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


avant-garde metal top albums

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KAYO DOT Hubardo Album Cover Hubardo
KAYO DOT
4.47 | 21 ratings
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ARCTURUS The Sham Mirrors Album Cover The Sham Mirrors
ARCTURUS
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KAYO DOT Choirs Of The Eye Album Cover Choirs Of The Eye
KAYO DOT
4.25 | 56 ratings
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DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious Album Cover Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious
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4.26 | 31 ratings
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SHINING Blackjazz Album Cover Blackjazz
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SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM Of Natural History Album Cover Of Natural History
SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM
4.18 | 38 ratings
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DØDHEIMSGARD A Umbra Omega Album Cover A Umbra Omega
DØDHEIMSGARD
4.42 | 7 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 | 52 ratings
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SHINING Grindstone Album Cover Grindstone
SHINING
4.29 | 11 ratings
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Holoceno
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Chimaera Monstrosa
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HARDCORE ANAL HYDROGEN
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Chaos Remains
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KURUSHIMI
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avant-garde metal Music Reviews

PAPANGU Holoceno

Album · 2021 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
One of the things i love about the internet age is that the entire history of music has been laid bare and pretty much put on an equal playing field without record companies dictating what should be heard and what should be jettisoned to the trash bin. As this age continues on, newer musicians have pretty much embraced the entire musical history as their influence instead of a few bands that existed as they grew up. This has seriously challenged the notion of labeling as the desire to create music without any restrictions continues to grow although plenty of retro bands are happy to stick to a designed genre.

Musical complacency is certainly not the case for Brazilian band PAPANGU which formed in 2012 in the city of Joāo Pessoa but has only finally released its debut HOLOCENO in 2021. Initially the band was content as a simple stoner rock trio but as time went on got into sludge metal and eventually the more progressive angsty sludge metal of early Mastodon. But why stop there? The band was equally fascinated by the tripped out zeuhl rhythms of bands like Magma and after seven years of stewing these ingredients in the cauldron of their own making, PAPANGU has hit the ground running with a rather unique mix of musical ideas in a combo effect that i have never heard before!

The band consists of Marco Mayer (bass, vocals, synthesizer), Hector Mota (guitar, vocals, percussion), Rai Accioly (guitar, vocals) and Nichollas Jaques (drums, percussion) who all came from various musical backgrounds including punk rock, thrash metal and doom metal. Their mission is to do to metal what Brazilian musician Edu Lobo did to traditional Brazilian music in the 1970s. Inspirations include not only Magma and Mastodon but Edu Lobo himself who performed traditional bossa nova and a style called MPB, short for short for música popular brasileira, is a loosely defined genre that formed in the mid-1960s as a modernised version of bossa nova and samba-canção which adopted foreign styles of music.

Add to those formidable influences, King Crimson styled progginess adds an extra helping of tight-knit time signature workouts. The band sings exclusively in Portuguese so therefore one could conclude that PAPANGU implements the zeuhl rhythmic drive of Magma, the metal intensity of Mastodon, the prog rock overdrive of King Crimson and melds it all with the immediacy of traditional Brazilian musical styles heard especially in the lyrical deliveries. HOLOCENO is listed as a concept album but i have no friggin clue as to what that may be about since my Portuguese is rather weak as far as understanding it spoken or sung.

Given these opposing influences on board it might sound like a tall order to fill but PAPANGU manages to keep the songs diverse with some sounding like “Bacia das Almas” resembling more energetic and heavy carnival music while “Terra Arrasada” taking on a menacing doom metal tone. There are also four guest musicians adding the tones and timbres of extra percussion, minimoogs, saxophones and extra dialogue. Add to that the production is excellent and a remix of "Açougue das Almas” which features Kayo Dot’s Toby Driver in the mixer’s chair is available on some editions as a bonus track.

Well, HOLOCENO pretty much checks off many things i love about adventurous music. It’s proggy, it’s heavy, it’s experimental yet familiar. It’s accessible yet weird as hell. It’s irreverence towards the status quo is high and the passion is on fire! The zeuhl rhythms keep it from spiraling out of control and the highly creative mojo on display keeps it from getting stale. This is really an outstanding example of progressive music that progresses without sacrificing the somewhat ossified terminology that has come into play. Highly recommended for those who love bands like Kayo Dot, King Crimson and even Norway’s Shining. Avant-garde and unusual but chock full of sounds that will remind you of some of your favorites!

THY CATAFALQUE Vadak

Album · 2021 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
One of Hungary’s greatest gifts to the world of avant-garde metal returns surprisingly soon after releasing its last album “Naiv” in 2020. Yeah, i’m talking about THY CATAFALQUE fronted by the ridiculously creative Tamás Kátai who has consistently found a way to throw the disparate musical genres of black metal, progressive rock, electronica and Hungarian folk music into a simmering cauldron of creativity for over 20 years now and somehow figures out a way to make each album released sound distinct and best of all interesting.

VADAK is the Hungarian word for “wildlings” and also the tenth full-length studio album from THY CATAFALQUE which has been released on the Seasons of the Mist label. Once again Kátai crafts a batch of wild experimental tracks that remain unclassifiable with elements of various metal styles, jazz, pop, prog, folk, techno, electronica and anything else that fits neatly into the scheme of things. While serving as head honcho in chief and musical director as well as playing guitars, bass, synths AND vocals, Kátai includes an amazingly large and diverse group of 16 session musicians that add large numbers of vocal styles, guitars, saxophones, trombones, trumpet, repipes and tons of ethnic instruments such as the Armenian durum, tablas, dumbeks, the riq, violin and cello.

While some of the last albums have been a little parsimonious as far as the metal creds go, VADAK seems to have gotten the memo that the metal fans are getting a little tired of the “other” influences dominating and therefore it seems a greater effort has been made to crank up the heavy guitar riffs, the quickened tempos and all the other more energetic attributes that make metal so freakin’ awesomely cool! But don’t worry non-metal leaning folk, ALL those other elements are still here in great abundance. While THY CATALFALQUE projects are quite diverse, the main emphasis seems to be on focusing on the same ingredients with different proportions. It just so happens that THIS time around the metal got a bit more teaspoons in the overall recipe. OK, maybe we can upgrade to tablespoons!

What’s really amazing is that Kátai has done something seemingly impossible and that is writing his lyrics and singing in his native Hungarian language which by the way NOBODY understands outside of Hungary unless you are in the state department or something! But the beauty of THY CATAFALQUE is that it really doesn’t matter. In fact the compositions are structured in such a way that it actually adds an exotic even alien disconnect while being lured in with familiar rhythms, tones, timbres and musical motifs but just never put together in such a way. In fact i would easily classify Kátai as a musical genius for his prolific output of product that manages to keep each album sounding utterly unique yet connected to the rest of the canon. VADAK is absolutely no exception to this rule and i would even say that i personally prefer this album to the last several ones that have been a little light on the metal aspects.

For anyone interested in the theme (i’m not really), it is about dealing with the fragility that is shared between man and beast with Freudian overtones. OK, whatever, right? I know, i love a good themed concept album and all but when it comes down to it, metal music is about the compositional fortitude and i don’t speak enough Hungarian to understand anything anyway. In fact i don’t understand most of metal lyrics in English due to the vocal styles employed! HA! Another amazing thing is that THY CATAFALQUE albums are almost always over 60 minutes in length which for most artists would leave me cold but somehow Kátai masterfully keeps me enthralled for over an hour’s length of listening time. Now THAT is an accomplishment considering this project has been around for over 20 years. All i can say is that THY CATAFALQUE seems like it is in no danger of sputtering out any time soon. This album may not be the pinnace of its existence but is of equal value to almost every album of its existence.

Kiváló munka és éljen a TE KATAFALVA! Great job and long live THY CATAFALQUE!

MR. BUNGLE Mr. Bungle

Album · 1991 · Avant-garde Metal
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SilentScream213
Basically a worse and more disgusting version of Primus. They get props in that they sounded totally unique, perhaps even to this day. Even for Avant-Garde metal, this is really weird stuff. Not that this came out of nowhere – the band had been putting together demos and EPs of Avant-Garde Funk Metal for a few years, making them unequivocally pioneers of this style of music.

The thing about this album is that every aspect of it – from the vocals, to the lyrics and humor, to the disjointed, eclectic songwriting and sound – are all acquired tastes. Very strong flavors that you either love or hate. For fans of the bizarre and “out there,” this is quite frankly a treasure trove of unique ideas and execution. For me, it’s just a lot of things that I don’t enjoy meshed together into a long, messy record.

CARNIVAL IN COAL Vivalavida

Album · 1999 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
One of a handful of bands that were so smitten by the crazy genre skipping possibilities of Mr Bungle that they took on the adventurous task of creating their own style of band based on the endless limitations. CARNIVAL IN COAL was such a band that emerged from Amiens, France and basically the brainchild of vocalist Arno Strobl and multi-instrumentalist Axel Wursthorn (aka Karl Zengeris). The project existed from 1995-2007 but has been revived in 2014. CARNIVAL IN COAL caught the avant-garde metal world by surprise in how they mixed death metal, black metal and other metal genres with disco, pop, electronica and whatever else they could dream up. Despite the influences of Mr Bungle and Faith No More, CARNIVAL IN COAL successfully forged their own way without sounding derivative in any way, mostly by focusing on the extreme metal aspects and juxtaposing things in an overlapping way rather than slapping you in the face with a million genres per minute.

After releasing the demo “Sramak” in 1997, the duo required another two years to construct its debut VIVALAVIDA (Long Live Life) which emerged in 1999. The album was the very first release of the fledgling Majors record label. This was very much a homegrown project with the duo handling all affairs which unfortunately at this stage required the usage of a drum machine but despite it all, it’s quite impressive and although these types of everything but the kitchen sink projects often collapse under their own bloated ambitions, CARNIVAL IN COAL was quite successful in crafting an album’s worth of metal meets everything else in a way that sounds organic and logical. While not quite as adventurous or ingenious as the epic Mr Bungle albums, CARNIVAL IN COAL did however craft an extremely wild ride that focused on the extremities of the metal universe while adding cheesy pop atmospheres, disco beats, funk rock and even electronic weirdness. Not to be taken seriously at all, CIC adopted the nonchalant self-deprecating humor of the Bunglers and offering a comedic approach.

VIVALAVIDA exudes its titular prowess in a multi-faceted way. Exhibiting a certain joie de vivre like only the French can, CARNIVAL IN COAL crafts a tasty recipe like a top chef at the Cordon Bleu with a heap of black metal, a dash of death metal growls and blast betas, pinches of reggae and disco, moments of chamber rock, industrial bleakness, pop infused hooks and progressive off-kilter time signatures. While the Mike Patton influences are never left too far behind, i have to admit that CIC did a remarkable task of reinterpreting all the possibilities of where the Bunglers never lurked. After all the limitations are really as far as your imagination can take you and without any concern for commercial viability or pleasing the critics, Wurtshorn an d Strobl simply let their freak flags fly as high as they could hoist them. Of course these kinds of albums only work if there is some sort of underpinning that connects them altogether and for whatever reason it works pretty well.

While i wouldn’t call VIVALAVIDA an album that will eclipse anything the Bunglers cranked out, CARNIVAL IN COAL certainly did a noble job of finding their own voice in the wilderness from the getgo. This is quite an enjoyable album that pays attention to the continuity of the musical flow and for a genre skipping album of this sort, a vital ingredient to keep potential fans from fleeing in horror. The metal parts are pretty much limited to riffing so no technical wizardry in that department. This is a rhythmically stable sort of album that offers a bit of progressive outbursts from time to time. The gist of the album is to alternate heavier metal oriented motifs with slicker synth-rich disco and easy listening and thus alternate growly vocals with clean vocal harmonies. While there is certainly room for improvement as the album could add a bit more variety if you’re going for broke, overall VIVALAVIDA is an interesting artifact of the late 1990s that hasn’t gotten as much attention as other avant-garde metal bands such as Sigh, Unexpect or even Dog Fashion Disco, however still a must for avant-garde metal heads.

HARDCORE ANAL HYDROGEN The Talas Of Satan

Album · 2014 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Perhaps one of the only bands i’ve ever heard from the tiny principality of Monaco, HAH which is short for Hardcore Anal Hydrogen is a strange avant-garde metal band that hasn’t gone down the Gorguts road of atonal dissonance and creepy atmospheric otherworldliness but rather has somewhat adopted the more melodic approaches of Mr Bungle, Secret Chiefs 3, Sigh, Igorrr and even noise bands like Melt Banana.

This band was formed all the way back in 2009 when Martyn Clement (guitar, backing vocals) and Sacha Vanony (vocals, keyboards, flute) honored each other’s divine freakery and discovered a passion for making crazy mind fuck metal. After forming a bonafide band, HAH released two independent releases titled “Fork You : ( ) { : | : & };::” and “Division Zero” before releasing this first label debut THE TALAS OF SATAN on the Apathia label.

Graced by a rather cool album cover art, THE TALAS OF SATAN is a rather cool album as well as it mixes all kinds of metal styles along with various world music and electronica. On this fairly brief yet frenetic expression of metal fusion we hear classic heavy metal, thrash metal, death metal, grindcore and trance metal mixed with Asian ethnic music, breakbeat and digital hardcore. While some bands can be quite sloppy in melding things together, HAH is very talented in how it all fuses together seamlessly.

Personally i’d say this band most reminds me of a more extreme metal oriented Secret Chiefs 3 as the mixing and production job are outstandingly brilliant. The ethnic elements don’t sound the least bit cheesy with real flutes, beautiful tribal percussion and other exotic instruments and as far as the metal goes these guys are the real deal as they nail all the genera perfectly. The death metal is balls to the wall, neoclassical solos erupt from time to time and best of all nothing sounds forced as everything organically unfolds at the proper pace.

While more often than not i’m left cold with these kinds of bands that fail to achieve what sounds good on paper, HAH actually pulls it off and leaves me wanting more! Luckily they have two more albums that come before and two more after so no lack of product. Highly recommended for all those avant-garde metal heads who like things on the melodic side. The ingenuity here is top notch and the satisfaction level is quite high.

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