12 Best Black Metal Guitar Players – The Icons of Frostbitten Strings

Let’s venture into the cold, dark depths of the black metal universe and shed some light (or should I say darkness?) on the best guitar players this chilling genre has ever seen. From tremolo picking to haunting atmospheres, these axemen have paved the way for a genre that defies convention. Brace yourself; we’re diving deep!

1. Euronymous (Øystein Aarseth) – Mayhem

The Legend Begins Here

No list of black metal guitarists is complete without mentioning Euronymous. As a founding member of the pioneering black metal band Mayhem, his raw and visceral playing style helped define the early sound of the genre. His tragic death at a young age further solidified his status as a black metal legend.

Innovative Techniques

Euronymous had a unique approach to the guitar. He preferred a raw and under-produced sound, creating a sense of chaos and anarchy in his riffs. His emphasis on tremolo picking and high gain became the bedrock for many future black metal guitarists.

2. Ihsahn (Vegard Sverre Tveitan) – Emperor

The Emperor’s Prodigy

If Euronymous laid the groundwork, Ihsahn built the towering spire of black metal. As the frontman and guitarist for Emperor, he brought a sense of epicness and grandeur to the genre, often infusing symphonic elements into the mix.

Master of Ambience

Ihsahn’s playing is characterized by its blend of aggressiveness and atmosphere. With a knack for creating soundscapes that transport listeners to frosty Nordic landscapes, his proficiency in both lead and rhythm guitar has made him an icon.

3. Nocturno Culto (Ted Arvid Skjellum) – Darkthrone

From Death to Black Metal

Nocturno Culto, alongside Fenriz, forms the backbone of the legendary Darkthrone. Initially a death metal band, Culto’s transition to black metal was seamless. His riffs on albums like “Transilvanian Hunger” are stuff of legends.

A Multi-Instrumentalist

Apart from his exemplary guitar work, Culto also dabbles in bass and vocals. His guttural screams combined with his signature guitar sound give Darkthrone its unmistakable aura.

4. Infernus (Roger Tiegs) – Gorgoroth

A Pillar of Norwegian Black Metal

A constant in the ever-changing lineup of Gorgoroth, Infernus’ contribution to black metal cannot be overstated. His riffs are malicious, cold, and downright brutal, echoing the ethos of black metal.

Beyond the Guitar

Infernus isn’t just a guitarist; he’s a central figure in the black metal scene, often embroiled in controversies. His beliefs and ideologies are reflected in his playing, making him a genuine representative of the genre.

5. Abbath (Olve Eikemo) – Immortal

The Face of Black Metal (Literally)

With his iconic corpse paint and crab walk, Abbath is as much a visual symbol of black metal as he is an auditory one. Fronting the band Immortal, he’s responsible for some of the genre’s most iconic riffs.

Diverse Inspirations

What sets Abbath apart is his ability to infuse traditional heavy metal elements into black metal. It’s not just all about frost and ice; there’s a touch of rock ‘n roll in his playing, which makes Immortal’s music so darn catchy.

6. Ashmedi – Melechesh

Sumerian Black Metal? Yes, Please!

Ashmedi, the mastermind behind Melechesh, brings something different to the table. His guitar work is infused with Middle Eastern scales and motifs, creating a unique blend known as “Sumerian black metal.”

Innovative Techniques

Besides the traditional tremolo picking, Ashmedi often incorporates intricate folk melodies in his playing. The result is a sound that is both exotic and haunting, setting Melechesh apart from its peers.

7. Grutle Kjellson – Enslaved

Progressive Black Metal Maestro

Grutle, along with Ivar Bjørnson, has steered Enslaved from its Viking-themed black metal origins to its current progressive sound. His guitar playing is dynamic, shifting seamlessly between aggressive riffs and melodic passages.

A Touch of the Old and the New

Enslaved’s sound has evolved, but Grutle’s playing remains rooted in the old school black metal ethos. The result is a captivating blend of the past and the present, making Enslaved a mainstay in the ever-evolving black metal scene.

8. Silenoz (Sven Atle Kopperud) – Dimmu Borgir

Synthesizing Symphonic Beauty

Silenoz, as one of the primary composers and guitarists of Dimmu Borgir, has an undying commitment to merging the brutal intensity of black metal with the grandiosity of symphonic music. Dimmu Borgir, thanks in no small part to Silenoz’s contributions, has grown to become one of the genre’s most popular and influential acts.

Epic Soundscapes

His playing often incorporates intricate arrangements, blending seamlessly with orchestral elements. This creates vast, cinematic soundscapes that are both brutal and beautiful.

9. Nergal (Adam Darski) – Behemoth

Blackened Death’s Prodigy

Though Behemoth leans more towards the blackened death metal sub-genre, Nergal’s guitar work can’t be ignored when talking about influential black metal musicians. His riffs are ferocious, and his songwriting abilities have solidified Behemoth’s place in metal royalty.

Versatile Virtuoso

Nergal’s guitar prowess doesn’t just stop at churning out heavy riffs. He’s proficient in acoustic guitar as well, often incorporating it into Behemoth’s music, giving it a diverse and rich sound.

10. Fenriz (Gylve Nagell) – Darkthrone

True to the Roots

Already mentioned in the form of his partner-in-crime, Nocturno Culto, Fenriz’s contributions to the guitar world, especially in the early days of Darkthrone, are undeniably significant. The man’s riffs on tracks like “In The Shadow of the Horns” are a masterclass in raw black metal.

Multifaceted Musician

Fenriz isn’t just about the six strings; he’s a prolific drummer and showcases his vast musical knowledge in various side projects spanning different genres. But his guitar work with Darkthrone remains quintessential black metal.

11. Attila Vörös – Keep Of Kalessin & Satyricon

Melodic Yet Menacing

Attila might not be an original member of the aforementioned bands, but his guitar skills are undeniable. With a penchant for melodic leads and heavy riffs, he adds a distinctive touch to every track he’s part of.

From Session to Spotlight

Though starting as a session musician, Attila’s prowess soon saw him becoming an integral part of the bands he played for. Whether it’s the aggressive strumming or the melodic interludes, his style is a breath of fresh air in the black metal scene.

12. Ahriman (Mikael Svanberg) – Dark Funeral

Swedish Black Metal Royalty

Dark Funeral is one of the stalwarts of the Swedish black metal scene, and Ahriman’s guitar work is at the heart of it. Known for lightning-fast riffs and a no-nonsense approach to songwriting, he’s a force to be reckoned with.

Darker than Dark

Ahriman’s playing is characterized by its relentless speed and intensity. There’s a certain coldness in his sound, something that captures the very essence of what black metal stands for.

And there we go! A batch of black metal guitar maestros who’ve laid down some frosty riffs and haunting melodies. The world of black metal is as vast as the Nordic winters, and the guitarists in this genre have crafted some of the most atmospheric and intense music in the metal world. So, here’s to the axemen who create music from the darkest recesses of their souls!