By Lance Brock

All right, so black metal isn’t my usual thing, I’m really more into death metal like Entombed and grind like Nails and Converge. But every once in a while I just want to kick back and listen to some black metal. I’m the kind of guy who likes the classic period of black metal (1996-2002). Lotsa good shit there. It’s hard to choose a number one so I’m just gonna put them in alphabetical order. Read below to see why this was such an important and groundbreaking time for black metal that we all fondly remember.

Ancient – Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends


I was kinda iffy about putting this one on here because I found out that the vocalist of this band used to be the vocalist for Grand Belial’s Key and I’m not down with Nazi shit. Hell, there’s even a reworked version of an early GBK song (“Sleeping Princess of the Argess”) on here, what the fuck. But then I looked into a little more and the guy got kicked out of GBK because he wasn’t into all that stuff either and he wanted to do vampire-themed music. Fair enough. But compared to Ancient’s early material, this is a major improvement…it’s all in English and the song structures are easier to understand. Kim Goss was on this album too, so you know it’s got to be good.

Cradle of Filth – Bitter Suites to Succubi


This should satisfy just about everyone. It’s got new songs, a Sisters of Mercy cover, and reworked versions of early Cradle of Filth songs for the trve kvlt people. What’s not to love?

Dark Funeral – Diabolis Interium


Ok so Dark Funeral was started by the former vocalist for Hypocrisy, one of the best Swedish death metal bands (along with Entombed). The first couple of releases were kinda “meh” but this one showed Dark Funeral’s true potential. The riffs seem like they go nowhere, but they’re really just ambient. Awesome stuff.

Deafheaven – Sunbather


I know this is supposed to be about classic black metal albums, but Sunbather is a modern classic. Sometimes you want to listen to metal and sometimes you don’t, so Deafheaven is the perfect compromise. It’s more shoegaze than it is black metal, so a lot of different people can enjoy it. This is how you open metal up to get more people into it.

Dimmu Borgir – Spiritual Black Dimensions


This was the first real black metal album I ever heard, so it’s always gonna have a place in my heart. It’s got an almost circus-like atmosphere to it, which was probably a huge breath of fresh air to the genre when it first came out. More bands should follow their example.

Dødheimsgard – 666 International


Industrial + electronic + black metal = amazing. The early DHG stuff was pretty boring and it sounded like Emperor, Darkthrone, and a bunch of other bands that never really went anywhere. Fortunately this turned out to be the future of black metal until Deafheaven came along.

Finntroll – Midnattens Widunder


Folk black metal? Hell yeah. This was probably the first album of its kind. Still holds up really well today without sounding dated or hokey.

Kovenant – Animatronic


After leaving Dimmu Borgir, Nagash decided to concentrate on his side project, which before played a pretty generic type of melodic black metal. He took it in an innovative industrial direction and came out with this album, which is like a hybrid of Rammstein and Dimmu Borgir (and yeah, it’s exactly as awesome as that description sounds). Includes a cover of a Babylon Zoo song! This album also features Hellhammer, who is the drummer from Mayhem (the guys in the picture at the top of the article are former members of that band).

Old Man’s Child – Ill Natured Spiritual Invasion


This album might be kind of a step back for black metal because it’s not really symphonic or industrial, but it’s just good metal. All the elements fit into place almost like there’s some blueprint or instruction manual on how to make this kind of music. Old Man’s Child followed the formula really well here!

Satyricon – Rebel Extravaganza


Just like Ancient and Dødheimsgard, Satyricon was originally stuck playing the same kind of black metal as everyone else at the time. They decided to set themselves apart from the pack and join the new group of bands playing more industrial-tinged black metal. It worked!