"some music was meant to stay underground..."


Unearthing The Metal Underground: Lesser Known Side Projects From Borknagar, Katatonia, And Samael

Photo of Katatonia

Band Photo: Katatonia (?)

Every Monday we take a break from the news to highlight three lesser known bands that deserve a moment in the spotlight and can help expand your metal horizons.

Last year we showcased three side projects from black metal icon Ihsahn, but there are plenty of musicians from throughout metaldom who have a host of additional projects outside their most well-known bands. This week we’ll take a look at bands covering a range of sounds from the members of Borknagar, Katatonia, and Samael that all show a different side than what fans may be expecting from their favorite musicians.


While many may be aware that Vintersorg from Borknagar has had his own self-titled, folk leaning and clean singing focused project for years, it’s not as well known that he was also involved in a folk metal project called Otyg prior to his solo releases.

Otyg had a very ‘90s, proto-metal feel as the musicians were starting to explore the boundaries of the genre, and is a must hear if you want to explore the roots of folk metal or are into the early works of bands like Amorphis or Borknagar. The band released two full-length albums titled “Älvefärd” and “Sagovindars Boning” before going on hold indefinitely. The music is a little on the lo-fi side and not quite as bombastic or epic as the intricately arranged folk and orchestra stuff that has come out of metal in the interim, but just listen to that atmosphere!



Diabolical Masquerade

As Swedish act Katatonia was evolving out of extreme metal and heading toward a totally clean vocal environment, Anders "Blakkheim" Nyström teamed up with Dan Swano to put together Diabolical Masquerade. The project leaned significantly more towards black metal than Katatonia, along with some added symphonic and avant-garde touches, and gave Anders an outlet for more extreme and bizarre sounds as his main band left behind the growled vocals.

In an interview we conducted with Anders, he stated the door isn’t completely closed on future music from the project, but gave no specifics on a plan to get Diabolical up and running again. It’s been three years now and there haven’t been any stirrings, so it seems like the Masquerade will continue to remain hidden for the foreseeable future. To get a taste of the band’s later work before going on ice, check out first several short tracks from “Death’s Design” in the clip below.

“Rider on the Bonez”

As a bonus, check out the song “Hater” off the “The Phantom Lodge,” which is so over the top it becomes hilarious, but is still somehow amazingly fun to listen to and has the power to get stuck in your head.


Finishing off our look at side projects is Sludge, which has an unrelentingly brutal edge over the aforementioned acts. Sludge features guitarist Makro from the ever-changing Swiss act Samael, but this is a whole different beast from his main band. Don’t expect any electronic dance beats or black metal love songs here, as Sludge is an absolute musical bludgeoning to the head. Although there is a change in sound across albums from debut “The Well” to latest output “Lava,” the band overall is a sort of death/doom hybrid that can be a bit deliberately paced and slower moving at times, but is essentially an unstoppable freight train of destruction once it gets going.

“Blacksmith of Souls”

“60 MM”

Of course there are plenty more side projects from heavy metal musicians, and these are just three out of a multitude to be found out there. What did you think of these three picks, and what are your favorite metal side projects? Be sure to check back in next week as we again unearth three more underground metal bands.

xFiruath's avatar

Ty Arthur splits his time between writing dark fiction, spreading the word about underground metal bands, and bringing you the latest gaming news. His sci-fi, grimdark fantasy, and horror novels can be found at Amazon.

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