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

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KAYO DOT Hubardo Album Cover Hubardo
4.50 | 23 ratings
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4.42 | 35 ratings
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ARCTURUS The Sham Mirrors Album Cover The Sham Mirrors
4.31 | 60 ratings
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KAYO DOT Choirs Of The Eye Album Cover Choirs Of The Eye
4.26 | 60 ratings
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SHINING Blackjazz Album Cover Blackjazz
4.24 | 27 ratings
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SIGH Hail Horror Hail Album Cover Hail Horror Hail
4.32 | 12 ratings
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MAUDLIN OF THE WELL Leaving Your Body Map Album Cover Leaving Your Body Map
4.18 | 54 ratings
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SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM Of Natural History Album Cover Of Natural History
4.19 | 39 ratings
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ARCTURUS La Masquerade Infernale Album Cover La Masquerade Infernale
4.17 | 47 ratings
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MAUDLIN OF THE WELL Bath Album Cover Bath
4.16 | 61 ratings
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DØDHEIMSGARD A Umbra Omega Album Cover A Umbra Omega
4.42 | 7 ratings
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DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious Album Cover Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious
4.18 | 33 ratings
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ASHENSPIRE Hostile Architecture

Album · 2022 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
The avant-garde metal band ASHENSPIRE first hit the scene in the Scottish capital city Glasgow in 2013 and five years later released its debut “Speak Not Of The Laudanum Quandary” in 2017. The band stuck out like a sore thumb in the world of extreme metal with a bizarre mix of black metal guitar gallops, a lugubrious string-quartet violin presence, some sizzling saxophone squeaking and the most uncharacteristic attribute of all, an unhinged vocal narration that sounded more like a madman on a rant rather than any proper singer in the world of metal. As much anarcho-punk as jazz-metal, the debut tackled the multi-century exploitation and brutality of the British Empire across the planet and with a less than subtle declarative decree, ASHENSPIRE was on the scene.

Skip ahead five years and the band is back with its second offering of hostility titled HOSTILE ARCHITECTURE all dressed for a riot in its favorite chimeric mix of black metal, gypsy / chamber swing, soul jazz and madman poetry only this time the band has been getting more than its share of attention for its acrid societal critique of the collapsing social order. Basically HOSTILE ARCHITECTURE is a manic report of the failures of the New World Order and the elite power structures that have crafted the pyramid system of control that propels them to the lap of luxury at the expense of the masses which now find themselves in utter decay as they increasingly live in squalor with fetid infrastructure and inequality ubiquitous.

This is an album that’s gotten a lot of coverage in 2022 for its unorthodox mix of black metal savagery pacified by a melodic sax and violin dueling stabilizing force. Sounding like he escaped the insane asylum and forgot his meds, drummer / lead vocalist Alasdair Dunn delivers all his scathing societal reviews like an adrenalized protester with steadfast supplications of remedy while the thundering force of a black metal freight train finds the rampaging post-metal processions decorated by sultry cyclical sax squawking and ear-piercing ostinato violin grooves haunting the depressive anxious dissonant protest.

Musically, this band reminds me a lot of Norway’s Shining with its depressive disso-black metal joined by a jazzified form of brutal prog only with the extra touches of a chamber rock violin performance. All in all the music is quite impressive with with lyrics that evoke the pungent explosive pluckiness not heard since Crass haunted the UK with its angsty art punk in the early 1980s. While the musical procession is quite unique to ASHENSPIRE, the album tends to run on the same high octane fuel for its duration with the exception of the intermezzo interstitial interrupting “How The Mighty Have Vision” which recalls the bizarre style of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum which also made ample use of violins in an avant-metal context.

This is an album i really want to love because it has everything that i love about a creative passionate modern day metal band that is setting the world on fire however as flexibie and far-reaching as my musical insatiability is, there are still a few stylistic approaches that totally rub me the wrong way and therefore i find myself on an opposite spin from my music loving contemporaries in the world. Musically this is spot on in about every way from the frenetic syncopation of the guitar, bass and drums to the lenifying efficacy of the violin and sax combo and the morbid mix of it all. What really keeps me from hella lovin’ ASHENSPIRE simply boils down to the vocal style. I just can’t get into spoken word musical performances with the exception of some sort of frantic weirdness in the vein of Captain Beefheart who recited his beat poetry like a mutant reject of the Montauk Project.

On the one hand the half-spoken, half-sung lyrics do allow the lyrics to be understood which is not the case in the vast majority of growly voiced extreme metal these days however for a lead vocalist to pull this off convincingly, the said singer must shave some sort of above average charisma or stylistic approach that adds to the one / two punch of the musical performances. That is how i find this album completely lopsided. For those who can tolerate the vocals, you will absolutely love this one. Excellent lyrical content, outstanding musical content. For me it’s like eating a delicious cinnamon roll with raisins in it. I hate raisins :(


Album · 2022 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Hard to believe that once upon a time metal music, then simply existing as heavy metal was considered immature and deemed just an adolescent phase that gullible minds fell victim to. Of course it was a plot by ole Satan himself to lead us away from a good Christian ethos. Fast forward some four decades and there is no denying that metal music has conquered the world and like a sordid slut with rampaging hormones has spread its libertine legs open wide for virtually every other musical genre to impregnate its contemptible corruption of the rock music paradigm. And here we are in the early 2020’s where it seems there is no end in sight with new strains of avant-garde metal usurping the world of prog, jazz, ethnic folk and just about every other musical expression throughout history.

As metal has become more extreme it has also become more confident with the knowing that no musical expression must go unconquered and on the top of the list for unfathomable musical colonization strategies is the New York City based IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT which has declared with a thundering decree that metal music is your master now so bow down and smell the glove! Formed as far back as 2005 by mastermind lead vocalist / guitarist and avant-garde connoisseur Zachary Ezrin, IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT started out as a somewhat typical black metal act albeit with a propensity for adding technical death metal chops and unhealthy doses of dissonance. The 2012 debut album “Abominamentvm” showcased a restless unsettling mix of the technically adept in the midst of swarming angsty chaos and ominous dissonance.

The following “Abyssal Gods” followed suit only the creative pangs were churning and the addition of piano, cello, trumpet and choir seeped into the mix. The floodgates were opened but with 2018’s “Vile Luxury” the dam truly burst and the true IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT reared its ugly head as a bizarre brutal chimera of blackened dissonant death metal with New York City jazz club sophistication. The world would never be the same. Fast forward to the following year in 2019 and Colin Marston of Behold…The Arctopus / Dysrhythmia / Krallice / Gorguts fame entered the scene. And then so too did Trey Spruance of Mr Bungle / Secret Chiefs 3 / Faxed Head prestige. Yep, things were about to get weird and i when i say weird i mean sky’s the limit weird where fertile creative bat shit crazy weird meets the world of technical complexity. The real IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT was born!

Back for the attack in 2022, IT releases its fifth installment of musical terror SPIRIT OF ECSTASY with a star-studded cast of musical freaks. While still very much the baby of Zachary Ezrin who handles guitars, vocals and orchestrations along with partners in crime drummer Kenny Grohowski better known for jazz-fusion bands like Abraxas as well as bassist Steve Blanco, this one features an impressive guest roster of Colin Marston on drums, guest lead guitarists Max Gorelick, Testament’s Alex Skolnick and Trey Spruance. Add a few guest vocalists, a choir, trombone and trumpet and we’re ready for a riot in the Big Apple. If that’s not weird enough the album also finds a cameo appearance by, um, are you ready for this?…. Kenny G! Yeah, for those not familiar with smooth jazz from the 80s, this guy was the heartthrob of post-menopausal housewives all across the USA with his smooth inoffensive elevator jazz musical style. Told ya this was a weird one!

OK get to the friggin music already! SPIRIT OF ECSTASY is a brutal bestial affair of disso-death metal cranked up to the max but set to the compositional flair of avant-garde jazz. Add some spoken word samples and unorthodox, well everything and you are guaranteed to experience something that could only find avant-garde masters like Marston and Spruance on board! With a total of eight tracks that just miss 55 minutes, this one is a wild ride and a grand declaration that screams disdain for any pesky conventional labeling systems and while jazz-infused extreme metal is hardly anything new under the sun, this chimeric hybridization has never really been carried out to its logical conclusion with such finesse and equanimity.

As this thundering stampede of blackened disso-death ferociously delivers an avant-exodus from the status quo, IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT delivers a veritable bizarre pendulum swing from the darkest and most inaccessible extremes of modern metal to the unexpected swanky club action of jazz-fusion savoir-faire. What sounds like a train wreck in Grand Central Station in reality unleashes some of the most competent musicianship forging new unifying forces between hitherto totally separate opposing musical forces. Through the album’s run we experience not only unrestrained metal mayhem but also superb excursions into jazz-fusion plenteousness but also eerie off road journeys into dark ambient episodes of mind-fuc.kery that would sit well in the golden years of Krautrock but metalheads don’t fret!… the cacophonous din of distortion and adrenaline fueled percussive outbursts are never too far in the distance.

In many ways SPIRIT OF ECSTASY sums up the world we find ourselves in at this point of the 21st century. Cacophonous din from every direction laced with tangible moments of short-attention span motifs that fluctuate like a kaleidoscope for the ears as angsty riffs and metal bombast pummel the senses. Metal dressing for an otherwise atmospheric avant-jazz album is what SPIRTY OF ECSTASY inculcates and the spirt of valiant vanguard is in full display here. I mean where else in the universe could you truly find the crazed intractability of Colin Marston sitting side by side with the mainstream as it gets 80s vanilla smooth jazz king Kenny G? This is a true work of art on so many levels showcasing the fact that extreme metal truly is the new prog of the modern era. Definitely not for the feint at heart. This is difficult listening music at its finest as it will take many years to wrap their head around this one. All i can say is this one is quite TRIUMPHANT in its unorthodox approach and doesn’t hold back one iota.

ODD FICTION Puzzle Machine

EP · 2022 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Metallo-zeuhl is in the house!!!

Coming from an undisclosed sector of France, ODD FICTION first emerged in 2012 with the lineup of Thomas Ripa (guitar, vocals), Léo Goudaroulis (drums, percussion) and Bastoul (bass) as a straight forward punk band but with the arrival of Gabriel Gadré (bass) and Pierre Cruz (guitar) the band caught the math rock bug and started crafting more progressive punk compositions that would end up on the band’s debut “La Vie Des Clown” in 2017. That album was fast and frenetic something like Gordian Knot meets The Flying Luttenbachers.

Fast forward to 2022 and ODD FICTION finally releases a followup titled PUZZLE MACHINE albeit in the form of a so-called EP but considering the album was about 37 minutes long and this one is just over 27, we’re only talking the difference of a single track or two. In the five years since ODD FICTION’s last release the band has tamed its sound considerably. No longer a loose canon flailing around like one of Weasel Walter’s projects, the band adopted the stabling genre of zeuhl to its mix which changes the band’s overall sound considerably. This EP features five tracks that all pack a punch.

The world of metal has been the slut of the music world having cross-pollinated with about every genre of music possible but until recently i haven’t really heard the hardcore prog genres such as zeuhl commingle with extreme metal. The Brazilian band Papangu which also formed in 2012 was first metal zeuhl hybrid i’ve heard with its 2021 “Holoceno.” I guess metallo-zeuhl is here to stay. And why not? The zeuhl style of jazz-rock has a very pleasing rhythmic stability that allows all kinds of improvisation to evolve around a steady beat that keeps the artist from completely losing the listener. Just listen to the previous release and then this one. See what i mean?

While zeuhl is a forgiving prog genre for its ability to adapt to just about everything, that by no means that every artist can pull it off. ODD FICTION seems to have been made for this gig! While the debut album was competent and engaging, this one is much more fun as it not only employs the bubbling rhythmic drive of the jazz-rock world invented by Magma but it offers an extreme form of metal to accompany these rhythms that actually works. That means that the metal is subordinate to the zeuhl’s stronger gravitational force however the band delivers all the intensity of a skilled tech death metal band as well as dropping the metal altogether and delving into metal-free avant-prog / math rock angularities.

Overall this is an impressive little gem of an EP with stellar instrumental interplay and playful creativity. No vocals on this one but the clever use of oscillating guitar riffs and Jannick Top inspired bass antics along with jazzy drum rolls with and without the intensity of extreme metal is highly satisfying. It’s like Christian Vander spawned a bunch of punks and they went all metal on him! Is it zeuhl? Is it math rock? Is it metal? Well, it’s all of the above of course! This is a very dynamic hybridization that doesn’t really let one genre or the other dominate. It’s all perfectly balanced for a brilliant performance. At least as a French band, it’s like Christian Vander keeping his influences in the family so to speak. This is a band i very much look forward to hearing more from.

ASHENSPIRE Hostile Architecture

Album · 2022 · Avant-garde Metal
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When you can't see the stars, you stop dreaming of space

For a band to not only reach the bar set for avant-garde metal by Kayo Dot and maudling of the Well, but to also put another brick on this wobbly Jenga tower of a genre, without making it fall apart, is no small achievement. To simultaneously turn the whole thing into a poignant left-wing manifesto borders on a miracle. And yet here we are, looking at a perfectly fine Jenga tower.

Conceptually, Hostile Architecture is a searing critique of late capitalism and its urban manifestations, brutal and classist by design. You will both bang your head and shake your fist at the nearest anti-homeless bench. Musically, it's a festival of masterfully repurposed influences (notably KD and A Forest of Stars) that ends up being way more than the sum of its parts. You will recognize the elements but also appreciate how fresh they sound together. Emotionally, it's a furious protest against injustice, oppression and chauvinism of all kinds. The ferociousness of black metal is given new meaning here and chamber music arrangements provide it with gravity.

Personally, I feel like Hostile Architecture reopened wounds that had already started to scar up with indifference and I feel strangely thankful. The world may be doomed, but music like this is a reminder that social resistance is not only necessary. It can also be beautiful.

VED BUENS ENDE Written in Waters

Album · 1995 · Avant-garde Metal
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Might be controversial, but I’m of the opinion that Ved Buens Ende…’s best material was on their EP, Those Who Caress the Pale, and the tracks from there that made it here are the best. I’m usually not a huge fan of overly Avant-Garde stuff, but that EP was pretty much a perfect mix of Blackened Prog Metal with insanely quirky and disturbing Avant-Garde touches.

As to be expected, this album goes further into the Avant-Garde, focusing more on incredibly ominous and bizarre atmospheres, and the Black Metal plays second fiddle to the Avant-Garde Prog Metal. Songs change around in style, and interestingly there’s a lot of vocal variation here as well. The atmosphere is pretty great, a culmination of all things bad and ugly, captured very well in that unnerving album art. Don’t let my opening statement fool you; this is still an awesome record, and one of the best Avant-Garde releases of its time. However, it’s not as consistent as the EP, and the softer moments (like track 7) just don’t work as well as the heavy, ominous oppression. The hidden track is a weak way to end the album as well, though no weaker than the overlong outro on penultimate Remembrance of Things Past would have been.

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