Best Norwegian Heavy Metal Bands

Since this list is about the best Norwegian metal bands, black metal is going to dominate the list. However, there are a few bands from Norway in other genres that have released great albums over the years. Here are my choices for the best Norwegian metal bands.

01
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Emperor

Emperor
Emperor. Candlelilght Records

There are several bands that could have been number one on this list, but I chose Emperor because of their outstanding body of work and their vast influence (both positively and negatively) on music and society in Norway and elsewhere.

Even with, and maybe partly because of their numerous lineup changes, Emperor's music is always innovative and is sometimes raw and fierce, other times atmospheric and majestic. Their first couple of albums rank amongst the best ever in the black metal genre, and their entire catalog is outstanding.

Recommended Album: In The Nightside Eclipse (1994)
02
of 20

Mayhem

Mayhem
Mayhem. Season Of Mist

Mayhem have been more prolific than Emperor over the years, even with the amount of tragedy and legal difficulties they have faced. Even though they are probably the most infamous Norwegian band, in my opinion their music and influence falls just an eyelash short of Emperor.

Mayhem have had a few different vocalists, each with a unique style and sound. Their sound has ranged from raw black metal to more experimental electronica, and they are never afraid to try something different.

Recommended Album: De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (1994)

03
of 20

Immortal

Immortal
Immortal. Nuclear Blast Records

Immortal were formed by Abbath and Demonaz in 1990, and there have been numerous lineup changes over the years. Their early sound was raw and primal, and over the years their musicianship and songwriting prowess really progressed. Whether it was old school black metal, lightning fast blast beat heavy extremity or blackened thrash, they always had a unique tone and memorable sound.

In 1997 arm problems forced Demonaz to leave the band, although he remained the band's lyricist. After disbanding in 2003, four years later Immortal got back together playing live and released a new album in 2009.

Recommended Album: Pure Holocaust (1993)

04
of 20

Darkthrone

Darkthrone
Darkthrone. Peaceville Records

Shortly before the release of their debut album Soulside Journey, Black Death became Darkthrone. Their first release was death metal, and very good death metal at that, but they decided to go in a new direction after that.

They put on the corpsepaint and became a black metal band, one of the best and most enduring. Darkthrone's music and sound is very low-fi, gritty and dirty. Nocturno Culto's unholy screaming vocals are aggressive and hateful and will send a chill up your spine.

Recommended Album: A Blaze In The Northern Sky (1991)
05
of 20

Burzum

Burzum
Burzum. Candlelight Records

Out of all the controvery and controversial figures in the Norwegian black metal scene, no more is more infamous than Varg Vikernes, also known as Count Grishnackh. He was convicted of the murder of his former Mayhem bandmate Euronymous in 1993. Burzum is his one-man project. The early Burzum material is more straightforward black metal, but it quickly became more experimental and electronic.

The combination of really harsh and evil vocals with more midtempo and haunting music was very compelling. His post-prison releases pale in comparison to his earlier work.

Recommended Album: Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (1994)
06
of 20

Enslaved

Enslaved
Enslaved. Nuclear Blast Records

After getting their start in 1991 as a traditional black metal band, Enslaved became more progressive as time went on. Their earlier albums have songs in Icelandic and Old Norse, but their more recent work is in English.

Enslaved's lyrics focus a lot on Norse mythology, and they are usually classified as a progressive black/Viking metal band. They are one of the most innovative and creative groups in the genre with epic and atmospheric songs, and their music is always compelling and unique.

Recommended Album: Frost (1994)
07
of 20

Borknagar

Borknagar
Borknagar. Century Media Records

Øystein Brun was in a death metal band and wanted to explore a different style of music. He wrote the music and lyrics for an album, and then recruited some big names in black metal from groups such as Gorgoroth, Enslaved, Ulver and Immortal and formed Borknagar. Their first album had Norwegian lyrics, but after that they switched to mainly English lyrics.

Unlike the raw and simple early black metal, Borknagar's style is much more melodic, progressive and complex. Many bands peak early and spend the rest of their career trying to recapture past glory, but Borknagar have released consistently good albums throughout their existence.

Recommended Album: The Olden Domain (1997)
08
of 20

Gorgoroth

Gorgoroth
Gorgoroth. Regain Records

Gorgoroth took their name from Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings, where it is a place of evil and darkness. They are the typical Norwegian black metal band, from the corpsepaint to the pseudonyms, including one of the best names in the genre, Goat Pervertor, who was the band's original drummer.

Gorgoroth's sound was originally old school black metal, but it evolved into a more experimental industrial and ambient sound in the late '90s before returning to a more traditional style.

Recommended Album: Under The Sign Of Hell (1997)

09
of 20

Satyricon

Satyricon
Satyricon. Indie Recordings

Satyricon's core has always been the duo of Satyr and Frost, although they've had many guest musicians play with them over the years. Their debut album Dark Medieval Times combined the darkness of black metal with the light of folk metal.

Their more recent albums have more rock influences and their sound has become more accessible. Satyricon's songwriting and musicianship remain strong, even as they draw criticism for becoming too "mainstream."

Recommended Album: Nemesis Divina (1996)
10
of 20

Dimmu Borgir

Dimmu Borgir
Dimmu Borgir. Nuclear Blast Records

Dimmu Borgir are another controversial band, but not because of the same reasons as some of the others on this list. Dimmu's commercial success and evolution into a more accessible band has drawn a lot of criticism. Even so, their influence and body of work still rates them a spot on this list.

After forming in 1993, the band's 1996 debut Stormblast was melodic black metal sung in Norwegian. Their sound gradually evolved into a more grand and symphonic style using some melodic vocals in addition to Shagrath's growls. Even though they have moved more toward the mainstream and have sold a lot of albums, Dimmu Borgir's music is what secures their place here.

Recommended Album: Enthrone Darkness Triumphant (1997)

11
of 20

Ulver

Ulver
Ulver.

Ulver mastermind Garm is a gifted and unusual artist. He has been in two other bands on this list (Arcturus and Borknagar), and you never know what you're going to get with an Ulver album. After a traditional raw, old school black metal debut with some acoustic passages, their second was a mostly acoustic folk influenced album, followed by a return to a rawer sound.

Since then, Ulver has drifted away from black metal and heavy metal in general toward more of an electronic, ambient, avant-garde and experimental sound. Even though calling them metal today may be a stretch, Ulver still deserves a place on this list.

Recommended Album: Bergtatt (1994)
12
of 20

Limbonic Art

Limbonic Art
Limbonic Art.

After starting as a more traditional quartet, by the time they recorded their debut Limbonic Art were a duo consisting of vocalist/guitarist Daemon and keyboardist/guitarist Morpheus.

Their style of symphonic black metal had complex arrangements and a lot of depth and texture. After disbanding in 2003, Limbonic Art reunited on June 6, 2006 (6/6/06) and began recording new material.

Recommended Album: Moon In The Scorpio (1996)

13
of 20

Arcturus

Arcturus
Arcturus. Prophecy Productions

Originally called Mortem, in 1990 they changed their name to Arcturus. They are another band who have had an all star lineup of musicians over the years including vocalists Garm (Borknagar, Ulver) and ICS Vortex (Dimmu Borgir), guitarist Samoth (Emperor) and drummer Hellhammer (Mayhem, Dimmu Borgir).

Arcturus started as a symphonic black metal band, but their music has became much more avant garde over time, incorporating elements of electronica, pop, trip-hop and metal. They announced the band was breaking up in early 2007, but reformed and released a new album in 2015.

Recommended Album: La Masquerade Infernale (1997)

14
of 20

Ragnarok

Ragnarok
Ragnarok.

Ragnarok are a stereotypical Norwegian black metal band with the corpsepaint and evil lyrics, but their music is anything but standard. It's raw and feral with grim guitars and shrill keyboards, but you'll also hear some Viking influences, especially in their early work.

And even though the genre is more about atmosphere than playing ability, Ragnarok's musicianship is surprisingly good.

Recommended Album: Arising Realm (1997)
15
of 20

Green Carnation

Green Carnation
Green Carnation.

Green Carnation originally formed back in 1990, but disbanded after recording a demo because Tchort joined Emperor. Other members formed In The Woods. The band reformed in 1998 and released their debut in 2000.

Green Carnation's musical style is hard to pigeonhole. They incorporate elements of doom, black metal, psychedelic and goth into a diverse and sometimes experimental style.

Recommended Album: Light Of Day, Dark Of Darkness (2001)
16
of 20

Dodheimsgard

Dodheimsgard
Dodheimsgard. Peaceville Records

Dodheimsgard, also known as DHG, were formed in 1994 and have only released four full-length CDs so far. After starting out as a fairly standard black metal band, their sound evolved into a more avant-garde and experimental style incorporating more electronica.

The band broke up in the late '90s, but recently reformed with only one original member, Vicotnik.

Recommended Album: Kronet Til Konge (1995)
17
of 20

Old Man's Child

Old Man's Child
Old Man's Child. Century Media Records

Old Man's Child was started in 1989 by Thomas Rune Andersen, also known as Galder. The band mixes black metal with death and thrash.

Even though Galder joined Dimmu Borgir as their guitarist in 2001, he continues Old Man's Child as a secondary project.

Recommended Album: Born Of The Flickering (1995)

18
of 20

Tristania

Tristania
Tristania. Napalm Records

Tristania are a gothic metal band who got their start in 1997. Their music is grand and symphonic with a lot of orchestral elements, but still retains its metal core.

The band's three vocal attack adds even more diversity with harsh male vocals, clean male vocals and melodic female vocals.

Recommended Album: Beyond The Veil (1999)

Gehenna started as a melodic black metal band, and then evolved into a more aggressive black metal band before morphing into more of a death metal band.

Then in 2005 they started returning more toward their black metal roots with WW. It was a welcome return to form.

Recommended Album: Seen Through The Veils Of Darkness (1995)

20
of 20

Mortiis

Mortiis
Mortiis. Earache Records

Mortiis was the original bassist for Emperor and appeared with them only on a single, split and demo before departing for a solo career in 1993.

He's released some eclectic albums over the years, and went away from black metal towards ambient and industrial music. Even though his music is mostly electronica, there is still a dark vibe and traces of his black metal past.

Recommended Album: Ĺnden Som Gjorde Opprřr (1994)