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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SIGH Imaginary Sonicscape Album Cover Imaginary Sonicscape
SIGH
4.48 | 27 ratings
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KAYO DOT Hubardo Album Cover Hubardo
KAYO DOT
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ARCTURUS The Sham Mirrors Album Cover The Sham Mirrors
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4.33 | 54 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 | 53 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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DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious Album Cover Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious
DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA
4.20 | 26 ratings
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MAUDLIN OF THE WELL Leaving Your Body Map Album Cover Leaving Your Body Map
MAUDLIN OF THE WELL
4.15 | 49 ratings
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CELTIC FROST Into the Pandemonium Album Cover Into the Pandemonium
CELTIC FROST
4.17 | 31 ratings
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MAUDLIN OF THE WELL Bath Album Cover Bath
MAUDLIN OF THE WELL
4.14 | 55 ratings
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SHINING Blackjazz Album Cover Blackjazz
SHINING
4.19 | 22 ratings
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avant-garde metal Music Reviews

DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious

Album · 2009 · Avant-garde Metal
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Unitron
Along with heavy metal, another style of music that I had grown up listening to quite a bit was Big Band and Swing music from the golden age of film. Although there was some Benny Goodman in the selection, most of what I heard were from the classic movie musicals of the 40's and 50's. I can't say I used to be a huge fan of the vocals, but I always loved the dancing and music that went along with it. In fact, I'd still rank classics like Royal Wedding (1951), The Band Wagon (1953), and It's Always Fair Weather (1955) among my favorite films.

Despite my love of both classic metal and classic films, I'd never have thought "Hey, you know Fred Astaire's awesome jazzy Shoe Shine song in The Band Wagon? Let's combine that with heavy metal and see what we get.". Wrathchild America did the swing and metal combo first back in 1991 with their song "Spy", or if you want to go even farther, Megadeth had some pretty swing-sounding rhythm sections on their first two albums. However, Diablo Swing Orchestra is to my knowledge the first band to make swing metal into an actual thing.

...and holy fuck. When I first heard "A Tap Dancer's Dilemma", I had no idea that this was something I wanted and needed, but fucking hell yes it was. Opening with that total classic sounding booming big band drum sound, it honestly sounds like you did just put on a swing record. Then those sexy horns and grinding guitar come in, it just sounds like a combo made in heaven. It really feels like this is from a scene from one of those old musicals, just with metal instrumentation added. Everything is just so fun, energetic, and just swingin'. Oh, and those basslines, those are smooth as silk that swings.

While the singing was my least favorite part of those musicals growing up, I've since grown to appreciate the vocal styles used such as opera singing and crooning. Usually when people think of opera and metal combined, they think of the over-abundance of Nightwish copycats, but here you couldn't get farther from that. This is real opera singing and other styles right out of those musicals. There's also some tango, surf, and other styles thrown in as far as the music goes. The metal aspect takes from alternative metal, thrash metal, funk metal, and some surprising nu-metal sounding riffs. There is absolutely no pretense here, just tasty licks and delicious riffs a plenty.

"Bedlam Sticks" has thrashing riffs shredding through your skin, blended with bass wizardry and quirky vocals that sounds right out of a Primus album. The vocals are all over the place on this song, with a mix of the aforementioned vocals, opera, cabaret, and even some death vocals thrown in there. "Vodka Inferno" has some crushing hooks that sound right out of a System of a Down album. "Rancid Romance" is an addicting metal tango, "Lucy Fears the Morning Star" has some colossal grooves, and "Ricerca Dell'anima" blends the musical metal sound with some cool surf rock techniques. Towards the end of the song, it's impossible to not love the blend of piercing groove metal riffing with those amazing horns. "Memoirs of a Roadkill" is the one song devoid of metal, and is what I can only call acoustic funk.

Just like the album opened up with the mind-blowing "A Tap Dancer's Dilemma", it closes with the mind-blowing "Stratosphere Serenade". These were the first two songs I heard from the band, and what an introduction. It's hard enough to describe this album as a whole, but this last song especially, I'm at a loss for words. There's some amazing cello work, massive grooves, and beautiful vocals, but this is one that you'll just have to listen to yourself.

This is a tough album to talk about, because no matter what I write in my review, I can't do it true justice. I've made it pretty clear that I'm an old school metal and hard rock fan, most of my all time favorite albums are from the 70's, 80's and 90's. It takes a lot for an album from the 21st century to become one of my all time favorite albums. Clutch's Psychic Warfare did that simply by being an amazing all killer no filler old-school hard rock album, Chevelle's North Corridor did it by being a crushing dirge of alterna-sludge, and Diablo Swing Orchestra did that by being a game-changer that hasn't gotten the game to change yet. It takes two kinds of music that I hold dear to my heart, along with a bunch of other stuff, and just created an album that I never thought I was looking for. While DSO is still around doing stuff, they'll never be the same with the departure of vocalist Annlouice Wolgers. Who knows if swing metal will ever expand beyond DSO's sound. I sure hope it does, but if it doesn't, one thing can be said. Sing-Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious is a one-of-a-kind album, and there's really nothing like it. If you haven't heard this album, check it out with an open mind. In an era where amazing music from new bands is hard to find, make this an essential listen.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/04/diablo-swing-orchestra-sing-along-songs.html

EX EYE Ex Eye

Album · 2017 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Post-rock? Post-metal? Post-jazz? or Post-psychedelia? Well, all of the above actually. EX EYE is a new kid on the block and making a whole lot of noise without resorting to cliche been-there done-that retro worship. This quartet of seasoned veterans formed in New York City consists of alto and bass saxophonist Colin Stetson ( Eternal Buzz Brass Band, The Sway Machinery, Transmission Trio ), guitarist Toby Summerfield ( Algernon, Crush Kill Destroy, Never Enough Hope ), synthesizer wizard Shahzad Ismaily ( 2 Foot Yard, Barbez, Burnt Sugar, Causing A Tiger, Ceramic Dog, Doveman, Kotkot, Pure Horsehair and Secret Chiefs 3 ) and drummer Greg Fox ( Guardian Alien, Liturgy, Teeth Mountain, Zs). EX EYE is one of those avant-garde type groups that is similar to others like Zu and Aluk Todolo and succeeds in creating a sort of frenetic drone type music, that meaning a very hypnotic anchoring system with a hornet’s nest of buzzing instruments that swirl around its center with extra attention on hyperactive saxophone attacks, black metal riffs that dance in the dark with oscillating swirling synthesizer sounds.

While the post-metal tag genre tag has traditionally been somewhat synonymous with sludge metal such as with bands like Neurosis and Isis pretty much fitting into both worlds, the two subgenera are not exactly identical at all. Sludge metal is derived primarily from doom metal with aggressive emphasis on guitar feedback and groovy riffs and angry vocals often bordering on hardcore punk whereas post-metal owes its atmospheric hypnotic riffs and grooves more to the world of post-rock which focuses on long drawn out and repetitive passages that slowly shift the dynamics of the atmosphere and tempos. EX EYE is more of the latter but does exhibit both styles as they are conservative with root notes and profligate with the subtle and abrupt changes around them. The end result is a very groovy and hypnotic drift through frenzied sax and guitar solos and complex flurries of synthesized bliss that deftly blend the simplistic with an array of complex counterpoints. The band is also unique as far as i know in that they substitute the bass guitar with a bass saxophone. Their debut eponymous album consists of four mostly lengthy tracks and there is a bonus twelve minute track on digital forms.

“Xenolith; The Anvil” (3:55) is the shortest track that carries a repetitive almost funk type groove that extends pretty much throughout. Graced with a heavy dramatic technical drum workout to dazzle us upon first listen, the track quickly chills out with a lackadaisical percussive drive as the groove unfolds slowly followed by the guitar and sax counterpoints that ratchet up the tension. “Opposition/Perihelion; The Coil” (12:29) takes on a new persona with a syncopated drum and bass sax line on hyperdrive and stuck in a two note groove that eventually takes on a slight musical scale and is the track that sounds most like Aluk Todolo however just when you think the groove is set on cruise control it changes things up with a partial melodic change. After the frenetic intro, the guitar becomes sludgy and slows down while the saxophone parts become fuel injected as if they are channeling John Zorn at his most caffeinated.

“Anaitis Hymnal; The Arkose Disc” (11:56) makes me think a Klaus Schulze CD has been slipped into my player as a dark and brooding electronic storms brews with a dreadful hum and a swarm of insectoid aliens flying ahead. The percussion joins in but as an intermittent tom strike that feels as if a sole giant is thundering the Earth as he walks upon its fragile crust. As the synth takes me to Neptune, the sax gains power as an oscillating beacon of terror and then, the final straw breaks the camel’s back as the relentless blastbeat drumming adds the final fear inducing ingredient as the sax goes even crazier and the instruments all start to fade in and out of tune with each other until they reach a terrifying frenetic climax. Yes, indeed. This is the soundtrack of nightmares. “Form Constant; The Grid” (8:08) delivers an oscillating sax attack that is accompanied by a high pitched atmospheric backdrop before it all goes nuts with frenetic nonstop avant-garde jazz sax noodling, guitar bombast and a minimalist synthesizer sequence that reminds me of Philip Glass’ “Glassworks” and “Koyaanisqatsi” era.

Tten Crows : The Corruptor” (bonus track digital only) (12:01) is surprisingly quite different from the rest of the pack and the most bizarre. It consists of an intermittent guitar riffs, somewhat lazy following percussive drive and a frenetic synth and sax dueling it out. This one actually has more of a drawn out melody although every note is amplified by sax shredding and atmospheric weirdness. The guitar is also much more aggressive as it enters pure metal territory. In the middle it changes into some sort of Latin percussion with an acid jazz type of keyboard run. The guitar fuzz is thicker on this one and there is more of guitar dominated soloing that steals the show from the attention hog saxophone parts. This one is pretty cool and just as good as the other four tracks. Unfortunately i have the CD so it’s not on there.

EX EYE crank out a fairly sophisticated mix of minimalistic grooves wrapped up in jazzy saxophone virtuosity and psychedelic atmospheric ambience. The guitar, while present is usually reserved for power chords with the odd dominant riff entering the scene but is always in the background. All the musicians rely on intricate interplay and although certain segments showcase a retrospective instrument, the overall fabric of the music is very much dependent on how it’s all woven together. The repetitive groovy feel is extremely hypnotic while the overly busy counterpoints whizz around like a swarm of wasps that just had their nest knocked to the ground. While this isn’t as avant-garde and weird as it’s made out to be since it’s in the same musical experimental tree as bands like Aluk Todolo and Zu, EX EYE does however stand out as a fairly unique sounding outfit. Whether this pans out to be a full time project or not remains to be seen, but as for now EX EYE has conjured up a satisfying slice of hypnotic varied post-metal with all kinds of frenetic accoutrements that take the listener into dark musical soundscapes.

ARCTURUS Arcturian

Album · 2015 · Avant-garde Metal
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Warthur
Arcturus took a decade off of creating studio albums after Sideshow Symphonies and have returned with this, a pretty solid new release which, though it lacks any fully-fledged epics (with all the song lengths at less than six minutes), still offers a confection of progressive-minded metal with symphonic and black metal touches, with the inclusion of (unless my ears deceive me) an actual string section really allowing them to bring their symphonic aspect to the fore. Sebastian Grouchot guests on violin and adds a nicely melancholic touch to pieces such as Crashland.

Like the preceding Sideshow Symphonies, this does not feel like as striking and groundbreaking a release as any of their first three studio albums (up to and including the classic Sham Mirrors). Still, if you loved those you will probably enjoy this, and even if other musicians have caught up with the far-out territory of Arcturus, Arcturian is still a nicely polished example of this sort of black-about-the-edges progressive metal.

ARCTURUS Sideshow Symphonies

Album · 2005 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Warthur
As far as Arcturus album titles go, "Sideshow Symphonies" is rather apt. "Symphonies" are in play in the sense that the music is deep in progressive realms with, as in the classic Sham Mirrors or La Masquerade Infernale, only hints of their earlier black metal style present (and these are buried deeper than ever). And "Sideshow" in the sense that this doesn't feel like a top-flight, main event level Arcturus album.

Perhaps part of the issue is that the album explores a somewhat more mellow side of their sound, which following the bombastic moments of the previous two albums may feel rather restrained and meek. It's still an interesting enough release in its own right, with influences ranging from Pink Floyd (Shipwrecked Frontier Pioneer) to, I swear, just a hint of IQ (just imagine Peter Nicholls singing Hibernation Sickness Complete and you might see what I mean), but I can see why it's an often overlooked album from them.

MR. BUNGLE Bowel of Chiley

Demo · 1987 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
The second MR BUNGLE demo emerged only a year after the first and found the band shedding their death metal skin and began to take on a ska funk rock sound that was part of the alternative underground of the 80s most notably mastered by bands like Fishbone, Red Hot Chili Peppers and 24/7 Spyz amongst others. Likewise with a sound shift came a new cast of characters. While Mike Patton, Trey Spruance and Trevor Dunn were riding the BUNGLE carousel for the long run, others like Jed Watts and Martin Fosnaugh jumped ship after only one demo. While Theo Lengyel wouldn’t remain with the band till its demise, he nevertheless appeared on all the early demos. The is also the only appearance of Scott Fritz who played trumpet.

So different in style is the second demo BOWEL OF CHILEY compared to the previous “The Raging Wrath Of The Easter Bunny” that it sounds like a completely different band with only Mike Patton’s signature vocal style giving a clue as to who this band is. While the first demo was rather short in length, BOWEL OF CHILEY is a full album’s length with different tracks taking on different identities ranging from ska and funk rock to (occasional) avant-garde metal and just plain weird rock. While the the next two demos showcased many of the primeval forms of tracks that would be reworked and released on the 1991 debut album, this one contains almost exclusively compositions that would never see the light of day on any album with the sole exception of “Carousel” which sounds very primitive compared to the masterpiece it would become. While the main melodic riff was already developed, Mike Patton’s vocals weren’t and the whole thing sounds like a drunken romp at a Mexican mariachi party.

Speaking of mariachi parties, “Evil Satan” probably sounds the most like a Mexican tequila march and fully in sync with the swing revival fad of the 90s with a dash of alternative rock guitar added to the recipe. Nice trumpet work though and this tracks sounds a lot like Fishbone only not nearly as good as their debut EP from 1985. “Jumping” has some great jazzy guitar work from Spruance although Patton doesn’t quite pull off the Ethel Merman thing with his scatting. The track “( )” (no, Sigur Ros didn’t come up with that!) is probably my favorite as Trevor Dunn displays his full bass playing fury as does Spruance churn out the most funkified guitar riffs that turn into heavy funk metal. Also Patton seems to have mastered his vocals and overall the track is just more interesting and varied. It sounds more professional and closer to the avant-garde funk metal prowess of the debut album. It’s also a sneak preview into the world of progressive rock with some wickedly cool time signature deviations and compositional fortitude.

There are two versions of this demo. The first was released as a cassette and meant to be what it was released as: a demo. It contained twelve tracks from “For No Reason” to “Freight Train.” The popularity of the band in the 90s found the demand for their demos to be re-issued so lo and behold a CD version emerged in 1997 with five extra unreleased tracks with cute names like “Far In A Bag” and “Snap, Crackle, Pop.” Although an improvement and a welcome stylistic shift from their lackluster death metal days, BOWEL OF CHILEY is a long way from prime time and finds the band able to write a few catchy songs, most of the tracks come off as amateurish and mediocre. Add to that that they still haven’t mastered the art of performing them. Patton’s vocals are particularly awful and he hadn’t quite learned the techniques he was grasping for. An interesting historical artifact for those who wish to dig deep but not really of interest for anyone else.

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