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Scene Report: Spanish Black Metal

Erun-Dagoth of Hrzig
Erun-Dagoth of Hrizg

Spain’s black metal scene dates back to the early-to-mid 1990s. After the thrash death act Aggressor got the extreme metal ball rolling in Spain with their demo in 1988, Primigenium came into the picture in 1992.

Primigenium is considered by many to be the first and one of the biggest Spanish black metal bands. Founder and frontman Smaug,the primary driving force of the act, helped bring the traditional and pure Norwegian sound to Spain. Unlike first black metal bands in countries that tried to create their own identity and sound, Primigenium’s first demo could easily be mistaken as a collection of Black Shining Leather B-sides. Needless to say, they did it pretty damn well. Soon after, a small, but sudden influx of black metal bands popped out of Madrid, Valencia, Aragon and other areas.

In the late 1990s, bands including but not limited to Ouija, Spellcraft (same members as Ouija), Numen, Profundis Tenebrarum, Cryfemal, Blazemth, Elffor and Witches Sabbath all formed, many of which are still actively performing and releasing new music.

Efflor
Elffor

A common theme for most of these bands: for whatever reason it took years for many of these bands to get off the ground, start releasing full-lengths and break outside of the bar-and-hotel performance circuit, which is probably why Spain’s current black metal scene isn’t all too different from how it was 20 years ago. Spellcraft formed in 1996, and released a demo every 5 or so years until 2008 when they finally put out their debut full-length, Stirpe Obscura. Firesword presents a bigger example. After forming in 1998, they released all but 4 demos before unleashing what turned out to be one of my personal favorite albums of 2014, Enslaved to the Void. The only band from the 1990s that started releasing full-lengths in rapid-fire succession was symphonic black solo act Elffor. It paid off; he’s now one of the biggest black metal acts in the country.

After the turn of the century the black metal scene in Spain started catching on and a bigger influx of bands rose up. Teitanblood, Chains ov Beleth, Noctem, Frozen Dawn, Hrizg and my favorite Spanish black metal band, Dantalion, all started forming and putting out music much sooner in their careers than their predecessors, which is why readers may be more familiar with some of those names and not as much with the earlier bands.

Hrizg, one of the most popular recent Spanish black metal acts, began as a solo project by Javier “Erun-Dagoth” Sixto. Soon after the release of Individualism in 2014, Erun-Dagoth expanded Hrizg into a quartet.

Sixto has built up a lengthy resume over the past 20 years, many of the groups having the same story as Hrizg: starting out as a solo project but then turning into a full band. Right now, he has three active solo projects, two of which released albums last year: Hrizg (whom we might see a new album from very soon), a Celtic and Pagan-themed project called Briargh and a new collaboration with Hrizg bassist Enserune Akhbâmath called Neverendinghate. All of these projects sound unique but are still recognizable as the work of Sixto.

Dantalion
Dantalion

Lastly, one of the more internationally successful bands to come from Spain is Dantalion. Formed in 2004, the quartet released four black metal albums over the course of six years. These melodic, yet powerful records created a good-sized ripple in the international black metal scene, especially when sharing music on the internet became more popular in Spain around 2008. Dantalion has since headlined tours in Europe and beyond and have grown to be one of the most highly acclaimed black metal bands from Spain. Their fifth album, 2014’s Where Fear is Born, showed a change in image, a new band logo, a new vocalist, bassist, and guitarist, but above all, a major change in style; that being more of a Draconian-style melodic death/doom metal sound. As of today, their first four albums are the pieces that most collectors are interested in.

Black metal in Spain continues to grow and stay alive at a fairly steady pace with new bands and albums appearing every year. For example solo act Rotten Light is running the forefront of depressive black metal in Spain, being extremely prolific and working with several of different bands on splits and collaborations such as Hellvete, Days of Our Lives, Crescent Days, Gethen, Savnet, and Silence in the Woods. Other notable mentions include Sartegos, 13th Moon, Of Solitude, and Perennial Isolation. Although many residents would say that the black metal scene is tiny and not that big in comparison to how big thrash metal and symphonic metal is in Spain, if you ever go to the bars and the hotels that host underground black metal concerts, quite a few of the bands out there can attract at least well a hundred people.

Huge thanks to my Spanish friends Silence Nyrst and Javier Sartegos for giving me a more in-depth and inside look that the internet couldn’t have provided.

—Gabriel Kangas

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