Atmospheric black metal has been doing a lot of things in the last five years or so. Beyond “just” an explosion in release numbers, atmospheric black metal also seems to be undergoing another (re)negotiation of what constitutes its basic parts, with the genre splitting off into further sub-genres. You have the style heralded by the Pacific Northwest group of bands like Wolves in The Throne Room and the younger bands influenced by them like Ashbringer or Eneferens. Then you have the explorations of blackgaze in bands/projects like White Ward or Violet Cold. And, finally, you have groups like Thrawsunblat and Saor doubling down on the grandiose and folk-tinged side of things.
But an overlooked sub-genre that’s been going strong within atmospheric black metal bands is those sticking to the “core” of the genre, to the classic sound that first created the already delimited group of sounds within black metal that came to be called “atmospheric”. Within this group of bands, the best one in operation today is probably Sojourner. They make the kind of black metal that would appeal to those who love the classic, epic, and passionate tinge that first helped atmospheric black metal win its place in the metal community. And wouldn’t you know it, their Anatomy Of entry provides perfect context for their choice to rally around this sound!
Featuring bands like Agalloch and Caladan Brood (it will always be weird to me to write a Malazan Book of the Fallen character’s name as a band name), Sojourner’s list of influences reads like a who’s who of atmospheric (and non-atmospheric) black metal. Of course, that doesn’t make these picks any more excellent; on the contrary, it adds volume and depth to Sojourner’s music, showing us the extent to which it is very much intentional and rooted in love of what atmospheric black metal was always about. Peep that Honorable Mentions section as well for some hidden gems, like Be’lakor excellent, melodic release, or Borknagar’s classic Urd.
Sojourner are set to release yet another majestic album, titled Premonitions, on May 5th. You can stream the first track from it right here and head on over here to pre-order it. In the meantime, scroll down below for some damn excellent picks and more insight into what makes Sojourner tick!
Agalloch – Pale Folklore
Agalloch are a huge inspiration to us musically and you can hear a huge amount of their influence throughout all of our releases. Pale Folklore is the album that’s closest to our hearts, but it was a toss up between this and Marrow of the Spirit to include here as the most direct influence on Sojourner. Literally any Agalloch release could be in this slot though, as they were a hugely seminal influence in shaping our love of this approach to black metal and the music that we play. Nobody has ever quite captured that same magic that Agalloch did in their prime.
Caladan Brood – Echoes of Battle
While we all respect Summoning and their contribution to metal, it was on Caladan Brood‘s Echoes of Battle that we felt that this style of black metal was brought to its absolute pinnacle. Dropping some of the repetition of Summoning and adopting a more structured, guitar-driven approach to the sound made this album a flawless example of what Atmospheric Black Metal can be. It was bonding over a shared love of Echoes of Battle that kicked off the initial discussions that led to to the forming of Sojourner, and Chloe, Emilio, and myself (Mike L.) were hugely inspired by this album throughout the writing of Empires of Ash.
Eluveitie – Slania
You can hear a huge Eluveitie influence in our approach to the folkier side of Sojourner’s sound, particularly with the inclusion of the tin whistle and our approach to the tin whistle melodies. We love all Eluveitie releases, but Slania and Everything Remains (As It Never Was) were particularly influential on the overall sound of the band.
Rotting Christ – Triarchy of the Lost Lovers
Rotting Christ have been an enormous influence on our approach to riffs and lead melodies, and Triarchy of the Lost Lovers is the prime example of Rotting Christ at their best. Everything about this album is perfect, from the guitar tones to the vocals to the production. Rotting Christ will always be a touchstone for our approach to flowing, ethereal leads.
Moonsorrow – Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa
It was a hard choice narrowing down which Moonsorrow album to chose, but it was between this and Verisäkeet. Everything about Moonsorrow’s approach to the folkier side of black metal is just perfect, and “Huuto” may be one of the most epic black metal tracks ever written. There’s a lot of Moonsorrow influence woven throughout Sojourner’s sound, and the song “Empires of Ash” was basically a Moonsorrow tribute.
Insomnium – Above the Weeping World
Be’lakor – Stone’s Reach
Primordial – The Gathering Wilderness
The Morningside – The Wind, The Trees, and the Shadows of the Past
Novembre – Novembrine Waltz
Katatonia – Tonight’s Decision
Dark Tranquillity – Fiction
Opeth – Blackwater Park
Borknagar – Urd