We all know Black metal and the raw, evil nature of it. However, there is this branch of it which even though may have its roots in black metal, emotionally contradicts it and is its opposite. Dwelling in the utter depths of sorrow and cold lies this obscure genre we call Atmospheric black metal. The nature of the music being grim, cold, melancholic and filled with sorrow, this kind of music is often associated with Post-black or Depressive Suicidal Black Metal. I personally would define it as the beautiful, mesmerizing side of metal. It is an escape to a different, transcendental dimension.
Now coming to the bands of this genre, they are extremely underground, and simply say ‘lost in the ocean’ of metal bands. It is still an unknown entity to a majority of metalheads and gigs are rare and next to null. In no particular order, following are few of the recent releases I have enjoyed listening to
Germ – ‘Escape’
Hailing from Australia, these guys have been around for a while now. Earlier this year, they released their fourth studio album named ‘Escape’. The album comprises of rich atmospheric landscapes to put the listener into a state of peace. It is a beautiful mix of varied song tempos with some amazing distorted guitar work and haunting vocals enveloped by controlled use of synths all of which makes it a groundbreaking album of this genre.
Negura Bunget – ‘ZI’
Formed in 1994 under the name Wiccan Rede, an year later the Romanians named themselves Negura Bunget which as of today is an ever growing underground force. They can boast of almost a dozen albums spanning their twenty-year career, out of which albums such as ‘OM’ and ‘Tau’ received global critical acclamation. Recently, they have released what is yet another milestone named ‘ZI’. The band has always brought in something new and this album is no such exception. This album is definitely not pure atmosphere-centric, however the dense bass line, chaotic vocals, the progressive nature of the rhythm guitars makes it one of the most successful experiments in the history of black metal.
Coldworld – ‘Autumn’
If you are unaware of this band named Coldworld, you are seriously missing the good things in life. They are based out of Germany and write some of most beautiful pieces of music this earth has ever seen. Their recently released album Autumn in my opinion is one of the best metal albums of this year and deserves way more appreciation. I would not go into the technicalities of the music because its far beyond that. Everytime I listen to it, It feels like a pleasant dream, makes me think and reflect, and fall in love with this masterpiece again and again.
Drudkh / Grift – ‘Betrayed by the Sun / Hagringar’
Forged in the Ukranian cold, Drudkh are one of the most known, most influential bands of this genre. They have released some timeless classics in their career, namely albums such as ‘Autumn Aurora’ and ‘Estrangement’. This time they are back with a split featuring Grift. It consists of four songs with each band contributing 2 songs each. The album is epic in every sense of it. It showcases the darker side of atmospheric black metal with intricate interwoven melodies, and top notch quality from both the bands. Drudkh display the classic old school way, whereas Grift is more melodic and unorthodox keeping the atmosphere intact.
Violet Cold – ‘Magic Night’
Violet Cold are a black metal band from Azerbaijan. The band I must say was a precious find. Their new album named ‘Magic Night’ apt to its name is nothing less than a beautiful dream. While listening to the album, you actually feel yourself drifting away to a different dimension, away from all the shit in this world. It has influences of progressive and is highly uplifting and leaves an imprint on the listeners mind and soul. This is highly recommended for post-metal lovers. The beautiful black metal harmonies are backed by some great piano too.
Psychonaut 4 – ‘Neurasthenia’
Moving on to the sick and depressive side of these things, hailing from Tblisi, Georgia psychonaut 4 are a depressive suicidal black metal band and have recently released ‘Neurasthenia’. It may not primarily be atmospheric black metal, however it has a distinct morbid vibe to it throughout the album. The overall sick tones and pain-ridden vocals are able to create an atmosphere of immense sorrow which might be uplifting in a very disturbing and strange way. This music is definitely not for everyone to like. When an album features song titles such as “Bad T.rip”, “Sleeping Pills Suck”, “Too Late to Call an Ambulance” etc, you may know what to expect.
Saor – ‘Guardians’
Saor incorporates folk influences to progressive black metal. It is a one-man band from Scotland and he finds his influences in Scottish landscapes and sorrow. The arrangements of various layers of atmospheres, the always changing drum patterns, heavenly transitions between clean and distorted guitar tones and the folk elements is what makes this album epic. A huge aspect is the use of violin, which makes the sound hauntingly beautiful.
Sorrow Plagues – ‘Sorrow Plagues’
This is another one-man black metal project but from the UK. From the first note itself, a very depressive ambience is created. They incorporate high usage of synths to create an epic atmosphere. The sound seems to have an immense calming effect on the mind. The sound cries out loud the immense pain it has within itself. The experience listening to this album can be defined as ethereal and surreal.
Eldamar – ‘The Force of the Ancient Land’
Eldamar is a one-man band from Norway. The album in my opinion is one of the best releases this year. It is something extremely different. There could not be a more epic way to writing black metal. The female vocals throughout the album add an eerie vibe to the surreal sound. Listening to this is highly recommended.
Blut Aus Nord / Aevangelist – ‘Codex Obscura Nomina’
Honestly, I do not know what genre would this band fit into. and does it fit into this list or not. This sound is one of the most distinct and different you would have heard. There are various faces to it. Sometimes its mystical, the next moment it would have turned industrial. Keeping black metal as a base point, the Frenchmen have evolved it to something, which is weird in a good way. The only constant aspect is the dark atmosphere it creates throughout the album. It also features an evil song by Aevangelist.