Symphonic black metal is the perfect mix of the sacred and the profane, mixing the OTT grandiosity of symphonic metal with the Beelzebubian ferocity of black metal. UK six-piece She Must Burn have perfected the art, as displayed on their epic new album Umbra Mortis. Guitarist Jack Higgs gives us the lowdown on the 10 killer symphonic black metal everyone should know.
I. Odium – Winterpath
One of the OGs when it comes to symphonic BM. The production is gritty and ethereal as it should be and they have two keyboard players, which is incredibly rare and makes for an overly dense sound.
II. Carach Angren – Haunting Echoes From The Seventeenth Century
A favorite band throughout school and college. I remember grabbing this album from HMV with birthday money and obsessively memorized most of the lyrics. The story telling nature was not something I’d not heard in black metal until 2008 and it became a big part of my writing.
III. Dimmu Borgir – In Death’s Embrace
I’ll probably get a bit of abuse for putting a couple of these bands in this list but no one can deny the first three Dimmu albums were incredible and rather ahead of their time. I feel like Dimmu is probably one of those few bands whose influence has transcended black metal and is quite current in a lot of our contemporaries.
IV. Stormlord – Under The Boards
I feel like this is where the framework for what She Must Burn draws from massively. Oppressive and bleak chord progressions coupled with blast beats & the occasional hook, the song is tuned to G# as well which for a black metal song in 2004 is ludicrous.
V. Belial Horde – Deep Obscurantis Horde
This was a slightly newer discovery for me, and I was absolutely blown away! Truly unrelenting and even more rare to hear a band doing this style nowadays without it being watered down and merged with other genres.
VI. Abigail Williams – Floods
This album takes me right back. I remember catching AW in Oxford when I was a young teenager and was absolutely blown away. Whilst their style has changed a lot over the years, their music is still incredible and Ken, Vance and the guys are great at what they do.
VII. Into Infernus – Eden II: Devil’s Dance
Okay, I know its not explicitly black metal and I’m now also in this band, but this song and particularly the three-part epilogue part are absolutely sublime. This came out before I joined and was one of my favorite albums of the 2010s, Andrew Zink is a genius and doesn’t get enough praise for writing this album especially.
VIII. Vesania – Disillusion
Venturing into blackened death metal territory now. This song is so fucking twisted and I love it! Im a sucker for anything slightly carnivalesque, whimsical or Danny Elfman-like and this song is exactly that.
XI. Old Man’s Child – Black Seeds On Virgin Soil
I feel like Galder’s riffs are somewhat wasted or not utilised on new Dimmu Borgir and until you listen to OMC, you’ll probably wonder why. Super riffy black metal with symphonic elements scattered throughout although not as prevalent as Dimmu.
X. Empty - Emperor
Okay, I know its not strictly orchestral but that string part over the twisty half time riffs gets me every time. It sounds so evil, and coupled with the guitar melody has such great use of counterpoint that I can’t help but want to re-learn it on guitar every time I hear it. Ishahn is an incredible writer and his ethos towards writing, black metal and not following the grain is something I can get behind massively.
She Must Burn’s new album, Umbra Mortis, is out now (opens in new tab)