The best 11 black metal albums, by Borknagar's Øystein Brun

The wave of True Unholy Black Metal that burst out of Norway and achieved global infamy in the first half of the 90s often presented itself as a deeply antisocial and misanthropic movement. Øystein Brun, who played death metal in Molested before founding virtual black metal supergroup Borknagar in 1995, remembers those days with nostalgic affection.

“To me it was very positive,” he declares. “There was so much energy, passion and driving force among the musicians. Everyone wanted to do something new and make killer music, and there was a lot of healthy competition. We had a youthful rush going, an intensity that we’re not able to regain anymore at the age of 40! It was like a steam train going at full speed, nothing could stop it. I have great memories of that time. It was so intense and uplifting, but it was a serious business as well.”

As indeed is choosing the 11 finest long-playing examples of the black art…

SODOM – Obsessed By Cruelty (SPV/Steamhammer 1986)
“It’s not per se black metal, but it was one of the first records I heard that was into this blackish style. There was a local record store in Bergen where there were always older metal guys hanging around, so I took some advice from them; when this came out I was amazed by the sheer brutality and the pitch black dimension of it. It still sounds really, really cold!”

BATHORY – Blood Fire Death (Black Mark, 1988)
“From the late 80s, I really started to get a grip on the brutal, darker stuff. I just loved the intro, which is quite mystical and atmospheric with really nice clean guitars, and the contrast when it evolved into this brutal black metallish stuff. There was also already some flavour of the epic, Viking style in the music that amazed me a lot.”

DARKTHRONE – A Blaze In The Northern Sky (Peaceville, 1992)
“I remember the day that came out. I was really into their debut Soulside Journey, but in some ways this was quite shocking. They were completely turning on a coin and doing something else. I guess it’s a very important album for everyone that was part of the black metal scene in Norway. It had such great impact, changed the whole thing and brought something new to the table.”

IMMORTAL – Pure Holocaust (Osmose, 1993)
“When they were a death metal band they rehearsed half a kilometre from my parents’ house, so I’d go by there, hang out and listen to them. The debut is cool, but I really love Pure Holocaust. That really sharpened it up and made it very simple, straight on target, no fuss just straight to the bone. It’s probably under-produced by today’s standards but I love the feel of that album.”

**BURZUM – Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (Misanthropy, 1994)
**“I’ve never been a huge fan of Varg Vikernes, but this one drew my attention. He made something so atmospheric and epic and totally special, and I just love the eerie feeling. One of the main points I was so fascinated by is that it’s so simple. They’re long songs, he’ll repeat one riff for five minutes, but it sounded great! It gives it such a hypnotic flavour.”

MAYHEM – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (Deathlike Silence, 1994)
“There was a lot of anticipation for this album. First time I heard it I was a little like ‘Wow, the vocals, err…’ you know? But after listening to it a couple of times I was really hooked. I guess everybody knows it’s an important cornerstone of the whole scene.”

EMPEROR – In The Nightside Eclipse (Candlelight, 1994)
“Of course! Another album that everybody was into at that time. I was a bit disappointed by the production though, I don’t know why! Inno A Satana is still one of the ultimate black metal hymns. And the guys were so young back then, but that album was so huge – in terms of composition it’s brilliant, very close to – and kids doing that at the age of 18 is still immensely impressive.”

DISSECTION – Storm Of The Light’s Bane (Nuclear Blast, 1995)
“I really liked The Somberlain, but in a more direct and subtle way this album inspired me a lot. The way Jon used harmonies and melodies really hit me. Ever since I started out I’ve always been hunting for great melodies, and that album really hooked me. I still think it’s one of the best albums from the whole metal scene.”

ULVER – Bergtatt (Head Not Found, 1995)
“It’s not a typical black metal album but it’s a big piece of the whole scene, but it really made an impression on me and it’s always really close to my heart. They managed to pinpoint the soul of Northern folklore, matched so well with all the drawings and the trollish atmosphere. It wasn’t just dirty black thrashy stuff, there was also that eerie feeling that always attracted me.”

ULVER – Nattens Madrigal (Century Media 1997)
“Some people didn’t get to grips with it, I remember Century Media were upset because they were expecting something completely different! But there are great riffs, great songs and really, really great melodies. It’s kind of too – they actually spent money on making it sound even worse – but the music holds up and I Iove the soul of that album.”

Borknagar’s new album Winter Thrice will be released on January 22, 2016 via Century Media Records. For more information, visit the band’s official site.

Chris Chantler

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.