The History of Black Metal - The First Wave

This very long thread will outline roughly the first decade of black metal, from its inception to its changes and how it eventually became the second wave and what people most commonly know as black metal today.
1. Motorhead – Overkill (March 24th, 1979)
It all started here. Well, logically it started long before even here, but this is the furthest back I’m gonna go. This is the initial inception. This is the breaking point, and this is where extremity was born.
The opening double bass pedals of ‘Overkill’ may be the most important moment in the development of extreme metal, and where black metal was truly born. Philthy Animal pioneered thrash drumming right then and there.
Motorhead’s gritty, raw and pummelling sound will never be forgotten and it should never be understated. They were a rock n roll band til the very end, but there’s no denying that they became something much bigger than that to the underground movement that were soon to follow.
2. Venom – Demon (April 29th, 1980)
Unsurprisingly, Venom started off as pure Motorhead worship. This demo is an even rawer copycat of Motorhead’s catchy, rocking style with grittier vocals and satanic themes. Black metal began brewing quickly and without hesitation.
3. Motorhead – No Sleep Til Hammersmith (June 1st, 1981)
What solidifies this album’s place is just how essential and heavy it is. Motorhead’s recordings were already a gritty black sheep in the rock and heavy metal scene. Absurdly loud, brutish, a force to be reckoned with.
4. Venom – Welcome to Hell (December, 1981)
Venom came into their own with Welcome to Hell, a debut album that regressed from their DEMO in many ways. The production got worse, the guitars stopped resembling riffs and rock grooves and began to become wailing walls discordance.
They had ditched their vocalist Clive Archer to be replaced with the now-iconic Cronos and his completely inelegant grunts. This music was no longer heavy metal. This was bordering more on noise than anything. This was raw, black metal fury in its infancy.
5. Mercyful Fate – Mercyful Fate (Sept. 25th, 1982)
Mercyful Fate were also bursting their way onto the scene in the early 80s with a few demos. Not as raw or unrefined as Venom, MF had much more musicality and retained many heavy metal staples that Venom had already abandoned.
King Diamond’s vocals were wild, dark, wailing and fluctuating. The guitar style started working its way to the famous “surf metal” riffs that black metal has since become known for--those psychedelic and jangly aspects that felt more experimental than anything.
6. Sodom – Witching Metal (1982)
Sodom took it further than it had ever been, earlier than anyone else. Venom and Mercyful Fate were one thing, but Sodom were faster, rawer, more unchained than anyone.
Witching Metal is an essential and off-the-hook demo of insane drum work, incredibly discordant and anti-musical guitar solos with nothing but shouts and growls in the way of vocals.
7. Venom – Black Metal (Nov. 1st, 1982)
And alas, black metal found its name. Venom solidified their place in black metal as its ultimate creators with a distorted and ugly masterpiece. They rediscovered some of their musicality, but got heavier in the process regardless.
8. Mercyful Fate – Melissa (October 30th, 1983)
Less focused on being as ugly and reckless as their other companions in the black metal scene, Mercyful Fate were laying the groundwork for the imagery and lyrical themes that would become a staple of black metal.
Corpse paint, satanic stories, darkness. Not to say that MF weren’t still playing black metal--their sound was heavier than most at the time and they kept in key with a lot of the off-kilter soloing and hellish vocals of their counterparts, in a much more unique and subtle way.
9. Slayer – Show No Mercy (December 3rd, 1983)
…enter Slayer. Now a household name and more importantly one of the biggest names and greatest pioneers of thrash metal, Slayer’s debut record Show No Mercy was more akin to the speeding, wailing and evil scene of black metal.
Playing faster and dirtier than Venom, Slayer took the genre to more impressive levels, with Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King’s duel guitar solos perfecting the chaotic noisy style that made black metal what it is.
10. Antichrist – Slaughter In Hell (1983)
An obscure and mostly forgotten demo, but still an interesting piece of the scene’s history. People have claimed this is one of those infamous “faked” demos, but with the little information there is, it appears this one is legitimate.
...especially with a few people of that era claiming it’s not fake. Not much replay value here, but it’s akin to Sodom’s sound at the time, with a bit more heavy metal musicality and not quite as ruthless and chaotic.
11. Astaroth – Speed Black Metal (1983)
A dirty speed metal demo with abundant melodic solos. While they’re more inclined to focusing on their speed metal roots here with vocals and melody, they’re still doing their best to play dirty, fast and aggressive.
12. Hellhammer – Death Fiend (June, 1983)
…enter Hellhammer. Probably the most influential and important black metal band, especially for the later-burgeoning Norwegian scene.
While Venom and Motorhead already have their own obvious punk flourishes and influences in their music, Hellhammer were the first to truly embrace the punk leanings and deliver a demo that relied heavily on hardcore rhythms, simplicity with the brutishness of black metal.
This doesn’t resemble anything heard before. Even with the punk influences, this is heavier and uglier than any hardcore album, more bone-headed, and completely devoid of heavy metal’s musicality and melody. HH released 3 of the most important demos in metal history in one year.
13. Death SS – Evil Metal (1983)
Opting out of the fast and ruthless approach, Death SS took a doom-inspired route. Evil Metal is a doom metal demo with all the trappings of black metal’s ever-widening influence.
Notably, their early works featured Paul Chain, a prolific and unsung hero in metal’s history, being part of a lot of pivotal moments in heavy, psych, doom and black metal throughout the 70s and 80s.
14. Future Tense – Battle of Metal (1983)
And on the other end of Death SS’s spectrum, Future Tense were playing lo-fi speed metal with darker themes influenced by the rising black metal scene.
15. Sodom – In the Sign of Evil (1984)
Continuing their legacy of being the heaviest band in the metal underground, In the Sign of Evil is -the- inimitable and timeless black metal classic from Sodom.
Witchhunter’s drum performance is incredible, Angel Ripper’s vocals are pure vomitous noise and Grave Violator’s guitars are gritty slabs of black metal perfection. A far cry from any speed, thrash or heavy metal at the time or ever since, that’s for sure.
16. Hellhammer – Apocalyptic Raids (1984)
Hellhammer’s existence was extremely short but still stands tall and overwhelmingly influential over thirty years later.
Soon disbanding to form the more matured Celtic Frost, Apocalyptic Raids was Hellhammer’s final release (excluding the ‘Death Metal’ split which had tracks recorded from the Apocalyptic Raids sessions) and culminated their sound and best tracks, an instant black metal classic.
17. Possessed – Death Metal (1984)
Falling more obviously into the death metal camp, the 80s were still a driving and immovable force towards extreme metal as we know it today.
Possessed’s unrelenting thrashing death is still hailed as being one of the progenitors of black metal, which became more apparent on Seven Churches.
18. Celtic Frost – Morbid Tales (June 24th, 1984)
It’s quite amazing just how far ahead Celtic Frost feels when compared to Hellhammer just a year earlier.
The production is much cleaner and more dynamic, the music is tighter and more defined and, more importantly, the most unique and defining black metal sound ever conceived.
Though Darkthrone, Burzum, and Mayhem would later go on to ape Celtic Frost in their own special ways, Celtic Frost remained, ultimately, inimitable.
19. Future Tense – Condemned to the Gallow (1984)
With Condemned to the Gallow, Future Tense got a bit punkier, blacker, but ultimately still stuck in their speed metal shoes.
20. Destruction – Sentence of Death (September, 1984)
The second of Germany’s greatest bands emerged not long after the insane In the Sign of Evil EP, and Destruction were here to show that they could create blackened madness just as well as Sodom.
The Bestial Invasion of Hell demo/Sentence of Death EP in the same year exhibited unhinged, black, chaotic tunes. Destruction would later go on in a pure thrash direction like the rest of the world, but the importance and place of these early releases is not to be underestimated.
21. Mercyful Fate – Don’t Break the Oath (September 7th, 1984)
Mercyful Fate got darker and more in-tune with other black metal bands of the era. The production felt uglier and the guitar work lost a bit of the speed metal flare and gained that ugly discordant atmosphere.
With some ripping and terrifying solos throughout, it seemed closer still that they were fully abandoning the heavy metal style.
22. Poison – Sons of Evil (September 29th, 1984)
Poison topped the levels of extremity heard up until now. They had the noisiest and most ear-piercing guitar tones, and the vocalist’s dying wails could either be taken seriously as the most evil shit ever, or a complete joke.
23. Bathory – Bathory (October 2nd, 1984)
Considering how busy the rest of the world was getting hopping onto the black metal craze, Bathory came surprisingly late for how incomparably important they were.
Earlier in the year with tracks on the Scandinavian Metal Attack compilation, Bathory exhibited some interestingly dark versions of ‘Sacrifice’ and ‘The Return of Darkness and Evil’, but dropped an even more unhinged and feral black metal masterpiece with the debut album.
This thing was unmatched in just brilliant songwriting, raw power and influence.
24. Slayer – Live Undead (November 16th, 1984)
Slayer’s live performances defined black metal, this right here is what is was all about:
25. Bulldozer – The Day of Wrath (1985)
Italy’s darker, more aggressive and ultimately blackened answer to Motorhead, Bulldozer captured the black metal spirit in spades with their goofy style and mix between fun and evil.
26. Bathory – The Return…… (May 27th, 1985)
The Return of the Darkness and Evil is, in my eyes, the truest black metal album ever conceived. This thing is the epitome of evil, this is the culmination of six years of confused and wildly different takes on the black metal genre.
This thing pulls no punches, doesn’t imitate anything or anyone else, doesn’t try to copy or pretend. The Return of the Darkness and Evil is sloppy, extreme and pioneering madness.
This could never be recreated, and Bathory sadly never got more incredibly evil and brilliant than they did here. Truly the purest vision of black metal from beginning to end, Bathory knew exactly how the genre needed to sound.
27. Sabbat – Sabbat (June, 1985)
Japan’s Sabbat would later go on to be one of the most prolific bands in the genre with dozens of releases with almost unstoppable acclaim from the underground, but their beginning isn’t too unlike Venom.
28. White Hell – Lucifer (1985)
The bass and the drums are completely out of time. The guitars are thin. The vocals are a poor imitation of Cronos. The lyrics are laughable, especially with the gang shouts. But there’s a charm to this little gem that can’t help but be loved.
29. Celtic Frost – To Mega Therion (1985)
After Morbid Tales, Celtic Frost evolved hard and fast, after the Emperor’s Return EP, their first full-length To Mega Therion dropped as the ultimate incarnation of everything Hellhammer and CF had been building up to until that point.
With a polished and brutal take on black metal with flourishes of the emerging death metal style, as well as experimental moments that no other band would even attempt.
This would be the last album Celtic Frost made as a true statement of what black metal could be before moving onto even more experimental styles in the following years.
30. Necrodeath – The Shining Pentagram (1985)
Sloppy, almost nonsensical performances on this. It sounds as though none of the band had ever played together before deciding to hit record and just fuck on their instruments in this brutal mess.
31. Exorcist – Nightmare Theatre (1985)
Deviating from the more “serious” Satan worshipping themes, Exorcist brought the black metal style into the realms of death with humour, horror and a heavier take on thrash with their creative and experimental blackened tunes.
No doubt a more important album for the burgeoning death metal style, Exorcist is still based heavily in black metal.
32. Kreator – Endless Pain (October, 1985)
Rising from the Teutonic planes of their brothers, Kreator helped again with black metal’s pioneering. Before they played thrash metal, their style was more akin to Venom and what would eventually become Death’s Scream Bloody Gore... a heavy, balls-out death-tinged black metal record. Those who would consider this “thrash” would do good to listen to ‘Bonebreaker’ one more time and realise this is full-blooded heavy black death.
33. Possessed – Seven Churches (October, 1985)
And thus, the true sound of death metal was born, but not without the still-clinging tinges of black metal holding tight to the fringes of this satanically possessed recording.
The guitars still retained much of the chaotic black style as well as the chunkier, beefier death metal tones.
34. Poison – Bestial Death (October 28th, 1985)
Somehow even rawer, more lo-fi and more extreme than their first demo, Bestial Death is non-stop blackened death pacing and extremity.
35. Onslaught – Power from Hell (1985)
What is likely the first of Hellhammer/Celtic Frost-worship bands, Onslaught played a tighter and potentially more brutal take on Hellhammer’s signature metalpunk sound.
36. NME – Unholy Death (1986)
NME really were Louder Than Hell, and another band following closely in Hellhammer’s massive footsteps.
37. Poison – Awakening of the Dead (March 28th 1986)
Again, even more lo-fi and raw than the last demo, how did Poison keep doing it? Usually bands got more high-tech as time went on.
Poison showed immense maturity in their songwriting and tautness and musicians since Bestial Death just six months earlier. Awakening the Dead is far more extreme, ugly and terrifying, completely defining the death metal style, trapped in the black metal staple of lo-fi barbarity
38. Sodom – Obsessed by Cruelty (May, 1986)
Fuck… this was a whole new level of the brutish black metal style, somehow sounding world-shakingly menacing in style.
It’s a shame Sodom would go on to abandon their black metal roots for the more traditional and well-established thrash sound like many others, because they exceeded in so many aspects when it came to truly horrifying black metal sounds
39. Morbid Angel – Abominations of Desolation (May, 1986)
Abominations of Desolation is one of the greatest death metal albums of all time, lost within the void of black metal’s occult leanings and sloppy, dissonant trappings.
Browning’s vocals were more akin to the sharp, raspy howls of black metal than the guttural growls that would define death metal.
40. Kat – 666 (May, 1986)
Returning black metal back to its speed metal roots, Kat kept the lo-fi and raw aesthetic of Motorhead and Venom, but injected new life into the power of catchy and brilliant riffs.
A weird, but notable thing is that this album was initially released in 1985 with English lyrics as Metal and Hell, but rerecorded with Polish lyrics and a slightly changed tracklist in ’86 as 666.
Personally, I think 666 is the definitive version of this album, with the Polish lyrics far more suiting to the vocal hooks, but it was interesting to see a band cater to both international and national audiences with both versions.
41. Imperator – Endless Sacrifice (1986)
More crazy demo material from the 80s, this stuff is beginning to resemble what would later become known as ‘war metal’. Some of these demo bands really took things to the next level with creative extremity that bordered on nonsense.
42. Satan’s Massacre – Robbing the Graveyard and Raping the Dead (1986)
R.I.P. POSERS. I actually think this was from 1987, but there are so many conflicting sources and too little actual evidence.
It would almost seem like this is a “fake”, but many claim to have owned it in the 80s and there doesn’t seem to be much speculation about its authenticity, although it weirdly doesn’t seem to have much evidence before being uploaded to Metallum and RYM in 2005.
But regardless, this is one of the weirdest “80s” black metal demos, entirely its own thing, with vocals so hilarious that it sounds like the vocalist whispered them at night so his parents wouldn’t hear. Potentially a fake, but too good not to add.

I eventually found evidence of a 1986 NY-underground zine that had an interview with the band, leading me to believe this is real.
43. Sepultura – Morbid Visions (November 10th, 1986)
One of the earliest of South American legends, Sepultura showed the world their brutal black metal with Morbid Visions. A massive influence on the impressionable and pioneering Norwegian scene through a young Euronymous.
44. Satan’s Host – Metal From Hell (1986)
Bringing epic metal into the black metal fold, this is primarily an epic heavy metal album with the black metal influences primarily being aesthetic and conceptual, with some filthy production and sloppy playing to help it along.
45. Various Artists – Warfare Noise (November, 1986)
And on the South American scene, here comes the most essential Brazilian extreme metal compilation ever.
Warfare Noise showed to the world the barbarity of Chakal, Mutilator, Sarcofago and Holocausto and a scene that took extremity and sloppiness to new heights. Absolutely NECESSARY and bloody ESSENTIAL aggression for people interested in black metal.
46. Obscurity – Ovations to Death (1986)
This Swedish demo had whiffs of that death metal style but kept close to the styles of the emerging scene in Brazil.
47. Zadkiel – Hell’s Bomber (1986)
Motorhead gone mad.
48. Vulcano – Bloody Vengeance (1986)
Vulcano have since had a long career, but basically nothing they did after this album will ever compare. This is one of the most essential South American black metal records with unrelentingly heavy and fast music.
I’ll try to elaborate a lot more heavily on the evolution of the Brazilian scene in another list, though many of its staples are essential to the first wave and, thus, make it here.
49. Mefisto – Megalomania (1986)
Black metal was really coming into its own around 1986, with more and more bands taking great cues from Bathory, Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, granting the genre a more solidified sound.
Mefisto’s classic demos are great examples of taking all the groundwork and building into a fully embraced genre.
50. Slaughter Lord – Thrash Til Death (1986-7)
For the sake of saving space, this demo compilation for Slaughter Lord will do their place justice.
Australia’s Slaughter Lord were one of the first to show the world that Australia had a unique and vicious voice that could decimate better than anyone.
Their drunken, slurring and vomitous style would become a massive game-changer for other Aussie bands like Sadistik Exekution, Bestial Warlust, Destroyer 666, Vomitor, etc.,as well as essential for the Irish scene when this release marked the beginning of Invictus Productions.
51. Blood Feast – Kill for Pleasure (February, 1987)
Another deviation from the generic thrash sound that embraced the heaviness of death metal and the wildness of black metal.
53. Holocausto – Campo de extermínio (1987)
Like some other Brazilian bands, Holocausto adopted Nazi imagery in an attempt to shock audiences early on.
This unfortunately became a rather misguided mistake in the early history of black metal, deviating from the more fun, occult and horror-themes black metal had (or extrapolating on them depending on how you look at it), which we’ll discuss later in another list.
Holocausto are important for their more technical take on the brutish black metal sound, with this release having a distinctly weird style of punkish black metal with noodling riffs.
54. Fantom – Lucifer jelenj meg! (1987)
You’ll have noticed a lot of the more obscure releases on this list aren’t so much noted for their importance, but for the interesting placement they have in the timeline of metal history.
They serve for fun and interesting segments of history that can be easily forgotten. The state of the metal scene at the time that led to this slew of aggressive demo bands. Hungarian this time, Fantom weren’t as heavy as their contemporaries, but they had spirit.
The real 54. Exterminator – Total Extermination (1987)
I screwed up the numbers, whoops.
Exterminator isn’t notable for their influence, their importance or for their good music.
Exterminator is notable for their absolute subversion of all sense when it came to production quality. From now until the end of time, this will probably still stand as the paragon of poor production. The sound is compressed so much that this is almost a straight noise record.
You can occasionally make out cymbal crashes or some drum fills. You learn after a while that the constant buzzing is actually the guitar. All the while the vocalist shouts over like from a distant speaker. The cover bears again the childish association with Nazism.
This is perhaps the most extreme metal recording in history, and not in a good way.
55. Mayhem – Deathcrush (1987)
…enter Norway. Mayhem had been around a little bit before now, but Deathcrush is really when they began to make a difference.
Deathcrush was the biggest step towards the “liberation” of black metal as a genre in stirring the underground Norwegian scene that would later take the world by storm with the most infamous controversy that served as half the magic when it came to this depraved music.
We’ll delve a little more into the origins of the Norwegian scene in a different list, but if you want some really wonderfully comprehensive info, read the SLAYER MAG DIARIES by Metalion, himself a massively important figurehead in the black metal movement.
Notably, many Mayhem members through the years named themselves after Hellhammer songs, or in the case of their soon-to-be-drummer, Hellhammer itself.
56. Necrodeath – Into the Macabre (1987)
Having come a long way since their ’85 demo, Necrodeath were now a force to be reckoned with in the black metal underground. This thing is an essential and weird savage mindfuck.
57. Necrovore – Divus de mortuus (March, 1987)
One of the most deadly, heavy, blasphemous and vicious extreme recordings ever made. This thing is infamous for being an utterly relentless force in the extreme metal underground in the 80s, and for good reason.
This still stands today as utterly unfuckwithable. Necrovore were unbelievably brutal.
58. Bathory – Under the Sign of the Black Mark (May 11th, 1987)
Bathory was quiet for a couple of years after The Return, letting the immense evil and legacy brew while countless other bands tried their hand at imitating what was becoming legendary and unfathomably influential.
Under the Sign of the Black Mark dropped into the hands of eagre underground worshippers and presented a faster form of savagery compared to the slower and more organic sounding evil on The Return.
Under the Sign helped define the signature speed that was becoming more popular in the style with pounding drums like a migraine and noisy, ravaging riffs combined with Quorthon’s hideous vocals.
While not as brilliant or game-changing as The Return, this album was Bathory’s last hurrah for true black metal before departing from Satan’s grasp and eventually pioneering “viking” metal on subsequent albums.
59. Nunslaughter – Ritual of Darkness (May, 1987)
Another one of the scene’s longest running and prolific bands, Nunslaughter started off strong with blackened death darkness on this demo and is still worthy of a listen regularly.
61. Flames of Hell – Fire and Steel (1987)
Iceland might be more known for their output these days (more to come on that with another list), but over the years a handful of classic bands rose from the obscurity of their little corner of the world.
One such band being the utterly unique and amazing Flames of Hell, a thick, bulldozing black metal band with some of the most oddball vocals I’ve ever heard.
Screwed up the numbers again. Flames of Hell is 60.
61. Outrage (Ger) – The Book of the Seventh Seal (July, 1987)
Nowhere near as heavy as all their contemporaries were around this time, but Germany’s Outrage played doomy blackened heavy metal with guttural vocals. Very cool, obscure stuff with a listen or two.
62. Chakal – Abominable Anno Domini (August, 1987)
Getting weird in Brazil early, Chakal had a deathier approach than their sloppy maniac brothers in the scene, as well as a knack for some weird riffing techniques that went against convention, breaking up the pace in fun ways.
They also had some wicked cool duel guitar solos that hearkened back to some really dense speed metal, possibly influencing the Hellenic scene.
63. Sabbat – Born by Evil Blood (August, 1987)
They get a bit more into the groove of black metal here with much more aggressive and Bathory-influenced style. Faster, harder and blacker. Great little release worthy of your time.
64. Mortuary Drape – Necromancy (1987)
Mortuary Drape were ahead of their time for the black metal scene, these Italians had all the staples of the second wave in spades before the second wave even existed.
A long winded dungeon synth intro, true occult imagery and lo-fi black metal fury in the vein of Bathory, Celtic Frost and Mayhem. The music goes between styles of thrashy, doomy and psychedelic to just plain black and atmospheric.
One of the best bands to focus on being atmospheric and ritualistic before it became overdone in the following decade.
65. Mutilator – Immortal Force (1987)
More noisy war.
66. Nekromantie – Demo (1987)
Columbian lo-fi madness
67. Slaughter – Strappado (1987)
A death-ridden take on Celtic Frost, bass-heavy and ridiculous. FUCK OF DEATH.
68. Poison – Into the Abyss… (1987)
Poison’s recording quality drastically improved on this demo, allowing them to show off their bestial death metal in the best way possible, and this became known as their best and most influential demo.
With everything easier to make out this time around, they pretend a much thicker and guttural death sound as opposed to their blacker demos that preceded this.
69. Sarcofago – I.N.R.I. (1987)
The infamous I.N.R.I. from Sarcofago that could be seen as the first true war metal album and the highlight of Brazil’s contribution to the underground.
This one will never be forgotten with its sloppy but maddeningly cool drum performance, the wild vocals that swap between black rasps and reverb-laden gutturals and effects that sounded like Satan himself.
Sarcofago would also go on later to detest what black metal became, besmirching the same corpse paint they donned on this album cover with the song ‘Fuck Off the Melodic Black Metal’ from their Crust EP.
70. Sadistik Exekution – Demo (1987)
Australia’s wildest, fuckedest band ever started off no less weird than they started, pure insanity from these mad Aussie cunts!
Sadistik Exekution became known for their incredibly off-beat humour and terrifyingly heavy and ferocious musical style that mixed black, death and grind. Most notable is Dave Slave’s wacky bass-presence, one of the band’s best and most consistent aspects.
71. Morbid – December Moon (December 25th, 1987)
Before becoming famous for his live shows and vocals in the infamous Mayhem, Per ‘Dead’ Ohlin was in Morbid, a surprisingly well-produced black/death band that produced some classic and essential demos for the era.
This release is their best and a must-hear for those interested in the history of black metal and one of the most talked-about vocalists til this day.
72. Parabellum – Mutacion por Radiacion (1988)
This weirdo Columbian band had been around for a while, releasing a crazy and diverse album of black, grinding, deathing, crusty rehearsals in 1984, but didn’t really release anything else until ’87 with Sacrilegio.
Their final release, this one, was a two-song EP with enhanced Celtic Frost influences and the whole range of their style, with the repetitive, doomy opening track with the weirdest guitar solos, then the more punk-paced second track.
A gem of a band from South America and all their releases are worth your time, especially since they were one of the earliest adopters of extremity in the 80s.
73. Blasfemia – Guerra Total (1988)
Just straight sloppy chaos from Columbia, taking cues from Sarcofago.
74. Hadez – Guerreros de la muerte (1988)
As you can tell, the latter half of the 80s was dominated by the South American bands showing the rest of the world what extreme metal should sound like.
While their reign over 80s would soon be lost to the most popular and widespread atmospheric and frostbitten second-wave, the South Americans knew the power of black metal was in its barbarity.
75. Reencarnación – Reencarnación (1988)
They were both going faster than their contemporaries as well as slower. Most of their songs are dominated by super fast blasts or slow, doomy sections.
Along with some weird, disjointed ideas that didn’t work but totally worked. If you don’t like stupidly sloppy and weird black metal, this won’t be for you, but is noteworthy in for its timestamp in the scene.
76. Treblinka – Crawling In Vomits (1988)
Treblinka’s jangly guitar style and experimental qualities have left them one of the most interesting and best demo bands of the 80s.
They later went on to form Tiamat and create a whole new legacy, but the blackened/death demos of Treblinka with the weird time changes, progressive songwriting and bouncy riffs will always stand out for me.
77. Death SS - …In Death of Steve Sylvester (1988)
With their early work which started around 1977, Death SS have been said to have created extreme metal.
And upon listening to their The Story of Death SS album, it would seem this is the case with their burnt out, screaming vocals and lo-fi approach to psychedelic doom and heavy metal, taking up the mantle long before Venom even tried.
But these works weren’t even publicly released until 1987, and lose the value of influence. Their later work and debut full-length, however, is more aggressive and heavier, containing even some reworked tracks from the Paul Chain era.
While not pure black metal in any sense, their evolution through time shows still with their bizarre mix of traditional metal styles with a blackened edge
78. Tormentor – The Seventh Day of Doom (1988)
Another iconic member of Mayhem, Attila Csihar, was in another iconic and important first wave black metal band before Mayhem. Tormentor’s experimental on black metal is confusing even to this day, but utterly brilliant.
The leads and guitar riffs on this album are fascinating, backed with a bassy and thrashing rhythm and Attila’s vomitous vocals.
79. Flames – Summon the Dead (1988)
Headed back to the early 80s in style, this one is closer to speed metal with pure black metal vocals.
Lacking some edge of the true black metal albums from Germany’s Kreator and Sodom, this Greek band were likely progenitors to the persistence of heavy metal’s remaining influence in the Hellenic scene to come. Some gnarly riffs and solos on this one.
80. Blasphemy – Blood Upon the Altar (1989)
And finally the introduction of the still-infamous ROSS BAY CULT and the defining war metal band BLASPHEMY remains a revered name in underground circles known for their unabashed and enduringly heavy bestial style.
Blood Upon the Altar is one of the most essential demos of all times that still holds up to the highest scrutiny.
Fast-paced, aggressive and giving grindcore a run for its money in terms of extremity, war metal took the premise of grind’s approach but stripped it back of its frills and noise and punk and political ideals and gave it a straight blackened edge of darkness and WAR.
81. Exmortes – Fuckin’ Nightmare (1989)
This one’s more good for a laugh than it is for any lasting influence. It’s funny how wrong and how right some bands got their approach to extremity by essentially trying the same ideas. For Exmortes, sadly, it didn’t work.
The out of time drumming, terrible vocals and inaudible guitars make this one good for a single listen but it is worthless outside of that. The first wave’s demo era was dying and the place for bands like this was losing its lustre.
82. Angel Reaper – A végzet utolér (1989)
As the 80s were coming to a close, it seems these bands didn’t know the inevitable doom that would fall upon the first wave’s charm.
A more serious approach to black metal was coming and demos like this with their adorably silly, bouncing riffs were just no use. This demo, while interesting overall, holds no sway over black metal’s future. The guitar tone is fucking weird though.
83. Varathron – Procreation of the Unaltered Evil (October, 1989)
Varathron, however, knew the future of black metal. These pioneers delivered true evil on this demo, in classic Greek style.
Their mix of fast second-wave riffs with the slower-mid-paced style still steeped in heavy metal’s influence but entirely its own blackened entity, Varathron were ready for the 90s.
84. Rotting Christ – Satanas Tedeum (October, 1989)
Although existing a bit longer than Varathron, Rotting Christ were the companion band to the uprising of classic Hellenic black metal.
A bit more guttural than Varathron, they had similar ideas and the bands would reflect one another in the coming years with their classic take on black metal’s second wave.
85. Order from Chaos – Crushed Infamy (1989)
The greatest underground black/death band of all time, Order from Chaos’ unbelievably thick and heavy sound was a brand new take on extreme metal.
Helmkamp’s now-iconic vocals still stand out as being completely unique and inimitable. The band’s mid-paced and punkish take on black metal was brilliant from the beginning.
86. Tormentor – Anno Domini (1989)
This is, perhaps, where the second wave sound truly could have been born. The tremolo riffs in high register, Attila’s iconic vocals and the repetitive passages of blasts, slower breakdowns and more blasts never really went away after this.
Tormentor, though, got the atmosphere-to-riffs ratio perfectly, as well as some of my favourite guitar solos in history. The melody and higher-register they added to Bathory’s groundwork makes this album the ultimate bridge into the second wave.
87. Mystifier – Tormenting the Holy Trinity (1989)
Mystifier’s slow, ritualistic take on black metal was still in its infancy here, but was not without its charms.
Their faster, war metal sections felt like weaker imitations of their South American contemporaries, but it’s undoubtable that Mystifier would later go on to create some of the most unique and defining black metal albums of all times.
88. Grotesque – The Black Gate Is Closed (1989)
This live demo tape from Grotesque was not even enough to prepare the world for what would come.
Grotesque were already creating some of the most savage black/death metal of all time, just ready to dissolve into At the Gates and Liers In Wait and dominate extreme metal with immeasurable influence.
89. Treblinka – The Sign of the Pentagram (1989)
Less weird than their first demo, Treblinka did become a lot more blackened on this demo, which is weird considering how they went straight into melancholic death/doom with Tiamat.
90. Master’s Hammer – Fall of Idol (1990)
Active since ’87, Czech’s Master’s Hammer were a weird and pioneering black metal band that seemed to be far ahead of the pack in terms of ingenuity and style.
Their weird combination of effects and riffing felt totally out of place in the 80s scene, but soon felt at home in the 90s. The Fall of Idol demo was just a taste of what was to come with their debut full-length Ritual.
91. Necromantia – Promo Tape ’90 (January, 1990)
My favourite of the Hellenic hordes, Necromantia started off creating some incredibly highly experimental atmospheric black metal that was far removed from their brothers Varathron and Rotting Christ in the same scene.
This promo tape is still to this day one of the weirdest demos you’ll hear, but is absolutely extraordinary in its style and atmosphere.
92. Beherit – Seventh Blasphemy (February 26th, 1990)
Beherit were infamous long before they even released a full-length album. Their demos are mayhemic war metal and disgusting putrefying black metal that was sloppy and genuine from day one.
So infamous they were, a band existed at the time called “Fuck Beherit”, whose long forgotten demos can now be found with the magic of the internet. People say it’s due to a feud between the Finnish and Swedish scenes, though some say Fuck Beherit were Norwegian.
Details are blurry, but tensions were high as black metal was getting more serious.
93. Root – Zjevení (1990)
This Czech band were heavy on atmosphere and developing the heavy metal infused guitar sound further into black metal, where it belongs.
Extremely evil, weird and truly great at making their sound their own using the entirety of the first wave’s groundwork to make themselves iconic.
94. Blasphemy – Fallen Angel of Doom (August, 1990)
Even more sickening, dark and heavy than their demo. This one was a game changer in an even greater sense. Hundreds of clone bands fell under their spell in the decades to come.
95. Sextrash – Sexual Carnage (September, 1990)
One of my personal favourite Brazilian bands, Sextrash were tight, dirty and full of fast-paced and brilliant lightning riffs, and stood apart from their comrades in the South American scene because of their tighter approach.
96. Beherit – Dawn of Satan’s Millennium (1991)
Beherit got weirder as time went on. Their guitar tone grew thick and massive, the started incorporating more atmosphere and keys, and began to utterly alienate the vocals with their unique and reverby whisper and growls.
This demo was the bridge between the band’s early war metal demos and the full-blown ritual that came with Drawing Down the Moon.
97. Sadistik Exekution – The Magus (1991)
Australia strikes back before it’s all over with one of the most craziest releases in the country’s history and perhaps the be-all end-all answer to the Brazilian scene in terms of sheer voraciousness for ugly and raw sound.
98. Samael – Worship Him (April, 1991)
Samael’s legacy is sadly overlooked, along with the following few albums in the grand scheme of black metal’s second wave.
But their sound was instrumental in the bridge between the first and second wave, and worshipped heavily by musicians in Norwegian circles who would later go on to redefine what black metal was entirely.
99. Master’s Hammer – Ritual (1991)
The first wave was going somewhere very special when bridging into the second. If it had not been for Darkthrone in the coming years, the history of black metal from this point onward might have been extremely different.
Master’s Hammer had great atmosphere and synths in their music, with the mid-paced riffs that came entirely extrapolated by a full-decade of the first wave’s influence.
It was seeming like black metal was headed towards this brilliant and experimental tone that true continuation of decades of work…
100. Mystifier – Wicca (March, 1992)
Mystifier continued this trend with their own take. The sound was still deep, rumbling and heavy. Chock full of weird riffs, lightning fast sections and thick, encompassing sound. Wicca is a testament to the true will of black metal…
101. Beherit – Drawing Down the Moon (November, 1993)
Beherit closed off this trio of perfect sound with their atmospheric, guttural and heavy as fuck approach to black metal.
The ritual was intoxicating in its potency and Master’s Hammer, Mystifier and Beherit all shared their similar qualities and unique progressions in the genre. But at the same time, in Norway, a whole other charade was taking place.
Darkthrone, disgusted by the trend in death metal sought to take their love for Celtic Frost, Mayhem, Bathory and others and turn it into a melting pot of lo-fi and high-end tremolo riffs.
When Fenriz created Transilvanian Hunger by experimenting with repetition and simplicity, it took the underground by storm, and this current evolution of black metal was lost to obscurity with the Norwegian uprising…
That's it! Sorry if I spammed your feeds. I wrote this list many, many years ago. I hope there aren't any inconsistencies or factual errors, I trust that old-me simply got everything right. I wanted a place to store this list publicly since I had taken it down from RYM.
And as for the nebulous ideas of "future lists" in here about the history of black metal...well, you never know.
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