Guest Post by: Ria Wigley
1. Old Nick
If there’s one thing that defines the microgenre of Vampyric Black Metal other than lyrics and imagery about vampires, it is flamboyant, dare I say CAMP riffs, a big focus on atmospheric synths, and absurd song titles. No band exemplifies this better than Old Nick. In fact, the 16-bit inspired keyboard sounds were almost too silly for me to really enjoy this band upon first listen, but after giving it more time I quickly grew to love it. There is an inherent silliness to the obsessive adherence to a particular aesthetic that most vampire media portray, even when it still manages to be coldly sinister and atmospheric at the same time, and Old Nick is the perfect musical representation of that. If you were hoping for second wave worship with some more gothic elements...well this isn’t that, it’s much better. Plus, who doesn’t love song titles like "Blood, Blood, Blood, Blood, Blood" or "Spooky Wicker Basket 1994 (Yes, a witch!)"
Recommended album: A New Generation of Vampiric Conspiracies
2. Bloody Keep
If the anime Vlad the Impaler gracing the cover of their album Bloody Horror didn’t give it away, Bloody Keep certainly keep the inherent over-the-top silliness of vampyric black metal front and center. Musically this is more in keeping with straight forward black metal than the previously mentioned band, but they are not afraid to launch into lead guitar licks that inject a certain level of fun over the raw, often punk infused riffs, with simple but effective synths blending together into harsh yet melodic songs that live up to their titles such as "Vampyric and Bat-like Sonar" or "Unbelievable Face of Evil."
Recommended Album: Bloody Horror
While this one-man project is certainly stretching the definition of metal to breaking point, being better classified as dungeon synth with metal drums, it will most definitely appeal to fans of other bands on this list. Granted, there are Medwegya releases that have more conventional metal guitars on them, but it’s the absolute bombast that comes with combining dark sweeping organ music with black metal drums all wrapped up in a lo-fi aesthetic that’s right out of second wave Black Metal that really sells this band. If you enjoy this band you will probably enjoy some of his other projects such as Keymage, a very similar band with a more chiptune sound, and Carmilla’s Tears, a dungeon synth project based around the character of Carmilla. Speaking of her...
Recommended Album: Raw Psychedelic Vampire
4. Micarlla II/Oblivion Castle
Taking their name from my personal favourite piece of vampire fiction, Carmilla, and hailing from Mexico, I was absolutely delighted to discover them popping up in my Youtube subscriptions thanks to Antifascist Black Metal Network. Bringing in a much more serious tone than the previous three bands, Micarlla II is a less dungeon synth but no less keyboard heavy band, inspired more directly by the classic symphonic and gothic black metal bands of the recent past. Alongside this more serious tone also comes more introspective lyrics and imagery, including songs directly quoting from the Victorian era poet Emily Dickinson. Also recommended are Oblivion Castle, a very similar band from the same woman that also features songs about Carmilla/Mircalla, as well as very good dungeon synth EP.
Recommend Album: Cemetery of Illusions
One of the more recent bands on this list, Vinterdracul are also one of the most unique and bleak sounding, as well as one of the most prolific. Starting in late 2021, they already have three releases to their name. The guitar tone is as harsh as any Black Metal band, but the riffs are much starker and more minimal, choosing instead a post-punk flavoured form of menace over the more conventional high-speed fury of most of the genre. The strangled vocals also sound less like standard black metal shrieks and more like the last breaths of a dying man, which is certainly fitting given the concepts behind their albums. The second release, The Murnau Chronicles, tells a story about Nosferatu director F. W. Murnau, striking up a deal with an actual vampire in order to get his film made, only to have to reflect upon the highs and lows of the film being almost destroyed by the Stoker estate, ripped off by later Dracula films and then eventually rediscovered to become a modern legend. The third album, The Lee Variations, tells a similar story about one of the best actors to ever depict Dracula, Christopher Lee.
Recommended Album: The Murnau Chronicles
The reluctant vampire is a common trope in fiction, dating all the way back to gothic novels of the 1800s such as Varney the Vampire and Carmilla. Frequently in modern stories with vampires as protagonists or romantic interests they will have the vampire seek alternatives to hurting the innocent in order to live. Necrosferatul presents a very simple option: Eat the Rich. This brilliant mix of raw black metal, classic punk and surf rock (forged by the same person behind the also brilliant Aeons and Monuments) presents a world where vampires of the fictional variety have chosen to free the world of the real vampiric parasites, the 1%, and by god are they gonna have fun doing it.
Recommend Album: Ancient Bloodlines Mean Nothing
7. Cultum Draculesti
If Old Nick is the most fun band on this list, self described anti-kvlt trans duo Cultum Draculesti are probably the most grim sounding. The vocals are even more tortured, the guitars even more distorted, and the whole sound even more dissonant than the rest. They are also more frequently slow than the other bands listed here. While it never strays into doom territory, it certainly gives the band an overall ‘agonized’ sound that a lot of the others don’t have. Some songs even eschew the use of drums completely, creating a horrifying wall of dense sound that is terrifying to behold, and yet as so often with all things vampire related, oddly beautiful. Where listening to most of these bands feels like the fun yet sinister atmosphere of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, this is more akin to Chrisopher Lee’s flesh melting completely off in Hammer’s Dracula (the uncut Japanese version of course).
Recommended Album: Cultum Draculesti
8. Winter Lantern
Sometimes a band and album name just combine in a way that immediately speaks to you. While the album title Festering Vampirism probably speaks for itself, the band name is based off of a particularly horrifying enemy from the beloved (and rather vampyric itself) video game Bloodborne. Created entirely by one woman utilizing the stage name ‘Carmilla II Dracul’ and writing songs about satanism, vampirism and moon worship, Winter Lantern effortlessly creates an extremely bleak and deeply atmospheric Black Metal/Dungeon Synth fusion, which is at times is both ethereally haunting and absolutely furious, which in many ways captures the emotions one might feel playing the game from which the band is named after. Wallachian Uber Alles!!!
Recommended Album: Festering Vampirism
9. Night of the Vampire
Night of the Vampire present one very simple but effective idea: 80's synthwave but with black metal guitars and vocals. With only a single three track EP to their name there’s not a whole lot to say about the band that isn’t covered in that first sentence. The synths are SO 80’s that your hair immediately becomes bigger just by hearing them, and they certainly take center stage in this band. The guitars, while not any less heavy than most of the other bands on this list, certainly take a back seat. The lead guitar even has enough effects on it to make it merge somewhat with the synth sounds. If you like the idea of some kind of ‘Depeche Mode meets Bathory’ band, then this is probably for you.
Recommend Album: Eternal Night
Of all the bands on this list, Sanguinaria are probably the closest to conventional black metal (albeit with ambient and symphonic inspired synths) but that does not make them any less worthy of your listening time. This is the perfect music to claw the sky while holding a multipronged candelabra. The second track on their first (and so far, only) release, Insaciável Sede Vampírica, immediately hits you with furious blasting and truly haunting organ sounds that live up to the title of vampyric black metal (having already been built up by the synth heavy intro track) and the EP does not let up from there for one second. This is the newest band on the list and I’m very excited to hear where they go.
Recommended Album: Sede Vamprica
Thank you to Ria Wigley for today's guest post! Check out her various project below:
Ria Wigley is a musician, illustrator, and game developer, best known for such vampyric works as her black metal band Karnstein and the ongoing comic series Carmilla’s Return, as well as the sludge metal band Oriza and the video game Destroy the Shogun.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that wakes us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry.