Original concepts often lead to original execution, either out of the necessity to relay new information with a new combination of tools or because thinking outside the bounds of normalcy encourages a new level of creative engagement. There is certainly something to be said for this second one; it's not rare to see albums of a novel conceptual nature end up sounding somewhat extraordinary as well. Hell, some artists even make careers out of this - The Dear Hunter's episodic Act series of albums is, rather unconventionally, set in the era just following the first World War, and brings in many elements of musical theater, lounge, and big band to add some temporally appropriate weight, and rap trio clipping. have made quite a name for themselves out of eschewing genre trends, most recently exploring the intersection of sci-fi dark ambient, musique concrete, and hip-hop on their newest album, Splendor and Misery.
There’ve been some pretty bitching black metal albums of late. I guess an obvious name to mention would be Saor, but there are some other great artists doing similar things. The Frozen Ocean managed to renounce a lot of black metal tropes and make something completely new out of an old sound with this year’s EP The Prowess of Dormition. Forndom also fucking killed it this year by renouncing the general sound (but not the spirit) of black metal with Dauðra Dura, and Goatpsalm did something very similar too with Downstream. This article, however, is going to cover a band that’s playing around with more symphonic elements rather than folk-influenced black metal (though there are still elements of folk): Darkestrah.
The last few years have proven to be excellent years for other forms of black metal. In earlier editions of “Hey! Listen To This!”, I mentioned a great black metal group, Barshasketh, whose 2015 album Ophidian Henosis was one of my favorite albums of the year. While Barshasketh plays a sort of standard—albeit ear-catching—black metal, there are other bands that are doing different things with the genre that still stay within the bounds of standard black metal. France’s Hegemon is one of these bands, with a specific nod to their latest release, 2015’s The Hierarch.
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.