Archive for Nokturnal Mortum

Here be Ryan’s Top 24 Metal Songs…

Posted in avant-garde, black metal, death metal, GRAMPS, Hirilorn with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

When I sat down to compose a list of my favorite metal songs, let’s just say it was a labor of love. After digging through tens of thousands of songs totaling over 60 solid days of music, what you see before you represents my absolute favorites from a decade’s worth of musical digestion. In all honesty, I could have easily filled the list with songs from my favorite band, Agalloch, but in order to remain credible they had to be excluded from consideration. Hopefully, you have the opportunity and pleasure to listen to some of these masterpieces and perhaps discover a new favorite yourself.

Forest of FogWalking the Endless Path

A one-man Swiss black metal band, Forest of Fog’s 2003 demo “Rabenflug” presents a completely instrumental tour through a slightly fuzzy woodland auditory landscape. This particular song incorporates a good variety of riffs interspersed with piano and traditional tremolo picking. The bass is barely present at best, but the song stands on its own with simply guitar and drums.

Abyssic HateDepression Part I

Countless metal greats have come from down under, and Abyssic Hate certainly keeps that tradition alive. The Australian band’s last full-length, “Suicidal Emotions”, features this nearly 13 minute track which becomes simply entrancing. Nothing fancy, but effective in evoking the minimalistic atmosphere of despair.

Windir – Mørket Sin Fyrste

Valfar, the mind behind the Norwegian band Windir, is widely respected as one of the greatest minds black metal has entertained. The track in question comes off the bands 1997 debut album “Sóknardalr”, and features one of my favorite Windir riffs throughout the song. Clocking in at over seven minutes, it’s one of Windir’s most epic songs both in length and content.

OpethDemon of the Fall

From 1998’s concept album “My Arms, Your Hearse”, this song contains some of Mikael Akerfeldt’s best screams and lyrics. I had the chance to see Demon of the Fall performed live this summer, and it blew my fucking mind. It definitely shines most when flowing into the next song, Credence; in fact, listen to the album in its entirety if possible.

Woods of YpresThe Ghosts of Summers Past

While it’s debatable whether this song is even metal, not even the cheesy lyrics can make the crescendo at the halfway point any less memorable. The Canadian band has been somewhat hit-and-miss with their full-lengths, but I honestly enjoy the eclectic variety of tempo shifts in this track.

Satanic WarmasterCarelian Satanist Madness

Switching between traditional tremolo picking and more melodic sections, this Finnish outfit produces some pretty standard in-your-face black metal. Coming off of the 2005 full-length by the same name, frontman Satanic Tyrant ties this eight minute track together with his shrieks, which range from entertaining to downright chilling.

Carpathian ForestCold Murderous Music

This Norwegian quartet would easily be one of my favorite black metal bands solely based on the number of inventive and curiously disturbing non-metal tracks they have produced. Featuring absolutely no guitar and focusing more on the haunting combination of raspy vocals and jazz-inspired saxophone, the lyrical content seems even more sinister than it would under the normal yoke of black metal.

HirilornWhere Lightning Strikes Eternally

The French scene has produced some of the most outstanding black metal bands of the past decade, and I think the predecessor to Deathspell Omega may be my favorite. Their use of catchy, cascading melodies makes its most prominent appearance on their 1997 demo “A Hymn to the Ancient Souls”. Luckily for consumers, some of the band’s best work has been repressed on vinyl. A must-listen for anyone who enjoys metal.

Black ForestDisappearing Pain

The oldest of the eight Black Forest members was 17 when they recorded “Sadness” in 2000. Seriously. My knowledge of doom metal is limited, but Russian bands normally do not have the level of maturity and quality that the band demonstrates. The song progresses so much over its duration that by the end I was simply in awe. While hard to find, the song leaves an indelible mark on a metal connoisseurs’ musical palate that will not be forgotten.

NargarothSeven Tears are Flowing to the River

Controversy surrounding frontman Kanwulf’s attempt to fabricate the band’s starting date aside, his ability to compose a purely mournful song cannot be denied. 2001’s “Black Metal Ist Krieg” shines mainly due to memorable covers of some pretty heavy black metal hitters (Moonblood, Root, etc.), but this track outshines all others on this album due to epic length (15 minutes!). Thankfully, monotony works for rather than against the song. Grab a scotch and enjoy this one.

In FlamesMoonshield

Mentioning this band to anyone remotely versed in metal these days will likely elicit a negative, condescending reaction. However, before their dissolution into uninspired shit-metal, this Swedish band was one of the pioneers of the Gothenburg melodic death metal style. This track kicks off their 1996 full-length “The Jester Race”, and perfectly embodies what to expect for the rest of the album. After the acoustic intro, your eardrums will be thanking you long after the song ends.

Nokturnal MortumGlass Coffin

For a first demo, this Ukranian black metal band does a fucking awesome job. If I had heard this song in 1995, I would have probably equated it with some evil rendition of Snow White’s funeral procession, and the multiple solos are much appreciated and sadly rare in most black metal. This release is a big departure from their recent work, so if you are not a fan of their symphonic releases, DO NOT immediately write this one off.


Featuring Garm of Ulver fame on vocals, this song from the 1997 album “La Masquerade Infernale” can be described as nothing short of amazing. A recitation of an Edgar Allen Poe poem, the band pays a charitable homage to the spooky man by setting his words to their avant-garde musical stylings. Periods of intense riffing chaos are met with broad, sweeping astral/symphonic passages. Not one to pass up, and Garm’s clean vocals are simply a treat on top of an otherwise thick, richly-composed masterpiece.

MoonspellAlma Mater

One of the most passionate performances I have ever seen was when this Portuguese band struck up the intro to this song at a show… and immediately the crowd went nuts. Off of their 1995 debut album “Wolfheart”, the band’s shift toward more of a Gothic metal vein does not detract from the fraternal bond that the song evokes. And who does not like a good operatic verse or two? Fuck yeah.

Forgotten TombSolitude Ways

More generally associated with their long tradition of great prog, Italy’s Forgotten Tomb combines doom and black metal in a form I did not think possible. Herr Morbid’s shrieks sound like they come from some cavern deep within his chest, and the guitar work melds the two styles seamlessly. For a good romp through the mindset of depression, definitely check this one out.

EmpyriumChapter 2: Waldpoesie

This German band produces some of the most emotional music I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. From their 2002 neofolk album “Weiland”, the mix of orchestral elements, a capella, acoustic guitar and black metal vocals lends itself perfectly to a session of deep personal reflection. Transitioning from a slow combination of chords to a horn section may seem bizarre; within the scope of the song, its unexpected and yet strangely fitting. Again, enjoyment with a nice spirit is optional, but highly recommended.

Borknagar Colossus

Colossus remains one of my all-time favorites if for nothing else than Vortex’s fucking STELLAR vocal performance throughout the song as well as the entire 2000 album “Quintessence”. The song is solid all around, but the clean singing that emanates from his mouth sounds, at times, like the deep, rich tone from a bell. Coming from a scene that elevates a raw sound to greatness almost automatically, the pride taken in the production value of this song is greatly appreciated.


I might just be partial to intro songs, but the first track from Suidakra’s album “The Arcanum” certainly makes up for the lack of creativity present in the band’s name. The riffs are solid and the drums evoke a battle thundering onwards. Resting firmly in a melodic black/death realm, the song entertains from beginning to end and serves as a showpiece of German metal musicianship.

Deströyer 666The Eternal Glory of War

Comprising members from other Australian bands like Bestial Warlust and Razor of Occam, K.K. Warslut’s blackened thrash juggernaut churns out some seriously powerful tracks. I rank “Pheonix Rising” as one of the premier albums of the past decade, and the Chicago performance of this song in October changed the entire tempo of the show. People transformed into frenzied beasts, myself included, as their crunching riffs ushered us on towards an epic conflict. Listen. To. This.

Cirith GorgorWinter Embraces Lands Beyond

Normally I discount bands whose names are taken from Lord of the Rings immediately, just because of the overused, cliché association there. However, this band is far too musically talented and diverse to be overlooked. Their intro to this song, off the 199 debut full-length “Onwards to the Spectral Defile”, paints a picture before your eyes, something I dearly value within a song.


Before changing their style and hooking up with the Century Media label, the band used to have some clout within the underground black metal scene. The particular song discussed here comes from a 2004 split with Xasthur in which Xasthur’s frontman, Malefic, provides his haunting, ghostly vocals. Complimented by a fuzzy but heavily melodic riff progression, the elements come together into an intensely depressive journey.

DissectionMaha Kali

Rest In Peace, Jon Nödtveidt. Dissection was one of the pioneers of the Swedish death metal scene, and their 2006 album “Reinkaos” marked the end of the band’s history after Jon committed suicide. Citing that he had fulfilled everything he could accomplish in life, it is an epic note to go out on and comparable in quality to their earlier gems. This song oddly foreshadows his death, invoking the goddess Kali and death-worship. Definitely worth a listen to appreciate the influence Dissection had on the scene.

BathoryA Fine Day to Die

Do not be fooled by the acoustic intro… this song, from one of the most influential metal bands ever, will kick your ass. After hell creeps forth on the 1988 release of “Blood Fire Death”, frontman Quorthon evokes the best from the black and Viking metal genres. If you have not heard it before, you owe it to yourself, for the sake of metal history, to listen to this song.

Vital RemainsDechristianize

Glen Benton is a crazy man, but what this band brings to standard death metal leaves me in awe. Their 2003 album by the same name provides the usual apocalyptic riffs and impressive drumming, but when this song breaks into a melodic section it becomes a completely different beast. You can hear the high-pitched demonic shrieks alongside Benton’s guttural utterances, urging listeners to rid themselves of religious poison. And I did, as my brain exploded all over the wall.