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:
  • Bosh66
  • siLLy puPPy (leader)


avant-garde metal top albums

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KAYO DOT Hubardo Album Cover Hubardo
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4.60 | 8 ratings
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4.36 | 12 ratings
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FANTÔMAS The Director's Cut Album Cover The Director's Cut
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4.46 | 6 ratings
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avant-garde metal Music Reviews

BUCKETHEAD Pike 267 - Thoracic Spine Collapser

Album · 2017 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
BUCKETHEAD (as Bucketheadland) / Pike 267 - Thoracic Spine Collapser / 24th release of 2017 / All instrumental / Contains 8 tracks / Clocks in at 29minutes 36seconds / everything played by Buck-buck-buckethead.

“Thoracic Outlet Syndrome” (2:58) starts things off with a heavy processed riff crunch that has a quickened tempo, a rather thrash oriented chugga chug and then adds some lightning fast guitar licks to the mix. It continues with a rather detached proggy float through time signature alley but then turns into an electronica frenzy before letting a mask melting guitar solo erupts. It reverts back into industrial thrash land. Towards the end it breaks into funk rock. A lot of mileage covered in this short monster

“Thoracic Sprain” (2:59) jumps into echoey heavy distorted riffs that sort of skip like a record as well. Instantly guitar solos erupt into an energetic frenzy before it becomes more of a psychedelic space metal echo guitar show but wait! It then goes somewhere unexpected. No way! Basically this one jumps all around from slower passages to heavier ones and changing the riffs, rhythms and basically everything as it moves on. Sort of a medley of BUCKETHEADLAND. Passages can range from total cacophony to little melodic rock bits

“Nerve Compression at T4” (3:54) changes over and adds even more zest and zeal to the energetic parade through strange metal riffing. This one is more of monster stomp type of riffing but then becomes more of a heavy distorted arpeggio followed by an ever changing rotisserie of changin’ it up styles. The segments are getting shorter and generally last only 30 seconds or so. They all have a few things in common: heavy, distorted, noisy and demented. Of course there is the occasional slow burner only fleetingly so

“Nerve Compression at T5” (4:08) begins with a heavy blues riff that sounds like a more caffeinated version of Stevie Ray Vaughan but of course that doesn’t last long and soon a serious bass funk groove erupts as does frenetic guitar solos. At this point it’s impossible to predict where these roller coaster tracks will lead you but this one tends to stay within the rails of blues rock, funk rock with only occasional outbursts into alt metal and weirdo left field ventures

“Nerve Stability at T6” (3:48) begins totally different with a robotic distorted bass groove and only a little atmospheric guitar frosting while metallic noise fuzz looms in the background. Very ominous and industrial feeling with the pace of sped of doom metal but very hypnotic until it takes a sharp turn into faster blues oriented hard rock with a guitar solo. At least for a while before it begins the spiral down another adventurous coaster track. Tempos speed up and then slow down. Complete musical breakdown and then eruptions into new styles with different instrumentals changing up their roles. Heavy blues rock makes the most appearances in this one. Ends with echoey space guitars and riff finale

“Complete Shutdown of Central Nervous System” (4:09) begins with an off-kilter guitar riff that has odd time sigs and then bursts into crunchy metal riffing and then the two styles alternate. After a frenetic venture into noise rock, it changes into funk rock and then a sizzling solo bedazzles before more blues rock enters the coop.

“Thoracic Park (home of the most spine shattering roller coasters)” (2:36) actually does have sort of a soundtrack quality to it as it chugs along in a mega-metal funk type of way. The bass riff is off the charts as the guitar adds licks but ultimately takes over with a cute little thematic riff session. The metal guitar parts are down tuned and this one actually continues an overall theme and melody throughout its existence unlike some of the other aimless tracks

“Rejuvenation Chamber” (5:04) is completely different for this PIKE. This starts out with ambient electronic swirls with a subdued guitar slowly unfurling a molasses flow paced melody. BUCKETHEAD’s ambient tracks are hit and miss with more missing the mark but this one is actually pretty freakin’ good. It has a very nice melody that is carried out by the interaction of the guitar riff but augmented by the ambient synth sounds. It is very ethereal without bass and drums. It’s like a meditative cloud sweep through the skies and after a noisy, chaotic PIKE, quite the surprise.

Not bad. Although this style of PIKE has been done many times before. BH has been perfecting his chaotic roller coaster rides in BUCKETHEADLAND to make a more balanced feel to his preferred madness of choice. Although the genre styles and avant-garde adventusisms are in full effect, there is something more gentle about how this Frankenstein is stitched together. As the PIKE progresses it gets ever more frenetic but the final track offers a nice little musical valium pill to assure the listener that everything is all right and that it was just a musical coaster ride that is now over.

DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA The Butcher's Ballroom

Album · 2006 · Avant-garde Metal
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Warthur
Diablo Swing Orchestra's basic schtick was pretty well codified on this debut album: take some lukewarm metal, apply influences from prog and swing, ladle on some operatic vocals and serve with melodrama. It's fun and all, but I find it wears thin over the course of an entire album taking this general approach. The Orchestra is clearly a technically gifted crew, though, and individual songs are enjoyable in small doses, but it feels like a mash-up too far - like if they did opera-swing, or metal opera, or swing metal, it'd work better than this attempt at operatic swing metal.

The album was made freely available via Creative Commons, though, so no harm in checking it out to see if it's more to your taste than mine.

ESTRADASPHERE It's Understood

Album · 2000 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
ESTRADASPHERE was formed in 1998 in Santa Cruz, CA and a part of the extended Mr Bungle family as the band was formed by members of Trey Spruance’s (at the time) side project Secret Chiefs 3. This musical ensemble was founded by violinist and trumpet player Timba Harris and guitarist / banjoist Jason Schimmel of SC3 fame along with drummer Dave Murray. On their debut release IT’S UNDERSTOOD they take the Mr Bungle, Frank Zappa and John Zorn approach of applying technical wizardry, healthy genre shuffling and frenetic instrumental workouts that created mind-bending fusion styles such as "Bulgarian Surf", "Romanian Gypsy-Metal", and "Spaghetti Eastern" and sounded like "Psychedelic-Sci-fi", "Gypsy-Metal-Jazz" and “Epic-Cinema-Thon,” as described by the band itself.

Stylistically ESTRADASPHERE is somewhat similar to Secret Chiefs 3 from which they sprang forth only whereas SC3 used Middle Eastern music and Surf Rock as their template to experiment upon, ESTRADASPHERE uses the violin saturated styles of Balkan gypsy music and Klezmer as their foundation. That means generally speaking they begin a track with an energetic violin led outburst of rhythmic gypsy sounds that ride down the Mr Bungle highway as they genre skip and incorporate everything from bluegrass and klezmer to death metal and video game chiptune. Zappa influences are abundant with whimsical titles (“The Trials And Tribulations Of Parking On Your Front Lawn”) and hilarious musical contradictions (“Danse Of Tosho And Slavi / Randy’s Desert Adventure”) where frenetic death metal can sit side by side with placid slowed down classical violin solos. Same goes for the death metal meets yoga meditation chant on “Spreading The Disease” which finds evil sounding metal riffs alternating with relaxing soccer mom meditation class instructions!

“The Transformation” and “Planet Sparkle / Court Yard Battle 1” both find use for cleverly crafted use of classic old school video game music. The album is bookended by two monster tracks with the opener “Hunger Strike” clocking in at 19 minutes and 30 seconds. Both are based in the same Balkan gypsy folk music but deviate from their belying intros manyfold and seemingly leave no genre stone unturned in their wake and if that weren’t enough ESTRADASPHERE which is a band of highly trained virtuosos is quite playful in creating some of the most sophisticated and convoluted progressive rock time signature changes that never sound forced and always succeed in blowing the mind.

ESTRADASPHERE comes off much like Secret Chiefs 3 in their focus on the ethnic elements but is more adventurous and therefore seems a bit like a more refined and less schizophrenic version of Mr Bungle so in effect, the perfect extended family member of one of the most creative branches in the experimental rock universe. IT’S UNDERSTOOD is a highly enjoyable debut and one of my favorites in the band’s canon. It is well-paced with the disparate elements utilized for maximum effect while incorporating strong ethnically based hooks that often make you think you’ve crashed some sort of alternative music festival in Bosnia & Herzegovina or something! Very few musicians could pull off these musical gymnastics with such grace and precision but the members of ESTRADASPHERE truly conjured up some highly addictive musicomania. Another one that will surely please all the adventurous listeners out there.

UNEXPECT Fables of the Sleepless Empire

Album · 2011 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Sonic shockwaves detonated once again a long five years after their second album “In A Flesh Aquarium” when the erratic and eclectic avant-garde musical maestros UNEXPECT simultaneously took the prog and metal communities by storm. The crazed and quirky Quebecois jugglers of supersonic entropy unleashed their followup FABLES OF THE SLEEPLESS EMPIRE which continued the forceful cross-pollination of musical genres like abducted animals that are stuffed into a meat grinder and stuffed into a sausage casing. The dizzying inaccessible mess of sound was resurrected for a second haunting like a circus of doom returning to town and unleashing intoxicated circus clowns out to destroy everything they touch with the musical equivalence of classically trained jugglers passing musical genres around like flaming chainsaws. Like it’s predecessor FABLES delivers all the goods of weaving the ultimate tapestry of several metal styles, gypsy folk, electronica and even tango amongst others and impregnates them into a Western classical underpinning that allows it all to explode into one of the most satisfying examples of controlled chaos in all of contemporary extreme musical expressions.

Infused with bombastic metal riffs and black metal shrieks, ghoulish chants or histrionic outbursts of tormented recitations, the unhinged male vocal contributions of SyriaK and Artagoth are diluted in their abrasiveness by the female vocal loveliness of Leïlindel’s folklore femininity and newbie Borboen’s Paganini flair of violin playing with a style more often reminiscent of a circus gypsy having an extremely high-octane episode. In between it all lies the unique 9-stringed bass lines of ChaotH that connect the dots but only after an enterprising journey through several progressive tornado run riffs of spirited vigor. And then add on the strange lethargic intros that ratchet up the tension while languishing in tranquil torpidity before launching into tumultuous musical terror that bombards the listener with incessant excess all the while creating just enough of a melodic hook to keep your head from exploding. Ah, uneasy listening at its zenith, UNEXPECT raise the bar of musical complexity like a pole runner carrying the Olympic torch all the way up Mt Everest in under 61 minutes.

To say the least, there is nothing to compare UNEXPECT’s music to except, of course, UNEXPECT itself. While very much in vein of “In A Flesh Aquarium,” FABLES does seem to be more focused which is neither good or bad but merely different. The main difference being in the fact that on FABLES musical motifs are allowed to retain a longer shelf life as every musical idea in the universe isn’t as prevalent as on “Aquarium” where a listening experience is equivalent to riding in the eye of a tornado and watching all the notes whizz by in utterly unpredictable ways. Here at least, despite being bombarded by the myriad mega-stimuli, there is a concerted effort to let the hooks sink in a little deeper before the ultimate uprooting and casting off into turbulent atmospheric disturbances. True to their vision with a slighty more polished touch, UNEXPECT retain the crown of most chaotic crazy and creative masters of the avant-garde metal universe. While this one took me longer to gestate in my psyche before the alien forces hatched, i find FABLES OF THE SLEEPLESS EMPIRE to be equally as brilliantly inventive as “Aquarium.” Although it would take another five years and no albums later, the capricious creative ones announced that the band would continue no longer. Now THAT was truly UNEXPECT-ed!

FANTÔMAS Fantômas

Album · 1999 · Avant-garde Metal
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aglasshouse
If you're at all familiar with famed avant-garde metal act Mr. Bungle or it's mastermind Mike Patton, then you shouldn't be at all unaware as to the contents of Fantomas. Or maybe you should. Who knows at this point.

Fantomas originates from the titular character in a 1964 French film (or the 1913 thing, whatever you please), which was directed by the late Andre Hunebelle who just so happened to be a master glass-maker. Who would have guessed? Anywho, after the group Mr. Bungle sort-of kind-of broke up in 1999 (even though, not really- 2004 about) and avant-garde fetishist Mike Patton wanted another way to oust his urges since Faith No More wasn't really cutting it. Thus, Fantomas was born from a horrifying musical Caesarean section unto the world. Seeing as the last album of Mr. Bungle (which came in the same year, 1999) had combinations of doo-wop and thrash metal, it's safe to say that whatever this 'Fantomas' thing can't exactly be called 'normal'.

A first question I asked upon first inspection of this self-titled record was, "how the hell do I listen to it?" At first glance the first connection you might draw towards is grindcore, a similar genre with very short track times as well. Don't. It's not that.

Allow me to take a moment of clarity for a second. Like any avant-garde album, criticism is hard to levy towards it. I mean, something so erratic can't be easily pinned down. Lyrical quality is of course non-existent, although I do commend Mike Patton for his impeccable variation between "KI-KI-KI-KI-KI-KI-KI" and "hyena screeching after being impaled with four spears" impression, both of which are like audio serenades. It is definitely metal, for sure. Dave Lombardo, drummer of Slayer, is of course delivers a very powerful performance (at least when he's actually on the mic), especially when the music goes full monty on the metal aspect. Other than that differentiation of bass and guitar by Trevor Dunn and Buzz Osborne is practically impossible amidst all the noise. They are rather nice when they get a minute's time to shred and hit a crazy solo.

But the aforementioned noise is the centerpiece of this. For what it is, which is practically nothing, it's well-produced. Mike Patton is a man who is very fond of nothing, such as that one time when he recorded himself for 43 minutes clapping and screaming in a hotel room in '96*. When he gets a chance to do some neat stuff, he does it rather well. Every time the album goes silent the silence feels heavy, which is a very dismal yet cathartic experience you won't find in really any other genre. The ambiance of the piece yields interesting material as well, like film audio-samples (presumably from Fantomas or films of its caliber) and other industrial noises, all which create an example of metal degradation, something I'm sure Mr. Patton was going for. Although there are many motifs in Fantomas, such as a certain falsetto that Patton does occasionally and extremely high pitched screaming, which do tend to lose their effect after a few listens.

Although I can't really pin down specific tracks that I feel most in-tune with, I won't list any others than 'Page 26', which is so eerily...evil in it's intensity. Rarely have I found any other musical pieces that have instilled genuine discomfort in me more than this particular piece. Very interesting.

All in all I apologize for the disjointedness of some of my thoughts. I am someone who likes to write reviews of music while listening to the music itself. In doing so I sometimes channel the musical nature of it into the reviews themselves. What you just read is the product of a Fantomas-laden mind, and I'm sorry. As for the album itself, I suppose it hit its mark as a discomforting or overly-pretentious production, but it doesn't really break through any boundaries past that. Is it even worth proof reading this?

*THIS IS ACTUALLY TRUE

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