Sweden is to death metal what Norway is to black metal. Norway's sixth sense for finding black metal with the right amount of heavy guitar distortion, banshee shrieking vocals and an unrefined recording quality gives them a black flame kick that fuels the fire of many metal fans. Keep reading for the ten best Norwegian metal bands.
See also: The ten best Swedish metal bands
10. Darkthrone It's hard to believe that one of the leading Norwegian black metal bands in the '90s such as Darkthrone actually got its start in death metal, but it did, and the band didn't make the change because they sucked at it. Quite the contrary. The outfit could've succeeded in either subgenre. Darkthrone has a much more lo-fi sound than the average black metal band, which goes hand in hand with its evil vicious shrieks.
9. Enslaved Enslaved started out as a very traditional black metal band, gradually adopting a more progressive and even innovative sound while striving to be grand and atmospheric. The act's lyrics have always charted new lands full of Norse mythology with some lyrics even in Icelandic and Old Norse languages -- though today, the band primarily write lyrics in English. Enslaved's newer progressive sound can throw off those who seek consistent aggression, but the group balances harsh and clean vocals better than most.
8. Funeral Just like its name may suggest, Funeral is a pioneer of the subgenre funeral doom metal, which creates an atmosphere deep in the depths of despair with decomposing slow tempos, dark, ambient synth sounds and chants mixed in with Cookie Monster vocals. Funeral's eptiaph should read: "Twas one of the first bands to incorporate orchestration and female vocals. Here lies the beloved forefathers of funeral doom metal."
7. Immortal Instead of a drastic change, Immortal grew slowly as musicians while keeping their black metal raw and heavy. With faces painted like most black metal bands -- more than the goth kid in high school and less than a Halloween costume -- Immortal strayed from its subgenre's propensity for satanic lyrics and church burnings. In its place, the band capitalized on the emotion and isolation of barren Norway with a mythical world of its own, "Blashyrkh," full of icy-cold death, demons and warfare.
6. Satyricon Satyricon's core sound can be extracted from its first album, Dark Medieval Times, which could be the poster child for black metal, while also lining its sound with a light armor chain mail of folk metal. You can't talk about black metal without Satyricon, who isn't afraid of having an ever revolving roundtable of musicians, with Frost and Satyr at its center with an honorable musicianship.
5. Dimmu Borgir Dimmu Borgir is Old Norse for "Dark Fortresses," and since the early '90s, the band has evolved its sound from melodic black metal to a more epic, mainstream, symphonic black metal. Despite this frowned-upon transition, the act's hefty body of work and ability to build a well-crafted album still guarantees it a spot in black metal Valhalla. Even though the newer stuff lacks blast beat assaults and guitar harmonies, Shagrath's vocals still hit headstrong.
4. Burzum Varg Vikernes's imprisonment after cold-bloodedly killing his former Mayhem bandmate Euronymous didn't push him off track from making unadulterated black metal following his release. Eventually this solo project caped in vocals of wickedness around an unhurried tempo and a haunt, smoldering, luminescent core evolved into a sound more bewitching with experimentation. In the early hours of dawn in the Norwegian black metal scene, Burzum was a highly influential performer of black metal.
3. Gorgoroth The Lord of the Rings is a story that has lead to many great things in this world, including Gorgoroth's name. If the band was in the book, Frodo and Sam would have never succeeded at destroying the ring -- especially with the group's haunting corpse paint and its ability to slay anything in its path with brutal, old-school black metal, which could easily go in the dictionary as an exemplary of the subgenre.
2. Mayhem As a large hooded influential figure in the black metal scene of Norway, Mayhem is as pioneering as it is infamous. Co-founder Euronymous was stabbed to death by Varg Vikernes after a dispute in 1993. Both played guitar and bass on the 1994 release of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. This legendary album had a crisper recording than most black metal along with ultra-rapid blast beats and heart-ripping shrieks.
1. Emperor Emperor was a highly influential and innovative black metal band, and uncharacteristically strayed from other originators of black metal to crank out a more progressive yet aggressive and raw sound, along with atmospheric keyboards. The band's1994 debut album, In the Nightside Eclipse, is considered to be one of the most influential black metal albums ever, while the act's entire discography is also a force to be reckoned with.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.