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2011 in Review: Top 10 Weird-Ass Black Metal Albums of the Year

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Black metal has sported a healthy left wing since its early days. Celtic Frost freaked everyone out with Into the Pandemonium back in ’88, and Norway in the ’90s produced a string of decidedly zany BM groups: Fleurety, Ulver, and Ved Buens Ende, among others.

Since the turn of the millennium, black metal’s tendency towards the strange and outré has become gradually more pronounced. 2011 may be remembered as the year in which the floodgates burst open and the bizarro-blackened hordes poured forth.

Following, and in no particular order, are my top ten weird black metal records from the year that was. I’d love to hear what I’ve missed!

— Doug Moore

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Aosoth – III (Agonia Records)

Black metal is famously tinny. Aosoth is not. This band renders their see-sawing dissonance with giant, almost death metal tones. The slowdowns on this album are immense. And III sports some very human drumming, which is a nice change of pace for this style.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ol8XwaBjs9M

Aosoth – “1”

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Oranssi Pazuzu – Kosmonument (Spinefarm Records)

This band’s 2009 debut caught my attention, but I harbored mixed feelings about it. Oranssi Pazuzu was aiming for ‘sinister’, but ended up with ’70s-camp haunted-house horror. On Kosmonument, the Scooby Doo vibe has been replaced by Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show.

This is some eerie shit. Great cover art!

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CpzwUdeVriU

Oranssi Pazuzu – “Kaaos Hallitsee”

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De Magia Veterum – The Divine Antithesis (Transcendental Creations)

This Gnaw Their Tongues side project takes the prize for most unlistenable band in this feature. The production on The Divine Antithesis is so blown out that it verges on power-electronics territory. Ever wanted to hear Merzbow reinterpret Emperor? Here’s your chance.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIAscrZ7EfQ

De Magia Veterum- “Torn Between Ruins, Faith, and the Divine”

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Nightbringer – Hierophany of the Open Grave (Seasons of Mist)

I think of Nightbringer as the missing link between Norwegian second-wave BM and the weirder French school. The dour melodies of the former and the “wrong” chords of the latter are both in evidence on Heirophany. Fitting that Nightbringer should hail from Colorado, which is one of America’s grimmest and most beautiful locales.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqwkrMSlJHQ

Nightbringer – “Rite of The Slaying Tongue”

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The Konsortium – The Konsortium (Agonia Records)

This band reminds me of why I loved the first couple of Anaal Nathrakh full-lengths so much. Both bands make use of ripping tempos, industrial influences, and a multi-talented vocalist. The Konsortium deliver it all with a distinctly Norwegian avant spin. Though their singer can’t compare to Dave Hunt, their self-titled debut edges out the ’Thrakh’s inconsistent Passion by a hair.

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The Konsortium – “Lik Ulven”

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Leviathan – True Traitor, True Whore (Profound Lore Records)

After the masterpiece that was Massive Conspiracy Against All Life, this record is something of a disappointment. If only all disappointments sounded so good. Wrest pushes his command of atmospherics to the limit here. This record is impossibly textured, given the speed with which it was composed.

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Leviathan – “Shed This Skin”

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Virus – The Agent that Shapes the Desert (Duplicate Records)

Okay, so perhaps this isn’t really a black metal record, or a metal record at all. But Virus features members of Ved Buens Ende and Aura Noir, and the clanging guitars betray an unmistakable black metal lineage. Bjeima’s bass takes a lead role here; his ominous rattle undergirds some spectacular, hallucinatory lyrics from Czral.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y65RnLkNIMw

Virus – “Continental Drift”

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Negative Plane – Stained Glass Revelations (AJNA Offensive)

Cosmo’s review of this record made reference to Dick Dale, the surf-rock legend who introduced tremolo picking and a variety of Mediterranean scales to the electric guitar. Really, that historical axis is all that needs to be known about Negative Plane. It’s black metal that channels a vital piece of rock’s past, and does so splendidly.

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Negative Plane – “Lamentations And Ashes”

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The Axis of Perdition – Tenements (Of the Anointed Flesh) (Code666)

With Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord blowing up, this band’s continuing obscurity baffles me. The Axis of Perdition dispenses with their French peers’ airy metaphysics in favor of grimier themes. Tenements is a stirring return to form after the failed audiobook experiment Urfe.

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The Axis of Perdition – “Disintegration”

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Blut Aus Nord – 777: Sect(s)/The Desanctification (Debemur Morti Productions)

Speaking of this band: it’s rare that a metal band has the chutzpah to commit to an entire trilogy of albums. It’s even rarer that those albums actually cohere when played together. But, as Jordan Campbell cogently argues in this review of The Desanctification, that’s exactly what Blut Aus Nord has done so far. Here’s hoping they can pull off the trifecta.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGIuN_VOJZI

Blut Aus Nord – “Epitome 1″

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