Avant-garde Metal

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Avant-garde metal, experimental metal, or art metal is a subgenre of heavy metal music characterised by the use of innovative, avant-garde elements, large-scale experimentation, and the use of non-standard sounds, instruments, and song structures.

The term avant-garde metal refers to bands and musicians who "incorporate new and innovative elements in metal, who break conventions, tear down walls, violate borders." The genre has also been described as "the art of creating deep and strange atmospheres by experimenting with new instruments and sounds, strange vocals, unconventional song structures, rhythms and harmonies, unusual lyrics or uncommon artwork" or alternatively, "progressive, psychedelic, surrealistic, phantasmagoric, expressionistic, dissonant or extravagant interpretations of extreme metal."

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avant-garde_metal

Sub-genre collaborators (shared with Progressive Metal):
  • siLLy puPPy
  • DippoMagoo
  • Sisslith
  • adg211288


avant-garde metal top albums

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avant-garde metal Music Reviews

BUCKETHEAD Pike 316 - Angel Wings

Album · 2022 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
PIKE 316 - ANGEL WINGS 14th installment of 2022 Everything played by BUCKETHEAD Total playing time 26 minutes and 59 seconds All instrumental as always!

After a sleepy time PIKE, ole BUCKY is feeling frisky again and turns up the metal madness on his latest PIKE 316 - ANGEL WINGS which features five single letter tracks that collectively spell WINGS. Oh how friggin clever is that ;) This is one of those jittery bouncy and eclectic PIKEs where BH pulls out all the virtuoso punches with crazy fast tempos, scorching guitar solos and proggy time signatures run amok. Add a touch of madness and we’re in business.

“W” is an electric guitar wankfest with heavy chord stomps, riffing on steroids and all kinds of tricks and trinkets that has BH breaking the fretboard. This track has some standard metal riffs but also jumps around all over the place with lots of weird guitar antics. This is avant-freakery run amok!

“I” imperceptibly emerges from the first track as there really is no distinction between tracks other than to make a silly slogan. This pretty much continues the aggressive freak show only with some more subdued alternative metal moments. The soloing has been tamed down and some more down time but then the musical motifs change unexpectedly with some off-kilter time signature freak outs and then a new metal march and then the soloing erupts.

“N” likewise is just an extension of the last track with various guitar riffs in full metal rage that plays for a while and then suddenly turns into another aggressive style. This one has some guitar soloing so out of control that BH stumbles all over himself. Ha! This one actually slows things down with a beautiful power ballad melody with atmospheric backdrop. A real song emerges only to be brutally assaulted by a bizarre avant-soloing workout and then back to a bluesy guitar riff and then things just speed up and change more often. Ends in a finger breaking face melter!

“G” continues with a bluesy guitar riff and slows things down to 70s hard rock speed. This is also the longest track at 8 minutes but things still shuffle like a radio being tuned to different stations however it’s all connected at least in feel. It’s amazing how BH is getting some fairly weird sounds out of his guitar and once he bursts into a fiery avant-freak zone he really lets loose. Bet he broke some strings on this one. I’m not sure if BH really plays the bass and drums but if he does he has gotten much better. These instruments have improved remarkably in the last year. Basically the track just skips around with different ideas for a few cadences and then moves on.

“S” is the first track that actually starts dramatically different with a calm weird clean guitar part ushering in another monstrous metal riff but then the track quickly follows suit and changes every few cadences with some free improvisation parts, some structured, some just friggin nuts and some just plain brutal.

All in all a surprise that BH unleashed another avant-garde juggernaut after a boring lullaby album. These are truly my favorite kinds of albums by BH but at the same time this has been done before and much better. While most will probably hate this scatterbrained schizoid attempt of making a musical quilt of ideas, i rather like this however as i stated, it’s nothing new. There have been many PIKEs of this ilk however BH succeeds in some wickedly wild guitar tricks i’ve never heard before. All in all a very good PIKE if not the best of this style.

BUCKETHEAD Pike 314 - Rooster Coaster

Album · 2022 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
PIKE 314 - ROOSTER COASTER 12th installment of 2022 Everything played by BUCKETHEAD Total playing time 27 minutes and 22 seconds All instrumental as always!

Another PIKE rolls out of the assembly line at BUCKETHEADLAND This one features six tracks and this one is intense! BH as we all know is one of the virtuoso monstrosities out there However he rarely lets loose these days Well here on ROOSTER COASTER he is ready to prove he hasn’t lost his chops

“Molten Mercury Anchor Bolts” starts out as an arpeggiated clean guitar intro with echo effects but then all hell breaks loose. Great distortion and then guitar eruptions!!!

“See Through Iron Columns” delivers some extreme guitar shredding with hammer on tapping, whizzing up and down the scale at light speed and genre skipping with moments of industrial metal, thrash metal, neoclassical shredding and just weird avant-alternative metal. This is truly one of the best tracks i’ve heard from the chicken lover in a long ass time! Only the first track and i’m ready to give this 4 stars. Can he sustain this intensity over the entire PIKE? Let’s see…

“Disembodied Viewing Platform” is a cool name for a track. I wonder if some goregrind band has already thought of it? This one pretty much connects with the previous track on offers more virtuoso frenzies with more experimental touches. BH is going for the gusto with this one. High octane guitar shredding mixed with unusually experimental avant-weirdo techniques! OMG i’m in puppy heaven! Lots of different breaks on this one. Weird synth freakery with accompanying guitar antics. “Normal” metal alternates with progressive electronic and well basically anything goes. Yay!

“Decaying Ferris Wheel” also continues the theme of tracks just running into each other. This one has some more “normal” heavy metal riffing before breaking into strange electronica then a sizzling guitar solo which goes somewhere unexpected! This one is a bit less frenetic as far as stylistic shifts but maybe i’m used to it by now. It’s following the same pattern as the previous two tracks. Some serious guitar playing on this. Geez, Bucky!

“Powered Cable Ray” likewise continues where the previous left off with some power chords and some frenetic guitar solos, electronic interludes, more guitar, electronic, guitar etc. Chord progressions change. Well, it’s pretty much the same style as everything before however the guitar stomps add some new elements and processed vocals ( i presume ) sound cool. Also some nice dungeon guitar with clean tones finds its way into the mix. Nice!

The title track seamlessly connects but features a slow nonchalant guitar chord riff but then changes quickly keeping in theme with this PIKE. This one is a bit more subdued in how it transitions its thematic approach and offers a touch of class to an otherwise unhinged freneticism. Wow. I can’t believe this. I actually like every track on this PIKE!!!! This definitely has some voice box guitar stuff. Just when you think this one is mellow the guitar soloing erupts into a frenzy! But wait then it has a moment of lysergic psychedelia and then there’s more! METAL!!!!! BTW BH has upped his drumming skills big time! (unless there’s a secret session musician).

Bitchin cool! This is my favorite kind of PIKE. All over the friggin place unapologetically meandering aimlessly but yet maintaining a unified feel. A few years ago i would’ve given this 5 stars but BH has done many of these types of PIKEs over the years however this one does have a distinct personality that none have before. This is one of those PIKEs that i get most excited about. Energetic, unpredictable and ruthlessly and brutally experimental. This is metal, hard rock, electronic, bluesy, avant-prog and even moments of psychedelia. Some seem to prefer those mellow PIKEs that are calm and pacifying. These PIKEs were made for us freaks who can’t sit still for a second. Ha. Just when i’m ready to write BH off he wows me with this kind of freak show. |m|

UNEXPECT In a Flesh Aquarium

Album · 2006 · Avant-garde Metal
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UMUR
"In a Flesh Aquarium" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Canadian avant garde/progressive metal act Unexpect. The album was released through The End Records in August 2006. It´s the successor to "Utopia" from 1999, although the two full-length studio albums are bridged by the 2003 "We, Invaders" EP.

Stylistically "In a Flesh Aquarium" is female mezzo-soprano- and growling/screaming male vocals led avant garde extreme metal, featuring constant tempo and time signature changes, and the omnipresent use of violin and piano/keyboards in addition to drums, guitars, and bass. The vocal part of the music is quite varied featuring many different extreme metal vocal styles, and female lead vocalist Roxanne "Leïlindel" Hegyesy delivering a theatrical and very convincing performance.

The material features many twists and turns and the tracks often come off almost schizophrenic in nature. The tracks are complex in structure and just when you think you got a hold of where a song is going it unexpectedly changes. The music is very extreme, often dissonant, and is at times an eerie and unpleasant listen. At all times there is a claustrophobic feeling of barely controlled chaos, but Unexpect are an incredibly well playing and skilled seven piece group, who pull off every twist and turn of the music with what seems like ease.

"In a Flesh Aquarium" reeks freak show/dark carnival atmosphere and there are elements from classical chamber music and cabaret too, but the music also features plenty of heavy and fast technical death/thrash guitar riffing and intense drumming (and some pretty crazy slap bass playing), so while this is a very progressive and avant garde tinged metal album it´s first and foremost an extreme metal album. Some of the more "regular" riffs and drum parts could well have been featured on a technical death metal release.

The album feels like it´s divided into two parts, which are bridged by the electronic/symphonic track centerpiece track "Silence_011010701", which serves as an atmospheric breather and a compositional variation, before the second part of the album takes off. The first four tracks are intense and challenging progressive/avant garde extreme metal songs and after "Silence_011010701" is over the second part of the album opens with the sixth track "Megalomaniac Trees" and then into the three part suite "The Shiver". The album closes with the 11:10 minutes long "Psychic Jugglers". It´s a harsh one hour long album, which will probably challenge most listeners and keep them on their toes throughout its playing time and it´s pretty surely an aquired taste if this kind of bombastic, intense, manic, and theatrical album is something you can sit through and enjoy. It requires an open mind and the will to be exposed to the unexpected.

While the band´s preceding releases lacked professional production values, that´s not a problem on "In a Flesh Aquarium", which feautures a powerful, detailed, and intense sounding production job, which perfectly suits the energetic and busy compositions. Upon conclusion "In a Flesh Aquarium" is a high quality avant garde extreme metal release, and even if you are not able to enjoy the manic one hour journey, it´s hard to argue that this is not through and through a bold statement and a high quality release. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

BUCKETHEAD Pike 311 - Furnace Follies

Album · 2022 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
PIKE 311 - FURNACE FOLLIES 9th installment of 2022 Everything played by BUCKETHEAD Total playing time 29 minutes exactly All instrumental as always!

This one features only four tracks each titled one through four

“One” is a bouncy heavy rocker that features some serious guitar shredding Which BH carried over from the previous PIKE This one however has more of a hard rock bluesy groove going on The tempos shift around a great deal though with some outlandishly fast fact melters Sounds like guitar torture to me which is why i like it! The track also has some moments when the guitar drops out and weird keyboard runs ensue Then jumps into an AC/DC style boogie rock This one is rather cool in how it jumps around but never too dramatically

“Two” picks up where “One” left off. In fact it’s impossible to distinguish the two tracks. It pretty much just carries on with the same nonchalant methodologies of hard rock, heavy metal and experimental weirdness. Lots more guitar soloing on this one. Also some alt metal moments and crazy unclassifiable weirdness.

“Three” also seamlessly transitions but becomes more bizarre with a slow bass groove and an even more frantic guitar meltdowns. It does however escape total chaos with a bluesy hard rock shuffle. The tension between avant-garde chaos and mainstream sounding hard rock is the name of the game here. It’s like a volleyball match between the two however the chaotic parts are fairly freaky. This one is over 7 minutes in length so it goes on for a while alternating between the easier on the ears parts with crazy experimental outbursts of guitar wankery.

“Four” is also rather indistinguishable from the preceding tracks and in all honesty this is really just one PIKE’s worth of mind fuck music. Even the riffs are recycled between the four tracks. This one is technically almost 13 minutes long but none of that matters. It’s all just a random shuffle of the continuation of accessible hard rock sounds, avant-metal run amok, freaked out electronica, funk, avant-prog time signature complexities and extreme energetic wildness. Nice use of dynamics on this one with some strange excursions into various sonic palettes. Given the length of this one it’s allowed to take the weirdness even further down the rabbit hole.

OK, this is the kind of PIKE that really gets my juices flowing. This is the real experimental deal and exactly why i listen to BH despite so much mediocrity in between greatness. This showcases both technical prowess, astute creative overflow and utter disregard to convention. This is sensory overload music and exactly what takes me to the happy zone. This is the best PIKE i’ve personally enjoyed in quite some time and thus far the best of 2022!

YAWN Materialism

Album · 2022 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Norway has been a powerhouse in the last couple decades in both the worlds of progressive rock and metal but has also been prolific in wildly unclassifiable forms of experimental music ranging from electronic jazz to bizarre otherworldly space rock and even pop music but despite all the explorative avenues the Norwegians have pioneered, bands like Oslo’s YAWN remind me that there is still much uncharted territory in the world of music and sometimes one simply has to step outside of the box to find a new niche of musical expression. Outside the box these Norwegians did indeed step and this debut is amazingly constructed.

The band YAWN is fairly new having only formed in 2019 but has just released its unique sounding debut MATERIALISM which showcases a band that has found its own sound right from the beginning. Featuring the lineup of Torfinn Lysne (guitar), Oskar Johnsen Rydh (drums), Mike McCormick (guitar, electronics), Simen Wie (bass) and Tarjei Kjerland Lienig (synthesizer), YAWN comes off as a professional start up with a beautiful website, hefty touring schedule and rave reviews from critics who fancy those crazy bands that defy genre tags. Add to that a stellar production job which allows the varying elements of the album to shine!

In this case YAWN easily enters the databases of metal sites, progressive rock vaults and jazz lists as it incorporates all these musical styles and more into a freeform menagerie of improvising stylistic shifts that sound as if they are somewhat composed and somewhat just freefall musical spontaneity. MATERIALISM is basically a set of 16 tracks that drift from one style to another thus creating an album of continuity with polymorphic grooves, raucous rhythms and musical progressions sort of overlapping, trading off and offering divine contrapuntal support. The tracks all run into each other and in the end meaningless as separate units. No vocalist to be heard. This is completely instrumental.

The opening “Cement III: Gobsmack” immediately defers to the majestic Meshuggah for a series of oddly timed djent chugs that will immediately please the metal crowd but slowly but surely cede to atmospheric turbulence which becomes the dominant force as “Cement III: Fall Out” takes the baton but as that short chapter sputters out and leads to “Cement III: Restart, Reload, Rebuild” which reprises the Meshuggah like stomps and djentish rhythms. Eventually it all takes on a jazz-fusion approach with the guitar introducing a soloing method not unlike John McLaughlin. The track strays from the metal paradigm for a while but returns for a suffocating climax. The first act ends and then is followed by three more.

In return visits i realize YAWN is sort of like what third stream is to the world of jazz, namely the mixing of Western classical and jazz only adding progressive metal and electronica. I guess this is some kind of fourth stream. Who knows if we actually classified genres logically as in the biological sciences, perhaps we’d even be up to sixth stream by now but whatever the case, this is definitely unique and has my full attention even upon return visits. The second act begins with the mondo bizarro electronic piece “Chaos I: Artificial Superstition” but is followed immediately by the agro-metallic “Chaos: Greed” which offers an interesting array of djent power chords, avant-prog guitar licks in the vein of Fred Frith / Henry Cow. The repetitive nature of the guitar allows the drums to go berserk and the atmospheric backdrop to swoosh around like an MF. The next “Chaos” entries the ante with more guitar, more electronica, more, more! This act ends with a series of Aphex Twin styled electronica.

The “Lachrymator” series of acts revisit the Messhugah stomps with a more dramatic war march drumming pattern accompanied by intermittent melodies from the keyboard. Game of Thrones theme song sorta material here! It gets weirder though with bizarre Art Zoyd styled avant-prog type of stuff going on. Weird angular electronic rhythms with freaky ambient sounds in the background. It’s totally left the metal world at this point and gone into the world of Sun Ra only in electronic form! As “Lachrymator II: Tripwire” unfolds, it basically has built off the previous avant-groove and adds a bit of (somewhat) melodic guitar over it. This is definitely avant-prog with a metal edge but a bit more digestible for the uninitiated. The guitar licks become more steeped in the world of jazz. Almost Mahavishnu Orchestra in musical approach. The final chapter of the “Lachrymator” returns to the Meshuggah djent stomps but also adds an equal amount of atmospheric prowess with a strong keyboard riff that alternates with the increasing aggressiveness of the metal. This is like a duet, an instrumental beauty and the beast if you will. The act ends in a slowing down of the tempo.

The fourth act “Tokamak IV” starts out in pure ambient mode but morphs into some sort of Indian raga mimic but evolving into a 90s ethno-tribal-dance fusion that will surely scare all the metal heads who have dared stick around this long. Haha! It’s very short but out of the blue for sure. The track morphs into the next only adding the jittery angular guitar back into the mix but still not metal, just avant-prog. Given the title of the track is “Tokamak IV: Fluorescence & Entropy,” it only makes sense that this is supposed to be a musical expression of opposing forces although it’s not at all clear if they are at war or finding a truce :/ ~~~ The final two minute “Tokamak IV: Confluence” ends with a bang bringing back a metal stomp with electronic freakery that culminates in a progressive free for all that sums up the entire album. Nice.

Wow. This is not an easy album to grasp. Anybody hung up on genre labels will not get this at all. This is music nerd central where all of musical consciousness congregates for a play party. Metalheads will find this too non-metal most of the time. Jazz lovers will hate the non-jazz elements etc. This album really is the true meaning of progressive however with ideas that connect it to the past but takes bits and bytes from previous musical expressions and simply stitch it all into a new musical tapestry. All i can say is that while many avant-rock / metal acts delve into a world of their own making for the sake of exploration, YAWN has crafted a musical experience that actually maintains a logical continuity throughout its merciful 37 1/2 minute run. Yep, if this was too long it would have derailed but perfect for its unorthodox presentation. Personally i love this a lot. Not perfect but daring, bold and brilliant. This album demands multiple spins in order to adapt to its demands. It’s easy to write off such albums immediately due to a short attention span but for musical nerds like me, this is fucking brilliant!

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