Some things just go really well together. Ham and cheese. Cookies and milk. Frodo and Samwise. Alcohol and an unusually horrible following morning. The metal world, intent on constantly reinventing and expanding itself, tends to mix differing sounds into new amalgamations of metal mayhem in hopes of finding similarly delightful pairings. Some of these ventures are more successful (Full of Hell and Merzbow) than others (here’s looking at you, Metallica and Lou Reed). But few things pair as well in the metal world as black and death metal. All the key ingredients for hate-filled success are there: unparalleled intensity, blast beats, tremolo insanity, thematic cohesion, and harsh, unrelenting vocal deliveries. With all of these commonalities between the two metal subgenres, you’d think that their fusion would be relatively easy to pull off. Based on a lot of recent death metal releases that incorporate black metal into their sound, however, it would seem that this isn’t always the case or even the norm. Outside of the success of bands such as Behemoth, there are surprisingly few examples of blackened death metal seeping deeply into metal culture. Excommunion is here to change that with their fierce new record, Thronosis.
In some circles, USBM has long been a dirty acronym. Much reviled for its less-than-trve-kvlt aesthetic, black metal originating from the United States has seldom been considered an equal with its European peers. Over the past decade, several bands have begun to chink away at the wall of cynicism surrounding USBM to varying degrees of success. Nightbringer is one of these bands. If you have not heard their music before, think the bombast of Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk-era Emperor, coupled with a slightly less insane mix of Deathspell Omega’s freneticism, the sonic oddness of Dodheimsgard, and the chilling atmosphere of Blut Aus Nord.
Over the past couple years, we've published two massive articles about the current state and impending trends of music consumption—my deep dive on the tough realities of streaming platforms and Nick's bullshit-free synopsis of Nielsen's 2016 music industry report. While both of these pieces had minimal references to metal, the research and analysis we presented outlines some staggering changes to the entirety of music, changes that continue to expand and show no sign of slowing. And though it's been just over a year since I channeled my B.A. thesis on streaming for my deep dive, Billboard published a story that compelled me to revisit the topic and write down my thoughts as soon as possible. The facts of the story are relatively simple—because Billboard now incorporates track streams into the sales figures they consider, The Weeknd's Starboy remained at #1 on the Top 200 for this week because it technically "sold" more albums than The XX's I See You, landing the British indie pop trio at #2 on the list despite selling more actual albums. This story stopped me in my tracks, as it poses an equally intriguing and worrisome question - are streams and purchases comparable, and what are the implications if Billboard thinks they are?
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It's amazing how much ground Emperor covered over the course of just four albums. From helping to pioneer black metal to introducing symphonics and progressive elements to the BM formula, there really aren't many more important bands within the Norweigan scene, or even the genre as a whole. Back-to-Back classics In the Nightside Eclipse and Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk may be two of the best introductory black metal albums, as they make the harshest parts of the genre accessible without losing an ounce of immaculate songwriting prowess. We now welcome you to a different form of introduction, exploring six bands that have taken influence from Emperor, added their own unique, bold twists and churned out records that more than capably carry the torch onward into a world of textured symphonics and atmosphere. Head past the jump to enter our inaugural black metal FFO; there couldn't be a better band to commence the frost and torment.