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
4.47 | 20 ratings
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SIGH Imaginary Sonicscape Album Cover Imaginary Sonicscape
4.40 | 32 ratings
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ARCTURUS The Sham Mirrors Album Cover The Sham Mirrors
4.32 | 55 ratings
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KAYO DOT Choirs Of The Eye Album Cover Choirs Of The Eye
4.24 | 55 ratings
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DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious Album Cover Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious
4.28 | 29 ratings
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ARCTURUS La Masquerade Infernale Album Cover La Masquerade Infernale
4.22 | 43 ratings
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SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM Of Natural History Album Cover Of Natural History
4.21 | 38 ratings
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SIGH Hail Horror Hail Album Cover Hail Horror Hail
4.35 | 11 ratings
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MAUDLIN OF THE WELL Leaving Your Body Map Album Cover Leaving Your Body Map
4.16 | 50 ratings
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MAUDLIN OF THE WELL Bath Album Cover Bath
4.14 | 57 ratings
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DØDHEIMSGARD A Umbra Omega Album Cover A Umbra Omega
4.39 | 6 ratings
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SHINING Blackjazz Album Cover Blackjazz
4.14 | 25 ratings
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SIGH Imaginary Sonicscape

Album · 2001 · Avant-garde Metal
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"Imaginary Sonicscape" is the 5th full-length studio album by Japanese progressive/experimental metal act Sigh. The album was released through Century Media Records in July 2001. It´s Sigh´s first release on the label after they left Cacophonous Records, as a consequence of what the band felt was bad promotion for "Scenario IV: Dread Dreams (1999)". The three-piece lineup who recorded the predecessor is intact on "Imaginary Sonicscape".

Although Sigh originally started out as a black metal act, they soon began to experiment with their sound and the last couple of preceding releases have been increasingly progressive/experimental. "Imaginary Sonicscape" tops them all though as Sigh take their adventurous songwriting approach to new creative heights. The basis in the music is fairly traditional heavy metal riffs/leads/harmonies and rhythms, and Mirai Kawashima´s snarling raspy vocals in front. The latter is the only feature on the album, which links the music on "Imaginary Sonicscape" to the band´s black metal past, because nothing else on the album is extreme metal related in any way.

While the heavy metal elements in the music are relatively traditional in nature, the band make sure that everything else on the album is challenging to the listener. There is omnipresent use of vintage keyboards/synths/organs and additional features like ghostly choirs, percussion, the odd programmed/electronic section, saxophone, and atmospheres which range from eerie darkness to almost sunshine psychadelic happiness ("A Sunset Song" is an example of the latter mood). The use of classical music themes and orchestral sections are also quite dominant in the soundscape. It´s not an easy listen and most listener´s will probably need more than one listen to decide what they think of the album. The tracks and the album in general take many left-turns along the way, and the listener is kept on his/her toes throughout the 63:35 minutes long playing time.

The musicianship is strong and while everything is performed with great skill and precision, Sigh generally perform their music with a great organic touch, which is further enhanced by the organic sounding production. The songwriting is on a very high level, and it´s obvious Kawashima has some classical music education/training, because the keyboard arrangements and the keyboard performances in general are seldom heard this sophisticated in heavy metal music.

"Imaginary Sonicscape" is for the open-minded heavy metal listener, and there is no guarantee this is something a lot of people will enjoy. It´s probably very much an aquired taste, even for fans of the band. Expect the unexpected and you won´t be dissapointed. Personally I think the experiments sometime make the album a bit incoherrent, and some tracks feel like they lack direction, like the band just added sections/elements they felt were interesting to add without thinking about the big picture. Knowing the musical genius of Kawashima I´m sure that´s not true though, and I´m sure the output is exactly what Sigh had in mind. My personal feelings aside this is still a high quality release and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.


Album · 2019 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
It’s very rare when a modern metal band crafts a sound that is totally unique but that’s exactly what the umlaut loving avant-garde / experimental goth-doom metal act ÖXXÖ XÖÖX has done. It’s been four years since the lauded “Nämïdäë” hit the scene on the Blood label which created a triumphant mastery of doom laden gothic metal with symphonic and progressive elements. ÖXXÖ XÖÖX may sound atypical but exemplifies a common theme for French artists throughout history and that is take the artistic process to bizarre new levels of creativity and in the process alienate far more potential fans than attracting a fanbase due to the unrelenting drive to pioneer light years ahead of the accepted contemporary paradigm. In that light, ÖXXÖ XÖÖX is very French indeed although all identifying factors have been obfuscated in layers of symbolism.

It didn’t occur to me until listening to the band’s newest release, simply titled Ÿ, that ÖXXÖ XÖÖX in many ways is like the extreme metal version of France’s other “think-outside-the-box” pioneers Magma. Above all, ÖXXÖ XÖÖX takes the listener to far reaching places unlike any other and that’s exactly what both of these bands succeed in doing. Adding to the similarities with Magma, ÖXXÖ XÖÖX have also crafted its own invented language where only umlauted vowels exist. All lyrics are in this invented language with an emphasis on philosophy and eternal cosmic themes. After all, the band name can be reduced to the number 69 which follows a ridiculously convoluted story where that number symbolizes that 6 (the bad) and 9 (the good) which together will free us from the empire of materialism and the opposite forces of the world or something of that nature.

Other similarities include long sprawling epic compositions that implement a common element such as a riff, a melody or a rhythmic stomp and improvise upon it for many minutes at a time with each of the tracks seamlessly connecting so that they comprise only parts of a much larger wholeness. Whereas Magma utilized the classical cadences of Carl Orff and the subtle jazz effects of John Coltrane for sonic timbres, ÖXXÖ XÖÖX mine the world of doom metal and gothic rock along with healthy doses of electronic embellishments glazed over by gloomy atmospheres and alienating zigzags through an endless variation of guitar riffs, percussive outbursts and of course the mix of male and operatic female vocals courtesy of Laurent Lunoir (multi-instrumentalist, lead vocals and has adopted the band moniker as his stage name) and Laure Le Prunenec aka Rïcïnn (piano, operatic vocals and guitar for live performances). Also important to the sprawling epic ÖXXÖ XÖÖX sound is the involvement of the avant-garde stalwart Igorr which is topped off by drummer and percussionist Isamos.

It is no understatement to claim that the bizarre nature of ÖXXÖ XÖÖX is an acquired taste to say the least. This is no fly by night metal band that can be deciphered in a mere single listening experience. This style of abstract and even obtuse musical parading weirdness comes off as an incessant Teutonic march of avant-garde stomps that break out the ultimate nerd driven artistic palette to paint surreal visions of Dracula-inspired love affairs taking place in extraterrestrial settings where the folklore of yore meets cosmic intergalactic crossroads. It’s as if the progressive rock intricacies of Magma have intermingled with the goth doom aspects of Type O Negative and the industrial bleakness of early Einstürzende Neubauten. With processed synth guitars crafted by cybermetal guru Master Boot Record and the incessant symphonic background effects, one thing is for sure, and that is whether you love or hate this bizarre amalgamation of stylistic antics, you cannot claim to have heard anything even remotely similar to the sounds drifting in and out of sequence on Ÿ.

For all its bombastic excesses that sound like a funeral dirge for zombies with oozing layers of sound slinking around as if there were the sonic equivalent of a lava lamp, ÖXXÖ XÖÖX maintains firm control of an underlying melodic development although in a darkened and lugubrious setting with only occasional metal rampages adding the proper contrast to break the haunting monotony. This is the weird kind of stuff i actually love quite a bit as i have been enthralled with the first two releases for a number of years however now that ÖXXÖ XÖÖX seems to be sticking around for the longer run, a few things do come to mind when pondering the developments of the last four years. First of all, this band seems to have created a creative cul-de-sac, that meaning that it hasn’t crafted a sound that can be expanded upon in a noticeable manner. This album sounds very much just like the last one as the emphasis is on the varying displays that change it up often around rather melancholic doom laden strolls down a 78 minute run. While i personally love this weird music enough to experience another album of this nature, it does seem like the wellspring will run dry if new approaches do not manifest themselves.

In many ways, the entire album sounds like a dreamy intro that never ends and instead expands itself to over an hour’s run. I can totally understand why many will find this just too weird and unsatisfying yet there’s something about it that draws me in and embraces the simultaneously electrifying and hypnotic callithump of stentorian assaults of vocal performances and masterful instrumental interplay. It really boils down to the moment by moment developments and not the entire picture (not sure that’s the intent though) because the album seems to exist in its own amorphous nature without anything tangible to grab onto. Needless to say, they call this avant-garde metal for a reason. There is little here to make references to and even though the doom and gothic tags are relevant, this is just plain weird. Too weird for many but i’m up to the challenge and although i think ÖXXÖ XÖÖX have crafted another excellent display of idiosyncrasy, the wow factor that the previous album is lacking and i have to admit that the album could’ve been trimmed down a bit.

SIGH Hail Horror Hail

Album · 1997 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
SIGH has become one of Japan’s most interesting musical exports as this band has consistently dished out some of the most wickedly fun avant-garde metal since its debut in 1993 with “Scorn Defeat.” While more famous for the bizarre Bungle-esque antics heard on lauded releases such as “Imaginary Sonicscape,” SIGH actually started or at least tried to start out as a bona fide black metal band but even from the very beginning where all intentions were tarnished with face paint and Scandinavian frigidity, SIGH was like a fish out of water and as time went on instead of retreating and becoming irrelevant, SIGH opted to reinvent itself and become the wild and bizarre Japanese freak show that it is now so good at.

It was clear by the second album “Infidel Art” that SIGH’s ambitions were too large to be contained within a single aisle at the metal music supermarket as that album displayed not only black metal ambitions but ventured into excessive symphonic, progressive and doom metal enterprises. Realizing they had to make their own way in the world, SIGH went for broke on its third album HAIL HORROR HAIL and dived headfirst into its own brand of avant-garde metal that was designed to be more of a soundtrack for an insane asylum than a good old fashioned metal music experience from the known universe. In fact the inner sleeve of the album issued a warning that the album was essentially a movie without pictures and the film jumps from scene to scene unexpectedly with the intent of narrating some bizarre story that remains nebulous.

While black metal remains at the heart of SIGH’s art metal sound, the band that consisted of three members: Mirai (vocals, bass guitar, synthesizer, piano, Hammond organ, vocoder, sampling, programming, radio, effects), Shinichi (acoustic and electric guitar, bass guitar) and Satoshi (drums, triangle, tambourine, guiro, vibraslap, handclap) doesn’t sound like a black metal band at all. True there are distorted metal guitar riffs and Mirai’s frantic attempt at rasping it up on the vocals but the album engages in healthy doses of symphonic orchestrations and has song structures that are more akin to progressive rock than anything coming out of Norway at the time. While the opening title track may seem like a normal extreme metal track only decked out in a black’n’roll type of boogie swagger, the album quickly deviates into mondo bizarro territory and in effect provided the blueprint for which SIGH would build its entire future around.

While metal is the name of the game bonding the whole crazy scene together, tracks like “Invitation To Die” drop the metal altogether and instead create a symphonic orchestral sound that breaks out the woodwinds and piano as the main instruments leaving the raspy vocals as the only indication that SIGH is a metal band at all. “Pathetic” starts out sounding like a symphonic rock version of the James Bond theme song that follows suit and makes you wonder if SIGH had now abandoned metal altogether in favor of multi-layered orchestrations that aspire to a career of action movie soundtracks but then “Curse Of Izanagi” resumes the black metal du jour however it retains the symphonic effects and even cranks out a stealthy guitar solo. Clearly SIGH was becoming an unhinged loose canon taking metal to places never conceived of and the world would never be the same.

The album culminates with the 9 minute plus grand finale “Seed Of Eternity” which finds the band’s newfound liberties stretching out into untethered progressive excesses. The track pretty much brings together the black metal bombast, the blues rock, symphonic orchestrations and stealthy meandering compositional approach that would continue on up to “Imaginary Sonicscape” and launch SIGH’s bizarre interpretation of metal music into the larger international scene. Overall HAIL HORROR HAIL is a more focused affair than some of the album’s that follow but pinpoint the exact moment when the band had an apparent realization that they weren’t like the rest of the kids on the playground and decided to embrace it as a strength rather than a weakness and for that we can only be grateful that these musical freaks had enough self-confidence to sally forth into the brave new world of avant-garde metal with no restrictions.

THE MEADS OF ASPHODEL Running Out Of Time Doing Nothing

Album · 2019 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Kev Rowland
The Meads of Asphodel was a project conceived by singer Metatron in 1998, and over the years they have been through some different line-ups but they he is currently joined by J.D Tait (guitars, vocals, keyboards, bass) and André Kjelbergvik Thung (drums). They also include multiple guest musicians of whom the most well-known is Hawkwind’s Alan Davey who plays bass on four numbers. Musically it is all over the place, mostly in a good way, mixing genres in a way I don’t think I’ve ever heard before. The result is an album which I honestly can’t imagine anyone saying they really enjoy every song, I know I don’t. I have real issues with “I Stood Tiptoe, Reaching Up For Heaven”. They obviously thought it was a great idea to play news clips of discussions on ISIS, terrorism, people being killed, Jimmy Saville, all with a laugh track over the top. From there they move into a dance track which just doesn’t interest me whatsoever.

The band are one of the very few I have seen who have a mission statement on their website, which reads “Experimental extreme metal band The Meads of Asphodel believe in all peoples right to live in peace, free from the shackles of inflicted dogma & servitude”. One has to agree with that statement, and there are undoubtedly some interesting songs on this album for fans of Hawkwind, Robert Calvert and the idiosyncrasies of GWAR, but the humour and approach is not something I can come to terms with.

DIVINA ENEMA At The Conclave

Album · 2000 · Avant-garde Metal
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"At the Conclave" is the debut full-length studio album by Belarus, Minsk based avant garde/progressive metal act Divina Enema. The album was released through the Canadian label Great White North Records (or rather through subdivisions of the label) in 2000. Divina Enema was formed by lead vocalist Yaroslav A. Burakoff in 1998.

Stylistically the material on the 6 track, 46:28 minutes long album is a very eclectic type of metal. Avant garde/progressive metal probably isn´t the worst description of the music, but of course such a description should be explained a bit more in detail. It´s overall a highly theatrical form of music with elements from goth, black, death, progressive, and symphonic metal. In addition to guitars, bass, drums, and vocals, the instrumentation also includes piano/keyboards, violin, cello, and tenor-sax. Lead vocalist Yaroslav A. Burakoff has a varied vocal arsenal to say the least. He often sings in a high pitched voice, which is quite similar in style to the high pitched singing by King Diamond, but he also uses a deeper goth type vocal style, and both death metal growling and black metal screaming. His phrasing is theatrical/paatos filled and his vocals are probably what you´d call an aquired taste. But no one can take away from him, that he is an incredibly skilled singer.

The rest of the band are well playing too. The tracks are all relatively long and go through many transitions/structural changes and even after many spins they can be a bit hard to tell apart. "At the Conclave" feels a lot like listening to one long track with many different sections and changes. And it is in the songwriting department where I think Divina Enema lacks a bit. They are obviously skilled composers, but I don´t think the music is particularly memorable. The fact that the sound production isn´t the most powerful either (the drums feature an odd tone, and the guitars lack punch) isn´t helping the album either. So upon conclusion "At the Conclave" is what I´d characterize as an interesting album, but not a great album. Still there are enough quality here to warrant a 3 star (60%) rating.

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