Written by Espi Kvlt
Every year I seek to do something for Transgender Week of Awareness. Last year, I read off the list of those we knowingly lost in 2020. It was painful and gut-wrenching and I cried during and for days after. This year, I decided to do something more uplifting, because, while what I did last year was extremely important and it touched a lot of people, I don’t think my heart can bear to ever do anything like that again. If you’d like to see that video, here’s the link, but massive trigger warning for death and transphobic violence. It is extremely important for us to remember those we have lost each year, but it is also important to celebrate the lives of trans people while we are still here. To that end, I decided to write this column to celebrate trans voices in the black metal scene. It takes courage just to exist as a trans person in this often hateful world where you can’t even casually listen to music without playing Six Degrees of Fascism, but every day more of us appear, and every day the world of black metal gets closer to its true message: dismantling of the system and decimation of what we know to be true and normal.
Anna Pest – Forlorn
As an entity herself, Anna Pest’s discography is wide and varied, spanning multiple genres of metal and never letting itself go stale. This black metal album manages to not only follow that patternless pattern, but also goes the extra step of spanning multiple sub-genres of black metal. Everything from DSBM to powerful atmospheric black metal exists on this album, making it the perfect little treat for anyone as obsessed with the genre as a whole as I am. While many black metal outfits fall into a trap of sounding like second-wave worship and literally nothing else, this album, from song to song, is a massive compilation of sounds.
greyfleshthered – The Dark Being
Despite its massive over an hour length, this album took me out to sea with it and would not let me go until I had completed the journey. I was worried I’d grow bored when I saw how long the tracks were, but luckily, that didn’t happen. It instead felt like the soundtrack to a movie that was playing out in my head. Like the album discussed before, this one also spans multiple different genres, varying wildly in sound not only from track to track, but minute to minute. I wouldn’t describe this as just black metal but instead, a black-metal infused industrial album with classical elements. It’s beautiful, breathtaking, and harrowing. Prepare yourselves before you embark on this wild ride.
Wolven Daughter – No Grace But Through Torment
Hello, fellow lovers of raw black metal, this one is for you! Erin’s new project has a different name but her sound is consistently great and has only improved over time. This EP is a tight little thing, coming in at just around eight minutes, and that is my only complaint: I want more! It’s drenched in the atmosphere of a dungeon synth record but with the nasty vocals and riffs of black metal. I can literally picture some horrifying dungeon creatures in a castle playing this music with corpse paint smeared all over the faces, making it the perfect raw black metal sound I am always seeking out.
The Sun Came Up Upon the Left – Sounds We Make Through Wind
If you still haven’t listened to this, I am questioning all your life choices up to this point, to be honest with you. I first heard it when it was released in November of 2019 and it’s on constant repeat. This album is layered in angelic instrumentation that is topped off with the screaming vocalizations of death. I could have included it on my scary black metal albums with how harrowing it is and how much it makes me contemplate my life, death, and the nature of existence. It’s doomy and gloomy black metal that will make you remember you only have so much time on this earth, so use it wisely.
Karnstein – A Plague Upon Four Houses
Despite being part of a massive split that contains all bands I love, Karnstein stands out on this record due to the definitive voice this project has created with it. While I felt that the Apocalypse Demo still had the band looking for a signature sound, they took their music to new heights on this split, creating vampiric black metal that blends three things I love the most in my music: black metal, trans gay vampires, and gnarly vocals. “Vampire’s Pain,”, is my favorite song this band has ever put out. The riffs are great, the drumming is mesmerizing, and the vocals sound exactly like what is written on the tin: a vampire’ pain.
Leper Angel – Pest
I struggled a long time to come up with the word I wanted to use to describe this album. The problem was, I had a word in mind from the jump, but I wasn’t sure it was an appropriate linguistic choice for such a dark record. But I’m doing it: this is extremely sexy. My favorite vocal performance of anything I’ve covered so far. The instruments are harsh and menacing. The distortion layered over it makes it sound like it’s being played on a rainy day in the middle of the woods in the dead of winter. It’s cold, it’s crushing, and it will take no prisoners.
Coven of the Pestilent One – Corrosion
This album is dark. It is filled to the brim with heavy, punishing instrumentals and frightening vocals but then it gives you a moment to breathe. A moment to feel you’re safe. Then as soon as the music has slowed and allowed you that breath of fresh air, it pummels you into the ground once again with its intense barrage of screaming guitars, pounding drums, and vicious vocals. If you like black metal that makes you feel threatened by an invisible foe, this album is for you.
Everson Poe – Grief
This is the most depressing album on this list, navigating through the stages of grief with the most otherworldy vocals and the most ear wormy drum patterns on this list. Torn between wanting to bop my head along and wanting to cower in fear from the vocals shredding into my ear canal, this album perfectly skirts the line between metal I could listen to during a casual walk through the park and metal I’d be listening to while taking a self-pity bath. If you like structured black metal with super precise form, this album does that. The technical skill at work here is amazing.