Norwegian Metal Bands

Metal bands from Norway: The best Norwegian metal bands of all time

How familiar are you with Norwegian metal bands? Today, we’re going to be celebrating all-things metal in Norway, with an introduction to some of the most memorable Norwegian metal bands of all time. 

Scandinavia isn’t just about beautiful scenery, friendly people, and rich culture. It’s also a place well-known for it’s love of unusual foods, traditions, and music. The United States has around 72 metal bands for every million citizens. Scandinavia, however, has the highest metal band to citizen density in the world. Norway has around 299 metal bands per million residents overall. 

No other region in the world has quite as much of an impact on the rock and roll scene. 

Norway, in particular, has a strong reputation for black metal, home to bands like Mayhem, Emperor, and Immortal. So, if you’re ready to discover the best Norwegian metal bands of all time, read on…

Why is Norwegian metal so popular?

Let’s start with a quick look at the culture around metal music in Norway. 

As mentioned above, Scandinavian metal bands aren’t exactly in short supply. The region is home to some of the most hardcore music in the world. This is hard to get your head around when you consider how happy-go-lucky and friendly the Scandinavian people usually are. 

For years, people have asked why Norwegian metal bands, and other metal groups from around the Nordic region are so common. According to Reddit users, the popularity of metal music might have something to do with how happy the region is.

Studies indicate happier people are more likely to produce dark music. This could be why unhappy countries (like America) produce so much pop, while happier locations like Norway are rich in metal. 

The best Norwegian metal bands have risen throughout history in response to the grunge and heavy metal revolutions elsewhere in the world. Norwegian metal is often “black metal”, known for fast tempos, distorted guitars, and shrieking voices – but there are plenty of styles to choose from. 

Norwegian Metal Bands

A brief history of metal bands from Norway

These days, a metal band from Norway isn’t exactly an unusual concept. However, Norway and the Scandi region did take to metal a little later than some other countries. Many of the best Norwegian metal bands were influenced by speed and trash metal from Britain in the 1980s. 

By the time the 90s rolled around, black metal music had already made an impact on Norway’s culture. Instruments like keyboards, organs, and even string instruments helped to create unique sounds.

Norwegian heavy metal bands also contributed to the evolution of new forms of metal, like “Viking” metal, or “Symphonic” metal. 

Today, black metal is the most common choice among Norwegians. The black metal genre represents a major part of the Oslo underground music scene and has done so for the last thirty years.

The first dedicated store for black metal actually opened in Oslo in 1991, and the store is considered historical to this day, even after the owner was murdered by a fellow musician.

Best Norwegian metal bands: Norwegian death metal

Norwegian death metal bands are common throughout the country. Death metal is most easily identified by its morbid lyrics, which often contain references to destruction, death, and suffering.

Death metal music is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal, often using deep growling voices, low-tuned guitars, and heavily distorted sounds to create an almost frightening audio experience.

Some of the best-known creators of Norwegian death metal are:

Darkthrone

An extreme death metal band formed in Kolbotn, Norway, Darkthrone emerged during the early days of the metal revolution in the country. The band was originally called “Black Death”, and they embraced a style influenced by groups like Celtic Frost and Bathory. Rapidly, the band became one of the most popular in the death metal scene. They’re still producing music to this day. 

Burzum

Identified as a “metal music project”, Burzum is one of the first bands to experiment with the concept of death metal combined with “Viking” metal. Although the band never played any live performances, it became one of the most influential acts in the history of Norwegian metal. 

Zyklon

Formed with members of the well-known Norwegian group, Emperor, Zyklon was a black and death metal band formed in 1998. The musicians combined industrial and black metal undertones with traditional death metal to create a unique sound. After years of influencing the scene, the group eventually split up in 2010. 

Enslaved

Another example of an “extreme” metal band, Enslaved combines death, black metal, and Viking metal to create its sound. The band has been one of the most popular in the metal environment since 1991, and it’s still active today. The bands lyrics relate a lot to morbid concepts, as well as Norse mythology. 

Best Norwegian metal bands: Norwegian black metal

As mentioned above, Norwegian black metal bands are the most common of any kind of metal group in the country. Oslo is considered by many Norwegians and Scandi locals to be the hub of black metal. The Norwegian black metal scene has attracted massive media attention over the years.

The music features a shrieking vocal style, and lots of deep guitar sounds. Some of the biggest Norwegian black metal bands include:

Mayhem

Perhaps the best-known black metal band in the world, Mayhem helped to form the future of black metal in the early years of the genre. The music has strongly influenced countless bands since, and although the members of the band had a brief break in 1993-1994, they’ve otherwise stayed in action since 1984.

Mayhem have also earned a lot of media attention due to their connection with the Norwegian church burnings in the 1990s.

Immortal

Norwegian black metal band Immortal started life in Bergen during 1991. The group is another example of a band with a major impact on the metal landscape. Initially, the earliest demos created by the band focused on death metal.

However, today, Immortal identifies fully as a black metal band, with albums like Blizzard Beasts, Damned in Black, and “All Shall Fall”. 

Emperor

Another major Norwegian black metal band formed in 1991, Emperor is regarded by critics and emerging bands as one of the pioneers of the genre. The band worked with numerous labels over the years, including Deathlike Silence productions, and Century Media.

Although the band broke up in 2001, they have reunited temporarily a few times to perform at various events.

Satyricon

Formed in Oslo during 1991, Satyricon is a major band in the black metal scene. The band’s first three albums are typical examples of the Norwegian black metal musical style. Since the fourth album in 1999, however, the band decided to shake things up and change their sound with more traditional heavy metal sounds.

The band has changed members multiple times throughout the years, and current members include “Frost” and “Satyr”. 

Gorgoroth 

This Norwegian black metal band in Bergen was formed in 1992 by the guitarist, Infernus, who is now the only original member of the band still present. The group has worked with a lot of different labels over the years, including Nuclear Blast and Century Media.

The band is named after the plateau of darkness in the Lord of the Rings books. The first demo released by Gorgoroth was called “A Sorcery Written in Blood”.

The most recent album was Instinctus Bestialis, released in 2015.

Best Norwegian metal bands: Norwegian power metal

Power metal is a somewhat lesser-known genre of heavy metal throughout the Scandinavian region, but there are some decent Norwegian bands worth checking out in this area.

The best Norwegian power metal bands combine traditional heavy metal and speed metal, often with various symphonic elements included. The sound is generally more uplifting than you’d expect from dark or black metal.

Here are some examples of Norwegian power metal bands:

Artch

First formed in 1983, Artch are one of the older power metal bands in Norway. The group was formed by Cato Andre Olsen and Bernt Jansen, and members have changed a handful of times over the years. Artch released two of its albums on the American label, Metal Blade, which earned some fantastic reviews.

Albums today include “For the Sake of Mankind”, and the “Another Return” album.

Highland Glory

Since 2001, Highland Glory has held its position as a popular power metal band, with albums releasing worldwide. The group aws originally formed by members of Phoenix Rizing but changed their singer before releasing a new debut album in 2003, From the Cradle to the Brave.

The artwork for the album was created by Mark Wilkinson, who also created art for Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. 

Pagan’s Mind

Described as both a power metal and “progressive” metal band, Pagan’s Mind comes from Skien in Norway. Since 2000, the band has released a total of five studio albums. This is also one of the few bands from Norway which has managed to maintain all of its original members over the years.

Keldian

Originating in Aurland, Keldian is a Norwegian power metal band well-known for their debut album “Heaven’s Gate”. The music of Keldian combines symphonic metal and modern power metal with 1980s era rockl to create a unique sound.

The band members Arild Aardalen and Christer Andresen compose, produce, and perform all the music. 

Best Norwegian metal bands: Norwegian heavy metal

Heavy metal is a bit of an umbrella term in Norway, used to refer to the kind of strong rock music which developed in the 60s in the United States, but stayed outside of Norway until the late 80s and early 90s. Many of the acts mentioned so far in this article could also be counted as Norwegian heavy metal bands.

Some of the top options we haven’t looked at yet include:

Dimmu Borgir

The Dimmu Borgir band from Jessheim in Norway is a symphonic and black metal band formed in 1993. The band actually comes from the volcanic formation in Iceland, Dimmuborgir, which means “dark castles” in Icelandic, Old Norse, and Faroese.

This group has created a range of albums, including Stormblast, and Enthrone Darkness Triumphant. 

Ulver

The name “Ulver” comes from the Norwegian word for “Wolves”. This black metal, electronic band creates some unique experimental sounds, making it an interesting choice for anyone who wants to branch outside of traditional heavy metal.

Early works like the Bergtatt album included folklore-influenced black metal with elements of electronica, experimental rock, and symphonic music. 

Arcturus

A black metal “avent-garde” band from Norway, Arcturus first formed in 1991, and has released five official albums since then, each demonstrating a range of musical styles, including black metal, and classical music.

The current discography includes traditional albums like The Sham Mirrors, Sideshow Symphonies, and La Msquerade Infernale. 

Wardruna

Formed in 2003 by Gaahl and Lindy Fay Hella, and Einar Selvik, Wardruna is a metal and dark folk album which combines elements of rock and roll with Nordic folk singing. The band makes use of a lot of traditional Nordic instruments, including goat horns, flutes, deer-hide frame drums, and more. 

Best Norwegian metal bands: Norwegian hard rock bands

Finally, we come to our selection of the best Norwegian hard rock bands. We’re using Norwegian hard rock in this instance to refer to any of the Norwegian metal bands we consider deserving of a mention, which haven’t fallen into one of the categories above.

Here are some Norwegian hard rock options worth checking out:

Turbonegro

Described by many in the Norwegian metal scene as “punk rock” or a “death punk” band, Turbonegro combines Norwegian heavy metal with elements of punk and hard rock. Among the band’s main influencers are groups like KISS, the Rolling Stones, and Black Flag.

Turbonegro first emerged in the early heavy metal scene in Oslo, during 1989.

Zeromancer

An industrial rock band formed in 1999 by members from the band Seigmen, Zeromancer could easily fall into the “hard rock” genre. Current members include Alex Moklebust on vocals, and Kim Ljung for back-up vocals and bass.

The group currently has 6 official studio albums, including Eurotrash and Clone your Lover. 

Seigmen

Seigmen is an alternative rock band which came into prominence during the 1990s. The name for the band came from the Norwegian candy brand, Laban Seigmenn. This band created music covering a range of styles, from doom metal and post metal, to industrial and alternative rock. 

The best Norwegian metal bands

There’s certainly no shortage of Norwegian metal bands to explore if you’re looking to shake up your musical library.

Norway is probably one of the best-known locations in the world for rock music in the heavy metal genre. It helped to birth new forms of heavy metal over the years, and the bands in Norway have also inspired countless other groups worldwide.

Norway’s music scene is heavily based in the metal landscape – particularly when you’re visiting Oslo. This Scandinavian country represents one of the most influential segments of musical history for heavy music, with countless names appearing over the years.

Throughout this article, we’ve referenced a handful of the better-known Norwegian heavy metal bands, but there are dozens more to explore if you’re willing to do your research. 

All over Norway, groups have taken their cues from some of the first wave of black metal innovators like Venom and Bathery, to produce new sounds like never before.

Although most people agree black metal is the number one choice for most true Norwegian metal fans, the country is home to a wealth of varied styles in this musical genre. 

Celebrate black metal in Norway

If you’re a fan of black metal and heavy metal music yourself, we’d definitely recommend booking a trip to Oslo. Norway is home to some of the world’s best live music venues, particularly when it comes to black metal celebrations.

The Inferno Metal festival is one particularly popular example for metal lovers, featuring bands like Mayhem, Asphyx, Dark Fortress and many others in 2022

We’d also recommend checking out events like the Winter Metal Fest in Oslo, or the Norway Rock Festival, which usually runs during the summer.

Scandinavian heavy metal bands are some of the best in the world, not just for their unique take on the genre, but also for their ability to incite global excitement.

Norway is an excellent example of how the Scandinavian heavy metal landscape has grown over the years. Today, there are countless metal bands to explore, each with a unique style to bring to the table, as well as fantastic showmanship. 

If you love Norwegian metal bands, we’d definitely recommend checking out some of our other lists highlighting leading metal groups from other parts of Scandinavia too. 

Rock on! 

Scandification: Discovering Scandinavia. 

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