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

Showing only albums and EPs | Based on members ratings & MMA custom algorithm | 60 min. caching

KAYO DOT Hubardo Album Cover Hubardo
4.62 | 19 ratings
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SHINING Grindstone Album Cover Grindstone
4.60 | 8 ratings
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FANTÔMAS The Director's Cut Album Cover The Director's Cut
4.67 | 5 ratings
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ARCTURUS The Sham Mirrors Album Cover The Sham Mirrors
4.28 | 53 ratings
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SIGH Gallows Gallery Album Cover Gallows Gallery
4.36 | 12 ratings
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SIGH Imaginary Sonicscape Album Cover Imaginary Sonicscape
4.27 | 25 ratings
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DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA The Butcher's Ballroom Album Cover The Butcher's Ballroom
4.25 | 25 ratings
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THY CATAFALQUE Rengeteg Album Cover Rengeteg
4.24 | 13 ratings
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KAYO DOT Choirs Of The Eye Album Cover Choirs Of The Eye
4.14 | 52 ratings
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SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM Of Natural History Album Cover Of Natural History
4.14 | 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
4.14 | 24 ratings
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AKPHAEZYA Anthology II : Links from the Dead Trinity Album Cover Anthology II : Links from the Dead Trinity
4.32 | 6 ratings
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avant-garde metal Music Reviews


Album · 2016 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Well into the 21st century it seems like the ability to create an original product in the context of the greater metal universe becomes ever more difficult as subgenres splinter out into every possible direction like newly formed branches on trees. While most bands seem to settle on a few influences and adhere to a set parameter that they won’t expand beyond, some bands like the bizarre experimental act Q’UQ’UMATZ have no problem with scouring the entire musical universe in order to find inspiration. Founded in South Lake Tahoe, CA and named after the Mayan deity who was one of the gods who created the world in the Popol Vih which was the famous K’iche’ creation epic. Like that god, this band has created some of the most distinct and experimental metal music of the modern era incorporating everything from atmospheric black metal, post-rock and progressive rock alongside with traditional Native American music, noise rock and neo-psychedelia.

This is one of those bands that prefers to remain mysterious and enigmatic not releasing their identities or even the instruments played on their albums. Everything is a freakish romp through the sonic parade of their own making. Having only debuted in the year 2016, the band set forth by releasing two albums in the single year of which this debut TEPEU (another K’iche’ Mayan language term that means “sovereign,” “one who conquers” or “one who is victorious”) came first (followed by “I Know It’s The Trees….”) Prepare yourself for an adventurous ride into the unknown with this one as there is nothing i’ve ever heard that can compare to it. Just like a trip from Quetzaltenango, Guatemala to the verdant jungles surrounding the mysterious ancient pyramids of Tikal, Q’UQ’UMATZ delivers a musical journey that flows much like a physical journey across the ever changing landscapes of our planet.

While beginning with indigenous flute music of the Central American region where the Mayan ruled for centuries and still exist in sizable numbers, Q’UQ’UMATZ are the masters of musical flow where they slowly morph into one style of music over the other creating a sort of baton passing effect with more than one style usually existing at any given moment. Whether they incorporate black metal riffs, post-rock atmospheric presence or extremely challenging progressive rock time signatures that run amok, they exhibit a tidal wave of moods and textures ranging from moog organ psychedelia to some of the most unexpected layers of styles that create wild and vivacious counterpoints in atonal yet satisfying rhythmic patterns. This is avant-garde to the max! Some tracks like “Ik Kil Cenote” are just frenetic and complex beyond belief and enough to make some music listener’s heads explode as it delivers several polyrhythms imposed upon each other with each trying to be more jarring and freaky than the other. While the album is almost entirely instrumental, there finally emerge some black metal shrieks that appear after the eight minute mark of the final title track.

TEPEU is evenly split between three shorter tracks and three very long ones that all exceed the twelve minute mark with the title track nearing a whopping 25! This is simply music so bizarre and resistant to any points of reference that is the epitome of the avant-garde that defies every possible attempt at such silly notions of nomenclature. It seems like every single aspect of this music has been designed to be utterly alien to any comparisons. Despite being an utterly alien sounding and a soundtrack for the deranged on lysergic joyrides in the astral planes, there is a continuity in the rhythmic flow which saves this from collapsing into a free fall train wreck that sputters into the truest form of chaos however that doesn’t mean that progressive time signature don’t change at the drop of hat, it only means that somehow Q’UQ’UMATZ create a totally satisfying river of consciousness that allows the listener to float on their little inner tube with their head phones on allowing each segment of the music connect logically to the next despite every segment being completely off-kilter in its mondo bizarro reality. I love this! This is simultaneously sensual and aggressive as hell and creates a distinct soniscape that connects the dots but never tells you where those dots reside. This would CERTAINLY have been included on the Nurse With Wound List had it come about 40 years ago!

BUCKETHEAD The Cuckoo Clocks of Hell

Album · 2004 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
After a dip into a mellower retro 70s vibe on his previous release “Population Override,” BUCKETHEAD turned up the adrenaline several notches and returned to a more extreme metal sound with his 13th album THE CUCKOO CLOCKS OF HELL which was also his 3rd and final album of 2004. This one has been called one of BUCKETHEAD’s most extreme metal releases and that is probably true at least up until some of the later Pikes like “Twisted Branches,” however this one dishes out a series of frenetic heavy spastic metal riffs at the speed of light with absolutely no regard to any sort of traditional songwriting orthodoxy. Many of the tracks are quite progressive in their sophistication with time signatures run amok, brutal passages that could at times fit in on tech death metal and avant-garde guitar workouts like there’s no tomorrow. Like most BUCKETHEAD albums, this one is totally instrumental with BH abusing the stringed instruments and Dan Monti helping out on drums.

THE CUCKOO CLOCKS OF HELL is also one of the more famous BH releases for the fact that it contains the track “Spokes For The Wheel Of Torment” which is one of only four BH tracks ever set to video and i must say that it is one of the coolest videos i’ve ever seen as it features a semi-animated horrorscape cape set in the Bosch painting “Garden Of Earthly Delights” and the animated segments correspond to the progressive outbursts as heard on the track. There are also two cover versions. One with BH peeking out of a charcoal grey CUCKOO CLOCK on the wall and another with more colorful display of different artistry. Many of the track titles make reference to Dante’s Inferno, the first part of Dante Alighieri’s 14th century epic poem Divine Comedy.

This album begins with a tick-tocking of a clock and then a CUCKOO bird ushers in an industrial metal riff explosion that fully fueled and head banging to the max. The riffs are followed by a series of guitar solos, funk passages and avant-garde jittery riffing segments which pretty much sets the stage for the entire aggressively delivered progressive punch into the avant-garde metal world. One of my favorite tracks are “The Treeman” which has little guitar runs that sound like insects talking to each other as well as doom-laden crunch slow riffs however it has so many style switch-ups that it’s impossible to name them all. A funky bass line is never far behind either. Another favorite is “Bedlam’s Bluff” with its off-kilter timings and altering of aggressive riffing with avant-funky licks. “Moth To Flame” has some of the most technically horror filled guitar workouts i’ve ever heard!

THE CUCKOO CLOCKS OF HELL is a stellar release of avant-garde metal with each track changing things up enough to create its own identity while keeping an overall feel to the entire album. This album displays some of BH’s most diverse guitar playing skills with everything from extreme metal and jazz to cartoonish type rhythms as well as the expected invented musical scales that sound as alien as anything you could ever imagination. This one is highly recommended for the adventurous music lover of avant-garde instrumental music that takes all the ingredients of metal, jazz, classical, funk and even gypsy swing and boils them down into a hellish concoction that is quite the adventurous ride.

BUCKETHEAD Island of Lost Minds

Album · 2004 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
ISLAND OF LOST MINDS is rather unique in the BUCKETHEAD discography. His 11th album (1st of 2004) was only sold at his shows while he was touring and was self-released in limited quantity and long out-of-print and almost impossible to find despite being re-released once in 2006 by TDRS Music. Before the chicken lover was a one man show he had lots of help and on this one Del Rey Brewer handles drums and Dan Monti produced, mixed and recorded in the studio. While BUCKETHEAD was always up for some experimentation in his works, this one takes it to another level and shows that he was utterly fearless in jumping into the avant-garde mosh pits of experimentation and creates some of the weirdest sounds he has ever come up with in his long egg laying career.

Right from the beginning of the title track it’s clear that the dissonance and experimental picking techniques are the focus on much of ISLAND OF LOST MINDS. While the percussive beat remains rather rhythmic, the atonality of the guitar chords and sound effects conjures up visions of the most out there jazz artists of music history. Think Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman. On the tech metal side i can’t help but think of Gorguts, Portal, Mitochondrion etc at least in some of the riffing. Also heard are strange pinch harmonics, lots of pick scraping, tremolo picking, vibrato and staccato proggy time signatures that sound totally demented. In fact if it weren’t for the percussive beat, this one would sound like alien love war songs in another universe! Song structure is almost non-existence most of the time and free form metal might be the best description of this however there are moments of “normal” riffing that take place in between the dissonant guitar freakery. Some tracks like “Dream Darts” are just plain frightening!

Probably one of the weirdest album in BUCKETHEAD’s early career. While the focus is on the dissonance and sound experimentation, ISLAND OF LOST MINDS is very playful and Del Rey Brewer tends to keep BH on a leash with an accessible rhythmic drive that keeps the guitar riffs from totally breaking down into unrecognizable gibberish. There are also times where classical riffs, bluesy shuffles, frenetic solo outbursts as well as nursery rhymes like “Mary Had A Little Lamb come from left field!” While many types of metal are involved it sounds mostly like the fit would be in the alternative, sludge and industrial camps but thrash and even boogie type riffing can emerge from nowhere as well but wrapped up with progressive and avant-garde touches. Anyone familiar with BH’s Pike series will recognize many of the styles on display but perhaps not in such a concentrated manner. Whether the guitar is simulating a duck quacking or a conversation between demonic forces, it is always changing it up and taking the listener into totally new and unexpected terrain. This is one for the hardcores who love dissonant noise and avant-jazz freedom of expression. While not the absolute weirdest album ever created, this one certainly is one mother of experimentation and one that i quite like.

AKPHAEZYA Anthology II : Links from the Dead Trinity

Album · 2008 · Avant-garde Metal
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MMA Reviewer's Challenge: Album selected by adg211288.

Avant-garde metal is usually an interesting listen, as you never quite know what to expect. It's home to bands that exceed the boundaries of other genres, often incorporating many elements of non-metal music beyond the usual classical music and jazz fusion technique of instrumentation. Now, interesting doesn't always mean good, and I often find avant-garde metal to be a mess of ideas. Because of this, it can either be fantastic when those ideas are all incorporated into a cohesive whole, or very painful to listen to when those ideas are scattered all around with nothing to put them together.

French avant-garde metal band Akphaezya unfortunately ends up sounding like the latter in the first song after a sort of ambient intro. "Chrysalis" sounds like separate jam sessions placed over each other in a smorgasbord of styles that lack the cohesion that could put all the pieces together. One second there will be a calm and serene folk melody, then without warning black metal blastbeats and growls come in like you just turned on a different album. This keeps repeating throughout the song with various styles. It's a real shame, as I love the jazzy lounge/swing metal moments when they come in, but nothing lasts long enough to get the listener really invested.

The album isn't entirely like this however. Thankfully, there are several songs that each stick to one style for the most part. I think this is what generally works better. Mixing a slew of ideas is great, but it can be much more rewarding when each song uses one or two of those styles rather than trying to stick as much as you can into one song. "The Golden Vortex of Kaltaz" is the highlight of the album, and it takes on a somewhat thrashy symphonic metal sound. The guitars have a gritty crunch, while the vocals range from melodic clean vocals to growls a couple times within the song. "The Secret of Time" is another one of the best tracks, this time with a middle-eastern vibe.

Besides the lack of cohesion on several tracks, what often kills the album for me are the vocals. The instrumentation is very often great when it all fits together, but Nehl Aëlin's thick accent and eclectic use of vocal techniques end up ruining some songs that would otherwise be great. Take "Reflections" for example. There's some killer guitar licks, but I find it's easy to get distracted and annoyed when the vocals are switching from bouncy J-pop, to maniacal squealing a la The Mars Volta, to simply average melodic vocals. While vocalists who have this eclectic range of tones and styles to their voice are often lauded, I often find the multiple singing styles works better overall when multiple singers are applied, as usually the singers can play off of one another, making them all blend well. However, I will give credit where credit is due, as her vocals on the two songs I mentioned in the previous paragraph are pretty great.

Akphaezya's Anthology II: Links from the Dead Trinity is certainly an acquired taste. While it will probably be an excellent album for the staunch followers of the genre, this may be a bit of a tough listen at times for those who like a bit more cohesion in their music. It's nowhere near the worst of the genre, but nowhere near the best either. If they focused in on one or two styles for each song and didn't include crazy vocals, I think this could be a great record. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

SHINING Grindstone

Album · 2007 · Avant-garde Metal
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Having started out playing an eccentric style of flute-focused jazz fusion, Shining had undergone a long evolution, and Grindstone represents the tipping point where the metal components of their music shifted from being occasional influences (as in the preceding In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster) to being a central plank of the group's sound. Though the group had yet to grab onto the industrial influences which would bring this formula to perfection on Blackjazz, this off-kilter mashup of black metal, prog rock, and eccentric fusion will appeal to anyone interested in weird genre mashups. If Mr Bungle's Disco Volante is your idea of a good time, this might well be your jam.

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