Blacktracking: 10 Black Metal Bands We Miss
There are far too many amazing black metal bands whose careers ended too soon. Yet the number of groups that have managed to return when all hope seemed lost is truly shocking. This even applies to outfits, such as Strid, who have suffered the tragic losses of more than one member. Ironically, it seems that the only fate more damning than death for black metal acts is when a musician runs away to America. Have you ever wondered what happened to the symphonic project Tartaros?! Tartaros’ mastermind, “Charmand Grimloch,” or Joachim Rygg, who also served as a session member for Emperor, defected from Norway to Hollywood, where he now composes music for films and TV, produces, and so forth.
We can be certain that we will never hear more from Dissection, but it seems fair to say that this group accomplished its purpose by creating the most awe-inspiring “anti-cosmic” art imaginable. On the other hand, we can always pray to the forces of darkness for the third resurrection of France’s Mütiilation or the reemergence of Sweden’s Arckanum. It would be nightmare come true if Dimmu Borgir’s Shagrath and Arcturus’ Skoll reunited for some 100% TRUE forest-dwelling, noncommercial mysticism under the banner Fimbulwinter. Nevertheless, it seems that the time for such innocence is probably long gone. Join us as we mourn the passage of time by revealing our list of black metal bands that we sorely miss.
“I embraced my vision, as it was common for me.
A fate, a destiny, an inevitable early death.
Finally, I’m dead.
And the vision is revealed for everyone else.”
The legendary Windir reigned from 1994-2004. Windir’s founder, “Valfar,” Terje Bakken, continues to serve posthumously as one of black metal’s greatest muses. Inspired by old Norwegian songs as well as the history and local dialect of his native Sogndal, Valfar merged black metal with folk in a highly inventive way. The folk influences truly came to fore on Windir’s debut album, Sóknardalr (1997). Yet, Valfar preferred to describe his music as “Sognametal.” For Windir’s third record, 1184 (2001), which benefited from increased use of electronic elements, Valfar decided to gather a proper lineup by enlisting the help of members of Ulcus: Ulcus’ Jørn “Steingrim” Holen had already appeared as a session member on all Windir’s recordings.
Valfar tragically passed away of hypothermia while walking to his family’s cabin. This luminary was just 25 years old. Although Windir could not survive Valfar’s death, members went on to form other groups like Vreid, whose latest album, Wild North West (2021), earned much acclaim last year. The album’s penultimate track, “Into the Mountains,” incorporates keyboard tracks that Valfar recorded in 2002.
Life Is Pain
We could have picked Sweden’s Lifelover, and we could have picked the Czechia’s Trist; but instead, we decided to kill two depressive birds with one stone. Life Is Pain was a collaboration between Lifelover’s co-founder Kim Carlsson and Trist himself. The duo demoed just three songs. As it turns out, this meager offering was quite enough to leave a scar. It’s too bad that Life Is Pain split up in 2006, the same year it was formed. Kim Carlsson’s intention was to focus on Lifelover. Now that our dearest Lifelover has been laid to rest, it would be bloody awesome if Life Is Pain were to reunite.
Slavia’s music is striking, ingenious, and unlike that of any other. Slavia brought “Integrity and Victory” as well as “Strength and Vision” to their glorious work. This enigmatic gift from the chthonic powers that be of a project was more than just brutal. Slavia excelled at making an art of terror. The fact that Dødheimsgard’s Vicotnik, the king of avant-garde BM, and ex-Mare’s Ghash made guest appearances with Slavia tells you quite a lot.
Slavia was the brainchild of “Jonas aus Slavia,” Jonas Raskolnikov Christiansen. Slavia persisted from 1997-2010, though they played at Inferno Festival in 2011. Christiansen, who suffered from colon cancer, tragically passed away the day before an event that was planned to raise money for his treatment. Icons like Shining’s Niklas Kvarforth, Darkthrone’s Nocturno Culto, and Taake’s Hoest — who had actually collaborated with Slavia — as well as bands like Satyricon performed to support him.
It’s safe to assume that the horrifying yet magnetic Wurdulak is no more. Wurdulak was gruesome, gory, and every bit as blasphemous as a drunken panty raid in a nunnery gone wrong. Their “Gospels of Depravity” were among the most satisfying in existence. Wurdulak’s supergroup lineup included musicians from bands like Bloodthorn and Ragnarok. More importantly, however, Wurdulak featured a whopping four members of Necrophagia: the late Killjoy; Gorelord’s mastermind, Frediablo; Frediablo’s brother, Fug; and ex-Immortal’s Iscariah. Ex-Mayhem’s Maniac joined Mr. Killjoy on vocals. Although Frediablo and Killjoy founded Wurdulak in 2000, Maniac and the latter had been friends since the mid-’80s.
On a related note, we also miss Maniac and Niklas Kvarforth’s Skitliv. Because both members are busy, Skitliv has gone on hiatus. Yet, in 2017, they released a music video for the title track of their 2009 album, Skandinavisk misantropi. Hopefully, we will hear more from them soon!
Cult black metal pioneer Ildjarn, or Vidar Våer, continues to inspire countless musicians with his “Forest Poetry.” This master of “Strength and Anger” made music so savage that you can’t believe it could have been born of a human creator. Ildjarn actually grew up with Emperor’s Samoth. Thus, early on, Ildjarn played bass on a demo called Into the Woods of Belial (1991) by Samoth and Ihsahn’s band Thou Shalt Suffer. Ildjarn founded his eponymous project in 1991. He would also release material as Ildjarn-Nidhogg to distinguish his work with fellow artist Nidhogg. Ildjarn-Nidhogg’s Hardangervidda (2002), which was recorded in 1997, would be the last thing that Ildjarn would record. The reason being was that his trusty 4-track recorder broke down. Ildjarn has stated that without this device, which was, in fact, used for Into the Woods of Belial, he would not be able to achieve his desired sound. However, due to popular demand, Ildjarn continued to unveil content that had already been recorded.
Sarcoma Inc. was the incredible band that seems to have vanished into thin air after their third album, Psychopathology (2008). Mr. Fenriz of Darkthrone penned in Vice that Sarcoma Inc.’s debut, Torment Rides Forever (2004), is “ABSURDLY great.” Although BMers pride themselves in making murderous music, they are sometimes afraid to let their “naughty” sides show, if you know what I mean. (Hint: There was once a German BM band whose name effectively summed up the malady plaguing 3/4 of the scene — Lifelong Virginity.) Sarcoma Inc., on the other hand, welcomes you to take part in “perverted adventures of sex AND violence.” Their “savage and sadistic lust” is a major turn on. This totally insane group also played with the theme of mental illness. Their music is reminiscent of “screams from the chamber of torture.” That said, Sarcoma Inc.’s sophomore record, The Dark Prophecy (2005), is more about man’s capacity for destruction on a global scale and features lyrics that one might expect to find in death metal: “A world of machines. Nuclear reactors and chemical factories. The heritage of new generations is a dying planet.”
As a result of Gorgoroth’s unfortunate name dispute, Gaahl and King ov Hell dubbed their collaboration God Seed in 2009. (Their splintering from Gorgoroth was a shame considering that not long before, the pair had composed all the incredible music and lyrics for Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam .) Unfortunately, Gaahl soon left God Seed. King, however, had already written an album that was originally intended for Gorgoroth and then envisioned as God Seed’s debut. Thus, he enlisted Dimmu Borgir’s Shagrath to provide vocals for the record that became, The Underworld Regime (2010). This sexy offering for ”Post Modern Sadist[s]” was released under the group name Ov Hell. (King may have his haters, like the next dude on our list, but as Abbath has said, when he picks up his bass, it’s like he’s making love.)
In 2012, Gaahl returned to the project and God Seed finally dropped Live at Wacken (2012), which was actually recorded as Gorgoroth in 2008. This stellar recording features Gorgoroth songs and showcases musicians like Enslaved’s “Ice Dale,” Arve Isdal; Shining’s Nicholas Barker; Mayhem’s Teloch; and ex-Gaahls Wyrd’s Sir. Several months after Live in Wacken, God Seed unleashed their sole studio album, I Begin (2012). On this effort, King and Gahhl were joined by Sir, Gaahls Wyrd’s Lust Kilman, ex-The Kovenant’s Geir Bratland, and Thorns’ Kenneth Kapstad. Fans of Gaahl, who has done amazing work with Wardruna, will also miss Bak de syv fjell — the defunct project of Wardruna’s Einar Selvik, who formerly belonged to Gorgoroth, and ex-Taake’s Haavard.
“Roaming the streets, life is a feast.
But the wait is hard for a hungry beast.
Demolition priest make your move.
I’m so fuckin’ empty and I dig your groove!!!”
Maybe one day Fenriz will decide to release more material under the brand Isengard?! Or, perhaps, he will dig up even more of these old recordings than he already has. Founded in 1989, Isengard was Fenriz’s most recognized solo project. Isengard’s content was created using Necrohell I — a now-dead 4-track recorder belonging Fenriz’s bandmates Ronny and Kenneth Sorkness of Valhall. (Necrohell I is best known as the device that recorded Transilvanian Hunger , minus the vocals.) Isengard began on a black/death metal note and became more folk-oriented. We love when Fenriz opts for his epic, clean, northern-god vocal style. Yet, Fenriz has expressed his anger over the fact that he helped pioneer the folk metal subgenre with both Isengard and his project with Satyr, Storm. You can also find doom, thrash, punk, heavy metal, and everything under the insanity-inducing full moon in Isengard’s songs. Isengard gives you a sense of experimentation and spontaneity that has no parallel. “Storm of Evil” is one of Isengard’s most surprising tracks while “Our Lord Will Come” is among the weirdest we have ever experienced. You won’t survive a sojourn in Fenriz’s demented world without Christian blood on your hands.
Celestial Bloodshed (& Steingrim Torson’s unbounded creativity)
In 2009, Celestial Bloodshed’s 25-year-old frontman, “Mehimoloth,” Steingrim Torson Brissach was tragically killed by an accidental gunshot while visiting the apartment of his 20-year-old “best friend.” This Nidrosian black metal hero left behind an incredible legacy. Steingrim was a member of so many great bands like One Tail, One Head — another outfit we really miss; Slagmaur; Grenjar; Unbeing; Jammerskrik; and Miseria X. Steingrim’s solo project Selvhat and his two-man act Castrum Doloris with Mare’s Azazil are exactly how to like our black metal. Of course, Celestial Bloodshed also represents black metal at its best. After Steingrim’s death, Celestial Bloodshed would release material that features his contributions: a split with Urfaust, a single, and an album. We also recommend Steingrim’s Kaosritual — another one of our favorite, albeit short-lived, groups. The surviving members formed Dark Sonority, who have only put out one EP to date, the awesome Kaosrekviem (2012).
Angst Skvardron (& Mr. Trondr Nefas’ genius as a whole)
“We Miss Them.”
Urgehal would have been our first choice for this list. However, the band played some shows this year in honor of “Trondr Nefas,” Trond Bråthen, who passed away in 2012 from a stroke shortly before his 35th birthday. Urgehal dubbed their reunion “Dødsmarsj/Deathmarch for Nefas.” The prolific Mr. Nefas, who belonged to so many amazing groups like Vulture Lord, founded Angst Skvadron in 2008. Trondr’s fiancée, Octavia Marina Petru, served as a member while the lyrics to one track were even written by his brother. Angst Skvadron made ultra-artistic, trippy black music for aliens on psych meds. Trondr blended elements with the same ease with which an addict mixes pills of various sorts.
We also mourn the loss of Beastcraft, which Trondr and Vulture Lord’s Sorath Northgrove formed in 2003. Their goal had been to return to black metal’s primitive foundations. After Trondr’s passing, Beastcraft salvaged some of his work as did Urgehal, who incorporated Trondr’s voice, compositions, lyrics and guitars into their star-studded final effort, Aeons of Sodom (2016). Similarly, Vulture Lord’s Desecration Rite (2021) includes seven tracks that Trondr began composing and demoing before his death. Trondr can be heard on “Bloodstained Ritualknives” from their latest split, Deathiah Manifesto (2022).