14 Best Black Metal Releases of 2023 Thus Far
So far, 2023 has proved an exceptional year for black metal, gaining honors and accolades along the way. In March, a black metal exhibition opened at the National Library of Norway called “Dårlig Stemning” / “Bad Vibes.” Black metal even traveled to the Nordic Embassies in Berlin, as we reported last month. Another one of this year’s highlights was being able to cover a historic Morbid reunion show in Sweden that black metal historian Finn Håkon Rødland beautifully captured on camera. The event was such a massive success that another gig will take place this December in Oslo.
Later this year, we can expect records by top-notch outfits like Slagmaur, Whoredom Rife, Vemod, Taake, Shining, Ild, etc. The news just broke that not only will the Norwegian Grammy-winning Djevel be recording their next album this fall, but the project’s mastermind, Trånn Ciekals, has also been nominated for an Edvard Prize, one of Norway’s most prestigious awards. That in itself is yet another major victory for the movement.
In 2022, Djevel, Dødsengel, Ritual Death, Khold, Darvaza, and a few others were the only BM bands that wowed us with great records. Thus, we are so fortunate that many of the most exciting voices in the genre have unleashed unforgettable offerings over the past few months.
Dødheimsgard’s Black Medium Current
“Freedom looks like failure. Blame it on the surface.”
Dødheimsgard’s Black Medium Current is an epic success on every level. This album, Dødheimsgard’s sixth full-length effort, comes eight years after A Umbra Omega (2015), which is rightly regarded by many as one of the greatest black metal albums ever made. Although I was eagerly anticipating Black Medium Current, it still managed to completely blow me out of this world. This masterpiece offers an immersive experience beyond compare. It is poetic, philosophical, and radically inventive.
Black Medium Current delivers such a pure shot of truth that it’s actually quite painful. This album will force you to question the nature of Being. “Identity is a drug from oblivion.” Black Medium Current, with its superb lyrics, exposes the ouroboric nature of the self-devouring ego and challenges your self-understanding. This album left me completely devastated: never in a million years did I, a lover of psychopathic music, ever think that I would find a new favorite in an offering inspired by a moral reasoning device like the “veil of ignorance,” but here we are in 2023.
This is going to be the year of Vicotnik, the co-founder and driving force behind Dødheimsgard, considering that the debut album by his new project Doedsmaghird is expected to drop in a few months via Peaceville Records.
RUÏM’s Black Royal Spiritism – I – O Sino da Igreja
Blasphemer is, in my humble opinion, the greatest black metal guitar wizard of them all. Of course, this visionary songwriter was the architect behind insanely influential classic Mayhem releases. Although Blasphemer continues to play in the legendary black/thrash outfit Aura Noir among others, RUÏM represents his return to pure black metal. Blasphemer was inspired to start RUÏM, a duo with the phenomenal French drummer César “CSR” Vesvre, after Finn Håkon Rødland sent him a digitized tape of unused riffs from ’98/’99.
Yes, Blasphemer has provided vocals elsewhere and, as Finn Håkon Rødland informed us earlier this year, he actually sang at two Mayhem gigs in the late ’90s. Yet, the fact that we are finally able to hear what it would sound like if Blasphemer lent his voice to a Mayhem-era record is part of what makes Black Royal Spiritism – I – O Sino da Igreja a special and historic debut. That said, the album greatly expands the genre and presents listeners with something totally new.
Fans of the genre should be elated that on Black Royal Spiritism, Blasphemer reinterpreted Wolf’s Lair Abyss’ third track, “Fall of Seraphs,” with guest vocals by ex-Absu’s Proscriptor McGovern. Finn Håkon, by the way, has stated that Wolf’s Lair Abyss (1997) is the greatest EP ever made. Even given Blasphemer’s past work, Black Royal Spiritism demonstrates his tireless perfectionism, nobility of soul, dedication, finesse, and ingenuity. The spiritual wisdom embedded in the music is deeply appreciated as well.
Høstsol’s Länge Leve Döden
“Reverse the birth of the cosmos,
And retrieve the original faceless,
Formless and miraculous state of divine emptiness…”
Høstsol’s debut, Länge Leve Döden hits you with the overpowering intensity of a weapon of mass destruction descending from the heavens. With titles like “Det som en gång var (det kommer aldrig igen),” or “That Which Once Was (It Will Never Be Again),” this sublime offering revives the excellence of the past. Yet, in a way, what it delivers is even more horrifying. Høstsol is a supergroup that brings you the very best of Sweden, Trondheim, and Finland. The band showcases the gargantuan talents of Shining’s Niklas Kvarforth on vocals, Manes’ Cernunnus on guitars as well as Ajattara bandmates Rainer Tuomikanto on drums and Kalmos on bass. Mayhem’s Hellhammer was Høstsol’s original drummer. He, like Rainer, previously belonged to Shining.
We must note that Länge Leve Döden begins with the declaration, “A human life is worth less than nothing…” Thus, Mr. Kvarforth should feel ashamed that he has become the stated raison d’être of so many adoring listeners for his extensive body of work. Länge Leve Döden has given us far too much pleasure.
Tulus’ Fandens Kall
Formed in 1991, Tulus continues to bring the same spirit and authenticity as when they first started. This classic outfit plays fearless black metal distilled to its very essence. Yet, Tulus has always been distinguished by their unique creative voice.
Fandens Kall features original members Thomas “Sarke” Bergli on drums and Sverre “Blodstrup” Stokland on vocals and guitars. Stian M. Kråbøl, a.k.a. “Crowbel,” who joined in 2008, handles bass. As from the start, Blodstrup’s wife, Hildr, penned the extraordinary, poetic lyrics. Tulus’ sister band Khold, which boasts the same lineup with the addition of guitarist Rinn, was actually nominated for a Norwegian Grammy earlier this year for Svartsyn (2022).
Terratur Possessions’ TERRATUR COMPENDIUM MMXXIII
Terratur Possessions’ TERRATUR COMPENDIUM MMXXIII dropped on March 24 and has proved one of the year’s best surprises. The cover of this masterpiece was created by the multi-talented Andreas Tylden of the disbanded powerhouse One Tail, One Head. This compilation reminds us of what black metal really means and raises the bar for others. I have said this before, and I will say it again: I consider Terratur Possessions to be the very best black metal label.
TERRATUR COMPENDIUM MMXXIII presents us with ten compositions and eight different bands. The tracks are from titles intended to come out in 2023. Since we first heard the comp, a couple of the releases have already been unleashed. The comp gave us our first lethal taste of three phenomenal brand-new projects — Syn, which features an Askeregn member; Parfaxitas, which boasts K.R from Whoredom Rife on vocals; and the family project Kråbøl. The latter effort consists of Brage; his father, Terje, of Katechon and formerly Minas, Faustcoven, Sarke, etc.; Terje’s brother Stian of Tulus, Khold, Minas, Funeral, and formerly Sarke; and M. on trumpet.
We also hear selections from a couple of Brage’s other projects — Enevelde and Misotheist. Fortunately, Misotheist invited a very special member of Urfaust to make a guest appearance on drums. We were also left awe-struck by the excerpt from Manii’s third album, which will premiere in September. Manii is the old-school project of Manes’ Cernunnus and ex-Manes’ Sargatanas. Manii recently added drummer V. Einride of Whoredom Rife to their lineup. The compilation furthermore contains three remastered Skuggeheim gems and M. of Mgła’s remaster of the legendary yet long disbanded Kaosritual’s “Forbannelse.” R.I.P. Steingrim Torson Brissach, a.k.a. “Mehimoloth,” of Kaosritual and a long list of other immortal outfits.
Enevelde’s En Gildere Død
En Gildere Død, or “A Grandiose Death,” is Enevelde’s second full-length offering, though it follows the EP Gravgang (2021). As you might have assumed, it was first teased by the above pick. This record is a majestic, aggressive, and often epic journey that we urge you to take. Again, Enevelde is the one-man project of Brage Kråbøl. He is credited here with guitars, drums, and fire-breathing vocals. En Gildere Død showcases special guests, including, but not limited to, M. Hellem on bass and Whoredom Rife’s V. Einride on drums. In the past, Enevelde has welcomed other great guest artists like Whoredom Rife’s K.R and Nosophoros of Mare and Ritual Death.
Skuggeheim’s Samlede Verker (Compilation)
Yes, giving another place to a title from TERRATUR COMPENDIUM MMXXIII might seem a tad excessive if you have heard it, but the work contained is really that astounding. Due to its gravity, cohesiveness, and underground spirit, the comp, which closes with Skuggeheim, makes similar efforts look like Disneyland. The defunct Skuggeheim was a brilliant one-man outfit that is too often overlooked, one of the most rewarding obscure treasures you could stumble upon if you truly understand the genre. The three-disc Samlede Verker, or “Collected Works,” is a wonderful celebration of authenticity.
A labelmate of Dødheimsgard and RUÏM, Mork is the brainchild of Thomas Eriksen. Mork’s sixth full-length album, Dypet, is a gorgeous, magical, meaningful, and hypnotic effort with remarkable lyrics. As we have previously stated, Mr. Eriksen is one of the genre’s most charismatic frontmen, as a few other names here. He is dauntless and in-your-face. Eriksen added a touch of clean vocals to Dypet; he has a particularly amazing singing voice. Even Dypet’s production is just right. Eriksen handled the recording and mixing, the highly accomplished musician Freddy Holm assisted with engineering, and Jack Control mastered this sensational opus. Eriksen has mentioned the possibility of an EP with Dypet outtakes, so we hope that comes to fruition soon.
“Serving death to the masses…”
This blazing triumph by the mighty pioneering outfit Tsjuder has already delighted audiences. Raw, brutal, loaded with physical energy, and utterly uncompromising, Helvegr is the album that we pyromaniacs need right now. This flawless offering will blast you to bits quicker than a Kalashnikov aimed at your face. Helvegr proves that Nag and Draugluin, the duo at Tsjuder’s core, still reign supreme. Expect dynamic guitars, explosive vocals, and the drumming excellence of the lethal American weapon Jon Rice.
Even the production is spot-on. We hear a guest appearance by Mortem and 1349’s Seidemann, who contributed a bit of vocals and lyrics. Pål Emanuelsen provided a killer solo and perfectly produced, mixed, and mastered the record. Ex-member Desecrator helped write the lyrics to the title track.
Nattverd’s I Helvetes Forakt
Nattverd’s I Helvetes Forakt was officially released via Soulseller Records on May 26 like Black Royal Spiritism, En Gildere Død, and even Immortal’s War Against All. I Helvetes Forakt is an effort that immediately conquers you with its grim majesty. The Norwegian Nattverd musicians rank among our favorites; this band features members of Nordjevel, the international supergroup Doedsvangr, TrollfesT, ex-Sarkom, ex-Urgehal, etc. Ex-Haust’s Ruben Willem beautifully handled mixing, mastering, and partially recorded the album. Willem’s productions have earned three Norwegian Grammy wins and eight nominations.
Vulture Lord’s Total Blasphemic Desecration (Compilation EP)
Every list needs the black deathrashing metal legends Vulture Lord. Total Blasphemic Desecration may be a compilation EP featuring tracks that we know and love, but it is still necessary to revisit these songs, which remain eternally relevant by virtue of their greatness.
Back in 2012, Vulture Lord suffered the tragic loss of the great Trondr Nefas. Trondr appears on all tracks, except “Stillborn Messiah,” which he composed in 2005 — it was recorded much later for Desecration Rite (2021). Although Total Blasphemic Desecration was produced in extremely limited quantity in elitist black metal spirit, that’s even more reason to celebrate it.
Duivel’s Heiligschennis (EP)
Duivel’s Heiligschennis (EP) is my vote for the best original EP of the year. There is absolutely nothing more to say about that. The totally savage yet gorgeous Heiligschennis delivers maximum blasphemy, insanity, and danger. This highly inventive and individualistic offering is nothing short of genius. Duivel is the brainchild of Urfaust, Botulistum, and ex-Fluisterwoud’s Nachtraaf. Heiligschennis showcases so many incredible talents: Black Anvil’s Paul Delaney, Fír’s (yes) Fír, ex-Fluisterwoud’s Lahar, D.R.E.P.’s Deportator, D.R.E.P.’s Kombustar, Invunche’s El Invunche, Heidenland and D.R.E.P.’s Havoque, Botulistum and Alhistja’s Botmuyl, and Klavierendeler. The unforgettable cover, which depicts a nun masturbating with the severed head of Christ, was painted by Johan Prenger. We hope that this brilliant image will be printed on T-shirts ASAP!
Ene’s Et Alter av Forakt
Ene is the one-man project of Erik E., a.k.a. ex-Windir’s Sorg. This self-proclaimed “True Norwegian Necro Black Metal” band just released Et Alter av Forakt on July 7. Based upon Ene’s debut, Lang kald natt (2021), we just knew this sophomore effort would be fantastic. We were right! Ene deserves significantly more recognition, so we hope that the word of this outfit will spread.
Xasthur’s Inevitably Dark
Although Xasthur’s Scott Conner is one of the genre’s most known figures, he distanced himself from black metal along time ago in favor of exploring new musical territories. As Conner explained on our podcast a few years back, continuing down the predictable BM path “would be doing what I’m supposed to do.”
Surprisingly, however, his latest offering, Inevitably Dark, incorporates black metal among an overwhelming variety of other styles. Yet, the result is remarkably cohesive. This instrumental double album captures the dismal side of reality and explores the most frightening corners of the mind. Thus, it’s a sonic poison more nightmarish than all but the blackest metal; it’s honest, artful, and thought-provoking.