By the turn of the millennium, black metal was becoming increasingly visible and diverse, and the 00s would show that the genre still had plenty of bite in it yet. Not only were many milestone releases issued during this time, but, perhaps more impressively, many groundbreaking musical works also surfaced, proving that the stylistic limitations of the genre had not yet been reached. We’re spoiled for choice, and there were many close contenders including works by Ondskapt, Blut Aus Nord, Dråpsnatt, Funeral Mist, Dødsengel, Mütiilation and Black Witchery, to name but a few. Nevertheless, here they are; 10 masterpiece black metal efforts from the 00s.
Weakling – Dead As Dreams (tUMULt, 2000)
Weakling didn’t stick around for long, but thankfully managed to create one weighty full-length before splitting. Dense and multi-layered, with lengthy, slow building songs and suitably tortured vocals, Weakling presented an intense but progressive cacophony that ultimately set the stage for many of the bands that followed in the US, not least Wolves In The Throne Room.
Windir – 1184 (Head Not Found, 2001)
Norway’s Windir always had an idiosyncratic charm to them, but with this album they really knocked it out of the park. Marrying folk influences with heavy electronic/keyboard use (most obvious in the almost-dance music quality of the title track) and tight, melodic black metal, this is an invigorating and unusually upbeat opus.
Forgotten Tomb – Springtime Depression (Selbstmord Services, 2002)
Accidentally created in the early 90s by bands such as Burzum and Thorns, ‘depressive black metal’ became a more self-contained genre during the 00s. This debut effort by Italians Forgotten Tomb sits alongside Shining in terms of lasting influence and is a ridiculously raw and bitter listen with touches of everything from Joy Division to Paradise Lost evident.
Watain – Casus Luciferi (Drakkar Productions, 2003)
It can be argued that Watain’s strongest material has actually surfaced in the current decade, but second album Casus Luciferi is certainly a strong contender. Something of a transitional point between their rawer underground beginnings and what they would later become, it is a high-paced and intense listen, somewhat akin to a filthier, more unrelenting Dissection, with a touch of Bathory.
Taake – Hordalands Doedskvad (Dark Essence Records, 2005)
Fairly unknown during the 90s, Taake have been on a steady rise since the early/mid-00s and this album shows why. Steeped in the atmosphere of the 90s Norwegian black metal scene from which they came, there nevertheless remains something very fresh about the epic, folky, rocking, devil-may-care aura of the band, and this album in particular has some ridiculously catchy and stirring songs.
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Evilfeast – Funeral Sorcery (Funeral Sound Productions, 2005)
Initially limited to a release of 300 cassettes, Funeral Sorcery is something of an underground classic, even in the band’s home country of Poland. Perfectly resurrecting the sound of the atmosphere-rich 90s Polish black metal scene while still writing original songs, these are primitive, murky, otherworldly, synth-heavy landscapes to lose yourself in.
Blacklodge – Solarkult (End All Life Productions, 2006)
The spiritual successors to Mysticum – even sharing the obsessions with hard drugs, sex, industrial landscapes and, above all, Satan – Blacklodge took the industrial black metal concept and really pushed the ‘industrial’ part. Solarkult remains the French outfit’s finest hour, containing fury and a definite sense of insanity within a rigid, relatively technical and highly angular electronic framework.
Negură Bunget – Om (Code666 Records, 2006)
Romania’s Negură Bunget had already put out three albums prior, but somehow this record still took everyone by surprise. Insanely epic and haunting without ever appearing to be trying too hard, Om is as natural in its ambience as the landscapes that inspire it. Its gentle ebb and flow and effective (and unusual) use of traditional instrumentation create a truly immersive experience.
Marduk – Rom 5:12 (Blooddawn Productions, 2007)
When it comes to Marduk, one could easily choose an album from the 90s, but it’s worth highlighting the group’s return to form in later years. This is the second album to feature vocalist Mortuus of Funeral Mist, who’s something of a revitalising force, and it marries the band’s trademark single-minded ultra-violence to the more troubled ambience and musical sidesteps of the frontman’s previous band.
Deathspell Omega – Fas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum (Norma Evangelium Diaboli, 2007)
While France’s Deathspell Omega were certainly unusually serious about their intellectual/spiritual foundations, it was the groundbreaking qualities of their music that put them on the map during the 00s. An immersive maelstrom of dissonant textures, unusual rhythmic choices, unsettling ambient parts, seemingly chaotic percussive assaults and intense vocals, this is complex and disconcerting work but one that is hard not to return to.
This covers the extreme end, but what are the best metal albums of the 21st century? Find out in the latest issue of Metal Hammer.