debut album, Nattestid ser porten vid (1999), you might confuse him for an artsy philosophy major. The sight of his long press-on nails will give you your daily dose of fashion inspiration. No wonder why trendsetters like Justin Bieber love this band! (Note: Hoest's mistakes cannot be condoned, though they do not define him.)

You may be wondering when BM first started to buck its own traditions and produce genre-atypical art. As Fenriz has said, no rules should be sacred. Even in the early '90s, groups were learning "How to Philosophize with a Hammer" and deconstruct black metal "norms," whether intentionally or incidentally. Although it is a proud product of Finland, Beherit's Drawing Down the Moon (1993) may as well be from Mars. The cultural treasure is one of the greatest BM records of all time, but the packaging looks like it belongs to a techno release. This is perfectly logical considering the album's use of synths and electronics. Beherit's Nuclear Holocausto's is known for his experimental tendencies and his alter ego as a hardcore techno DJ.

We've seen it all on black metal covers, from a photograph of the assassinated Tsar Alexander II of Russia on Gherzen's 1881 (2019) to moldy strawberries on Porta Nigra's Schöpfungswut (2020). The French band Nocturnal Depression is great, but you'd never know it from the D-rate photo of a woman holding roses on their debut album, Nostalgia — Fragments of a Broken Past (2006). This cringeworthy moment makes you think of Hot Topic rather than depressive suicidal black metal. (DSBM artwork tends to be pretty literal and often features bloody arms, a filthy bed or bathtub, razorblades, and nooses.) The Japanese group Sigh, who were once on the roster of Euronymous' Deathlike Silence Productions, boasts some truly unexpected artwork. Take a look at In Somniphobia (2012) and Heir to Despair (2018), which portrays a smiling lady watering a potted plant. (The latter album actually features a guest appearance by Pantera's Philip H. Anselmo on vocals.) These records marked artist Eliran Kantor's second and third collaborations with Sigh.

As we have mentioned, sometimes our favorite subgenre's covers are even progressive enough to feature women. In many cases, however, the feminine beings depicted are donning horns (Old Man's Child's In Defiance of Existence [2003]), naked with a clear frontal view (Satyricon's Mother North [VHS 1996]), bloodied (Svarttjern's Misanthropic Path of Madness, [2009]), suspended from inverted crucifixes, corseted and/or bound, and the like. To see more of what we mean, check out the EP version of Marduk's Fuck Me Jesus (1995) as well as their EP Obedience (2000). While browsing through low-budget offerings, we have even encountered crude sketches of female demons touching themselves.

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The question might, therefore, arise: How does black metal imagine women in positions of dominance?! This year, the Italian band Abhor unleashed Sex Sex Sex (Ceremonia Daemonis Antichristi), which shows a black-clad lady holding a sword in the foreground as another woman, who is probably a slain Satanic ritualistic sacrifice, lies in the background. (The image that Abhor contributed to the split Legione Occulta (2019) of an elderly blood-soaked nun with black running from her eyes was definitely a contender for our list.) The "Romantic Black Metal band" (So… Our defiled movement has come to using oxymorons like that now?!) Minneriket certainly must have creeped out many metalheads with their botched attempt not to objectify, but rather to glorify, the unclothed female body with a clumsy photo of a woman reposing on rocks for their latest release, Gjennom meg går ingen til hvile (2022). (A very important message to BM bands: It's probably not a great idea to employ a photographer who shoots weddings, confirmations, baptisms, baby portraits, and pregnancy photos, as was the case here.)

If you prefer sex and taboo to romance, the BDSM horror-porn photographs used for Urgehal EP Demonrape (2005) and their album Through Thick Fog till Death (2003) constitute two of the most amazing creative decisions in BM. Granted, they may be too gruesome to show here. The image of a strangled woman used on Vulture Lord's Deathfuck (1999) is pretty graphic as well. Similarly, the covers of Umoral's self-titled 2007 EP and debut album, Der sola aldri skinner (2021), are unapologetically filthy wonders — the best. Meanwhile, the brilliant photos associated with Lifelover's Pulver (2006) and Shining's V: Halmstad (Niklas angående Niklas) (2007) are top-notch examples of DSBM's extreme potential to shock. The amateurish artwork for Neurasthenia (2016) by the depressive Georgian collective Psychonaut 4 may be the strangest you'll encounter. It juxtaposes a little boy holding a skull, for example, with some serious sex acts. If you want to vomit, take a look at Wurdulak's Severed Eyes of Possession (2002).

Now that we've covered some bases, enjoy our list of WTF black metal album art moments. Many of our picks will turn you on to some great music, which we will also touch upon. Discover which of our selections will surprise you the most.

Ragnarok — Blackdoor Miracle (2004)

Ragnarok — Blackdoor Miracle

Don't take this pick the wrong way: The cover of Blackdoor Miracle (2004) is wicked awesome. Nevertheless, haters have failed to understand the intentions behind this anomalous mind-f*ck of an image. As co-founding member Jontho explained to Metal Rules:

"The cover in itself does show exactly what we mean by black metal. You can find all the symbols of true black metal in that cover. It is also a symbol to show what kind of music that is inside the album. The pentagram shows the satanic essence, the naked woman and the candles symbolizes black magic, me with the gun symbolizes the unleashed demon and total destruction of the weak, and the flames symbolize the chaos forces of hell. All in all, the cover explains the themes of the lyrics but still it is more to find when you read and understand them."

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Who doesn't love sex, violence, and fire?! May we add that there is a mysterious bit of flame dangling between the legs of the wounded girl, or rather the sour-tasting "switchblade sl*t." As the title track goes: ""Torture her. Torment her. Take her life… She folded her lips around my weapon and took the shot… Now the flames are licking her." You might also notice that the candles are positioned in such a way that they almost look like a bullet belt around Jontho's lower waist. We can thank the Polish artist Jacek Wiśniewski, who has worked with bands like Vader, for this overall exciting and loaded image.

Although Jontho's pose makes it look as though he has spent most of his life in a "Gangster's Paradise," Ragnarok is really from Sarpsborg — a city of paper factories and home to the mastermind of Slayer Mag, the almighty Metalion. In 2017, Ragnarok's co-founder and drummer Jerv tragically passed away in a car accident. Guitars and backing vocals on Blackdoor Miracle were provided by Rym. Taake's Hoest provided vocals for this spectacular album. BM was recorded at Peter Tägtgren's Abyss Studio in Sweden, where it was co-produced by Peter's brother Tommy like the band's previous effort. Blackdoor Miracle proves that if Ragnarok is not one of your favorite black metal bands, something is gravely wrong.

Mactätus — The Complex Bewitchment (2000)

Mactätus — The Complex Bewitchment

What in Helvete is going on here?! This image redefines awkwardness. Why is one of the lady's nipples showing? (If you want a better view of both of her nipples, check out the back of the original European version! The US edition was slightly more discrete.) We must also ask: Why is the woman's Halloween wig so obvious? Why are her stylized eyebrows the size of Texas?! Was the beautician on acid because if the goal was to create a Morticia-type, the result would make any high-school version of The Addams Family musical look professional. Even unskilled pieces of art can still set a tone and evoke complex feelings. This cover is neither sexy, nor funny, nor… bewitching. It feels like a simple attention wh*re of a half-attempt to present something novel.

The album itself is wild, whacky, symphonic, and silly. It features Forn from Svartahrid on keyboards. The inclusion of a monologue from the film Warlock (1989) is rather off-putting. Mactätus speaks of "Norse brutality," but there is nothing that feels truly threatening here. "I killed Jesus: I killed Jesus" is one of the album's most unconvincing lines. Despite the fact that Mactätus was formed in 1989, The Complex Bewitchment is the kind of release that non-BM fans will be more likely to appreciate than BMers. See for yourself: You just may love this opinion-splitting effort.

Mystic Circle — Morgenröte — Der Schrei nach Finsternis (1996)

Mystic Circle — Morgenröte — Der Schrei nach Finsternis

If Sesame Street's Count von Count was a pervert and had a favorite record, we are pretty sure that it would be this one! Let Mystic Circle entertain you. The poorly executed illustration above serves up a full moon oozing with enough quasi-diabolical '90s cheese to satiate your "Transilvanian Hunger." The pretty female face on display here seems to say: "Vampires just wanna have fun, right?!" Long fangs and cleavage… What more could one want?! Yet, this amusing cover is, in fact, revealing insofar as it gives you a foretaste of the bittersweet bloodlust to come. 

Morgenröte — Der Schrei nach Finsternis sounds as hilarious as it looks. Between the main vocal delivery, the female vocals, and the often chuckle-inducing deep backing vocals, this album has as much variety as a puppet show. We have nothing but love for this ridiculously bold effort. Granted, Mystic Circle is not everyone's chalice of blood. BMers sometimes find Mystic Circle too absurd to swallow, but we are buying: "Medina — whore of Satan. With her tongue she likes his d*ck to drink the honey from his ph*llus. With her fist she goes so deep in his wide opened an*s. Her whiplash smashed on unholy flesh. Screams of lust and torture. The smell of death layed in the air, blood streams out of wounds." We never thought we would hear the term "master wh*re," but these Germans have a way with words. Thankfully, Mystic Circle is still going strong and released their self-titled record this year.

Ancient — Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends (1997)

Ancient — Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends

Most sane individuals are definitely going to say that this cover looks terrible. The question is this: Is this photograph so wrong that it's right?! Whereas black metal is usually the opposite of life-affirming, here we have four nice adult trick-or-treaters(?!) indulging in a lovely feast on what appears to be a fine day. As the mighty Pantera once said: "It's so important to make best friends in life…" from all countries. Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends features two American-born performers, including a female singer; a Brazilian, male vocalist; and the project's founder, Aphazel/Zel, who hails from Norway. The album was recorded and finished in America and released by Metal Blade Records. (For a time, Aphazel relocated to the United States, Italy, and Greece, but he is currently holding down the Nagelfar ship that is Ancient from the port city that is his hometown, the picturesque Bergen.)

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Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends marked a shift for the band toward a more melodic direction, so even if you enjoyed Ancient's previous releases like Svartalvheim (1994), Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends will probably let you down. Whereas Mystic Circle manages to make vampirism funny with their herculean audacity and freakshow randomness, it is lame when coming from Ancient. Although this is the kind of effort that could easily be ripped to shreds by listeners, it seems to complete the job itself: If this dorky album truly were a vampire, the only flesh it would ever get to bite would be its own. Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends certainly has its moments: "Violently, I'll fuck your pernicious cunt, while consuming the precious life-force, thoroughly enjoying the sweet flavor. I'll vampirize you, Natasha, with no remorse." However, the music video for "Willothewisp" may just be the worst you could ever watch. It's so dreadful that it almost makes you feel bad for Ancient.

Forgotten Woods — Race of Cain (2007)

Forgotten Woods — Race of Cain

This woman appears to be a devilish Pierrette, which lets you know that what follows is going to be dramatic and a bit humorous as well. We have also seen a colored version of this photo and an alternative cover that displays a portion of a harnessed dog baring its teeth. In any case, if a cover could speak, somehow the version above would let you know that it represents a band of hermits that does its best to keep away from journalists and has never given a concert.

Formed in 1991, Forgotten Woods is/was one of those old-school Norwegian BM bands that everyone should remember but too few people do. The intro tells us that "God is mad." Yet, it is Forgotten Woods who proves to be the incarnation of insanity. Speaking of mental disorders, Forgotten Woods gives us a bit of a DSBM feel. The album title was taken from Charles Baudelaire's poem "Cain and Abel," which is pretty BM: "Ah! race of Abel, your carcass will fertilize the steaming soil!" In certain respects, Race of Cain seems more like an art project than an extreme metal album. The seventh track "The Principle of the Whip" was performed by folk/pop/rock singer Anne Lise Frøkedal.

The finale, "The Third Eye (New Creature)," caused Forgotten Woods to part with the German label No Colours Records, who refused to accept the song as it was. Forgotten Woods' co-founder Rune Vedaa told Bardo Methodology: "A label with several openly right-wing bands on their roster should not clamp down on lyrics essentially proclaiming the exact opposite — regardless of what imagery is used." Many listeners will consider Forgotten Woods' outrageous language in "Third Eye (New Creature)" to be highly offensive while others may compare it to the work of Serge Gainsbourg. This song launches into an extended sample of a conversation between the radio and television evangelist Rev. Bob Larson and the controversial Boyd Rice, which leads to Rice's call for a dictatorship based on Social Darwinism. (Unfortunately, Forgotten Woods subscribes to Social Darwinism, which could be one reason why listeners tend to ignore them.) This discussion seems so farcical on so many planes that you won't be able to believe that it actually occurred. The excerpt lasts for roughly 6:45 minutes. From there, the provocative metal resumes.

Although Forgotten Woods has not released anything since Race of Cain (2007), their third album, they never officially called it quits. In fact, they had collaborated on new material before Rune moved away from Norway. This upset Olav Sigurd Berland's aspirations. He contacted Rune with the aim of resurrecting FW, but the latter was not interested in playing a role. It was Olav who did most of the work in FW alongside Rune. In light of Olav's tragic death, however, it is safe to say that the band probably cannot continue. Olav passed away on July 11, although the news did not reach fans until the end of the month. Together, Rune and Olav also co-founded the project Joyless with the help of now ex-Forgotten Woods' vocalist Thomas Torkelsen, who left Joyless in 2000 and FW after Race of Cain. Rune similarly parted ways with Joyless in 2010. The project started as a way to experiment and was a bit of a melting pot with BM as its foundation. Yet, Joyless' style developed into alternative, depressive rock.

Anorexia Nervosa — New Obscurantis Order (2001)

Anorexia Nervosa — New Obscurantis Order

Here we have a mother who seems to be offering her underage daughter, whose nipple is exposed, as a sex object to an unknown onlooker. The doll spread across the woman's knee implies punishment. This stunning cover is so wrong on so many levels, yet it goes so well with New Obscurantis Order's lyrics. Both prove that evil truly exists in this world. They will eat away at you like an "Insidious Disease." This album exposes the viciousness of the earth and heavens. In Anorexia Nervosa's universe "the angels prostitute" and "All mothers are devouring the babies while children fornicate with animals…" The treacherous "divine whore" of a mother is one theme while virginity is juxtaposed with the lack thereof. New Obscurantis Order even dishes up a Rachmaninoff cover called "Hail Tyranny." Marketed as "A brand new Bible for the XXIst Century Youth," New Obscurantist Order seamlessly mixes French and English lyrics, sprinkles in the tiniest bit of Latin, and contains one German exclamation. It can be easy to dislike symphonic BM, especially if you are a purist, but you have to love Anorexia Nervosa.

Vondur — Striðsyfirlýsing (1996)

Vondur — Striðsyfirlýsing
Vondur — Striðsyfirlýsing

A Star Wars-themed black metal cover?! Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant! In a sense, the original version of Vondur's Striðsyfirlýsing, which you see here, beats everything. Striðsyfirlýsing has that special "IT." On this wild effort, Vondur gives it their "All." Vondur may have been intentionally comical, but the music they left behind is still pure gold. All and the late IT of Ophthalamia and Abruptum needed a way to blow off some extra steam; Founding this outrageous side project was clearly a great solution. Although the Vondur duo was from Sweden, Striðsyfirlýsing is performed in Icelandic. (IT's biological father was of Native American descent and his surname is Finnish.) This album was recorded in a living room in 1995.

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Apparently, if you were lucky enough to purchase one of the first 666 copies, you received a razor blade and the warm-hearted advice "Kill yourself!" The same was allegedly the case with Abruptum's compilation, Evil Genius (1995). However, according to a quote in Blood, Fire, Death: The Swedish Metal Story, the number of blades distributed with Evil Genius was not 666, but rather 2,5000. Could one expect any less from a such a special man like the masochistic IT, who even used to cut himself under his eyes?! When speaking with the authors of The Swedish Metal Story, Shining's Niklas Kvarforth called Abruptum: "The only band to have ever made me hurt myself…" In light of this fact, Vondur's antics seem even more peculiar.

If you crave further absurdities from Vondur, check out the cover of the promo variant of the blazing EP The Galactic Rock N Roll Empire (1998) as well as some images from the original version below.

Vondur — Striðsyfirlýsing
Vondur — Striðsyfirlýsing
Vondur — Striðsyfirlýsing
Vondur — Striðsyfirlýsing

The front of the standard version of The Galactic Rock N Roll Empire pictured an inverted cross with flames and star-shaped holes that resemble leopard print. The background is a Confederate Flag. (Although this was not a cool idea in retrospect, it was done in a mocking way during an era when major bands were still using the symbol.) The Galactic Rock N Roll Empire includes covers of songs by Bathory, Judas Priest, Elvis Presley, and Mötley Crüe. This certainly helps to explain the visuals above. The Icelandic version of this EP's opening, "Kill Everyone," appeared on Striðsyfirlýsing as "Dreptu allur." Similarly, Striðsyfirlýsing's eighth track, "Hrafnins auga er sem speglar á botni af Satans svartasalur," is reincarnated as "The Raven's Eyes Are as Mirrors of the Bottom of Satan's Black Halls." The Galactic Rock N Roll Empire was recorded at Abyss Studio like our first pick.

Revenant Marquis — Milk Teeth (2022)

Revenant Marquis — Milk Teeth

A ballerina on the cover of a metal album?! Ulver is probably one of the only bands with the talent and reputation to justify such an audacious move. Revenant Marquis, on the other hand, is a polarizing one-man cult band from Wales. Supporters of this project would probably like to see those with less high opinions nailed to inverted crucifixes while those who dislike it do so in an extreme way. On Milk Teeth, you will immediately notice Revenant Marquis' appropriation of music from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, hence the photograph. But has RM earned the right to touch Pyotr Ilyich's material?! No. The BM on this album may as well be white noise. (That said, classical music definitely has its place within BM. The ingenious Snorre Ruch was inspired by Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet to create Thorns' "Ærie Descent." Likewise, Shining's "Tolvtusenfyrtioett" is a Frédéric Chopin cover. After all, a study has actually shown that metalheads and classical music listeners have a lot in common.)

Milk Teeth is far from Revenant Marquis' only odd cover. Behold the naked crotches on Anti-Universal Compassion (2019) and the EP Orphans (2020). Regardless of whatever the intention may have been, the fact that the lady's head is covered on this faux-artsy photograph is seriously creepy. Below the Landsker Line (2021) was Revenant Marquis (Bad sign…) first album of 2021. In his assessment, the wonderful Jerry of Rauta remarked on the ill-chosen vintage portrait of a little girl. He also called the effort "one of the sh*ttiest albums I've heard in 2021." He continued: "This is one of the worst recordings in the technical sense that I've ever heard."

Troll — Universal (2001)

Troll — Universal

Well… This cover certainly is… a troll. It is electrifying in a literal sense: Lightning, sunglasses, action?! This image gives us fantasy / gangster / adventure vibes and makes us want to write a screenplay titled "Metalheads in Space." "Mr. [Yes!] Hellhammer" of Mayhem looks pretty cool with his trademark bandana, although the fact that his eyes are emitting light is pretty humorous. As an album, the inventive and experimental Universal totally rocks. It is cosmic industrial BM. Universal was allegedly created and recorded in a day, but it opens up new galaxies. Perhaps the most mind-blowing thing about the packaging is that BM legends like Fenriz and Mayhem are thanked in the very same acknowledgement as the (not-so-)"Underground" Zeromancer. These two camps represent very different forms of sonic bliss. If you can appreciate both, you have just entered a new dimension. Universal was released on Metalion's label, Head Not Found, which he quit in 2001. 

Troll's co-founder Nagash (The Kovenant, ex-Covenant, ex-Dimmu Borgir, etc.) was just 14 years old when the project was founded in 1992 as Abbadon's Realm. For a period, he even led Troll as a solo effort. Troll's first demo, Trollstorm over Nidingjuv (1995), and debut album, Drep de kristne (1996), were rawer than the project's sophmore record, The Last Predators (2000). Over time, Nagash would take Troll in a more symphonic direction.  

Forteresse — Métal noir québécois (2006)

Forteresse — Métal noir québécois

Yes! This vision fills our hearts with joy: It looks like another troll, and yet it is so sincere and righteous. The identity of the man in the photograph is Joseph Allard, a Quebec-born fiddler and composer. But is the front of a BM album really the place to pay homage to one's cultural forebears? Why not?! Of course, Mr. Allard's benign-looking appearance is going to make your grandparents ask to borrow this record but is that really such a bad thing?! Respect to Forteresse for making such a solid debut. They have certainly continued to release quality metal. Forterrese's aim is to protect their heritage — "Honneur et tradition." Although it would not be appropriate to refute or endorse anyone's political beliefs here (Pelle Ohlin repeatedly stated that BM should be a politics-free zone!), it is worth noting that Forteresse wants Quebec to separate from Canada.


Catamenia — Morning Crimson (1999)

Catamenia — Morning Crimson

What you see here does not prepare you for an extreme metal album. In fact, there are cat pictures that look more BM. Against all logic, however, it actually goes pretty well with the awesome melodic BM music in store for you. Without a doubt, this is the type of curious vision that you only have to see once to remember. (Note: This pick was done by the same artist responsible for Mystic Circle's Damien [2002], which is also pretty off-beat.)

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You might mistake Morning Crimson's illustration for the cover of a cheap romance novel, and yet the female subject has enough blue lipstick and eyeshadow to make you think that she just hit the club and may be tripping. The combination of exposed breasts and wolves certainly raises the bloody issue of bestiality: Wolves have sharp teeth. With the exception of Cavalcade (2008), wolves have appeared on all of Catamenia's albums. The embracing/playfighting wolves on Eskhata (2002) make an especially strong impression.

Glemsel — Forfader (2022)

Glemsel — Forfader

The photograph that defines Forfader by the Danish band Glemsel resembles something you might come across at a rummage sale. This seems appropriate given that in order to find this jewel of a debut album, you would need to sift through countless hours of modern metal junk. We are sure that the two lovely ladies who have become Forfader's faces would enjoy the music inside as well. This unlikely choice for a BM cover proves that you never know how you will be remembered. In regard to this matter, know that the word "glemsel," means "oblivion"/"forgetfulness" while "forfader" means "ancestor"/"forefather."

Forfader is where Burzum meets Proust: "Jeg længes efter det, som engang var." / "I long for that which once was." This is a beautiful and wistful offering that will fill your mind with fleeting spectral visions: "Varm, kærlige sol. Blænd os med din storhed som vi ledes mod afgrund. Ak, vi forblændes af solens stråler. Lys over alt. Og vi ser ingen skygge." / "Warm, loving sun. Dazzle us with your greatness as we are led to the abyss. Alas, we are blinded by the sun's rays. Light over everything and we see no shadow."

Aeternus — Shadows of Old (1999)

Aeternus — Shadows of Old

This fiery mess resembles a pizza but with more cheese and very little sauce. Aeternus wanted heat, but the result is bland and pasty. It's obvious that whoever was baking did not want to put out much dough to ensure a quality result. In addition, although metalheads are not always known for good hygiene, the trio also looks pretty greasy. All the same, the record itself is worth your ear. After all, Shadows of Old was co-produced by the legendary Pytten. Keep in mind that Shadows of Old actually represents Aeternus' shift towards death metal.

Obtained Enslavement — The Shepherd and the Hounds of Hell (2000)

Obtained Enslavement — The Shepherd and the Hounds of Hell

Again, like some other picks here, the image for Obtained Enslavement's The Shepherd and the Hounds of Hell is reminiscent of a paperback that your mother might have bought for 50¢ at your local grocery store fifteen years ago. This vampire concept seems to have come from drummer Torquemada. It also appears that this release and Mactätus' The Complex Bewitchment (2000) share an artist in common. Whatever your reaction to the two named covers may be, the scorching sight of Obtained Enslavement's Witchcraft (1997) is sure to bring a smile to your face.

Obtained Enslavement's music really divides fans, but we give it our thumbs up. It's cool and it's fun. Best of all, the group was co-founded by ex-Gorgoroth's frontman Pest. You may have heard the phrase: "Teachers are America's heroes." Obtained Enslavement split up when Pest moved to America to become a teacher. Although this fact leaves us feeling a bit disappointed, Pest is still our hero.

Pensées — Nocturnes Douce Fange (2022)

Pensées — Nocturnes Douce Fange

Most of the covers by this absurdist avant-garde band will make you do a double take. Even in this context, however, Douce Fange is pretty special. In the booklet, you will find everything from a cabaret lady raising her leg to a dude urinating. Granted, calling this experimental album BM is sure to irk some fans. If you find this release to be irritating, it will be for this very reason that the Douce Fange will have accomplished what some believe belief is the aim of BM — to spread feelings of hate. That said, it's hard not to applaud the bravery and originality of this distinctly French effort, which makes use of instruments like the sax and accordion. Douce Fange is a novelty that you must experience at least once. It will take you right through "Le Ventre de Paris" with more clarity than Zola.

Benighted in Sodom — Disappear Here (2012)

Benighted in Sodom — Disappear Here

Benighted in Sodom is no longer a "black metal" band. Their work can be described as dark, hallucinogenic metal. Yet, former BM bands never really stop being BM in spirit, even after their style has softened. Besides, this lazy Disney-esque cartoon seems to put everything else in good standing by way of its awfulness, even Benighted in Sodom's other bad covers. It is a total slap in the face of the concepts of quality and originality. Nevertheless, it is still the antithesis of "necro." Despite the bad impression made here, you should still approach Benighted in Sodom's music without any preconceptions. 

Ild — Fandens lykteskjær (2021)

Ild — Fandens lykteskjær

Now this is what we call old-school! The aged man in this photograph is far from what generally typifies our perception of metalheads, but he definitely rocks: This possible Job figure looks like someone who has withstood many tribulations. Although Fandens lykteskjær's lyrics are bleak enough to make you ask God to blind your eyes, it is actually quite a wholesome album. On the first track, you will be treated to a guest appearance by Livløst's Teroon. The last song is poem by Jens Gunderssen (1912-1969): "Noen dør i livets vår." / "Some people die in the spring of life." Ild's other covers are pretty interesting as well, so don't hesitate to dive into their discography.

Genune — Inert & Unerring (2021)

Genune — Inert & Unerring

Have you felt alone in the belief that Eastern European national dress is actually extremely black metal?! Here is your validation. Get ready for some "Eastern European Discontent" from Romania's Genune.

Varzoroth — Demo I (2019)

Varzoroth — Demo I

We cannot count the number of vintage demo gatefolds that were printed with the help of school photocopiers. Such relics often feature hand-drawn cartoons, various spelling errors, and weird allusions. Thus, there are a lot of bands that go to extremes in their pursuit of sometimes self-ironic DIY "necro" aesthetics in order to avenge the graves of the '90s in our tech-oriented world. The most absurd thing is when digital manipulation is used to downgrade image quality. Yet, if we were to pick a winner for the cover that tries too hard to appear not to have tried at all, Varzoroth's Demo I takes the entire Black Forest cake. After all, Varzoroth is from Germany. Congratulations, Varzoroth — You've not only released a good first effort, but you've also managed to set yourself apart from the very first glance!

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