By: Espi Kvlt
The other day I was watching a music Youtuber, and they did a Halloween special of “scary” music. Not naming any names here but I was extremely disappointed by their picks, but it did give me a great idea: try to find the creepiest black metal I can for all of you to freak yourself out with this year! Instead of just doing a top whatever style list, I made this lovely iceberg going from the most well-known/least scary to the most obscure/most scary. If you aren’t super into the iceberg lore, some lower down might be less scary just because they’re more obscure and vice/versa. Reader beware, you’re in for a scare!
I’m going to start you off nice and easy with some classic picks and easier to digest black metal.
- Lifelover – Pulver
It wasn’t too difficult for me to decide which Lifelover album would be here. All you have to do to be creeped out (or turned on if you’re gay and have a blood fetish, like me) is look at the cover. This band is one of the most well-known on the list for good reason. They are one of the forefathers of DSBM and were known for their incredible stage presence, with bloody, self-inflicted wounds dripping onto the stage and their instruments. One thing comes to mind when you think of Lifelover and it especially comes to mind when you look at this album cover: blood and suicide. Terrifying vocals cascade over heavy instrumentation with creepy samples of things like children and gunshots. Certainly not for the faint of heart.
- Happy Days – Happiness Stops Here…
Warning you all now: there are quite a bit of DSBM picks on here. If you are familiar with me as a person, you know I suffer from self-harm and depression and have attempted myself, so these albums bring me to those dark places and are more frightening than thinking there’s a demon in my room. I apologize if you are unable to relate. But that brings us to this Happy Days album, which is simply the saddest DSBM album I’ve ever heard. Particularly the track “Don’t Go.” I do not recommend listening to that song post-breakup because it is, without a doubt, the darkest breakup song I’ve ever heard. It might come off as cheesy to you if you aren’t a DSBM fan, but to me, it drags me right back to the darkest places I’ve ever been and forces me to confront them.
- Anguished – Cold
This album is titled Cold and that is exactly how it sounds. With demonic vocals from the aptly named solo artist Possessed Demoness, the songs on this album sound like what you’d hear at Satan’s orgy. The production sounds terrible in that uniquely black metal way that means “good,” amplifying her frightening vocals even more.
- Blut Aus Nord – The Mythical Beast of Rebellion
Without a doubt the most popular band on this list, Blut Aus Nord has caught wide success due to their progressive stylings and unique approach to black metal. However, this album, released all the way back in 2001, has much more of that classic black metal sound. What makes it stand out as creepier than your average black metal fare is the performance on this thing by vocalist Vindsval. He sounds far off in the background of the tracks, giving him this ghostly quality that, over the heavy instrumentation, is enough to send a chill down your spine.
In layer two, I played a couple of my cards early due to their popularity, but there are a couple of albums on here that I truly cannot listen to when I’m home alone in the dark.
- Weakling – Dead as Dreams
As mentioned previously, this is a mega-popular album in the underground black metal scene but one which I do not enjoy listening to when I’m home alone. The instrumentation is technically impressive which is what gained it so much popularity. An innovative and ingenious use of atmosphere drives this record forward. Some people, however, are put off as soon as they hear the raspy vocals that once again sound far away and ghostly. In my opinion, however, the vocals sound like just another instrument in this brilliant, terrifying display of skill and atmosphere.
- Wintercult – The Last Winter
I am sorry to continue gushing about the vocals on these albums, but I am a black metal vocalist, so you’ll have to forgive that it’s what I’m usually the most focused on. This album is a much calmer choice, and it would’ve been in layer one if it was more popular, which it should be! It does not deliver a stale note, cascading from soft acoustic plucking to thunderous drumming. And the screaming on this one truly sounds like someone dying.
- I Shalt Become – Wanderings
This thing is creepy as hell from the first note of the intro. It opens up with a warning: this is not going to be nice, this is not going to be fun, and it delivers all the way through. From one crunchy, distorted track to the next, this album does not let you breathe for one second. Not even during the quiet outro, which, although slow and soft, delivers the same haunting unease as the intro.
- Darkspace – Darkspace I
Putting this so high on the list did not feel right, but due to how popular Darkspace is, I did what needed to be done. But if you have ever been terrified by the thought of floating endlessly through space, being completely alone in a void of nothingness, or getting swallowed by a black hole, this album is for you (or not for you, depending on how you look at it). Much like his other project, Paysage D’hiver, this is a raw and brutal black metal project from Wintherr. Whereas Paysage D’hiver makes you feel like you’re walking through a frozen tundra, however, this album will make you feel like you are doomed to die out in the black tomb that is space. Would make a great soundtrack to an Alien movie.
These are the ones that didn’t quit fit in the top two layers due to how obscure they are but also didn’t fit into the bottom two layers due to their relative scariness in comparison to others on this list.
- Dreariness – My Mind is Too Weak to Forget
I need to start by thanking this perfect DSBM cut. When I was first learning how to do DSBM vocals myself, I copied Tenebra’s performance on this album until I nailed it and was able to make it my own. Despite being a blackgaze album with beautiful instrumentation behind it, she screams directly into that microphone and does not allow you to forget she’s there, like a shadow you see in the corner of your eye and can’t stop thinking about. She is that shadow, and this album is the haunted house you’re trapped in.
- Trist/Lonesummer – Split
The first time I saw the cover to this album, I knew it was going to be good. It looks like a ghost is crying out on the album art and that’s also exactly how it sounds. Opening with a long, atmospheric, twenty minute track from Trist, he sets the stage for the rest of the album, containing song after song of Lonesummer’s dreary guitars and ridiculously good vocals. Perhaps my favorite black metal performance of all time is on the song “Regrettably, Our Harvest Never Grew.” You can look at the album art while you listen to it and hear the screams of anguish coming from that specter’s mouth. And then you’ll be looking around hoping said specter isn’t in the room with you. I could have separately put albums from either of these bands as they both have done amazing work, but nothing hits quite the same as this split does, with the two of them collaborating to create something truly special and truly spooky.
- Razörschrieck – Descensus
Whenever I am really in the mood for some creepy ass black metal, this is the first thing I turn on. The first track is a long affair, coming in at five minutes unlike most album intros. But if you allow yourself to be fully immersed in it, you’re going to feel like you’re walking through a dripping cave and there’s something coming after you. And then it’s going to throw you into the first track of the album, and the vocals on this album are going to make you think “oh god, the monster caught me, and I’m dead.” If you’re brave enough to keep listening, you’re going to hear all kinds of horrific sounds. Glass breaking, a woman crying, footsteps in the water. All of this in between those original and creepy vocals layered over intense riffs, this album is more an entire movie than just a record. And it’s safe to say it doesn’t have a happy ending.
- Hovert – Towards Non-Being
This little EP packs a powerful punch in its short package. It is extremely good black metal, and you might think that’s all it is and wonder why it’s on here until the vocals kick in. And then you’ll be wondering if a human being is making that sound or an alien. In between the ear wormy riffage on this album, the pounding drums are going to pound against your skull as the horrific vocals make you look over your shoulder to make sure you aren’t currently being probed by visitors.
You are probably going to notice a huge shift in the music from here on out. The previous layers all had scary black metal, but still, it was clearly and obviously black metal. Now we’re getting into the really weird shit.
- Wormsblood – Mastery of Creation
Starting us off with this difficult to process record, these tracks are all over the place, and I mean that as a compliment. Shifting from fast sections with loud shrieks to soft sections with deep, monsterish growling, you never know where these songs are going to go next, which is definitely the scariest part. There is definitely music in here, you can definitely vibe along to the drumbeats, but the noises happening around that music are difficult to make sense of and will probably conjure images in your head you’d like to forget.
- Cultes des Ghoules – Haxan
This album has a very similar vibe to the previous one in that the shifts that occur suddenly in between the tracks keep you on your toes even when you think you’re getting comfortable with what you’re hearing. There is even more clear black metal to make out in this, but it sounds like it was recorded in a haunted forest in the middle of the night with Satan himself on guest vocals. The black metal may be familiar and make you feel a bit more safe than the previous pick, but when those vocals go from normal black shrieks to deep groans in your ear, you may find yourself turning it down and looking around the room.
- Nekrasov – Lust of Consciousness
I was extremely happy when I found this album and realized it’s NKSV of Rebel Wizard fame. I do understand why Rebel Wizard is more popular, giving off that unique 70s vibe that sounds like if Black Sabbath and second wave black metal collided, but this project is equally unique for completely different reasons. When I listen to Rebel Wizard, I feel joy. I bop along to the riffs and it’s fun and I’m imagining a little dude with a too-big wizard hat shredding atop a rainbow. When I listen to Nekrasov, and particularly this album, I feel like I’m falling down a hole towards the center of the earth with no end in sight, just praying I’ll die before I figure out what’s at the bottom. If you can get past the first track of static, you’ll be welcomed by music with similar distorted vocals as Rebel Wizard, except instead of sounding magical on this record, they sound like someone who really wants to murder you. If you are able to reach the end and find what’s waiting for you at the bottom, let’s just say the last track does not give you a warm invite but may make you feel like you actually did die along the way and were sent to Hell.
- Expurgatory – A Lustrum
Let’s start with the best part about this band: when I was doing research for this column, “queer theory” was listed on their Metal Archives page under lyrical themes. If you thought that meant it’d be less frightening than other cuts on this list, you were dead wrong. In fact, due to the clean vocals on this album, it literally sounds like a funeral. A funeral where everyone is staring at you. A funeral where something feels off. A funeral where you hold your breath because if you breathe too heavy, you know something bad is going to happen. Don’t let the mention of clean vocals turn you off. These cleans are more terrifying than most harsh vocals I’ve ever heard.
So, we made it to the bottom. While you could still hear clear music in the last layer, everything down here is more like an atmospheric experience. An atmospheric experience you may never want to face again.
- Sutekh Hexen – S/T
If you’ve ever wondered what it was like for Dante to walk through the Underworld, you can participate in it yourself right here. It opens with the track “Descent,” which is exacty what it feels like. With ear-splitting distortion, it crashes down upon you like the fiery rains of Hell. You can hear the screams of torment. You can hear the thundering of demons. You can hear every mistake you’ve ever made and every regret you’ve ever had. And you won’t escape. The last track, which speaks to you in a cryptic tongue, will wrap you up in its dark tendrils and won’t let you go.
- Wrnlrd – Oneiromantical War
When this album opens, you’ll feel like you were knocked out and have just woken up in a foreign environment. Everything is hazy and your mind is racing and you’re trying to focus on anything that will help you figure out where you are and what’s going on. And then you’ll hear the guitar distorted to all hell and wish you were back asleep, in your dreams, where it was safe. This album is a staticky nightmare. It puts to music what it must feel like to have your limbs slowly removed one by one by a serial killer. And at the end, just like it began, you’ll be able to hear your eyes fluttering as you are at last given peace.
- Utarm – Panic Chamber
I’m sure you read the title of this album and are already picturing what it must sound like, and you’d probably be close. What’s written on the packaging is what you get. You are in a room, and you can hear yourself breathing. You can hear the echoes of the instruments bouncing off the walls. Everything is too tight and there’s no room for air. And then you hear the screaming, and you don’t know if it’s your own screaming or someone else’s because it sounds so far away. This isn’t black metal singing. These aren’t harsh vocals. This is screaming, screaming. This album is going to make you feel claustrophobic and it’s going to make you want to figure out where the screaming is coming from and how you can help. But you can’t. You’re helpless.
- Aluk Todolo – Descension
I saved my oddest choice for last. Truly, I didn’t know until I had figured out where everything else should go where I should put this. It’s completely different from all the others. Most of the chords and drum patterns you hear are going to sound quite samey, but not in a way that makes you feel safe. In a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. In a way that makes you feel like you just walked in on a ritual you weren’t meant to see, and now you are going to be the sacrifice. It all comes to a head on the final track, “Disease,” where everything becomes glitchy, distorted, and loud. The voice you hear in the background is chanting something you can’t understand. The drum patterns get faster and faster. And you can feel the album close around you up to its last breath.