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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avant-garde metal Music Reviews

BUCKETHEAD Pike 277 - Division Is The Devil's Playground

Album · 2020 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Despite his prolific output in recent years, the chicken loving BUCKETHEAD has all but disappeared in the last 3 years with a very scarce output with 2019 seeing no releases in PIKES and 2020 resulting in a scarcity of product but then again unpredictability is the name of the game with this bizarre musical wonder who has hatched some of the weirdest musical specimens of all time.

PIKE 277 - DIVISION IS THE DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND finds BH releasing his 277th installment of the PIKE universe unusually after the release of PIKE 278 but when all is weird it’s just a blip in the reality index. This is probably one of the shortest PIKEs of all with 7 tracks clocking in a the 23:49 timeline. While PIKE 276 was all about new age and ambience, PIKE 277 gets back to the BH that i love the best, namely getting wild, weird and unpredictable!

Basically this shorty PIKE is only 7 tracks each titled with a Roman numeral. “I” shows BH is back into his more exciting experimental antics with super fast and crunch heavy metal riffs, progressive time signature outbursts and electronic accoutrements. While not ridiculously original in the PIKE series, BH has mastered the art of production with nice sound effects to echo his guitar playing and electronica freakery. The first track also has a nice anthemic melody to kick things off.

“II” features a sizzling virtuosic solo along with a metronome type of steady percussive beat but of course starts shapeshifting into strange amoeba shaped sounds and then back to stampeding thunderous metal riffage. It’s a veritable medley of BH-isms. Me like! So much better than lullaby albums in my world. Oh yeah, don’t forget to get funked because there’s plenty of that here too :D

By the time “III” hits it’s obvious why track titles are meaningless because so are beginnings and endings to individual tracks. The whole PIKE is one of those amorphous monsters that flows as a continuous change-em-up-and-often offerings. Basically we get heavy metal (thrash, classic, progressive, neoclassical) along with funk, space rock, electronic weirdness and other forms of WTF! There’s basically no rhyme or reason to which style emerges and for how long it lasts but that’s what makes these PIKEs so much fun!

BH shows off some of his best guitar work in a long time on DIVISION IS THE DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND. Not only is his fiery passion alive and well but after countless of meh PIKEs that recycle the same old crap, this one is HOT and fueled with a sense of rejuvenation. This one isn’t boring for one minute. It’s quite intense and stuffed to the gill with creative energetic outburst. At 23 minutes this is just the right length and although there are plenty of recycled ideas from the past, somehow they are all presented here in a slightly new fashion.

CELTIC FROST Into the Pandemonium

Album · 1987 · Avant-garde Metal
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Celtic Frost were always a strange band as far as Metal went back in the day, but with Into the Pandemonium, they crafted the first album bizarre and eclectic enough to comfortably sit in the Avant-Garde Metal territory still 30 years after it’s creation. There are a couple songs on here with the same Blackened metal approach as Into Megatherion, but I personally wouldn’t call anything on here straight Thrash. There are also multiple interlude pieces, one of which being a sample driven drumbeat, scattered female vocals and symphonic elements, doomy gothic elements, and even poppy hooks, at least half of which are still growled.

Band leader Tom Warrior adopts a new style of singing here, something reminiscent of a whining, moaning cry. It’s very hammy but also sorrowful and pained, so YMMV on whether it’s good or not that this vocal style had a big impact on Gothic and Doom metal in the coming decade. The variety and filler make this indisputably weaker than the debut album, but it is still a unique treasure with a lot to offer.

VIRUS Carheart

Album · 2003 · Avant-garde Metal
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"Carheart" is the debut full-length studio album by Norwegian avant-garde rock/metal act Virus. The album was released through Jester Records in August 2003. Virus is a three-piece consisting of Plenum (bass), Esso (drums), and Czral (guitars, vocals). After Ved Buens Ende disbanded in 1997, Czral got/or already were involved with other projects (Aura Noir, Infernö, Cadaver Inc/Cadaver...etc.), but he still wanted to release something in a similar vein to the dark and abstract avant garde music style of his former band, and thus Virus formed in 2000.

Although there are some similarities to the avantgarde black metal of Ved Buens Ende, Virus is ultimately quite a different sounding beast. There are some metal traits on "Carheart", but it´s mostly in terms of attitude and a few hard edged/heavy riffs and rhythms. The material is predominantly more rock oriented though, but definitely not your average Joe rock´n´roll type music. The atmosphere is strange, dark, and gritty, and the lyrics are abstract and often downright weird. Try and listen to the robotic effect voice singing on "Gum, Meet, Mother", and then try and make sense of the lyrics...now that´s avant-garde oddness for you. Other than a few excursions into experimental vocal territories (as the example mentioned above), the vocals are predominantly deep register, monotone, with an edge of desperation to them. Not completely unlike the vocals of darker new wave vocalists from bands like Bauhaus and Joy Division or maybe even a darker and more demented Nick Cave.

The instrumental part of the music is a pretty unique combination of elements. The guitar riffs are mostly distorted, dissonant, and often use open strings to create atmosphere. The drums are often busy and fusion influenced, and the bass is instrumental in creating the dark and dense mood of the music. Keyboards and effects are used sparsely, but to great effect. The occasional nod towards spy movie/surf music is also heard. It´s hard to mention valid references with music as unique as this, but I think I hear elements from as different sounding artists as Voivod, Talking Heads, 80s King Crimson (and from the above mentioned artists already mentioned earlier).

"Carheart" is a well produced and very well sounding release, and the high level musicianship and the original style of the band´s music do not hurt the album either. This type of music probably falls under the "aquired taste" label, and there are pretty surely some listeners who won´t be able to enjoy the dark gritty avant-garde oddness and the twisted dissonant nature of the music, but to those who are able to enjoy it, "Carheart" is a high quality release and a 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is deserved.

FAXED HEAD Uncomfortable But Free

Boxset / Compilation · 1995 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
When it comes to anything Mr Bungle related you are pretty much assured that it will be both avant-garde in nature and always friggin weird as hell, however some of these projects are much weirder than the others. The Bunglers released their first album in 1991 after the stunning success of Faith No More with lead singer Mike Patton joining the team. Fatih No More became huge and Mr Bungle became an instant cult hit for its genre skipping fusion of sophisticated technicalities in perfect marriage with adolescent potty mouth humor. The world has never been the same and due to the fact that Mr Bungle was signed to the major record label Warner Bros., many have also followed the breadcrumbs into many of these offshoot projects that continue to spawn even in the modern times.

While the universe of Bungle related acts is unfathomably large, the first of these bizarre musical entities was the product of guitarist Trey Spruance and no i’m not talking about his critically acclaimed Secret Chiefs 3 project but rather something much more disturbing, something so wickedly wild and bizarre the only genre tag i can give it is insanty-core! The band FAXED HEAD was so far removed from reality and so over the top in almost every possible way that it is one of those bands that has to be heard to be believed and while most will run away screaming for their mommy in utter horror, a few of us who were dropped on our heads as babies actually dig this shit!

First of all you have to be in on the joke to even remotely understand this psychotic concoction of twisted death metal, frenetic electronic experiments gone wild and avant-garde anguish dished out in mutilated madness. The whole premise of this band existing is a fictitious story that a bunch of glue-sniffing teenagers from Coalinga, CA made a suicide pact that went terribly wrong. The members that go by the McPatrick Head [Gregg Turkington] (vocals), Neck Head [Trey Spruance] (guitar), Jigsaw Puzzle Head [Brandan Kearney] (bass), LaBrea Tar Pits Head [Phil Franklin, aka Washington DC Head] (drums), Fifth Head [James Goode] (electronics), Graph Head (bass) underwent physical reconstruction and mental therapy at the Coalinga Youth Hospice before forming FAXED HEAD.

While Bungle was dazzling the world throughout the 90s with its Zappa infused prog / metal / experimental whatever trilogy of albums, FAXED HEAD lurked deep in the underground attracting only the seekers of the amazingly bizarre and twisted that emerged within the context of the metal music universe. In the beginning FAXED HEAD only released a series of EPs and singles as 7” vinyl releases as well as a split with Breathilizor and a couple appearances on various artists compilations that focused on noisy weird experimental acts. In 1995 the group compiled all the tracks released haphazardly and compiled them onto this one CD titled UNCOMFORTABLE BUT FREE on Amarillo Records. This CD included every track the band had released up to this point with the sole exception of “Bone Cracks” which appeared on the 1994 split with Breahtizor on Eerie Materials Records but for some reason was not included here. This compilation also added a couple unreleased tracks: "Wyoming Hair" and "The Astronaut."

The music from FAXED HEAD’s early years is about as anarchic and chaotic of a freak show as you could possible imagine. This extreme maelstrom of sonic terror consisted of a unique mix of death metal fury, Japanese influenced electronic noise, irritating feedback and high pitched noises that often startle the senses along with bizarre tape recorder sounds freaking the fuck out. These guys really nailed what could be called retardation-core as it really does sound like a bunch of brain dead losers whose perception of music has completely derailed from the world of the sane. Every single aspect about the music on early FAXED HEAD songs are designed to shock and irritate above and beyond the call of duty. However despite this, there are still plenty of catchy hooks, head banging excellence and most of all gut busting humor!

The joke is carried out throughout the lyrics which although mostly undecipherable behind obnoxious grunts, screams and growls are featured in the liner notes with the never-ending hilariousness such as “"I'm never going to leave Coalinga/I love it here; it is my home/Also, I cannot get up/Or my bones will puncture through my skin!” The metal takes on death metal clothing only dressed up in mathcore unpredictability. While some tracks like “Wyoming Hair” actually sound like a real song with a steady beat and melodic riff, many tracks are nothing more than extreme caustic noise such as “Pirelli Deli.” My two faves of this zaniness has to be the combo pack of “The Colors Of Coalinga” and “Show Pride In Coalinga,” the former a lo-fi freeform explosive metal performance of angularity (this could be called metal-in-opposition for sure!) and the latter a ridiculous military marchcore session that mixes high school march music with grindcore.

This is really some of the most disturbing music you can EVER subject yourself to however there is something sadistically beautiful about it and after many years of finding myself returning to this stuff on occasion, it has really gotten under my skin as utterly ingenious as to how this band effectively forged a completely new reality in some parallel universe to craft some of the most wickedly insane humor music since Frank Zappa himself! In effect there is no rhyme or reason to this. Noisy formless metal sections can turn into catchy melodic passages and then frantic electronic noise and avant-garde chaos takes over. While all of the following EPs and singles are represented, they are all mixed up in a way that this album comes across as one huge mind fuck that is only obvious these were different releases with a bit of inquisitive research. I’m not kidding that when i say that Mr Bungle is closer to Barbara Streisand than this chaotic mess that shows you how very very WEIRD this is! There are however moments on Bungle albums where some of these chaotic sound effects can be heard. This is basically the unadulterated concentrated form. Two more actual albums followed.

The origin of the tracks on UNCOMFORTABLE BUT FREE

- Faxed Head 7" - Stomach Ache Records 1992: "Element Of Life," "January's Here," "Rotten Cakes," "McPatrick's Lament," "Big Ol' Cheese," "Bay's Ball/New One's"

- Necrogenometry 7" - Amarillo 1993: "Pantera Lines," "Violence Gone," "Spanish Rice"

- Show Pride In Coalinga 7" - Amarillo 1993: "Show Pride In Coalinga," "The Colors Of Coalinga"

- Tire 7" - LaBrea 1994: "Der Michelint," "Tired," "Time To Retire," "Pirelli Deli”

- Previously Unreleased - "Wyoming Hair" and "The Astronaut.”

- America The Beautiful (various artists compilation) - "Wireless Rattle"


Album · 2016 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Greece hasn’t exactly been a hotbed for metal artists on the world’s stage but the artists that have come from this island rich nation on the Mediterranean have been of extremely high quality. Some of the most popular have been Dead Congregation, Septicflesh, Rotting Christ, Spectral Lore and Hail Spirit Noir so when i hear about an experimental metal band from Greece my interest is immediately peaked. Looking for more avant-garde metal bands has led me to another Greek artist with the name of INDUSTRY OF NIGHTMARES which was formed in 2008 in Iraklion which sits on the island of Crete.

This band consists of Zahir (vocals), Shade (vocals), Doomlord (guitar), Omegha (guitar) and Goatlord (bass) and so far has only released this one album PROJECT ATOPIA which came out in 2016. Despite taking so long to release an album, the band has played live with many of the Greek bands mentioned above and continues to rock the casbah so to speak. While the word experimental is used often too liberally these days, in the case of INDUSTRY OF NIGHTMARES it certainly applies as this band certainly doesn’t fit nearly into any particular category within the metal universe.

Starting off with an epic soundtrack score theme with “At World’s End” which sounds more like a John Williams symphonic theme for a sci-fi movie, the metal kicks in on the second track “Atopia” but immediately establishes itself as true outsider metal with a somewhat blackened guitar riff that turns into a thrash metal gallop. Alongside are weird vocals and then some angry shouting much like some of Dødheimsgard’s most spastic craziness. The track is bouncy like groove metal but then breaks into jazz-rock with female vocals. In all honesty the music proceeds more like a Sigh album than anything in the black metal world although it seems to get lumped into that word due to the spidery jangled guitar bombast and a bit of raspy vocal shrieks but nothing stays the same for too long here.

“6 Names Of Faith” starts with an atmospheric eeriness but then a galloping thrash laden riffing frenzy with those Deathspell Omega dissonant chord strums accentuates the offbeat. There is a classical piano run in the back and the palm-muted guitar stomps are very much out of the thrash metal playbook but then groove metal jumps in and growly vocals tradeoff with rapped clean ones. Only a melodic drive keeps the continuity. “Licking The Mirror” is as weird as the title. With a mix of thrashing guitar stomps and a frenzy of vocals it sounds more like Unexpect at this point with the female vocals singing operatically along with death metal screams. Although i await circus music it never arrives however it does jump into some kind of cabaret segment that starts off without metal and then is joined with a furious guitar rampage. Definitely out of the Unexpect playbook.

“A Ballad For Fools” continues the beauty and beast aspect of clean female vocals singing diva style operas along with frenetic death metal screams with rampaging fast tempo guitar bombast but then it changes into a more psychedelic menagerie of crazed dude vocals and happy girl singing with trippy psychedelic rock but of course the metal joins in again and the rampaging continues! “Chamber XXIV” begins with clean guitars and desperate spoken pleas and then becomes some sort of depressive black metal track that takes on old school Rotting Christ style guitar playing. The female vocals add a sense of melancholy while the male vocals remain in insane asylum mode. The track picks up the metal heft but sort of drifts along in alternative metal mode with black metal guitar tones.

“Naked Project” starts off as a melodic keyboard run but then becomes a mid-tempo riff monster, once again like old school Rotting Christ only the vocals are also melodic more like a traditional metal singer of the 80s rather than black metal. There is also a melodic keyboard that lingers in the background. It becomes more melodic and then starts to remind me of another Greek band i like a lot, The Elysian Fields. The closing “Children Of Atom” takes the short album out with another rampaging guitar frenzy with declarative male vocals alongside divine feminine charm. The track maintains a melodic procession with lots of guitar squeals and thundering bombast.

This is a grower for sure. First time i hated it but after a couple more trials it became more palatable. I would describe INDUSTRY OF NIGHTMARES as the amalgamation of various band sounds including elements form Greece’s Rotting Christ and The Elysian Fields as well as black metal from Deathspell Omega and Dødheimsgard. The genre skipping often is right out of the Unexpect and Sigh playbooks however INDUSTRY OF NIGHTMARES is more cautious in how often it throws curve balls. There are many moments of thrash metal as well as death and groove metal styles. Add to that some electronica and other bizarre unorthodoxies and you have a bona fide Greek avant-garde album on your hands! This is much more interesting after a couple listens but it isn’t top notch avant-garde metal either. It’s more like a tapestry of influences rather than something OMG new and exciting. Well done but it seems a little haphazard at times and could’ve used a bit more refinement but nevertheless this is an interesting enough experimental album even if not at the top of its game.

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