Today, we celebrate the black metal artists who have incorporated other influences into their music. After all, not only is a healthy mix natural, but there is a term that generally applies to groups that are only inspired by other black metallers: clone bands. Readers should already be aware that countless classic outfits have taken their music in surprising directions: Bathory, who, of course, eventually went full-out Viking; the "Sognametal" kings Windir; at times, Mayhem; Dissection; etc. Fans of Dissection should already know that Abruptum and the defunct Ophthalamia blended eclectic styles.
Scott Conner of Xasthur is a great muse, who has left black metal in order to explore new artistic territories. However, he did include some black metal in addition to multiple other types of music on his latest album, the gorgeous Inevitably Dark (2023). Although the legendary Manes, with whom Conner has collaborated, is no longer a black metal act, their phenomenal art will always be black metal in spirit. (Please note that the duo that created Manes' canonical BM material, Sargatanas and Cernunnus, have returned to making '90s-rooted brutal metal in Manii. The pair are currently joined by V. Einride of Whoredom Rife on drums.)
Fleurety is a top avant-garde black metal duo that has embarked on all types of outrageous experiments. The same also applies to In the Woods…. Angst Skvadron was yet another genre-defying project. They played progressive, depressive, psychedelic, alien metal. A high number of other groups that fall into the depressive category, or have in the past, fuse styles in unique ways — Dystopia Nå!; the, yes, uplifting Ofdrykkja; the disbanded Apati; Vanhelga; and so forth.
Carpathian Forest, of course, laces their music with punk and rock n' roll to create some of the movement's most riveting material. Perhaps some will remember the American-Norwegian punk/black supergroup Scum, which featured the likes of Emperor's Samoth and ex-Emperor's Faust.
Nargaroth's black/flamenco album, Era of Threnody (2017), is perhaps one of the most interesting stylistic mashups. The split release Offervals Orchestral Transmutation, on which Hogstul reimagined a track by Ild, was another admirable undertaking. Although we could continue on infinitely, let's dive into our main list. Please enjoy these 14 black metal bands that embrace other genres.
Ildjarn & Ildjarn-Nidhogg
The long-retired Ildjarn was, of course, a great and highly influential black metal musician. He worked both under the moniker of his eponymous one-man project and as Ildjarn-Nidhogg to reflect the contributions of his collaborator. Ildjarn and Nidhogg famously had ties to Emperor. Ildjarn's music is often inhuman, raw, and brutal. People have commented that it sounds rather punk, and Ildjarn and Nidhogg were indeed inspired by exactly that. In other projects, the pair actually dappled in styles like hardcore.
Ildjarn was far from one-dimensional. He made music that he thought might lead some to believe that he had become a "p*ssy." Under the banner of Ildjarn-Nidhogg, a couple of ambient releases were published: the full-length album Hardangervidda (2002) and the EP Hardangervidda Part 2 (2002), which were both recorded in 1997. It is possible to call these efforts black metal in a figurative sense. They are pregnant with the same romanticism of nature that we often observe in BM. In a practically ancient interview, Ildjarn described Hardangervidda as "just a stream of landscapes in musical form, created by years of spending time in Norwegian nature. It has got no ideology, it’s an escape from all relating to man." The opening track, "Sunrise," was actually partially inspired by Grieg. Yes, Hardangervidda sometimes has a classical feel. You can also enjoy the synthy majesty of Landscapes (1996), which bears the Ildjarn name.
Consider Lifelover a part of this list. These disbanded depressive suicidal black metal giants belong in their own category due to their insane ingenuity and distinctive creative voice. Lifelover achieved top results by virtue of their openness to exploration and evolution as well as their savage honesty. They laced their dark art with pop, post-punk, goth, doom, rock, ambient, narcotic magic, etc.
Of course, all the bands of Lifelover's co-founder Kim Carlsson are superb. He has long been creating ritualistic music under several project names. Today, however, we choose to turn our focus toward Kall — one of the most unique and appealing modern metal outfits. Kall rose from the ashes of Lifelover after the death of Jonas "B" Bergqvist. Yet, this unique phoenix is unlike anything that listeners could have expected. The saxophone-infused, psychedelic majesty of this band is beyond what we could possibly put into words. Kall seeks to shatter preconceived notions and provide a liberating experience.
Storm released one stellar album, Nordavind (1995), and contributed some of their material to the split Crusade from the North (1996). An interesting fact is that the main riff from Darkthrone's "Quintessence" from Panzerfaust (1995) appears on Nordavind's "Noregsgard." After all, the band was actually started by Satyricon's Satyr, who recruited Darkthrone's Fenriz and then Kari Rueslåtten. Ms. Rueslåtten, by the way, would regret collaborating with these two brilliant blasphemers. Satyr has stated that Storm is not black metal, but it is black metal enough for this list. The artist wrote on Instagram:
"We mixed traditional Norwegian folk tunes that most of us grew up with, together with some Norwegian Black Metal attitude and musical moves. It was arranged, made and rehearsed in Fenriz’ private rehearsal space in his house, and recorded and mixed in Waterfall Studios in record time. It surprisingly became a cult album… Today I played a couple of Storm songs for my six and nine year old sons for the first time ever, and they went absolutely apeshit in the back of the car."
Obviously, Satyr's kids are great judges, and their approval is the only endorsement you need. Unfortunately, however, Fenriz told Burn Your Ears: "I'd blow Storm to hell, if I could." That statement comes as no surprise, given that the pessimist often states: "Folk metal should be deleted!" If you are wondering why Storm never made a second album, during a very old conversation, Fenriz explained to Nordic Vision: "… we will make another album with Storm if we can afford a fuckin' rehearsal space — we were thrown out of our last one."
We all know that Fenriz and Noturno Culto blend different types of old-school influences in an effort to dig back even further into decades past. Darkthrone's most excellent punk-infused experiments, for example, caused quite a stir. Their latest offering, Astral Fortress (2022), was a mix of black, doom, thrash, heavy metal, and rock. This isn't really that surprising, considering that Darkthrone didn't begin as a black metal band or even as a death metal act as many people believe. As Fenriz told The Inarguable: “… we played more freestyle with emphasis on EPIC DOOM; our first logo even had EPIC DOOM written ON the logo, haha. Death metal didn't enter much until our 3rd and 4th release in 1989." Darkthrone has actually called Under a Funeral Moon (1993) their "only pure" black metal album.
Fenriz has had numerous projects that have probed unexpected territories. The one-man avant-garde alien synth band Neptune Towers is one such example. Isengard was Fenriz's most well-known side project. It started in the vein of black/death and became even more wild. Fenriz poured elements of a broad range of styles into Isengard's music: folk, Viking, heavy metal, doom, thrash, deathrock, punk, ambient, etc. Allow the mind-blowing greatness of Isengard to speak for itself below.
Formed in 2007, Dødsengel is the brainchild of two of genre's greatest geniuses, Kark and Malach Adonai. Dødsengel’s latest masterpiece, Bab Al On, marks their most classically inspired effort yet. Kark told Metalegion: "Bach and Mozart are 'new' sources of inspiration this time around. Both musickally and in sense of compositional techniques.” (Yes, the high-minded Kark enjoys old-fashioned spellings.) Kark has also confirmed elsewhere that his interest in classical music constantly continues to grow. Bab Al On is full of surprises and even features some cello. From beginning to end, this unpredictable journey will constantly confound and amaze you. Expect excellent musicianship, an unbelievable range of vocal approaches, remarkably disturbing ambient passages, phenomenal lyrics, overpowering charisma, etc. On top of everything else, Bab Al On was perfectly produced.
Of course, we emphatically recommend the entirety of Dødsengel's catalogue. Dødsengel has always blended an eclectic mix of influences. Blues and soul are a couple of the more unexpected ingredients that have worked their way into Dødsengel's art. That said, it is impossible to properly describe Bab Al On or any of Dødsengel's other efforts. They all brilliantly balance erudition, technique, and burning passion. As one of the best and most inventive BM bands, Dødsengel stands completely apart from all others. Dødsengel has truly forged their own style from the seeds of individualism. You've never heard anything like this duo.
Founded in 2016, thus far, Ritual Death has unleashed two EPs, two splits, a compilation, and their miraculous debut album. Ritual Death features outstanding musicians, who rank among our favorites: Wraath, Nosophoros, and the Italian-born Lord Nathas. These prolific artists have been doing much of the best work around under a variety of different banners. In the past, Ritual Death also included the equally great H. Tvedt. Ritual Death is a Nidrosian Black Metal band, but it clearly has its roots in death metal as well. The legendary Wraath explained the group's origins to MetalSucks:
"… Ritual Death started because we were tired of waiting for other projects to happen, so we just wanted to start something primitive down to the core, but still with a very serious approach… Nosophoros and I were boiling with inspiration and frustration combined with many nights listening to old demos and obscure death metal: We were then listening to Rotting Christ demos, Swedish black metal, Archgoat, Black Witchery, The Black — just going straight to the core of the pounding hard darkness."
Yes, Wraath mentioned Archgoat, but we would have done it anyway. These Finnish black/death heroes are too amazing not to be included. The group was formed in 1989 by twin brothers Ritual Butcherer and Lord Angelslayer. This pair is currently joined by Goat Aggressor. Archgoat's thoroughly blasphemous war metal is exactly what we need more of these days in our climate of, what I personally deem, weakling music. Fortunately, Archgoat is signed to the great French label Debemur Morti Productions, which also boasts Dødsengel, Behexen, Manes, Doedsvangr, etc.
Now that we are on the topic of Finnish icons, though we just named two Norwegian bands and an international effort, obviously, the almighty Beherit should be considered part of this list as well.
There are so many great black/thrash bands, such as Nocturnal Breed and Vesen. The triumphant Nifelheim, who unfortunately seems to have vanished, also clearly had thrash influences. At times, their music even betrayed their famous love of Iron Maiden.
For now, however, we would like to go for an obvious yet extraordinary pick: Aura Noir. This band boasts one of the most incredible lineups. The never-ending accomplishments of these men are ridiculous: Aggressor (Ved Buens Ende, ex-Cadaver, ex-Dødheimsgard, ex-Satyricon, ex-Virus, ex-Ulver, ex-Infernö), Apollyon (ex-Dødheimsgard, ex-Cadaver, ex-Immortal), and Blasphemer (Mayhem, RUÏM, Vltimas, Twilight of the Gods, Mezzerschmitt, Earth Electric, Nader Sadek, Ava Inferi). Aura Noir's live drummer, Kristian Valbo, is part of a project Avmakt, which is one of Peaceville's new acquisitions that we suggest monitoring. Valbo has also taken the stage with Valhall, a doom band co-founded by Fenriz.
Vulture Lord plays lethally awesome black deathrashing metal. We are so happy that this legendary group from Hønefoss is still active. Their history began in the '90s. Although there was an eighteen-year gap between their orgasmic debut album, Profane Prayer (2003), and their sophomore record, Desecration Rite (2021), Vulture Lord is stronger as ever. This band sets a perfect example for the rest of the metal community.
We must note that in 2012 Vulture Lord suffered the tragic loss of their genius guitarist Trondr Nefas, who is also known for his achievements with Urgehal, Angst Skvadron, Beastcraft, Endezzma, etc. Vulture Lord continues to honor Trondr's memory. Desecration Rite actually featured his compositions, plus one by ex-member Diabolus at the end, "Perverting the Bible." Diabolus returned to contribute lead and rhythms guitars for this most excellent song. Vulture Lord's current lineup consists of a stellar cast of artists: co-founder Sorath Northgrove, Uruz, Enzifer, and Malphas.
The magnificent Malignant Eternal was founded in the 1991 as Apoplexy by frontman Torgrim Øyre, a.k.a. "T. Reaper," and Brynjulv Guddal. Malignant Eternal's classic debut album, Tårnet (1995), is one of our favorites. It is an absolutely spectacular classic. The band would ultimately embrace a more industrial direction. (Hopefully, readers know that Mysticum pioneered industrial BM, and that Thorns has also submitted to some industrial impulses.) One amusing fact is that Malignant Eternal included an Iron Maiden cover on the EP 20th Century Beast (1998).
After releasing their third and last album to date, Alarm (1999), the band went by the name M-Eternal for a while. Although they vanished in the early 2000s, they reunited in 2017 and played Tons of Rock in 2018 alongside the likes of Ozzy Osbourne and Alice in Chains. Over the years, Malignant Eternal has included a variety of great talents, such as Enslaved's virtuoso guitarist Arve Isdal and Eld of Aeternus and Gaahls Wyrd. It is unlikely that we will ever hear from Malignant Eternal again, but we can always hope. Øyre — who has also belonged to Gorgoroth, Obtained Enslavement, and Aeternus live — organizes the Bergen-based festival Beyond the Gates, so he should really add Malignant Eternal to the schedule.
Dreams of the Drowned
Dreams of the Drowned in the brainchild of Camille Giraudeau. Currently, drums are handled by Karl Leavey. Thus far, Dreams of the Drowned has released a demo, two EPs, and their debut album, Dreams of the Drowned I (2019) — a record that has been described as "melancholic, dense & psychedelic black / grey metal meets anarcho post punk." The penultimate track, "Midnattskogens sorte kjerne," is actually a Dødheimsgard cover with guest vocals by Aldrahn, who originally performed the song on Kronet Til Konge (1995). It is worth noting that Camille is collaborating with Dødheimsgard's Vicotnik in Doedsmaghird.
We also recommend the French/Norwegian avant-garde extreme metal band Stagnant Waters, which seems to incorporate a bit of everything. It features Camille, Svein Egil "Zweizz" Hatlevik of Fleurety, and Aymeric Thomas of Pryapisme.
Strid's sublime End of Life (1993) demo is regarded by many as the first depressive suicidal black metal recording. Although there are other pioneering releases that also predate efforts by Shining's Mr. Niklas Kvarforth, he is the father of the movement in various respects. Early on, Niklas made the grave mistake of labeling Shining as "Swedish suicidal black metal" — a term from which he now distances himself from.
The masterpiece V — Halmstad (2007), which even includes some Beethoven, marked a turning point of sorts for the band. Shining began moving in what has been called a more accessible direction but still amounts to total depravity. Shining has worked a plethora of influences into their art: rock, different types of metal, classical, pop, etc. Their music can be bluesy at times or even reminiscent of jazz. Although this was an anomalous occurrence, the brother of Shining's divine guitarist Peter Huss added a bit of sax to Redefining Darkness (2012).
Over the years, diverse types of musicians have passed through Shining's ranks. The accomplishments of these artists, many of whom have been top-notch, extend far beyond the black metal world — a fact further sets Shining's music apart, making it all the more fascinating and nuanced.
Niklas has stated that he wants Shining to achieve massive levels of fame. His desire to become a popular culture icon of sorts can be heard all too clearly on the outstanding four-song EP of covers titled Lots of Girls Gonna Get Hurt (2012), which was reissued this year with bonus material. Indeed, Niklas has recorded many other fantastic cover songs. He has confirmed his admiration for a broad range of artists: Kent, Tupac, Rihanna, Seigmen, Guns N' Roses, Soviet hitmakers, etc.
Order is a supergroup, featuring Cadaver's Anders Odden, ex-Mayhem's Manheim, ex-Mayhem's Billy Messiah, and Stu Manx of the rock outfit Gluecifer. (While Manheim co-founded Mayhem, Billy is regarded as their first vocalist.) Order was formed in 2013 by Odden and originally included ex-Cadaver's late René Jansen. Order plays old-school True Nordic Black Death Metal with spontaneity, artfulness, extreme passion, and ingenuity; Order blends the best of two metal traditions. This band honors the past while venturing to build upon it. Thus, their releases feel wholly fresh.
As a side note, we would like to emphasize that the players involved have done great work in various other musical styles, such as thrash. Billy brings his punk energy and background. Odden is a true rebel; the genre-defying Cadaver does not fit neatly into any category. Cadaver's newest album, Age of the Offended, is a highly innovative gem. Odden's CV is filled with surprising accomplishments like performing with the futurepop entity Apoptygma Berzerk. We urge you to check out Manheim's work with noise and experimental music.
Conceived in 2012, Invunche is a Dutch-based one-man project by the Chilean-born El Invunche. Call Invunche "shamanic black punk," "primitive psychedelic black punk," or just really cool music. At times, Invunche's work is a bit reminiscent of Ildjarn. The band does have its rock influences. El Invunche has explored South American folklore and history through his art. Invunche is currently signed to the American label Nuclear War Now! Productions.
El Invunche has solicited the help of the wonderful Vaal, a.k.a. Fír and The Specter, who has been credited here under multiple names, including "El Espectro." El Invunche has made guest vocal appearances with the band Duivel. Vaal has also contributed to Duivel's work. Thus, we recommend that you check out that incredible outfit as well.