Greek Black Metal has always taken its own unique approach, incorporating a style that carved its own defiant path during the second wave of black metal explosion. While the Norwegian black metal scene gained notoriety via murders and church burnings, a strong inner circle of Greek band members were trying something else.
Love it or hate it, what made the Greek black metal scene famous was its unique blend of Hellhammer / Celtic Frost influences with death metal and traditional heavy metal including mid-tempo pacing, many folk elements and, unfortunately, a drum machine in almost every release of the era.
These 8 exiled archangels are the important bands of the Greek black metal scene….
ROTTING CHRIST are the undisputed kings of the Greek black metal scene and the only band who really managed to achieve vast international fame. They may have began life as a grindcore band – particularly in their early demo releases – but soon changed their sound to what is now commonly referred to as Greek black metal. Their demo Satanas Tedeum and the EP Passage To Arcturo were the wound from which Thy Mighty Contract was born, an album that can be labelled one of the best black metal albums ever and undoubtedly the magnum opus of the Greek black metal scene.
That album – and the F*ck Christ tour that followed with IMMORTAL and BLASPHEMY – made ROTTING CHRIST more than just credible, while 1994’s Non Serviam served to establish them as the kings of Greek black metal; somehow more atmospheric, mid tempo but yet unholy, dark and mystical.
Album by album, the band changed their style, experimented with some gothic elements, embraced a more ‘mainstream’ approach and, with their latest releases, established a unique sound; ultimately forming their own dark cult which is much appreciated by black metal fans around the world.
Recommended listening: Passage to Arcturo [EP], Thy Mighty Contract, Non Serviam, Triarchy of the Lost Lovers.
Black metal duo NECROMANTIA formed back in 1989 but we had to wait some years before they released their masterpiece, Scarlet Evil Witching Black (1995), and made a huge impact on the black metal scene.
What made NECROMANTIA dstand out from the pack was the lack of guitars! Instead, just two 8 string bass guitars provided the distortion, leading to a murky unique sound.
Their story continued with the Ancient Pride EP – in which they dared to cover MANOWAR’S “Each Dawn I Die” – and two more albums followed which failed to reach the high standards set by their early material. Some months ago, due to the death of Baron Blood (Bass / Keyboards), they sadly disbanded.
Recommended listening: Crossing the Fiery Path, Scarlet Evil Witching Black, Ancient Pride [EP] .
Another fine example of the riches within the Greek black metal scene is VARATHRON. This occult metal band formed back in 1988 and with their debut album, His Majesty At The Swamp (1993), they became one of the most important bands of the era. With a sound similar to ROTTING CHRIST – but sometimes doomier, like early Samael -they received well-deserved recognition. Their next album, Walpurgisnacht, offered a more melodic touch to what is called Greek black metal.
In comparison, their next albums were just ok; with their unstable line-up proving to be a problem and that ultimately was reflected in the quality of the music. That is until 2017, when they released their latest album Patriarchs Of Evil which was a welcome return to the roots of Greek black metal.
Recommended listening: His Majesty at the Swamp, Walpurgisnacht, Patriarchs of Evil.
THOU ART LORD
A side project created by Necromayhem of ROTTING CHRIST and Magus Wampyr Daoloth of NECROMANTIA – along with the mighty Gothmog on the vocals – THOU ART LORD‘s debut album, Eosforos and sophomore effort, Apollyon, are highlights of the scene and were home to pure Greek black metal in every aspect; diabolic, unholy, cult and unique!
Still a going concern, Thou Art Lord have evolved, in the intervening years, into a blackened thrash band of considerable force.
Recommended listening: Eosforos, Apollyon.
Formed back in 1993, KAWIR may not always have been ‘pure’ Greek black metal, but they certainly deserve a place here. Their very early releases had Necroabyssius of VARATHRON handling vocals – and were closer to the standards of the style – but they slowly evolved, changing their style and adding more pagan and ancient greek influences into their music.
Arguably the only band of the scene who got substantially better over time, there are highlights scattered throughout their career but the improvement from album to album – especially on their 2 last releases – have created a unique KAWIR sound that continues to impress.
Recommended listening: To Cavirs, Ophiolatreia, Isotheos, Exilasmos
ZEMIAL formed way back in 1989 and, over 30 years later, keep impressing with their black metal sound. Their debut EP, Sleeping Under Tartarus (1992), was a heavy introduction to the scene and their next album, For The Glory Of Ur, turned out to be a milestone of Greek black metal.
Although they never received the recognition afforded to the likes of ROTTING CHRIST or VARATHRON, they have remained resolutely underground and there’s a majestic, unholy feeling to all of their releases.
Recommended listening: Sleeping under Tartarus, For the Glory of Ur, In Monumentum, Nykta
NERGAL are a haunting black metal act that started back in 1990 and with their debut album, The Wizard Of Nerath, they produced a fine combination of Greek and Norwegian black metal….with some of the most extreme vocals you have ever heard!
They faced problems with the police during a period where some satanists were arrested in Greece, and their ‘satanic’ profile caused them enough issues to delay a folow-up album for eleven years.
Recommended listening: The Wizard of Nerath, Nykta Gemati Thammata Nykta Sparmeni Magia.
AGATUS was founded by brothers Eskath and Vorskaath (also known for their work with Zemial) in 1992, with the band originally based in Greece, later Adelaide, Australia, on to Germany and now back to their ancestral holy ground.
Their debut album Dawn Of Martyrdom is a masterpiece of the genre and although topping it seemed impossible, they managed to surprise us all with their next release six years later. The Weaving Fates turned out to be the perfect combination of black metal with an 80’s heavy metal sound and structure.
Their latest release, The Eternalist, came to be an even greater surprise with the band expanding into pure heavy metal with some prog references, clean vocals and only a few parts that remind us of their black metal past.
Recommended listening: Dawn of Martyrdom, The Weaving Fates.
Honourable mentions: LEGION OF DOOM, TATIR, MORTIFY, DEVISER, ELYSIAN FIELDS, ZEPHYROUS, MACABRE OMEN.
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