Who was the First Black Metal Band: 4 Nominated Bands Revealed

by Patria

In the vast and diverse landscape of heavy metal music, black metal stands out as a genre with a distinct sound, aesthetic, and philosophy. Known for its aggressive music style, dark themes, and often controversial imagery, black metal has a rich history that traces back to its origins in the late 1970s and early 1980s. One of the most intriguing questions that enthusiasts and scholars alike ponder is: Who was the first black metal band?

The Early Roots of Black Metal

Black metal emerged in the early 1980s, primarily in Europe, with bands like Venom, Bathory, and Hellhammer laying the groundwork for the genre. These bands were influenced by a mix of heavy metal, punk rock, and the occult, creating a raw and aggressive sound that set them apart.

Venom, with their 1982 album “Black Metal,” not only named the genre but also introduced themes of Satanism and darkness into the music, inspiring a wave of bands to explore similar themes. Bathory, from Sweden, added a distinct Viking and pagan element to their music, influencing the development of the genre in Scandinavia.

Hellhammer, from Switzerland, contributed to the extreme and abrasive style of black metal with their 1983 release “Satanic Rites.” Their music, characterized by fast tempos, harsh vocals, and lo-fi production, became a blueprint for many black metal bands that followed.

These early roots of black metal were marked by a DIY ethos, underground distribution, and a rejection of mainstream trends. The imagery and lyrics often delved into themes of Satanism, anti-Christianity, and the occult, creating a dark and provocative atmosphere that resonated with a growing subculture of fans.

Overall, the early years of black metal laid a foundation of musical aggression, thematic darkness, and rebellious spirit that would continue to evolve and define the genre in the years to come.

1. Venom: The Pioneers of Black Metal?

When discussing the first black metal band, one name that often surfaces is Venom. Formed in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, in 1979, Venom gained notoriety for their aggressive sound, occult imagery, and lyrics that embraced themes of Satanism and darkness. Their 1981 album “Welcome to Hell” and subsequent release “Black Metal” in 1982 are frequently cited as early examples of the genre.

Venom’s influence on the development of black metal cannot be overstated. They introduced elements like blast beats, high-pitched vocals, and fast tempos that would become staples of the genre. However, while Venom’s impact on black metal is undeniable, some argue that they are not the first true black metal band.

2. Bathory: Shaping the Black Metal Aesthetic

Another influential band that emerged in the early 1980s was Bathory, hailing from Sweden. Led by the enigmatic Quorthon, Bathory’s music combined raw aggression with epic and atmospheric elements. Their self-titled debut album, released in 1984, featured lyrics inspired by Scandinavian mythology, occultism, and darkness.

Bathory’s subsequent albums, particularly “Under the Sign of the Black Mark” (1987) and “Blood Fire Death” (1988), further solidified their reputation as pioneers of black metal. Quorthon’s growling vocals, distorted guitars, and themes of ancient folklore and evil set a benchmark for the genre’s aesthetic and lyrical content.

3. Celtic Frost: Pushing Boundaries

Swiss band Celtic Frost also played a crucial role in shaping the early black metal sound. Their 1984 album “Morbid Tales” showcased a blend of thrash metal aggression with dark, atmospheric elements. Songs like “Procreation (Of the Wicked)” and “Dethroned Emperor” exemplified Celtic Frost’s ability to create a menacing and occult atmosphere.

While Celtic Frost is often associated with the broader extreme metal scene, including thrash and death metal, their impact on black metal cannot be ignored. Their experimentation with unconventional song structures and eerie atmospherics influenced many bands within the genre.

4. The Norwegian Wave: Emergence of True Black Metal

While bands like Venom, Bathory, and Celtic Frost laid the groundwork for black metal, it was the Norwegian scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s that propelled the genre into the spotlight. Bands like Mayhem, Burzum, Emperor, and Darkthrone emerged as the torchbearers of what came to be known as “true” black metal.

Mayhem, in particular, is often cited as a key player in defining the Norwegian black metal sound. Their 1994 album “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas,” albeit marred by tragic events including the death of guitarist Euronymous, remains a seminal work in the genre. Songs like “Freezing Moon” and “Chainsaw Gutsfuck” epitomize the raw aggression and dark mystique of black metal.

The Legacy Continues

As the 1990s progressed, black metal continued to evolve and diversify. Bands like Dimmu Borgir, Satyricon, and Marduk expanded the genre’s sonic palette while staying true to its dark and aggressive ethos. Meanwhile, international bands such as Behemoth from Poland and Watain from Sweden injected new energy into the global black metal scene.


In conclusion, pinpointing the exact “first” black metal band can be challenging due to the genre’s multifaceted evolution. While Venom, Bathory, and Celtic Frost contributed significantly to the early black metal sound and aesthetic, it was the Norwegian wave of the late 1980s that solidified black metal as a distinct and influential genre.

Each era and region brought forth unique contributions, from Venom’s raw energy to Bathory’s mythological themes, Celtic Frost’s atmospheric experimentation, and the Norwegian scene’s uncompromising darkness. Ultimately, the essence of black metal lies in its ability to evoke a sense of darkness, rebellion, and otherworldly mystique—an ethos that continues to resonate with fans and artists worldwide.

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