Aesthetics Wiki

Black metal is a style of heavy metal that originated in northern Europe around the early 1980s with the band Venom is credited as being the inventor of black metal. The early years of black metal (approximately 1981 - 1987) was known as the first wave of black metal. Around this time, black metal was really just thrash and speed metal with satanic/anti-christian themes with the main difference in the music itself being the lower production quality. Then in 1984, the band Bathory was (if not the first) band in the scene to use the shrieked vocals that are commonly associated with black metal. other notable examples of first wave black metal would be Celtic Frost, Hellhammer, and Mercyful Fate. In the late 80s to mid/late 90s, there was a wave of black metal bands from Norway which revolutionized the genre and made black metal it's own subgenre. This was known as the second wave of black metal. The second wave of black metal was from approximately 1987 to 1997. One of the earliest second wave black metal bands was Mayhem with their first album "Deathcrush" being released in 1987. The second wave sound can be characterized by its shrieked vocals, tremolo picked guitars, and blast beats. And the visuals can be characterized by corpse paint, leather jackets, all black clothes, long black metal, beards (specifically goatees), black and white photos, and forests. Notable examples of second wave black metal would include Dark Throne, Burzum, Satyricon, Emperor, and Ulver.


  • All-black clothes
  • Bullet belts
  • Inverted crosses
  • Corpse paint
  • Spikes
  • Inverted crosses
  • Pentagrams
  • Medieval weaponry
  • Chainmail armor
  • Cloaks
  • Long black hair
  • Leather jackets
  • Low quality black and white photos
  • Winter
  • Forests
  • Paganism
  • Satanism
  • Old English font


  • Distorted guitars
  • Blast beats
  • Tremolo picking
  • Shrieked vocals
  • Reverb and Delay
  • Choir


Atmospheric Black Metal[]

Atmospheric Black Metal originated from the second wave in the early 1990s. The band credited for creating atmospheric black metal is the one-man band Burzum. The subgenre is a black metal with influence from dark ambient. Aesthetically, atmospheric black metal isn't as evil or satanic as traditional black metal. And focuses more on building soundscapes and atmosphere with themes of mainly Nature, mysticism, and spirituality. Visually, this aesthetic includes a lot of imagery of forests (specifically in Scandinavia) as well as animals that live in the forest.

If you are trying to get into black metal, atmospheric black metal is a great gateway into the genre because it isn't as harsh or evil as traditional black metal. I'd recommend listening to The Mantle by Agalloch or Primordial Arcana by Wolves in the Throne Room as your first black metal albums. And if you separate art from the artist, I would recommend listening to Filosofem by Burzum. (Warning: The man behind the band Burzum, Varg Vikernes, is a murderer, church arsonist, racist, and a political extremist).

Blackgaze and Post-Black Metal[]

Blackgaze and Post-Black Metal were put under the same section due to the similarities between the subgenres and the very thin line between them. Blackgaze is a fusion genre that combines Black Metal with shoegaze. The genre is influenced by the atmospheric black metal of the 90s and emerged in the early to mid 2000s. Examples of blackgaze would include Alcest and Deafheaven,

Post-Black Metal is music rooted in black metal that breaks the boundaries of the genre and often has influence from post-rock. A lot of the aggression from black metal is taken out of the genre, which makes some people skeptical if the genre can actually be considered metal. This subgenre also got the nickname "Hipster Black Metal". Bands would include Sadness, Deafheaven, An Autumn for Crippled Children, and Woods of Desolation. A lot of post-black metal bands are also depressive suicidal black metal (DSBM), which will be explained in the next section.

Depressive Suicidal Black Metal (DSBM)[]

WARNING: This section contains subject matter relating to self harm, depression, and suicide. If you are sensitive to topics of that nature, then please skip over this section and move to the next one.

Depressive Suicidal Black Metal or DSBM is a subgenre of black metal with doom metal influence that emerged in the mid to late 90s and is audibly slow, repetitive, and dreadful with themes and lyrics about Depression, Suicide, Self Harm, and . Most artists of the subgenre use it as a coping mechanism to deal with and express the problems that they experience. The vocals are usually made to sound like the singer is suffering and in intense pain. The genre is meant to create a feel of hopelessness and dread. Some artists of this genre would include Austere, Silencer, Xasthur, and Thy Light.

Unblack Metal[]

Unblack metal is a subgenre of black metal that originated during the second wave of the black metal. Audibly, this genre sounds identical to traditional black metal with the main difference being the themes. Unlike traditional black metal, Unblack metal is anti-satanic and pro-christian. Visually, this subgenre features crosses and other christian imagery. Such artists would include Antestor, Crimson Moonlight, and Horde.

Dungeon Synth[]

main article: Dungeon Synth

While dungeon synth technically isn't black metal, or even metal, it's roots came from the black metal scene. The genre itself originated in the 1990s and the name wasn't coined until 2011. dungeon synth is a subgenre of ambient and focuses on medieval and fantasy soundscapes. A pioneer of the genre was Mortiis, who was the bassist of the band Emperor at the time, he is considered to be one of the first artists of the genre and released albums such as "The Stargate" and "Crypt of the Wizard". Another pioneer of the genre is Varg Vikernes, or his one-man band Burzum. After he was arrested in 1993, he released a series of albums from prison (these were known as his "prison albums"). These albums were completely made with a keyboard, because that was the only instrument he was allowed to use in prison.

Bands and Artists[]

First wave black metal (1981-1987)[]

Second wave black metal (1987-1997)[]

Atmospheric black metal[]

Unblack Metal[]

Post-Black Metal, Blackgaze, and Depressive Suicidal Black Metal (DSBM)[]