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 (leader)
  • DippoMagoo
  • Sisslith


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SIGH Imaginary Sonicscape Album Cover Imaginary Sonicscape
SIGH
4.48 | 28 ratings
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KAYO DOT Hubardo Album Cover Hubardo
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4.49 | 20 ratings
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ARCTURUS The Sham Mirrors Album Cover The Sham Mirrors
ARCTURUS
4.33 | 55 ratings
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DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious Album Cover Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious
DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA
4.31 | 27 ratings
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GUAPO Black Oni Album Cover Black Oni
GUAPO
4.64 | 5 ratings
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KAYO DOT Choirs Of The Eye Album Cover Choirs Of The Eye
KAYO DOT
4.24 | 54 ratings
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ARCTURUS La Masquerade Infernale Album Cover La Masquerade Infernale
ARCTURUS
4.21 | 42 ratings
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SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM Of Natural History Album Cover Of Natural History
SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM
4.21 | 37 ratings
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MAUDLIN OF THE WELL Leaving Your Body Map Album Cover Leaving Your Body Map
MAUDLIN OF THE WELL
4.16 | 50 ratings
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MAUDLIN OF THE WELL Bath Album Cover Bath
MAUDLIN OF THE WELL
4.15 | 56 ratings
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GUAPO Five Suns Album Cover Five Suns
GUAPO
4.43 | 5 ratings
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SHINING Blackjazz Album Cover Blackjazz
SHINING
4.17 | 23 ratings
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This list is in progress since the site is new. We invite all logged in members to use the "quick rating" widget (stars bellow album covers) or post full reviews to increase the weight of your rating in the global average value (see FAQ for more details). Enjoy MMA!

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avant-garde metal Music Reviews

BUCKETHEAD 5-13 10-31

Album · 2018 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
.

Only three years ago in 2015, BUCKETHEAD released a whopping 118 albums that year with another 60 coming out the year before but beginning in 2016, the chicken lover slowed way down having only released a mere 24 and 30 in 2017. The year 2018 has been the other extreme as BH spent most of the year touring and released only 2 albums as of September.

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However, if there’s one thing that can coax the eccentric one out of the coop, then that would be Halloween. While no countdown to Halloween has occurred since 2015, the holiday seems to be the season for the reason to do that BUCKETHEAD thang and lo and behold on Halloween 2018, BH released his third album of the year titled 5-13 10-31.

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What also caught me completely off guard is that this album does not have a Pike tag on it which i assume signifies that it is the first BUCKETHEAD album NOT released as part of the Pike series since 2012’s “Electric Sea.” Oh, that darn BUCKETHEAD is always throwing a monkey wrench into the dens of the database keepers!

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TRACK 1 (14:32) is best experienced as the first official video in a long time as the music fits perfectly with the visuals. The video was created, animated and edited by Byan Theiss at Frankenseuss Laboratories with live action footage from tours and includes paintings from BUCKETHEAD incorporated into the journey. This track was produced by Don Monti and Albert and pretty much seems like a separate entity from Track 2 despite musical similarities. The music starts off a bit funky as three trick-or-treaters accidentally end up falling down a well into the underworld of BUCKETHEADLAND. The video and musical journey coincide in amusement park fashion with hairpin turns that hop, skip and jump all over the damn place. Musically BUCKETHEAD juggles his entire career on this one as it includes everything from funk, alternative metal riffing, virtuosic solos, dark ambient, avant-garde metal weirdness as well as other experimental elements that have dotted the massive canon of this freak of nature. The video is absolutely brilliant and one of the best music videos i’ve seen in a long time. The music is perfectly paced to run the gauntlet of BUCKETHEAD-isms and eke out all the proper mood setting responses. The visuals through BUCKETHEADLAND convey the surreal fantastical world in dreamscape weirdness as if taking a cue from Roger Rabbit with animation and live footage coinciding side by side. While pulling out all the tricks and trinkets from the past, BH still manages to find new creepy and surreal ways to play his guitar as more familiar passages pause for a freakfest moment. I love this track! 5 stars. BUCKETHEAD at his absolute best!

(Go to BUCKETLAND to watch the video!)

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Track 2 (14:33) begins with a little funk, followed by some industrial grind and then back to funk and then a little metal guitar. Yep, it’s another shapeshifter as every few measures the mood, tones, timbres and tempos change it up as funk, metal, rock and the avant-garde dance together like ghouls in a graveyard. Add to that the same kind of dark ambient interludes with creepy church organ and freaky shred wankery and this is another guaranteed wild ride in BUCKETHEADLAND. This one pretty much copies the template of “Track 1” with all the bells and whistles displaying BH’s career in summary as he juxtaposes dark ambient creepiness next to sizzling hot face melting guitar solos. I guess i prefer the first track better since it has a video accompaniment that works oh so well in conjunct, however this experimental freakfest is my absolute favorite style of BUCKETHEAD madness, so it totally works for me! Yeah! It was worth the wait but this one is a winner. The video is the best Halloween present of all!!!

ULVER Themes From William Blake's The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell

Album · 1998 · Avant-garde Metal
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UMUR
"Themes From William Blake´s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" is the 4th full-length studio album by Norwegian experimental metal/rock act Ulver. The album was released through Jester Records in December 1998.

"Themes From William Blake´s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" is a 2 Disc conceptual release and as the title suggests the lyrical theme revolves around the novel "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" by William Blake. The album probably came as a big surprise for most fans of the band when it was originally released. The three albums that preceeded this one are all rooted in black metal and Scandinavian folklore. The acoustic folky second album "Kveldssanger (1995)" probably also came as a big surprise when it was released as the debut album "Bergtatt (1994)" is a black metal album. Most fans still saw Ulver as a black metal act though and when they returned with their third album "Nattens Madrigal (1996)", which also saw a return to the black metal style of the debut (but adding a grimmer more raw sound), that seemed to hold true. "Themes From William Blake´s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" takes Ulver music in a whole new direction though and while they probably lost a few of their most conservative black metal fans they gained new more experimental minded music fans with this release.

Ulver´s music on "Themes From William Blake´s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" can no longer be called metal. There are sections with distorted guitars but metal it ain´t. Instead there´s much focus on vocals (both male and female, and quite a bit of narration), ambient electronic elements, and a strong emphasis on dark atmosphere. Ambient and atmospheric industrial tinged rock/metal could be a valid description. It´s an album which is all about atmosphere, and listeners craving riffs and hard rocking parts should look elsewhere.

"Themes From William Blake´s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" is both well performed and well produced, and to those interested in dark atmospheric and ambient music, it´s quite an interesting and obviously well composed album too. Personally I find it lacking memorable moments and it´s a bit overlong too. When the band finally break the ambient monotony and play some louder more rock/metal oriented parts, it´s still pretty monotone and just goes on and on an on with little to hold on to. Subjective opinions and taste in music aside, it´s still obvious that "Themes From William Blake´s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" is a quality release performed by skilled and passionate performers, and therefore a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

MODERN MAN Modern Man

Album · 2018 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
MODERN MAN which formed back in 2015 is an exclusively instrumental progressive metal project that takes the limiting factors of a vocalist and throws it all by the wayside. This band that is a technically a trio of Alfonso Portela (drums), Jeremy Clemmons (guitar) and Biaggio D'Anna (guitar) is from Sacramento, CA and is rounded out by bassist and friend Carson McWhirter who performed on their eponymously titled debut album that at long last hits the market in 2018. This album exudes extreme metal set in a heavily fortified technical setting with a bleak atmospheric presence.

This is a band that seemingly doesn’t take itself to seriously with hilarious track titles like “All Weenie, No Balls” and “Small Nuts, Big Sac,” and you might mistake this band for a bunch of self-deprecating comedians that takes pleasure in lambasting themselves and the world around however one quick listen to MODERN MAN’s musical style and it will become apparent that titles aside, this band is as serious as a ton of bricks falling onto a baby nursery run by devout nuns as the five jarring tracks emphasize first and foremost two major aspects: technicality taken to the nth degree and brutality as unrelenting as oral defecation emanating from politicians.

The technical prowess that bursts forth from MODERN MAN’s incessant romp through the progressive tech metal universe is primarily driven by drummer Alfonso Portela whose main experience was playing in funk and jazz acts before falling in love with the wonderful world of extreme metal. His technical chops pave the way for the vast array of experimental jamming that the two guitarists and bass are allowed to build from. The band describe their own sound as a form of psychedelic and experimental black grind however they could also be described as brutal prog metal with elements of black metal and the avant-garde.

Clemmons and D’Anna played together for several years in a band called Competing which was the standard groove and riff sort of metal band but it wasn’t until they met Portela in a coffee shop that they decided to jam together and follow his more avant-garde lead. While not against the idea of a lead singer, the trio decided that vocalists are most often limited to a specific genre or style within which was a limiting factor that they chose to avoid. Portela being a stand-up comedian offered the proper casting of attitudinal approach through the title names but the music remains as seriously devastating as a heart attack.

This debut album finds the band cranking out five seriously technical jam oriented metal tracks that offer lots of progressive twists and turns and incessant time signature changes. The longest track “Wooly Man Myth” is just shy of the 15 minute mark. The overall approach is a dissonant cacophonous attack that only occasionally breaks into slower yet jittery passages. The disharmonious sound is quite jarring and perhaps engages in alternative lower register tunings. The band will be of interest to those who relish the most extreme instrumental bands that engage djent-styled riffing, unexpected deviations and lengthy jamming madness. The band have played with Behold…. The Arctopus with whom they share much of their artistic vision but personally i find them to have more in common with bands like Ex Eye.

HELIUM HORSE FLY Helium Horse Fly

Album · 2013 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
I’m the first to admit that i’m attracted to creepy and weird album covers and check out bands that i’ve never encountered solely on album cover art alone from time to time. Such was the case with the Liège, Belgium based HELIUM HORSE FLY, which is a name that also demands attention. While this little known band was founded in 2009 and is technically still active, they have only released two EPs, “A Dispute to Redefine Clearly Frontiers Between Devils and Angels” (2010), “Fishing For Ghosts” (2011) and their only full-length album to date, the 2013 eponymously titled released which is the album that caught my eye. Damn, if i happened to look up and see a suited figure with a hand for a head, i’d friggin freak out and crap myself!

HELIUM HORSE FLY is one of those bands that straddles a few genres and can loosely be tucked in them all but really doesn’t fit neatly into any. While the nomenclature demands these tags which generate avant-garde metal, post-metal, art rock, math rock and experimental rock / metal, this quartet is a unique mix of all of the above. The band consists of the founders Stéphane Dupont (guitar/keyboards/vocals), Dimitri Iannello (bass/clarinet) and Marie Billy as lead vocalist. Bastien Dupont (drums) would only join after the first two EPs in time for the recording of this self-titled debut full-length.

The band present a moody mix of restrained melancholic rock that engages in energetic metal outbursts but flows along in a nonchalant post-metal pace while engaging in occasional jittery math rock time signature freakouts. The main stabilizing effect is Marie Billy’s powerful vocal belting with a slightly contrapuntal phrasing over the rhythmic instrumental section. Her lyrics teeter on the bridge between singing and poetic recital not unlike Catherine Ribeiro’s unique style however this is in English and she has more of a vocal range.

Overall HELIUM HORSE FLY’s only full album comes off mostly as a hardcore post-rock album that incorporates some metal into the mix for bombastic contrast. Avant-garde but not overly so with enough progressive elements to add some zest to an otherwise slowly oozing collection of eight tracks with the two longest “Adrift” and “Breaches” extending past the ten minute mark. The music is quite hypnotic but not psychedelic in a trippy way. It’s more mesmerizing in a cold, detached post-rock manner in the vein of the greats like Godspeed You! Black Emperor that allow a building up of tension to a crescendo of some sort although there are too many other elements to really be called post-rock but it certainly has that vibe. It has a real downer vibe sort of like Maudlin of the Well or other Toby Driver projects.

While much of the album is drenched in a jangle guitar melancholy some tracks such as “Lamento Of A Dinosaur” have a much heavier guitar presence and utilizes the quirky time signature that the riffs carry out through the entire album only more pronounced. The overall interaction of the band members is quite unique. Billy’s vocals remind me of a vocal jazz lounge sort of musical act while the math rock sensibilities and post-rock timbres take me somewhere else completely. The band find an interesting way to bridge all of these elements into a mature band sound that is actually quite addictive. Add to that the production is spot on with beautiful guitar echoes and a perfect mixing of the different sounds involved. This band sounds nothing like i was expecting but i have to say that i’m pleasantly surprised.

DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious

Album · 2009 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
After dropping their avant-garde fusion bomb in the form of the debut “The Butcher’s Ballroom” onto an unsuspecting world in 2006 with their deliciously provocative fusion of swing jazz, heavy metal, classical opera and progressive rock, Sweden’s zany DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA returned three years later to present the world with an equally mind-bending, genre-blending mishmash of musical madness in the form of SING ALONG SONGS FOR THE DAMNED AND DELIRIOUS. While a few lineup changes occurred in the three years passing with new trombonist Daniel Hedin joining the cast and trumpeter Martin Isaksson replacing Tobias Wiklund, the general gist of this sophomore release pretty much carries on exactly where “The Butcher’s Ballroom” left off and continues the journey into the demented DSO universe.

While “The Butcher’s Ballroom” put DSO on the map as experimental rock and avant-garde metal pioneers, SING ALONG SONGS FOR THE DAMNED AND DEMENTED is the album that got them larger worldwide recognition. Once again this whacky band delivers the goods in the swing department as they not only captured the jazz swing revival that was propelled by such acts as the Squirrel Nut Zippers and the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies but they also scoured the planet to find other suitable types of swing genres such as that of European gypsy music and Balkan folk to add to their symbiotic stew of their metal fortified dancehall. Mix in some Middle Eastern, some tango and top it off with a heavy metal bombast of dual guitar heaviness and you have a recipe for true eccentricity delivered like no other. In fact, SING ALONG SONGS was nominated in 2011 for the Eclectic Album category in The 10th Annual Independent Music Awards.

While not exactly differentiating substantially from the debut’s unabashedly brilliant delivery, nevertheless SING ALONG SONGS continues in perfect form with a whole new batch of ten exquisitely designed heavy stompers that swing, sing and bedazzle with a million tiny details tucked into the nooks and crannies. The whole festive affair is polished into a squeaky clean production with In Flames producer Roberto Laghi at the helm. In short DSO created their second brilliant masterpiece of mind-melting fusion in a seemingly effortless fashion that damns, dements and distracts the listener from mere ordinary musical experiences. If anything, SING ALONG SONGS perfects the techniques of the debut and adds new subtle elements to the mix which to the careful attentive listener will find a mind boggling amount of brilliance embedded in every aspect. Set mind status to fully blown!

“A Tap Dancer’s Dilemma” starts things off sounding like a Satanically spawned version of the Glenn Miller Orchestra that was somehow abducted by evil forces and had their DNA cryogenically spliced and preserved only to find its way into a strange new millennium. The track really sounds like Glen Miller’s “In The Mood” with its swinging characteristics but augmented by the metal riffing, Spaghetti western trombone and trumpet as well as the vocal dualistic antics of the operatic soprano prowess of Annlouice Wolgers and Daniel Håkansson’s playful male vocal counterpoints. In fact the entirety of the album finds these two throwing the ball back and forth which gives a lively call and response conversational oomf to the process.

“A Rancid Romance” shows immediate diversity to the album’s flow as it takes a tango groove on piano and bass and adds super heavy metal guitar riffing. Wolgers’ and Håkansson create a lyrical dialogue and interesting variations between the verse / chorus and bridge construct as the melody recurs throughout but new elements piled up bringing the whole thing to an interesting chaotic crescendo where progressive touches kick in with time signature freakouts alongside tension inducing drones that ultimately end in a symphonic acoustic classical Paganini violin solo.

As the tracks continue they only get more interesting. “Lucy Fears The Morning Star” engages a Wagner-esque classical pomp, a heavy metal stomp and high C glass shattering vocal sublimeness from Wolgers. “Bedlam Sticks” has more of a cartoonish feel. Sorta like an Elvis Presley meets Dracula vocal style that cedes into a rather demented bouncy metal stomp. “New World Widows” finds a respite from the bombastic approach with a nice echoey clean guitar intro that cedes into another bouncy metal rocker with Wolger’s diva vocals soaring like a white-winged dove. “Siberian Love Affairs” takes the Eastern Europe polka as a short interlude while “Vodka Inferno” continues another swinging metal stomp with some of the oom-pa-pa polka rhythms. “Memoirs Of A Roadkill” adopts a Django Reinhardt style of gypsy swing with exquisite guitar riffing but takes an unexpected Radiohead-esque alt rock turn. “Ricerca Dell’anima” implements a surf rock approach to adapt to the DSO way of doing things.

The album ends with the longest track “Stratosphere Serenade” that begins with a dynamic cello workout followed by some stellar metal guitar riffing. This is probably one of the more progressive tracks as it is a dialogue between the metal and classical elements with more varied time signatures than most tracks. Yet another track that sounds unlike the rest with many interesting movements within. The track climaxes with a lengthy fadeout of a recurring riff that speeds up. Quite the satisfying end of the demented journey. While being pegged as avant-garde metal, DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA should be considered to exist in their avant-garde world. The metal bombast is supplemental only to add a level of heaviness to the underlying swing jazz, gypsy folk, tango and classical elements.

This is experimental music in every possibly way and the ultimate statement of a 21st band that effortlessly amalgamates disparate 20th century genres. This is music nerd’s paradise and pretty much designed for those who love the individual elements that went into it. Personally this is my sort of music and the dynamic catchy melodic hooks that SING ALONG SONGS FOR THE DAMNED AND DELIRIOUS means i get a lot of mileage out of this one. In fact, it’s one of those albums that works on many levels. It is truly ear worm hook music that guarantees a pleasing melodic sing-along style experience while on a deeper level is super-sophisticated as it unleashes treasures upon multiple visiting experiences. While many avant-garde metal leaning bands have come and gone, none have so successfully pulled off what DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA achieved on their first two albums. As far as i’m concerned both are flawless examples of commingled creativity taken to the highest levels.

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