A Beginner’s Guide to the Early Norwegian Black Metal Scene

By: Ralka Skjerseth |

The early Norwegian black metal scene first emerged in the 1990s, and has resulted in producing groundbreaking artists that also attracted massive media attention for a lot of messed up stories. This wave initially was inspired by the “first wave” of the black metal scene in the 1980s. During that year, black metal was a rendition of heavy metal bands with Satanism-related lyrics added up, but most of those bands referred to Satanism only for shock value. The Satanism-related contents were more likely an inversion of Christianity that they grew up with. The “first wave” proto-black metal bands in the 80s were including Mercyful Fate, Venom, and Bathory. In the 90s, a decent number of Norwegian artists started formulating a new style of black metal where they redefined the sounds, which was a development of their 1980s precursors. The popularity that followed made them gets referred as the second wave of black metal. The exact style refers to the way guitarists played full chords using all the strings of the guitar in place of power chords using only two or three strings, which was a style developed by Snorre “Blackthorn” Ruch of Stigma Diabolicum/Thorns fame and Øystein Aarseth of Mayhem fame.

This article introduces bands of the early Norwegian black metal scene to start with, including the recommended albums for first-timers to the scene. Some of them have altered into more various musical styles and don’t remain black metal in their discographies, but still, these names are some of the most renowned pioneers of the scene. 


It is the one-man project of Varg Vikernes originating from Bergen in 1991. The name is a Lord of the Rings reference; derived from the black speech language crafted by writer J. R. R. Tolkien. Burzum has trespassed through the boundaries of genres, encompassing black metal, industrial, electronic, and dark ambient music, but is best known for the black metal sounds. The music mostly features prominent characteristics in black metal which are harsh vocals and distorted, tremolo-picking riffs. The earlier albums happen to have low production quality which was being made that way on purpose as a form of rebellion against good production. Along with time, Burzum’s music has progressed into classical-influenced ambient music with minimalist tendencies.

Albums to start with: Burzum (1992), Det som engang var (1993), Hvis lyset tar oss (1994), Filosofem (1996)


It was formed around 1985 by Necrobutcher and Euronymous. Mayhem is one of the most well-known pioneers of the Norwegian black metal scene and has made a significant impact to it. In their early years, their career was pretty controversial due to their notorious live performances and the 1991 suicide of vocalist Dead. They first attracted a loyal following through the said notorious live performances, and released an EP and a demo that were highly influential. Now they have a new collective of new members after a lot of members’ departure (and Dead and Euronymous’ death), with only Necrobutcher remaining as a member who started from the original lineup.

Albums to start with: De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (1994), Esoteric Warfare (2014), Deathcrush EP (1987)

Carpathian Forest

A black metal band originated from Sandnes and formed around 1992. Their lyrics feature topics about the Nordic nature, other than the usual themes in black metal spectrum such as nihilism, misanthropy, and anti-christianity. They started with the name Enthrone and the founding members were Nattefrost and Nordavind. The first release they started with was a self-released demo tape called Black Winds, in 1991. 

Albums to start with: Morbid Fascination of Death (2001), Defending the Throne of Evil (2003)


Hailing from Kolbotn in late 1986, they are an act that initially started off as a death metal band under the name Black Death, but by the end of 1990 and the beginning of 1991, they began embracing a black metal style influenced by Bathory and Celtic Frost. The lineup started with Zephyrous, Nocturno Culto, and Fenriz, but ever since Zephyrous left the band in 1993, the lineup has been a duo of Nocturno Culto and Fenriz most of the time. Their music is mostly characterized by raw and low fidelity recording style, and musical simplicity. Darkthrone also has many associated acts such as Aura Noir, Burzum, Satyricon, Dødheimsgard, Fenriz’ Red Planet, Isengard, Neptune Towars, Sarke, Storm, Valhall, and Taake — mostly revolving around either Fenriz’ or Nocturno Culto’s side projects.

Albums to start with: A Blaze in the Northern Sky (1992), Under a Funeral Moon (1993), Transilvanian Hunger (1994), F.O.A.D (2007)


The band started off with the name Eczema, with Exhurtum and Wargod as the founding members in 1990, playing death metal under the influences of Cadaver, Carcass, and Napalm Death. Lemarchand then joined shortly thereafter. Afterwards in 1991, they changed their alignment into playing black metal music, and the band name was changed too into Satyricon when Satyr joined the band. After Exhurtum and Lemarchand were kicked out, and Wargod left the music scene and became a UN soldier, currently the lineup only consists of Satyr and Frost. They are signed to Napalm Records worldwide, Roadrunner Records in the UK, Indie Recordings in Norway and Nuclear Blast in North America. Their early materials feature raw black metal beats mixed with acoustic guitar and flute, while their more recent materials seemed to have abandoned their earlier black metal scene, with slower tempo and song structures inflienced by post rock, old school rock, and heavy metal. They still retain some of their earlier black metal elements, but their current elements are more suitable to be defined as “black n’ roll”.

Albums to start with: The Shadowthrone (1994), Nemesis Divina (1996)


It’s a band hailing from Bergen in 1993, and was originally named Thule. The only continuous member of the band, Hoest, changed the name to Taake (which is the Norwegian word for “fog”) in 1995. The band name Taake reflects the genuine Norwegian spirit of its music and lyrics, and also happens to be a patriotic tribute to the fog that surrounds the seven mountains at Hoest’s hometown, Bergen. So far, Taake has released seven full-length albums four EPs, and a live EP. The band describes itself as “true Norwegian black metal”— the aim of the band is to awaken national pride and cultural nostalgia in their Norwegian listeners.

Albums to start with: Over Bjoergvin graater himmerik (2002), Noregs vaapen (2011).

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