Burzum – Filosofem (1996)
Burzum’s fourth studio album, “Filosofem” is an album that’s artistic legacy is not only carried upon the wings of controversy associated with its sole musical creator, Varg Vikernes. It is also an album that has been proven worth its weight in musical blackened gold over the decades following its initial release. A masterclass in the art of atmosphere, “Filosofem” lulls its listeners into a trance-like state of reflective introspection thanks to its use of minimalistic riffs and blackened ambience that invoke a sense of foreboding and eldritch mystery. Lyricisms dealing with nature, nocturnal musings and pagan ideations weave throughout the album’s 64-minute runtime. The album’s eerie musical character is further enhanced through its low-fidelity production values, with Vikernes claiming to have utilised fuzz boxes and homemade speakers in place of guitar amplifiers; and cheap headphones in place of expensive microphone equipment whilst recording the album. Tracks such as Jesus Tod and Erblicket die Töchter des Firmaments are classic examples of Burzum’s ability to craft dark and sinister yet melancholic pieces of metallic fury whereas tracks such as Rundgang um die transzendentale Säule der Singularität demonstrate a side of Burzum’s musical identity that is more ambient, meditative as well as mystical in nature. Overall, “Filosofem” is an album that is worthy of its place amongst some of the most inspirational Black Metal releases out of Norway throughout the 1990’s.
Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (1994)
Mayhem’s first studio album is perhaps not only the origin of what is now understood as the Second Wave of Norwegian Black Metal but is also one of the most well-written and masterfully produced albums of the 1990’s within the extreme metal underground. Thunderous drum patterns, blasphemous vocal utterings, crushing basslines and frostbitten guitar riffs and solos entrench Mayhem’s first album in all of its gothic glory. Songs such as Freezing Moon and Pagan Fears demonstrate Mayhem’s ability to combine hellish, chilling atmospherics with mosh-worthy riffage reminiscent of early Bathory or Merciful Fate. Rife with controversy surrounding tragic events such as murder, arson, suicide and imprisonment associated with members belonging to Mayhem during the release of this album has unfortunately often overshadowed the musical tenacity and vivaciousness of this albums artistic legend. However, despite Mayhem’s iconoclastic legacy, this debut album is a definitive classic in regards to Norwegian Black Metal.
Darkthrone – Transilvanian Hunger (1994)
Darkthrone’s fourth studio album, “Transilvanian Hunger”, is perhaps one of the most highly critically acclaimed metal albums of all time. The third release in what is often cited as Darkthrone’s classic ‘unholy trilogy’ of albums, “Transilvanian Hunger” takes its listeners on an unrelenting journey through the harsh, unforgiving soundscapes of Norwegian Black Metal with unparalleled mastery. Tracks such as As Flittermice as Satan’s Spies and the title track are exercises in perfection regarding atmosphere and technical endurance. All eight tracks on this album often revolve around a few select riffs which build momentum through their atonal, unsettling tonality in an effort to transport the listener to a realm of enveloping darkness and inescapable terror. Droning blast beats, lo-fi production and the hellish vocalisations of Nocturno Culto provide “Transilvanian Hunger” with a raw, nightmarish ambience which many artists have tried and failed to replicate over 30 years later. Although arguably overrated, it would be unwise to exclude “Transilvanian Hunger” from its place as one of the most influential Norwegian Black Metal albums of the 1990’s.