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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SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM Of Natural History Album Cover Of Natural History
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SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM Grand Opening and Closing Album Cover Grand Opening and Closing
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SHINING Grindstone Album Cover Grindstone
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Divine Laughter
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CAVE SERMON
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Of The Last Human Being
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SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM
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avant-garde metal Music Reviews

SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM Of The Last Human Being

Album · 2024 · Avant-garde Metal
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Warthur
Emerging from a long hiatus, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum make a triumphant comeback. With an orchestra backing them, absolutely pristine production, and themes as dark and foreboding as any they offered up on their original run of three albums, this is a purified and intensified take on their distinctive musical approach, a terrifying metal-in-opposition meditation on human extinction and other weighty topics which runs the full emotional gamut from ethereal beauty to apocalyptic terror.

Not only do the band sound like they've not missed a beat - and in fact, they never did with many of the members having continued to work with each other in Free Salamander Exhibit, perhaps nodded to in the opening track here. Moreover, they began working on much of this material in 2010-2011 (and SQPR, a This Heat cover, hails from as far back as 2004) and have been gently working on it ever since, meaning this album has been brewed, distilled, and refined over the span of a decade. The end result might be the best expression they've ever offered of their creative vision, a keystone which ties their body of work together and which in retrospect it feels like their earlier albums were building towards all along. With many of the band members equally adept at rock and classical instruments, and Nils Frykdahl giving Mike Patton a run for his money in terms of vocal acrobatics, the Museum deploys its full bag of tricks here expertly, everything used purposefully and thoughtfully to best effect.

For a group which started out resembling an avant-prog take on Mr. Bungle, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum have only forged ahead into yet stanger territory; here they make Mr. Bungle's most alienating moments seem outright smooth and approachable by comparison, but never become dryly technical, maintaining an impressive command of atmosphere and emotion for the whole 66 minute running time.

SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM Grand Opening and Closing

Album · 2001 · Avant-garde Metal
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Warthur
The debut album from Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, opening with the immediately gripping Sleep Is Wrong, is the shocking answer to the question nobody thought to ask: "What if a band took its inspiration from the most horrifying moments of Mr. Bungle, then crammed in a bunch of influence from Rock In Opposition/avant-prog groups like Univers Zero or Thinking Plague at their most dark?" With Carla Kihlstedt's enigmatic violin work adding an extra dose of tension and widening the sonic palette, and the rest of the group splitting their duties between more conventional rock instrumentation and more esoteric instruments, this is certainly highly varied in sound, but a keen appreciation for their musical influences shines through and makes sure that whilst their approach is highly unusual, there's clearly a distinctive aesthetic vision involved and they're not just making random noise. Grand stuff indeed; their other two albums of the 2000s were great too, but they're clearly building on the foundations already laid by this album. Here is where their truly groundbreaking work took place.

CAVE SERMON Divine Laughter

Album · 2024 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
There have been many one-man bands throughout recording history and in the world of metal perhaps the underground niche of black metal has attracted the most misanthropic loners who don’t work well with others but in recent years it seems many other styles of metal have been finding a sole multi-instrumentalist take on the entire project without the volatile nature of fellow band members. For better or for worse this trend seems to be growing and Australia’s CAVE SERMON is just one more such case. The alter ego of Melbourne based Charlie Park, the CAVE SERMON project started cranking out post-metal recordings in 2021 with both and EP and a full-length debut. While both releases pretty much flew under the radar, the same can’t be said about Park’s sophomore album DIVINE LAUGHTER which seems to be causing quite the raucous in the world of experimental metal. It should be mentioned however that while Park handles all instruments, the vocals are brought to you courtesy of guest screamer Pablo Miguel Méndez of the Colombian blackened disso-death / core band Mico.

Fresh out in January 2024, DIVINE LAUGHTER is one of those albums in the modern world that is ever increasingly difficult to classify as all the once traditional subgenres of metal have confluently joined at the hip and created a rather bizarre array of hybridization efforts with traces of death metal here, sludge metal there, blackened elements, moments of core, prog, classic heavy metal melodies and so forth and so on. To convey it all on paper requires a vast list of up to six genres (at least) just to try to grasp the contents in this art metal extravaganza. While the caustic dissonance and guttural growls point first and foremost to the world of death metal, the compositional styles are fairly unique in that they don’t adhere to any particular style of metal and as heard on the lengthy 9 1/2 opening “Beyond Recognition,” moments of metal are dropped completely in lieu of a sprawling lysergic journey into the world of Krautrock-ish psychedelia.

But this is indeed an extreme metal album through and through with caustic sludge metal tones and drumming techniques, blackened overtones and even bouts with post-metal, CAVE SERMON certainly has done its homework in the exploration of the larger metal universe and crafted a abstractly wild beastly ugliness with DIVINE LAUGHTER. The dissonance at full decibelage enhanced by thundering tempos and frenetic blastbeats may point to Ulcerate, Artificial Brain or a number of modern bands but where CAVE SERMON differs in the completely unorthodox shifts in where the compositions take you. The core elements from deathcore, metalcore and even moments of mathcore, Park keeps you guessing what will be the next hairpin turn move yet never strays to far for too long from the crushing death sludge that squeals and churns and evokes the very bowels of hell.

A crushingly brutal album for the most part however lush psychedelic interludes occur (“Beyond Recognition”) in the middle of tracks as to pacifying post-rock moments (“The Pain of an Invader”). Intros and outros also serve as the opportunity to pain the canvass with different colors of sound and although the metal aspects are dark and ominous, these contrasting elements are actually quite bright and cheerful but also fleeting in the big picture compared to the dominance of the caustic deathened sludgery. The lengthiest tracks are quite progressive and offer excursions into varying motifs, tempo shifts and even time signature deviations. The strangest head scratching track on the album is the penultimate “Birds and Machines in Brunswick” which completely drops the metal and rather offers an electroacoustic birdsong with a droning background. Sounding more like something from Nurse Than Wound than say Convulsing, this cements the fact that this album is pretty out there and attempts to take extreme metal into territories that nobody has dared gone before. However as cool as the track is, it sounds completely out of sync with anything else on the album and probably was too “artistic” for its own good.

In a way the electroacoustic turbulence is more like a 5-minute fluffer for the closing title track at 12 minutes plus which is by far the longest track. This one jumps right back into the metal with a series of stomping riffs with an accompanying atmospheric guitar sweeping all over the backdrop. The keys add a nice ambient touch as well. This one begins more as a posty death doom sound in the vein of classic Neurosis or Isis only with death metal bantering and growls. The addition of the chaotic swirls of sound above the main chugga-chug adds nice layers of tension. This last track is the most focused as it tends to use a post-metal structure of repetition which makes it easier to follow than the abstract nature of the rest of the album. It also delivers all the elements in the right doses and in the right logical procession and in a way provides a recap of what you just experienced. It’s an amazingly clever slab of weirdo metal freakery!

A veritable stab of psychedelic death / sludge / progressive / experimental metal, CAVE SERMON delivers exactly what the artistic album cover insinuates and that is something completely new for the world of (mostly) death metal. While i think the album could’ve been streamlined a bit better in the vein of the final track, overall this is an exhilarating slab of psychedelic freakery meets technical brutality. Yeah the electroacoustic “Birds and Machines in Brunswick” seems a bit like a fish out of water without any thought as to how it relates to the rest of the album but i have a feeling this was basically just a warm up album for more to come. Despite my own thoughts about how element A should’ve been replaced with element B and so forth, i do find this to be an excellent listening pleasure in its own right and perfect for those who love the crushing caustic nature of extreme metal augmented by moments of psychedelia.

LASTER Andermans mijne

Album · 2023 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Right from the getgo the strange Dutch band LASTER was pulled in many musical directions but managed to settle between the disparate genres of depressive black metal and the world of post-punk to create a musical tug-of-war of dominating forces. These mystery men who dress like serial killers from silent film horror flicks emerged from Utrecht in the Netherlands in 2012 and have incrementally taken their bizarre take on the world of kvlt black metal into strange new worlds much in the vein of some of the most unconventional Norwegian acts that went a similar route such as Dodheimsgard and Arcturus.

While shrieking the sounds of pain on the debut “De Verste Verte Is Her” in true depressive black metal form, even at this early stage LASTER found it impossible to crank out an album’s worth of similarly themed music and added an almost unrecognizable post-punk track to the end as if this bipolar band was channeling the spirits of some unseen forces that are vying for control of the creative process. Whatever the case these guys have always been weird and rather than developing an inferiority complex have opted wisely to simply embrace it and let the chips fall where they may. Well the chips have fallen and landed in a most bizarre place, that being on the band’s fourth album ANDERMANS MIJNE (“Another Man’s Face”).

While bearing some resemblance to traditional black metal, album #4 has basically thrown out all the rules and completely disregarding any kind of genre relationship and instead has decided to craft a cauldron of undetectable elements simmered down into a witch’s brew so hypnotizing that anyone attempting a classification process of what exactly LASTER is concocting on its Island of Dr Moreau will fall flat on their face and declare utter defeat. While theatrics has always been a part of the band’s legendary underground charm, the antics have long extended beyond the unusually unique appearance and now incorporated into every aspect of the music and its idiosyncratic mix. Post-punk constructs fortified by black metal tones and guitar swells may be the largest inhabitants of ANDERMANS MIJNE but the album features no raspy shrieks, guttural growls or any metal vocalizations whatsoever this time around.

Finding some kind of truce between all those black metal and post-punk separations, the band retains the jangled guitar tones of black metal but somehow develops somewhat danceable albeit angular groovy rhythms. Decked out with prog and jazz with moments where both shine, the band also rocks the psychedelic trippiness unlike anything they’ve attempted in the past. Verging most on the doorsteps of black metal turned avant-garde outsiders Dodheimsgard, LASTER has embraced the art of hairpin turns and unexpected and every possibility of the element of surprise is what seems to dominate on ANDERMANS MIJNE. Obviously this is some kind of liberation movement moment for the band where they break free from any perceived shackles that tied them to any sort of musical pigeonholing. Free from the confines of genre gravity, the band floats precariously aloof but sheer determination keeps the party energetic and at least focused enough to not wander to far into the prodigious universe of non-metal related musical camps too much and too far astray.

Ultimately ANDERMANS MIJNE is like one of those old-school rickety roller coasters at a classic theme park that is so jittery that you’re too busy holding on to dear life to pay attention to the amazing scenery passing by. The album takes too many liberties and deviations from the norm to be fully comprehended on a single spin. Are they the new Blood Ceremony? The new Faith No More? The new Killing Joke? Dodheimsgard? Well all of the above and none of the above and then some. This is the new LASTER and while they may be moving faster i don’t really think that this is a disaster. While they don’t truly master and do raise the blaster they don’t really shoot the target like a forecaster. Perhaps a quizmaster in a house made of plaster but the circus has come and they are the ringmaster. Weirdo art rock / metal is in the house.

FREE SALAMANDER EXHIBIT Undestroyed

Album · 2016 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
The first splinter group to form after the grand closing of the Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, FREE SALAMANDER EXIT formed in 2012 the year after the last SGM album and pretty much served as the next step following the Nils Frykdahl and Dan Rathbun list of challenging musical bands that began in the 80s with Acid Rain, came to fruition in the 90s with Idiot Flesh and then taken to world class sophistication in the 2000s with the Sleepytimes when they took the world’s stage to woo avant-gardists with some of the most bizarre twisted metal meets prog ever.

Basically the Sleepytimes with a different lineup, FREE SALAMANDER EXIT which takes its name from the same mythology of the Sleepytime Gorilla Press, features Museum curators Nils Frykdahl (vocals, guitar, flute), Dan Rathbun (bass, various homemade instruments) and Michael Mellender (guitar, trumpet, percussion). Also rejoining the merry band of mischief makers is percussionist David Shamrock who had quit the Museum after the debut “Grand Opening and Grand Closing.”

While musically extremely similar to Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, FREE SALAMANDER EXIT is noticeably different with the absence of violinist of Carka Kihlstedt, a role that is mostly filled by Frykdahl’s flute antics. New to the troupe is guitarist and rocker of theremins Drew Wheeler. So far FREE SALAMANDER EXIT has only released this one exotic specimen of avant-prog metal madness titled UNDESTROYED. It was released in 2016 to great fanfare and provided the perfect hit for those still undergoing withdrawal symptoms after their favorite psycho-prog metal band went by the wayside.

Most similar to the Sleepytime’s final offering, the banteringly prog fueled avant-metal madness known as “In Glorious Times,” UNDESTROYED navigates the same choppy musical turf with an extra dose of avant-prog angularities for your listening pleasure. Chock filled with time signature workouts from another dimension, the musical delivery is more on the metal side of things with heavy distorted guitars along with bass and drum bombast and of course Frykdahl’s best demented metal vocal performances. Unlike SGM that features all kinds of strange atmospheric detours and non-metal mind fucks, FREE SALAMANDER EXIT is actually a lot more focused on a basic heavy metal prog type of sound influenced by “Red” era King Crimson and more modern bands like Sweden’s Anekdoten.

UNDESTROYED features seven strong tracks at over 50 minutes of playing time. The tracks are often heavy and distorted and the band doesn’t shy away from some of the most complex time signature craziness bringing the wild world of Henry Cow, Art Bears and other classic Rock In Opposition masters to the forefront as far as the primary influences are concerned. Of course these musicians are so comfortable working together at this point that past endeavors shine through whether ranging from the zaniness of Idiot Flesh or the serious angular nature of the Sleepytimes.

Laced with extreme syncopation effects, avant-funk fueled guitar workouts, more avant-prog time signature weirdness than should be allowed by law and a propensity for catchy yet unthinkably weird musical compositions, FREE SALAMANDER EXIT proves to be a worthy successor of the SGM heritage with just enough familiarities to attract the old fan club but just enough different sounding aspects to keep it separated from the main mothership by several degrees. An excellent and wildly bizarre supplemental project by members of the now legendary Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. It’s unclear if this project was a one time event or will actually continue on especially now that SGM has been resurrected. Whatever the case, UNDESTROYED is a keeper. Perhaps not as epic sounding as the SGM itself but not a bad runner up.

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