I've been listening to Judas Iscariot quite a bit as of late, and it got me to thinking that despite the multitude of great releases, most black metal from the States (USBM) gets a bad wrap. To paraphrase the late, great Rodney Dangerfield, "we don't get no respect!" So, here are my personal favorites....maybe a few that might be surprising, but I think that everyone can agree that while the U.S. might not have originated the "classic" black metal sound, we have done quite a bit to contribute and advance the overall sound and continuously mutating aesthetic of black metal.
1. Black Funeral - Vampyr-Throne of the Beast
To describe this album as otherworldly would not even begin to do it justice. Vampyr just taps into as atmosphere that I don't think any other black metal band ever approached. I can't even describe it except to say that it's simultaneously cavernous and cosmic...I don't know how in the hell they achieved this, but it's fucking awesome, and it's why Vampyr takes the #1 spot as my all time favorite USBM album.
2. Judas Iscariot - To Embrace The Corpses Bleeding
This was a tough one...which Judas Iscariot release to pick...all of his releases have that X-factor that make them insanely memorable and powerful. What makes To Embrace so damned good and worthy of the #2 spot is the ramped up technicality of Akhenaten's material. Spicy trem-picked guitars are fueled by the inventively pummeling stickwork of Duane Timlin. Grim funeral dirges will suddenly erupt into passages of expansive fury. Is there any blackened moment more viscerally shocking than the tempo shift halfway through "In the Valley of Death"? A masterwork, pure and simple.
3. Absu - Tara
So I didn't like their last album that much, but Tara is an all time classick for the ages. Proscriptor earned his place amongst the drum gods with his performance.
4. Inquisition - Magnificent Glorification of Lucifer
Absolutely "Crush"ing. My favorite from the incredible duo of Dagon and Incubus.
5. Leviathan - Verrater
A compendium of Wrest's multitude of demos. God damn that guy was busy. I fell in love with Verrater the first time I heard it, and I am still just as enthralled as I was on day one (specifically the Kranheit disc). Are Lunarctic has to be one of the best black metal songs ever, without a doubt....well, Blood Red and True is a close second.
6. Averse Sefira - Advent Parallax
Quantum Qaballistic...a mathematical ritual performed in deep space. If ever there were a black metal successor to Voivod's mid-period albums, this is it.
7. Night Conquers Day - The First Snowfall
Droning, powerful frostbitten black metal from the incredibly prolific Mikael Bayusik...I pretty much love all the stuff this guy has done (especially those Tearstained cds), but there is just something very special about The First Snowfall.
8. Vesperian Sorrow - Psychotic Sculpture
A neoclassical keyboard-drenched shredstravaganza....huuuugely underrated album, and they've got a new one out this year that kicks just as much ass!!!
9. Grand Belial's Key - Judeobeast Assassination
Got riffs? Got Blasphemy? Got soccer jersey and camopants?
yes, yes and YES!!!
10. Agalloch - Pale Folklore
Serene meditative beauty, with just enough fury and rasp to maintain the black metal element...perfect music for the approaching autumn. Haughm and company's meisterwerk.