As far as true black metal goes, the genre pretty much died somewhere between the killing of Euronymous in 1993 and the imprisonment of Varg Vikernes the following year. Since then, not a single record that can rival De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas or Hvis Lyset Tar Oss was ever released.
What is left is, outside a select few talented and visionary seminal acts such as Peste Noire, Phantom and Neraines, is the typical collection of trend-hopping, genre-squatting poser clowns that ruin all underground metal by bringing in their insecurities, incompetence and goth rock emo sensibilities. Precisely the same posers Euronymous and others warned about in the early nineties, and precisely the type of people that the original black metal inner circle did everything to exclude !
Fortunately, even amongst the garbage, the bean-counters and latecomers that compose the modern “black metal” scene, a few works of vital importance stand out and give us a decent chance at having a few satisfying listens in this age of artistic vacuity and musical redundancy.
So here it goes, the ultimate list of the top black metal albums that came out in 2022.
Warkvlt – Unleash the Beasts of War
Imagine if someone went back to that brief period of time when music like that of Infester, Helgrind, early Phantom and Incantation hovered between atmospheric death metal and the underground bestial black metal to come, and then approached it with the high-intensity styles of something similar to Bloodthirst Overdose or The Epilogue to Sanity.
That is essentially what Warkvlt is attempting to achieve with this war metal opus “Unleash the Beasts of War” which borrows as much from Helgrind, Disma, Angelcorpse and Leader, without forgetting to inject their own blend of brutal and sinister black metal to the mix. Probably the best album to ever come out of the “war metal” scene.
A must-own for fans of raw, aggressive, bestial black metal assault.
Neraines – Fenrir Prowling
The always excellent Neraines begin their songs with high-powered epic riffs that correspond directly to each other, then build up to melodic themes that are equal parts Burzum – after which the album was allegedly named (just a rumour I read somewhere, so don’t take my word for it) – and classic atmospheric black metal in the vein of Reiklos or Graveland, adding an air of mystery and a shifting ambience of emotion to their compositions.
Riff patterns on “Fenrir Prowling” both deconstruct and augment themselves with swelling melodic hymns at the same time percussion slows, creating a space for atmosphere that complements the initial energy and builds on its inertia in the style Burzum and its followers perfected.
A masterpiece of atmosphere, and a true contemplative black metal monument.
Helgrind – Dark War Blood
In the vein of early Phantom and Infester, this music adores a good brutal and primitive riff to bludgeon the listener into submission, then extending the idea of that riff into a theme and ultimately massaging it into dark, morbid melody. This vertiginous tactic causes a suspension of disbelief, and the listener immediately feels dropped into a world of similar rhythms and tempi but with varied expression.
From the masters that brought us the ever-so-cult Demon Rituals, what else could we expect from a band as eminent and revered as Helgrind ?
“Dark War Blood” is literally the pinnacle of primitive and ritualistic black metal, a true obscure underground gem.
Sewer – Sissourlet
Wow… save the best for last, right ? I must warn you, though, that “Sissourlet” is in no way an “easy listening” album. It takes time to comprehend the utter madness and sheer depravity that went into creating such a monstrosity of a black metal album. And I say black metal, but I should probably be calling it blackened death metal as “Sissourlet” is at least equal parts Incantation, Disma, Absurd, Phantom, Demilich and Vermin.
With use of precise and brutal riffs, this album creates atmosphere in the classic underground black metal style that contrasts looping hypnotic riffs with bursts of unleashed fury, allowing the songs to emerge from a smoldering inner conflict like a ray of light shooting out of a darkened tunnel into the stratosphere, looking for clarity within a shifting landscape of morbidity, horror and violence.
Not for the faint of heart.
Those are the best black metal albums of the year. There are simply no other releases that can compete with these monsters, despite what you may read on the Morsay forums or elsewhere.
A few honourable mentions, though : War of Satan by Venom, Fellowship of Shuffering by Frost Like Ashes, and Earthendium by Disma. Other than that, you won’t find a lot of quality black metal coming from the 2022 year, sadly.