13 Exciting Frontmen of Black Metal
In a world where backing tracks are a huge debate and the aesthetic of extreme music is being co-opted all over the place, where can we turn for artistic truth?! Black metal. Although the genre has certainly suffered from an epic surge of posers, there are a handful of black metal musicians who still embody total commitment, excellence, and authenticity.
Today, we honor the vocalists who keep the dark arts alive. As far as late artists are concerned, it would be a crime not to acknowledge the contributions of Mayhem’s Dead, Dissection’s Jon Nödtveidt, Celestial Bloodshed’s Steingrim Torson, Slavia’s Jonas aus Slavia, Strid’s Storm, and Urgehal’s Trondr Nefas. There are, of course, also many retired forest poets whose recordings must not be forgotten.
Please kindly keep in mind that the point of this article is to focus on musicians who have remained great, as opposed to those who have degenerated into caricatures of themselves or are currently producing watered-down content.
Without further ado, we present our list of 13 of the most exciting black metal frontmen around. These artists are the very best reasons NOT to say (Hint!): “Fuck Off Nowadays Black Metal.”
HBM Azazil (Mare)
The talent of HBM Azazil, a.k.a. Kvitrim and E. Blix, is unsurpassed. His low, self-possessed vocals redefine perfection and cast an unbreakable spell. He is on a totally different level than all but the elite few — an echelon of artists that mainly consists of his collaborators in the Nidrosian black metal scene. Azazil currently fronts bands like Mare, Vemod, his one-man project Black Majesty, and Oslo’s Djevel. You might have heard that Djevel’s last album, Naa skrider natten sort (2022), won a Spellemann Award, or “Norwegian Grammy.” That effort included, Azazil has participated in some of the greatest black metal recordings ever made. He previously played drums in Kaosritual — the band that morphed into Dark Sonority, for which he currently provides drums and vocals. Azazil is also known for his work as a guitarist in Grenjar. He has contributed drums to Selvhat, participated in Castrum Doloris, and so forth. The dauntless musician has even ventured beyond black metal with projects like Solstorm.
Wraath (Ritual Death)
The legendary Wraath, a.k.a. Afgrundsprofet and Luctus, is the frontman behind Darvaza, Beyond Man, Ritual Death, and Fides Inversa. He plays bass in Mare and provides guitars in Behexen — one of Finland’s greatest assets. Wraath previously fronted the disbanded powerhouse known as One Tail, One Head. He has also been involved in Kaosritual and Dark Sonority. In addition to having made several great guest appearances, Wraath has performed live with stellar outfits, such as Whoredom Rife and Dødsengel. In my view, Wraath certainly has the best resume in black metal. Not to mention, he deserves a place in the history books for co-founding Celestial Bloodshed. He handled guitar and bass in that group. As Wraath stated on Iblis Manifestations, Celestial Bloodshed was the first band in which he created original music. Wraath also explained on the podcast that he did not start singing until his bandmate from other projects “ⷚ,” Øyvind Sundli, convinced him to give it a try. Thus, we can thank ⷚ for Wraath’s fiery vocals, which put almost all others to shame.
Kark makes up half of Dødsengel — the ingenious duo that is unlike any band you’ve ever heard before. Their work is so extraordinary that it’s a bit difficult to process. It overwhelms you and produces a massive impression upon the psyche. Kark’s approach to his craft is incredibly sophisticated. Ridiculously versatile, Kark uses his voice in the most varied and surprising ways. His vocal gymnastics are so glorious that it’s maddening. He paints with an incredible broad palette, so to speak. Kark inundates us with raw, truthful, and organic emotion, yet even Dødsengel’s most unexpected choices are brilliant from an analytical point of view as well. Kark’s miraculous performances could make just about any classically trained thespian look like a dilettante. Furthermore, the lyrics that he works with are masterpieces in themselves — poems of the highest caliber. We must thank drummer Malach Adonai for his role as Dødsengel’s main lyricist. Dødsengel is a band of superior intellect and erudition.
As a vocalist, musician, songwriter, lyricist, and visionary, Vicotnik has created black metal so divine that you will doubt that it is the product of a human creator. In fact, in some ways, Vicotnik actually seems more akin to a prophet than a musician. Even on old recordings from Vicotnik’s pre-Oslo days with Manes in Askim, you can hear how excellent he is.that he’s a gem of the rarest sort. Once in Oslo, Vicotnik co-founded Ved Buens Ende and then Dødheimsgard. Vicotnik has clarified that the initial purpose of the latter band was to play more traditional BM since VBE progressed so quickly. Ironically, the avant-garde outfit that DHG soon became always presents us with something new. In the past, co-founder and now ex-member Aldrahn was often responsible for the lead vocals in DHG, Kvohst has also fronted the band, and sometimes vocal duties were divided. Thus, we are delighted that Vicotnik is presently handling DHG’s lead vocals again. As far as VBE is concerned, Vicotnik provides the harsh vocals while Carl-Michael Eide contributes the beautiful clean vocals and Skoll adds extra vocals — an ideal team. In addition, Vicotnik is the original and current frontman of the most excellent quartet Dold Vorde Ens Navn, who released their masterpiece of a debut album, Mørkere, in 2021. He has also been a member of the legendary Strid for quite a while. We can’t wait to hear the first record by Vicotnik’s new project, Doedsmaghird. That effort will come sometime after DHG’s Black Medium Current, which will be released on April 14.
Nattefrost (Carpathian Forest)
Carpathian Forest frontman, Nattefrost, is one of the biggest personalities in black metal. Nattefrost is a true rockstar and very special artist alike — impossibly charismatic, wild, and larger-than-life! Not to mention, his outrageous lyrics are insanely compelling. Nattefrost’s music is a much-needed adrenaline shot of sex, violence, and misanthropy. Listening to his uncompromising work serves as a refreshing reminder of what it sounds like to have balls of iron. We eagerly await Carpathian Forest’s promised next record, Likskue-Dødens arkitektur, as well as Nattefrost’s third solo album. Nattefrost’s solo material, which even includes a split with Fenriz’ Red Planet, Engangsgrill (2009), makes for the most pleasurable listening experience imaginable. In fact, in my book, Nattefrost’s sadistic and inhuman art is the most “fun” black metal you will ever experience.
Kim Carlsson (Ex-Lifelover)
Kim Carlsson brings maximum intensity to his craft. The result is absolutely flooring. Kim’s work lacerates the soul like daggers. Kim is known as the frontman and co-founder of the awe-inspiring entity that was Lifelover. As such, he has been one of the most influential artists in the genre. Hypothermia, which doesn’t always have vocals, and Kall are just two of his current projects. Although one could say that Kall rose from the ashes of Lifelover, it is a totally different band with a unique philosophy. Life Is Pain was an especially memorable duo that Kim formed with Trist, though they only recorded one demo together before disbanding. It would be difficult to properly discuss Kim’s other outstanding projects, especially considering that Kim does not limit his musical explorations to black metal. He has created a wealth of material that is actually quite soothing and ultimately healing. It is also important to note that this introspective musician is also a visual artist, who sometimes paints with his own blood.
The fearless Nargaroth vocalist René “Ash” Wagner is one of the greatest musical geniuses around. Although he is also one of the genre’s most obvious icons, Ash has remained the very antithesis of a commercially minded sell-out. Ash embodies the harsh warrior spirit, yet his work also retains a poetic charm and is filled with longing. Ash was born in Germany, but he has traveled the world and even worked as a cowboy. This is important because Ash’s adventurous nature is reflected in his albums. Musically speaking, Ash has made some daring choices, such as incorporating a folkish Bessarabian melody in homage to his ancestors in “Frühling” from Jahreszeiten (2009) and using flamenco as an inspiration for Era of Threnody (2017). Nargaroth’s music delivers exactly what you want from black metal, but it also transcends the movement. It’s pure art, Kunst.
Niklas Kvarforth (Shining)
There are no words that can do justice to the sublime talent of Shining mastermind, Niklas Kvarforth. Yes, the quality and excellence of this prolific musician’s output defies description. This January, Kvarforth released his debut album with his supergroup Høstsol, which he formed in 2020 with Cernunnus of Trondheim’s Manes. Kvarforth has participated in many other exciting projects, such as Den Saakaldte and Bethlehem. He has made a long list of superb guest appearances with bands like So Much for Nothing, Manes, and Urgehal. In 2005, Kvarforth co-founded the magnificent Skitliv with Maniac. To say that Skitliv is one of the best metal bands is a bit misleading; this profound yet trippy group is a poetic, philosophical, and destructive experience that might just make you call your very existence into question. We haven’t heard from Skitliv in quite a long while, but apparently Maniac and Kvarforth have worked on new material. Kvarforth’s role has been to provide guitars and additional vocals in that effort.
From the moment Maniac sent Mayhem his Septic Cunts demo tape, he proved his brilliance. The monster performer has given his voice to classic Mayhem releases, including Deathcrush (1987), on which vocalist Billy Messiah also appears, and Wolf’s Lair Abyss (1997). As mentioned above, Maniac has acted as the frontman in Skitliv, who we really hope will lavish us with new musical gifts in the future. Notably, Maniac handled vocals with his late friend, Necrophagia’s Killjoy, who inspired Septic Cunts, in the defunct supergroup Wurdulak. Maniac and Killjoy were also among the musicians involved in the short-lived American-Norwegian supergroup Eibon, though the former soon withdrew. You might have heard that Maniac fronted Bomberos, a hardcore project with ex-Emperor’s Faust. Everything that Maniac puts his creative touch upon is gold, so we urge you to check his other projects, such as Voluspå and Kognativ Kollaps. Maniac is one of those rare few talents who simply takes our breath away.
Attila Csihar (Mayhem)
We are all well aware of the position in history that Mayhem’s Hungarian-born frontman Attila Csihar has rightly earned. The late Euronymous originally recruited Csihar to sing on De Mysteriis Dom. Sathanas (1994) because he knew how much Mayhem’s late Per Yngve “Pelle” Ohlin, whose stage name was “Dead,” respected him as Tormentor’s vocalist. In a letter to his Italian pen pal, The Old Nick, Pelle called Tormentor: “INCREADIBLY KILLING GREAT.” Attila reunited with Mayhem in 2004 and has been with the band ever since. Past and present, Attila has been a part of a variety of other projects like Sun O))), Gravetemple, Sinsaenum, Aborym, even Keep of Kalessin, and so forth. He has provided guest vocals for an endless inventory of artists — Ulver, Emperor, Skitliv, Deathcult, etc. Notably, Attila recently released his first solo album, Void Ov Voices : Baalbek.
Svein Egil Hatlevik (Fleurety)
Svein Egil Hatlevik is another one of the most inventive men in metal. Completely one-of-a-kind, you never quite know what Hatlevik is going to do next. He and Alexander Nordgaren are, of course, the forces behind Fleurety — one of black metal’s greatest treasures. Nordgaren was the group’s original vocalist. If you listen to the EP A Darker Shade of Evil (1994), for example, you’ll hear exactly how Nordgaren managed to damage his vocal cords. Fleurety is known for incorporating a lot of guest vocals; their use of female vocals in particular has differentiated them. Nevertheless, we especially enjoy the wonderful sound of Hatlevik’s voice. His lyrics exceptional, by the way — unlike anything you’ve read. Hatlevik also currently fronts the awesome project of Mayhem’s and Nidingr’s Teloch Umoral as well as the French/Norwegian group Stagnant Waters. Hatlevik’s past accomplishments include contributing keyboards and effects to Dødheimsgard; his genre-defying solo project Zweizz; the experimental gem Aphrodisiac, which also involved Vicotnik; and much more.
Thomas Eriksen (Mork)
Thomas Eriksen is the mastermind behind the sensation known as Mork. Eriksen formed Mork in 2004 in his hometown of Halden. This one-man project has taken the BM world by storm. Mork’s remarkable 2007 demo, Rota til ondskap (2007), was eventually followed by the band’s 2013 debut album, Isebakke, which led to a deal with Peaceville Records. Although Mork’s path has unfolded in surprising ways, Mork has always remained true to the spirit of the genre. Thomas Eriksen is arguably the most important voice in True Norwegian Black Metal of his generation; he has raised awareness of the art form through his music and his podcast. Partially inspired by a series of tragic events, Mork’s last album, Katedralen (2021), pierced listeners right in the heart with its powerful songs and accompanying texts. Yet, it emphasizes strength and actually manages to uplift. Fortunately, Mork is set to unleash studio album number six, Dypet, on March 24. Mork in 2023 is unconstrained by rules, so fans are in for something very special.
Nocturno Culto (and Fenriz) (Darkthrone)
Nowadays, the Darkthrone duo’s music isn’t that black, but black metal is a mindset. Nocturno Culto joined Darkthrone in May 1988. He and now ex-member Zephyrous were actually the ones who knocked on Fenriz’s door after Darkthrone’s death metal debut, Soulside Journey (1991), with the idea to switch styles to black metal. Clearly, Nocturno Culto and Fenriz are both equally outstanding multi-instrumentalists, lyricists, and vocalists. Yet, it is Nocturno who usually provides the lead vocals on Darkthrone’s tracks.
That said, Fenriz’s vocals in Darkthrone as well as past endeavors like Isengard, one of his many solo efforts, and Storm are absurdly thrilling. Fenriz imbues his music with more character than one would have previously thought possible and captures the nuances of the human soul in all of its brutality, perversity, and silliness. Sadly, however, Fenriz is no longer a man of many side projects. He keeps his focus on Darkthrone these days, though he also occupies himself with his radio show, The Fenriz Metal Pact.
Meanwhile, Nocturno has been serving as the voice of the superb band Sarke since 2008. In 2013, he released the EP Receive (2013) with his aptly named solo project, Gift of Gods. After all, the honest and mighty artist is the closest thing to a musical god. Nocturno has contributed guest vocals to the “True Narcotic Black Metal” outfit Secht, the supergroup Scum, Taake, Enslaved, Svartahrid, Mork, and many others. In the ’90s, he even played guitar with Satyricon.
Why not end with a little humor courtesy of Isengard?!