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EXPERIMENTAL/POST METAL

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Experimental/Post Metal definition

 

Experimental Progressive Metal

Experimental progressive metal is a sub-genre of progressive metal characterized by the incorporation of innovative, eclectic elements, large-scale experimentation and the use of non-standard and unconventional sounds, instruments, song structures, playing styles, and vocal techniques. Experimentation in the music is a major criteria to define the genre where artists often add unique elements to the overall sound, while progressive metal usually has more focus on traditional metal instrumentation and higher levels of technical complexity.

It's nearly impossible to pinpoint the exact origin of Experimental Progressive Metal since experimentation is common in all music genres. Still it is clear that experimentation in the progressive metal sub-genre has slowly but steadily grown in popularity ever since its humble beginnings in the early 1980s.

Just like any other style, Experimental Progressive Metal has a few defining moments that have changed the rules for its sub-genre for years to come. Two of such moments are the releases of the debut album by MR.BUNGLE of August 1991 and its iconic follow up "Disco Volante" of 1995. MR BUNGLE became notorious for their heavy sound and mid-song shifts of musical style. The band has later spawned an array of established avant-garde side projects such as FANTÔMAS, SECRET CHIEFS 3 and ESTRADASPHERE but also inspired new Experimental Metal acts to take the music scene to new heights.
Another crucial artist in the development of Experimental Progressive Metal was the leading Avant Metal band of the 80s, CELTIC FROST. Their eclectic mix of Thrash, Doom, Symphonic and Goth Metal created a dark theatrical mystique that became a major influence among the experimental Extreme Metal bands of the 90s such as MY DYING BRIDE, ULVER, ARCTURUS among others. These bands served as an important source of inspiration for the experimental movement within extreme metal.

The bands listed under Experimental Progressive Metal have all, in various degrees, shed their extreme heritage in favor of embracing influences of the eclectic style going from art rock and ethnic up to free-jazz and even modernist music.

Art Metal
Art metal is a direct continuation of progressive metal but with the longing to expand the themes and styles of music while maintaining the technical complexity of the sub-genre.
These bands are more artistic than their progressive metal peers and tend to experiment, to a certain extent, but not as openly as the bands of the eclectic and avant-garde metal styles. Art metal comes in many shapes and forms. The virtuosity and complete unpredictability of DEVIN TOWNSEND, OSI and TOOL always manages to draw attention of both fans of traditional metal as well as the progressive music audience, while bands like ANATHEMA, DEADSOUL TRIBE and GORDIAN KNOT attract many fans of groove and atmospheric music into their vibrant soundscapes. Other notable acts include GREEN CARNATION, DARK SUNS and ANTIMATTER.

Eclectic Metal
These bands often add unconventional elements to their metal sound, whether it's experiments with various new sounds and styles that are otherwise uncommon in metal or by blending many styles, with metal being the referential core. Whether it's the ethnic elements of ORPHANED LAND's music that combines Middle Eastern folklore with the more traditional progressive metal sound or a completely unique mix of atmospheric, almost ambient, elements fused with metal that can be found in the sound of THE GATHERING, eclectic metal artists will always certainly bring a host of different styles and ideas to the table. Experimental metal can be found in numerous forms while featuring notable acts like INDUKTI, IN THE WOODS... and MAUDLIN OF THE WELL.

Avant-garde Metal
This style is generally considered to be more extreme in both its arrangements but most importantly extremely complex and unpredictable song structures. Compositions have the ambition of trying to breach boundaries of music and generally have significant experimental approaches to metal music. Most of this music borders on the realms of pure avant-garde while still maintaining a solid foundation in metal with technical instrumental prowess. Notable acts include UNEXPECT, EPHEL DUATH and VIRUS.


Post Metal

Post metal arose following the subsequent emergence of numerous newer, grittier metal genres like sludge, stoner, doom, and drone in the late 80's and early 90's, as well as the budding post-rock scene that emerged in the early 90's in Europe and North America. The scene's origins can be heard in several distinctly like-minded, moderately experimental groups in the early 90's, ranging from the noisy grind of GODFLESH, the sludgy, melodic, sometimes punk-like riffs of the MELVINS, and the proggy time signatures and grungy riffing of TOOL or HELMET, to the textural work of DON CABALLERO and the more melodic moments of early BARK PSYCHOSIS.

Arguably the first true and definitive realizations of post-metal emerged in the mid 1990's. The most concrete example was NEUROSIS, who moved farther away from their crust-punk origins and into more atmospheric territories with releases like Souls at Zero and Through Silver in Blood, the latter album in particular being regarded as one of the most definitive releases in the genre even to this day for its revolutionary blend of dark, spanning atmosphere and massively heavy sludge, something that would later come to define the post-metal genre as a whole (indeed, post-metal is often called "atmospheric sludge" as well). It wouldn't be until the early 2000's, however, that the genre's capacity would be fully realized, with releases like ISIS's "Oceanic", CULT OF LUNA's "Salvation", and PELICAN's "Australasia" paving the way for a true scene to emerge, and post-metal has since become a widespread phenomenon that has captivated the attention of many adventurous listeners worldwide.

Post-metal's unique sound is often very long and extremely drawn-out, utilizing oft-repetitive and simple riffs and guitar texturing to create massive buildups and musical climaxes. At times very emotionally evocative, it can be equally soft and soothing as it can be massively dense and crushing. Vocals are used sparingly, if at all (instrumental post-metal is a popular genre, with groups like PELICAN and RUSSIAN CIRCLES even achieving some degree of mainstream credibility), and when they are, they're usually gruff and barked as opposed to growled or screamed, a signature trait of the genre's hardcore roots.

Variations of Post-metal

While it should be noted that many post-metal bands have their roots in sludge metal, there are many post-metal bands that are rooted in other genres of metal. While post-sludge was an almost uniquely American phenomenon, a number of European doom-influenced post-metal bands have risen to fame, namely groups like ANATHEMA, YEAR OF NO LIGHT and CALLISTO; their slow-churning riffs and depressing mood of doom metal fit very well into the post-metal formula. These groups later gave way to more western post-doom-metal projects like JESU, GIANT SQUID, and MINSK.

A number of post-metal bands are significantly influenced by hardcore and post-hardcore, crafting the melodic elements of modern hardcore into their own brands of textural and atmospheric post-metal. This is exemplified by groups like ROSETTA, THE OCEAN COLLECTIVE, CAVE IN, MOUTH OF THE ARCHITECT and BURST.

A subgenre that has emerged to a considerable degree in the last decade is an amalgamation of post-rock and black metal. Black metal has traditionally not been a stylistic influence on post-metal over the years, but bands like ALCEST, FEN, AGALLOCH and ALTAR OF PLAGUES have used the more atmospheric qualities of black metal and the tremolo riffing and incorporated it with a shoegaze-like affinity for heavy, dreamy sounds and guitar effects to create a unique and evocative subgenre that shares many visional and sonic characteristics of post-metal. While the explosion of bands exploring this style is a rather recent phenomenon, there are some instances of this occurring very early in the lifespan of the post-metal genre as a whole. ULVER's debut could be seen as possibly the first album to fall under this definition. For clarification's sake, these post-rock influenced bands are placed in the post-metal subsection of ProgArchives as opposed to the black metal subsection of Tech/Extreme because they eschew much of the harsh tonalities, minor modes, and shrieking vocals of black metal and add a melodic and emotional aspect that makes it much more accessible than their progressive black metal peers in the tech/extreme section.

Today, the most popular post-metal groups are much of the genre's godfathers like ISIS, NEUROSIS, PELICAN, and CULT OF LUNA, though a number of newer bands have risen to fame in metal and prog circles within the last 5 years like INTRONAUT, ROSETTA, and THE OCEAN COLLECTIVE.


--- Definition by Alex and Kevin and the Progressive Metal Team, February 2012 ---

The Progressive Metal Team
Karl (bonnek)
Kevin (Necroncommander)
Alex (Rune2000)
Thanos (aapatsos)
Dave (Prog Sothoth)

Experimental/Post Metal Top Albums


Showing only studios | Based on members ratings & PA algorithm* | Show Top 100 Experimental/Post Metal | More Top Prog lists and filters

4.23 | 1074 ratings
LATERALUS
Tool
4.23 | 538 ratings
PART THE SECOND
Maudlin Of The Well
4.22 | 514 ratings
TERRIA
Townsend, Devin
4.20 | 445 ratings
ZILTOID THE OMNISCIENT
Townsend, Devin
4.17 | 539 ratings
JUDGEMENT
Anathema
4.26 | 133 ratings
THROUGH SILVER IN BLOOD
Neurosis
4.19 | 242 ratings
LEAVING YOUR BODY MAP
Maudlin Of The Well
4.17 | 214 ratings
BATH
Maudlin Of The Well
4.17 | 229 ratings
IN A FLESH AQUARIUM
Unexpect
4.23 | 102 ratings
SOL NIGER WITHIN
Thordendal's Special Defects
4.12 | 279 ratings
LIGHT OF DAY, DAY OF DARKNESS
Green Carnation
4.65 | 26 ratings
KHAOOOHS & KON-FUS-ION
Pan.Thy.Monium
4.19 | 114 ratings
SOMEWHERE ALONG THE HIGHWAY
Cult of Luna
4.09 | 478 ratings
ALTERNATIVE 4
Anathema
4.20 | 101 ratings
IMAGINARY SONICSCAPE
Sigh
4.07 | 669 ratings
ĆNIMA
Tool
4.12 | 190 ratings
PANOPTICON
Isis
4.09 | 275 ratings
MABOOL - THE STORY OF THE THREE SONS OF SEVEN
Orphaned Land
4.08 | 280 ratings
THE MANTLE
Agalloch
4.31 | 49 ratings
SOULS AT ZERO
Neurosis

Experimental/Post Metal overlooked and obscure gems albums new


Random 4 (reload page for new list) | As selected by the Experimental/Post Metal experts team

METRIDIUM FIELD
Giant Squid
HEART OF THE AGES
In The Woods...
BLESSED ARE THE BONDS
Pax Cecilia, The
TRANSMUTATIONS
Yakuza

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Latest Experimental/Post Metal Music Reviews


 Be All End All by MANES album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.17 | 4 ratings

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Be All End All
Manes Experimental/Post Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "Be All End All" is the 4th full-length studio album by Norwegian experimental rock act Manes. The album was released through Debemur Morti Productions in October 2014. It´s been quite a few years since the release of "How the World Came to an End (2007)", but there have been signs of life in the intermediate years in the form of the "Solve et Coagula (2009)" and the "Teeth, Toes and Other Trinkets (2014)" compilation albums. Tor-Helge Skei, who is the mainman behind Manes, has been quite busy though as he released albums with both his depressive black metal project Manii in 2013, and with his experimental dark rock project Lethe in 2014. The "Vntrve" EP, which was released in August 2014 and features "A Deathpact Most Imminent" and "Broken Fire" (in an alternate version), which are both tracks that are also featured on "Be All End All", was however the first sign that a new full-length studio album by Manes was on it´s way.

The two tracks on the "Vntrve" EP more or less represent the sound on "Be All End All". Stylistically the music is a dark, electronic oriented type of rock, that at times is similar sounding to some of Ulver´s post black metal-era releases. There weren´t many metal elements left on "How the World Came to an End (2007)", and that tendency continues on "Be All End All", which features very few heavy moments with distorted guitars. It´s to great effect when the metallic tinged guitars appear though, as the rest of the music is predominantly more subdued and melancholic in sound. Besides the few more rock/metal oriented moments on the album (which are indeed very few), the music is mostly atmospheric and pretty laid back experimental rock with a slight avant garde edge (featuring apocalyptic themes, alien sci-fi atmospheres, keyboards, and electronic effects in addition to regular rock instrumentation of guitars, bass, drums, and vocals).

The material are generally well composed and it´s overall a pleasant melancholic sounding album with some clever compositional depth. The sound production is detailed and professional sounding, and "Be All End All" is on most parameters a quality release by Manes. I wouldn´t call it groundbreaking and sometimes the similarities to Ulver´s music is a bit too apparent, but a 3.5 star (70%) is still well deserved.

 Weather Systems by ANATHEMA album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.00 | 700 ratings

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Weather Systems
Anathema Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Thai Divone

5 stars Some bands one discovers by purpose, going through listings of great albums, looking and asking for recommendations. Others one discovers by accident, a strange set of circumstances, the stars turning right, something like that. Anathema's Weather Systems was such an album for me. And unlike many other accidental "discoveries", this one is no less than a masterpiece.

A few years earlier, it turns out, Anathema were a Prog-Metal band, and then they decided that they wanna change their style. Weather Systems came after the change and finds them stronger than ever (or at least, that's what they say. I don't know their earlier stuff too much, mainly because I'm not that much into the Metal-realm).

Their music is based on repetitive riffs. We are presented with a riff in the beginning of the song, and then they build upon it and/or detract from it. Some will say that it's too monotonous, but for me it is just beautiful. One thing that can't be taken from them, though, is their ability to write melodies. Weather Systems is a Master Class in melody-writing, utilizing their talent but with no need to show off. They know what they're doing.

Their lyric writing, on the other hand, is far less impressive. Their lyrics are simple and very emotional, but they're a bit too naďve for my taste sometimes. The great voices of the singers keep those words alive and touching.

The album opens with a great fingerstyle-guitar riff, joined by a nice walking bass. Vocals join not much later, and the song starts to get a life of its own. Layers are slowly added, building the feel and atmosphere of the album, an album one has to listen to from start to finish, in a single sitting. The song builds itself, climaxing near the 3 minutes' mark. Some nice heavy rock influences during those moments. "Untouchable, Part 1" concludes on a very high emotional level, starting our spiral towards the distance, foreshadowing the storm that begins to show and come.

"Untouchable, Part 2" starts with a great piano riff, in a much slower pace. The hubris is a bit broken, feelings start to abound. Near the 1:40 the song starts to change a little, and layers are again starting to be added, creating the song as it is being played. Slide guitar joins and not much later the drums and bass show their presence. Very melancholic, very winter- y. the second part references it's earlier part quite a lot during the next moments, before concluding, leaving us with a heavy dose of emptiness.

The Gathering of the Clouds starts with storm, both literally and figuratively. Fingerstyle guitar for the riff, a very quick pace throughout. The singers harmonize each other, showcasing their great singing abilities. And it all leads to? A lightning. Which is much slower quite surprisingly, even though no less atmospheric. The contrast between this song and the earlier one creates a small dissonance in the mind, making us think, making us feel the coldness and coolness of the situation. Around the 3:13 mark the suspense pays off, with a great guitar solo accompanied by a great drums work. The bass line in here is no less than amazing. So many layers in this song, and yet it feels so elegant and right. 4:30 and we're back in the beginning of the song, the lightning is behind us.

And then a sunlight comes out, and we feel a little bit better. A slow pace, with much Hammond work and a nice little fingerstyle guitar accompanies a lone voice, joined sometimes by another. Suspense is starting to be created, though, and a steady drum bit grows louder and louder as the time and the song move onward. Electric guitars show presence around 2:40, only to accelerate the building, to culminate around 3:11 to the song twists and turns, and then stops almost abruptly, continuing almost whispery for a second or so more.

Then a storm comes, a storm that comes before the calm. A bass line that is just pure genius accompanies a great bass- drum line, before all hell breaks loose and it just gets colder and colder. Melancholic, emotional and a maybe even depressing. In most albums, this song will feel a bit out of place, but here it feels so right somehow. A completely different style of a song, and yet so fits. Some nice electronics around the 2:45 mark, heard over a storm made of a drum and a bass. A wind blows around the 4 minutes mark, and then we're slowing towards the 5 minutes mark, only to see the damages, to understand what we have lost. A completely different song emerges, so different yet the same one. A new world, maybe?

The Beginning and the End is my favorite track in this wonderful album. A great keyboards riff on which the song slowly builds itself, layer after layer joining the mix. A little bit before the 2 minutes mark the electrics join in, and the singer asks for help because "the silence is raging" inside him and all around him and everywhere in between. A nice guitar solo comes afterwards, and the drums and bass almost but not quite attack our ears, doing it just in the right level. Another, yet different, guitar solo, and then a beautiful keyboards riff joins, softly and gently guiding us away and onwards towards our next stop, towards our future.

Then comes The Lost Child. A slow, moving song, starting in the low volumes and slowly grows fuller and richer, even though not louder in the common sense. A great keyboards line takes us next, before the vocals join in. it starts to slowly accelerate around the 1:30 mark, before slowing again around the 3:10. Then the pace starts to build again, leading to an explosion on the 5 minutes mark. And yet the basic riff is still there, keeping us somewhat still in control, holding the song back a little. Around 5:55 we slow again, going softer and lighter, even though not happier.

Then we go within, into the Internal Landscapes. A few spoken words guide us next, leading us towards our last station on our journey. Guitars join the Hammond around the 1:40 mark, and then: "I was peace, I was love". We've completed a circle, we were born again. We feel again, we love again. Now it is said clearly- this is a spiritual album, this is a search for identity. Drums and guitars join forces, 4:10 and electrics are back. Guitar and singer harmonize around the 6 minutes mark, and then, around 6:30- silence. The spoken words come again, and again we hear those words: "I was peace, I was love". And then- a lone Hammond takes us to the end, leaving us to think?

And then it ends.

2012 was a busy year for prog-heads and yet, for me, this album is the real treat of that year. Maybe it is because I read into it a bit too much, and maybe it is because my taste changes as the years go by, but? I can't grant this album any less than five stars. Even though it doesn't bring anything new to the table, it is, for me, an essential album, and almost no-less important: another great rebuttal to the statement that "Prog is dead". Well, it's not, it's only a little bit harder to find?

 The Stars Against Men by SLEEP MAPS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2012
5.00 | 1 ratings

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The Stars Against Men
Sleep Maps Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Lear'sFool

— First review of this album —
5 stars An early Sleep Maps release, this is a more stressed, dark take on Kaplan's mix of ambient, post rock, and post metal. As such the metal happens more often, and is more important. The voice sample is from an old science documentary, often rendered into a deep sounding oblivion by effects. Theme here is humankind's rampaging technology, and a relation of this to the vastness of stars and space. Particularly "Post Men" sticks out, with said sample getting intentionally frozen and destroyed in the wake of the apparent death of all humanity. By the end, even the stars are out and all that is left is a cold void, but a riot still occurs throughout the cosmos. The music is as excellent as the three LPs and counting cut and dropped later by Kaplan, and the fact that this is apparently all extrapolated from various remixes and rerecordings of the opener to Sleep Maps' first LP is impressive. Electronic effects have more stage, but guitar remains as important as ever, and these most important parts are done the best. Here Kaplan pretty much set the standard for what he would be doing throughout all of post. A spectacular remix EP, it transcends the song it was forged out of by lightyears.
 We Die For Truth by SLEEP MAPS album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.67 | 2 ratings

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We Die For Truth
Sleep Maps Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Lear'sFool

5 stars Some excellent, ethereal ambient, post rock, and post metal by an up and coming band. Most of the album isn't metal, sticking in a calm and strange take on the realms that are best described as atmospheric when at their best, as Sleep Maps pulls off. "The Life Beyond" is a beautiful opener, and features voice samples ruminating on sleep, death, and the afterlife. It's not long before metal joins on later tracks, but there is mostly a disquieting but gripping calm, other voice samples fading in and out. The metal itself just adds extra texture to the total soundscape, being as well done as the rest of the music. Ben Kaplan has to be one of the very best post metal, and really post in general, artists ever. The whole record is his work, and he forged it all wonderfully, especially the keys and guitars. We are left with a desolate soundscape brought to life at times by a beautiful, powerful metal guitar. A very enjoyable combination of the best of the aforementioned genres, highly recommended.
 We Die For Truth by SLEEP MAPS album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.67 | 2 ratings

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We Die For Truth
Sleep Maps Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "The sound of a lost future"

That is how the artist describes this project, but I don't know. Maybe a lost past and a new future? Sleep Maps is the vehicle for multi-instrumentalist and Sci-Fi fan Ben Kaplan, who currently is based in California. Musical influences include Russian Circles, Isis, Smashing Pumpkins, and Deafheaven. Perhaps just as important to his apparent themes for this album are his writing influences, veteran science-fiction writers Jack Vance, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Harlan Ellison.

"We Die For Truth" is his most ambitious project to date. It blends instrumental post-rock and post-metal into a sound which attempts to give life to lofty fictional themes with good results. Kaplan tags his work as "cinematic rock" which is absolutely fitting. Listening to this music makes me feel like I'm watching an epic sci-fi film about bleak dystopias, and yet I hear some hope in the music as well. While there is not a vocalist, Kaplan uses audio clips of scientists to give the music some human commentary, not unlike the manner in which the Floyd use Stephen Hawking. The gorgeous artwork brings much to the experience, featuring deep blues behind stars showing us the vastness of space that I believe inspires, at least partially, the music.

Kaplan tells his stories with a layered guitar assault, a wonderful mixing of soft echoey notes with heavier and massively distorted chords and chaotic effects. Sometimes it feels like post-rock with the typical emotional swoon and waves, other times it veers more metallic, heavy, dark, perhaps brushed with just a bit of Nine Inch Nails influence? Yet even these two tendencies are nicely dressed with long spacey passages of quieter mood and melody. His drumming can be a bit mechanical and uniform at times and yet this style seems to work in the context of the somewhat cold and melancholy backdrops. The 5-10 minute song lengths allow ample time for exploration and building of tension. And it often sounds like a cold, steely veneer, like movement, emptiness. The 10-minute closer "See You in a Thousand Years" is a really lovely ending for this solid album, big and bold. I think Sleep Maps has very good promise. There is attention to dynamics here without bludgeoning the listener to death. Lovers of futuristic sounding instrumental music should not delay checking this one out. 3 1/2 of 5.

 Outside The Universe by WIDEK album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Outside The Universe
Widek Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Lear'sFool

— First review of this album —
4 stars A neat piece of atmospheric post-metal with light elements of the better side of djent. Widek is a one man music machine like Sithu Aye, and this debut from him is great, all things considered. The atmospheric parts and backings here are the best parts, and Widek clearly has talent towards making them. There is also variance in the particular moods those parts convey. The first, sixth, and seventh tracks are the cream of the crop as far as the ethereal bits go. As far as the metal goes, it's not the best, but is a working style that mixes in various ideas into something worthy enough of the lulls. The fact that Widek has a handle on how to do djent well is also commendable. A good album, worthy of listening, but I would love Widek to do ambient records more than more like this.
 Street Lights Fail by NUCLEUS TORN album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.33 | 2 ratings

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Street Lights Fail
Nucleus Torn Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Lear'sFool

5 stars Nucleus Torn is an eclectic band that combines folk, ambient, avant-metal, and post-metal into a killer combination. "-" proves their chops for more atmospheric music, and then "Worms" immediately shows how great they are at an awesome take on metal, including wonderful lulls. The length of the latter two pieces allows for them to really explore their broad sound to its fullest, resulting in tracks that switch between beautiful and brutal by the tip of a hat. Anna Murphy's vocals are the cherry on top, fitting both moods perfectly and rounding the album out. In fact, come to think of it, "Worms" makes me think of the Battle of Kurukshetra; this album is like being on a desolate plain that has its eerie calm broken many a time by marching and battling armies. Excellent record, I have high hopes for their planned follow up.
 Street Lights Fail by NUCLEUS TORN album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.33 | 2 ratings

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Street Lights Fail
Nucleus Torn Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Mysterious, minimalist, something different

Swiss avant-folk-post metal band Nucleus Torn have been around for many years now but have returned with the first part of a two-album conceptual work. The second part of the work will be called "Neon Light Eternal" and is scheduled for released in 2015, both from their longtime label Prophecy. The core band now consists of leader Fredy Schnyder, drummer Alain Ackermann, and vocalist Anna Murphy (also of the band Eluveitie). I've always enjoyed the Scandinavian metal I've been exposed to and this time was no different. These bands frequently exude a tangible vibe of the natural elements in their part of the world, whether it be ice and snow, fog, mountains, woodland greenery, and of course flowing water. They also seem to have a significant folk influence. I think of bands like Green Carnation although Nucleus Torn are not that loud and heavy, in fact here they remind me more of softer Alcest.

"Street Lights Fail" is instantly intriguing as one notices it consists of just three long tracks. The first track "-" is titled with just a dash mark, rather unfortunate. It begins with a sparse, open atmosphere, a lonely piano, and Anna's voice speaking. A spooky piece of what sounds like harpsichord ushers in the band but only briefly. This is not metal here so far, just an elegant and delicate beginning. The 20 minute long "Worms" is the centerpiece and here Nucleus gets louder. Plenty of thrashing electric guitar and power drumming to start it off. Anna's vocals become more aggressive here although still clean. She has a childlike quality to her voice and while initially it didn't knock me out, it really grew on me. The playing gets very exciting in this track: intricate weaving alternates with chugging, experimental sounds and distorted vocals, lots of variation between light and heavy, even a gorgeous woodland flute solo by Anouk Hiedl-it's all unpredictable and adventurous. This part of the album should appeal quite well to fans of Alcest.

In the final track, "The Promise of Night", we move way back to a brooding yet tempestuous ambient track. The music is a perfect metaphor for night: dark and mysterious, with lots of black space occupied by a lone piano sounding lost, drifting. There is a vocal section in the middle before the piano closes out the seemingly uneventful 12 minutes. It's very subtle and minimalist but quite beautiful. If it feels incomplete remember that it is intentional, this recording is only one half of the project. This album took a while to sink in but I now love it more with each play, I love how different it sounds than so many bands these days. It is not really an album for metal fans looking to rock out, but a nuanced, often free-form avant progressive rock with folk and metal pushed to the fringes. I thought it was fantastic but be warned it is for patient music fans, not those seeking instant melodic blood sugar spikes.

On their Bandcamp page they state that if they are to be remembered it should be for these two albums. They say "Street Lights Fail" takes "a stand against the intolerable boredom of listening to predictable music." Indeed...another contender for my 2014 favorites list.

 Ki (Devin Townsend Project) by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.83 | 255 ratings

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Ki (Devin Townsend Project)
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by FragileKings

4 stars This might just be the Devin Townsend album for people who otherwise don't like his style. Known for very loud music that ranges from extreme metal to hyper-infused heavy screamo-pop, Heavy Devy is not to everyone's taste. However, Ki puts aside much of what Devin fans like or love and takes a very different approach for the most part.

Ki was the first album of an initially four-album project that attempted to explore the four sides to Devin's music. Other albums were to feature heavy pop rock, intense metal, and meditative, relaxing music. I like that idea of a four-album project, but the project has since turned more into a heavy pop project as two follow-ups, "Epicloud" and "Sky Blue" (one of the two discs in the "Zed Squared" release) have delved further into the wall-of-sound, ultra-heavy, catchy-melody-driven, bombastic pop.

What makes Ki unique in Devin's catalogue is that it avoids the heavy compression and multi-layering that Devin typically employs, earning him the titles of the new Frank Zappa and the new Phil Spector. At it's base, this album consists of a clean guitar with a warm and rich sound, bass, some keyboards including piano, and drums. A few tracks bring on the distortion but the sound is more like a single overdrive pedal rather than full on metal mayhem. Devin's vocals are mostly clean and often soft and non-aggressive. Guest vocalist Ché Dorval adds some country/bluesy vocals on three tracks. Come to think of it, I haven't heard "Casualties of Cool" yet but Ché sings on that one too and the music is said to be more country/blues styled. As for Ki, probably one of the best comparisons to make is the Canadian band Cowboy Junkies. I know Devin likes them so it's no surprise to find their style emulated in some tracks here.

The album begins with a simple mellow clean electric guitar instrumental. "Coast", the second track, is a very un-Devy-like song with a rolling bass line that sounds like Pink Floyd sped up. Soft, low vocals that border on operatic at times carry the lyrics. The mood darkens slightly at times and near the end things seem like they are building up to a chaotic release. But then it's all over.

"Disruptr" is one song where the music intensity climaxes. Brooding and heavy, Devin lets things get heavy but without sounding like modern metal. This would be more like some doom metal from the early seventies almost, save for the roaring vocals. "Gato" and "Heaven's End" also feature some more intense music, but the rest of the album stays pretty mellow and moody most of the time. "Terminal" and "Lady Helen" are really soft and beautiful songs in the Cowboy Junkies vein. "Ain't Never Gonna Win..." is a studio jam with soft seventies guitar, a bit of a funky grove to it, and some spacey keyboard effects. Sometimes on the album you can hear between songs a bit of studio banter. I imagine many songs had very few overdubs except to add extra heavy guitar or extra vocal layers. At times I think Devin is almost going for a male counterpart to Enya.

The title track is one of the interesting highlights of the album. There's such a beautiful and rich guitar part near the beginning, which sadly never returns. The middle part is so slow and mellow. Then the final stretch of the song begins with a rising-falling arpeggio of clean guitar notes onto which layers of Enyan vocals are laid and extreme metal guitar/bass/drum music builds behind it all without ever allowing the music to become metal. Then Devin comes in like an opera singer. Perhaps this is one of his more "progressive" songs that I have heard so far.

I find the first half of the album includes more heavy music than the second half, which features more slower- paced, mellow and pretty songs. The sound is really beautiful. Certainly if you have been turned off by Devin Townsend because of his heavily layered, very loud, metal/hard rock/pop then this album might at least win over your ears. As for fans of Devin's heavy side, this might be an album to broaden your perspective.

 Ótta by SOLSTAFIR album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.04 | 19 ratings

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Ótta
Solstafir Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Gallifrey

4 stars "So, you know how post metal seems like a great idea in concept, but the vast majority of it is overlong and dull atmospheric sludge? This one like, isn't." - me, on the discovery of Sólstafir's 2009 album Köld, circa 2013

The whole debate that is continuously raging about post-metal/atmospheric sludge metal and whether or not post-metal is a genre or if it's all atmosludge or whatever really begs a big, glaring question - if all post-metal is atmosludge, then why doesn't actual post-metal exist. All it needs to do is take a good post-rock album and add some heavy guitars to it, why is it that every notable band in this area feels the need to fill their music up with godawful vocals and repetitive as hell riffs straight out of the sludge metal camp? It's not as if post-metal and sludge are intrinsically linked, you can certainly have one without the other, but it seems that in order to be a post-metal band you either need to be instrumental or have sludge metal vocals and riffs thrown all over the place. Where is the metal equivalent of Sigur Rós? Or even just Explosions in the Sky?

While Köld did sort of attempt to answer my question, by playing heavy, texture-oriented metal music that had an appreciated shortage of sludge metal elements, instead electing for clean vocals a good deal of the time, and even bringing some faster, non-doomy riffs into the fold for the heavier sections, I was never fully grasped by it. Stylistically it was nearly what I wanted from post-metal, but compositionally it fell short in a good number of ways. It was overlong and repetitive, and the semi-harsh vocals bordered on cringeworthy and annoying, not to mention that the sheer density and heaviness of this sort of music gets very draining as a listener.

Ótta, admittedly, is only my second encounter with this band, so any comparisons are a bit uneducated and are only really with regards to Köld, but I definitely feel that at least some of the compositional troubles I had with that record have been remedied here, even if they have been replaced with some other problems. The most obvious stylistic changes that Sólstafir have made with this album are the overall reduction in metal elements and the choice to sing all lyrics in their native Icelandic, which, combined with the fact that string group Amiina appear on this record, gets a few hundreds of people screaming "SIGUR ROS WORSHIP" at the top of their lungs. But despite the similarities, and my honest wish for a heavier, darker version of ( )-era Sigur Rós, this isn't really all too similar. The quiet moments with piano and strings that feature Ađalbjörn singing Icelandic in a softer and more emotive voice do kind of sort of bring them to mind, but the influence is nowhere near as clear as some are claiming.

As for the dropping of the metal elements, I am all for it in this instance, despite my well-known love for crushing crescendos. It does feel that every timbre and sound that the band build their softer sections out of sounds excellent and smooth and well placed, but I can't say the same about their heavy sections - the guitars are still linked too heavily to sludge, and have a tone that is so over-distorted that it loses power, so I find myself being drawn to the softer parts far more. The standouts on this album happen around the bookends, with the opening and closing tracks being my particular favourites. "Lágnćtti" is pretty much a classic long-winded post-rock-with- vocals build track, steadily raising the intensity every minute or so to a slightly elevated level. But what really makes it fantastic are the piano melodies, especially when accentuated with Amiina's strings. The motif melodies throughout this album are excellent, and along with some of the ambience in the softer sections, is definitely the album's best point. Although it does get a bit crescendocore, "Náttmál" is the albums culmination and highest point, carrying a wonderful energy throughout the track starting with an awesome section at around 2:30. The album's title track is another interesting one, with a rather strange lead motif that sounds straight out of Devin's Casualties of Cool album, ambient and driving, with a bit of a country twang to it. And as corny as that might sound on paper, it works quite well, with some of the strings soaring around the top reminding me of the way country artists use harmonicas for atmosphere.

However, as much as I enjoy some of the compositions here, and I do think Sólstafir have somewhat remedied the long-winded and boring parts I've found from them in the past, the one thing I just simply can't enjoy too much are their vocals, and despite my love of Sigur Rós, they seem to have gotten even more irritating with the change to full Icelandic lyrics. When Jónsi sings in Icelandic, it's ambient and ethereal, and you can barely hear any of the syllables he makes. But on Ótta, Ađalbjörn's vocals have to change between relatively clean sung to ferocious bellowing, and it really makes you realise what a hard, consonant-heavy language Icelandic is. And it just doesn't fit, at all. The softer vocals are tolerable, but the loud, intense, semi-harsh vocals just don't work at all. Similar to a language like German, there are just too many hard sounds and changing syllables to properly get any impact. And it doesn't help that I'm not the biggest fan of his vocal tone, either.

The only other major problem with this record is one that many others have pointed out, and is one that is common with a lot of music in this area - it runs out of steam rather quickly. I can say that every song has a motif or idea that I like, and the band have no shortage of melodic skill, but this is very tiring and draining music to sit through, and this album's 58-minute length can feel like 80 sometimes. I wouldn't call much of this 'filler', but a song like "Dagmál" could have been easily dropped with no loss, especially given the fact that it just sounds like a shoegaze-ier and Icelandic version of "Love is the Devil" from Köld.

From a melodic and compositional perspective, this is an undeniably strong album, bringing some wonderful and beautiful melodies into the fold. From a stylistic perspective, this is a pretty decent change, the songs feel more concise (but not concise enough), and the sludge metal parts are used more sparingly, although I am definitely not a fan of the Icelandic lyrics shift. On the whole this is certainly a better album than Köld, and shows Solstafir shifting their sound enough to try and stay relevant, but I can't help but feel they have something more in them that they aren't fully giving.

7.4

Originally written for my Facebook page/blog: www.facebook.com/neoprogisbestprog

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Bands/Artists Country
11 AS IN ADVERSARIES France
19 A.D.D. United States
21 EYES OF RUBY Netherlands
THE 3RD AND THE MORTAL Norway
413 United States
5IVE United States
A((WAKE)) United States
AABSINTHE France
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AMESOEURS France
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AND HARMONY DIES Italy
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ANUBI Lithuania
APOCALIPSIS Mexico
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THE ARKITECHT Mexico
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ASIDEFROMADAY France
ASPIRATION Norway
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BACK WHEN United States
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THE CANCER CONSPIRACY United States
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A COLD DEAD BODY Italy
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CONSECRATION Serbia
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CRIB45 Finland
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D.U.N.E. Italy
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DIRGE France
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ECHOSILENCE Estonia
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ENDNAME Russia
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ETHERSENS France
EVIL INSIDE Spain
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FEN United Kingdom
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HAND United Kingdom
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IN THE WOODS... Norway
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INDUKTI Poland
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IO United Kingdom
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IRREVERSIBLE United States
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NIHIL Serbia
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NO MADE SENSE United Kingdom
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NOVEMBRE Italy
NUCLEUS TORN Switzerland
OBSIDIAN KINGDOM Spain
THE OCEAN DOESN'T WANT ME South Africa
THE OCEAN Germany
OCOAI United States
THE OLD DEAD TREE France
OLD MAN GLOOM United States
OMB Israel
THE OMEGA EXPERIMENT United States
OMEGA MASSIF Germany
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ORDO DRACONIS Netherlands
ŘRKENKJŘTT Norway
ORPHANED LAND Israel
ORTHODOX Spain
OSI United States
OSTROVA Spain
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SKY United States
OUTOPSYA Italy
OVERMARS France
PAN.THY.MONIUM Sweden
PANOPTICON United States
THE PAX CECILIA United States
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PELICAN United States
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PIKE Sweden
PINKLY SMOOTH United States
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THE PROPHECY United Kingdom
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QUBE Poland
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ROUTE NINE Sweden
RWAKE United States
RYOKUCHI Japan
SAL Y MILETO Ecuador
SCORCHED SHORE United States
SECONDSKIN United Kingdom
SENMUTH Russia
SENSUAL NOISE Belgium
SEPIA DREAMER Sweden
SEVEN United States
SEVEN NAUTICAL MILES Sweden
SEVENTH EVIDENCE / KA.MMEN Ukraine
SHELS United States
SHELTER RED United States
SHELVING Switzerland
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SHRINEBUILDER United States
SIGH Japan
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SISARE Finland
SKAGOS Canada
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SLEEP MAPS United States
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SMALLMAN Bulgaria
SMOHALLA France
SNOWBLOOD United Kingdom
SO IS THE TONGUE United States
SOLSTAFIR Iceland
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SPRING & YOUTH Serbia
STANDING OVATION Finland
STATS United States
STEAK NUMBER EIGHT Belgium
A STORM OF LIGHT United States
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SUFFOCATE FOR FUCK SAKE Sweden
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THE SUSPENDED CONGRESS Ireland
SWARM OF THE LOTUS United States
A SWARM OF THE SUN Sweden
SWITCH OPENS Sweden
TACOMA NARROWS BRIDGE DISASTER United Kingdom
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TELEPATHY United Kingdom
TEMPEL United States
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TEPHRA Germany
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TESA Latvia
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THENCE Finland
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TITAN Canada
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TOOL United States
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TOWN PORTAL Denmark
DEVIN TOWNSEND Canada
TRANSMISSION0 Netherlands
TREPHINE United States
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USER NE Spain
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VAURA United States
VED BUENS ENDE Norway
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VIRUS Norway
VISCERA/// Italy
VOID United Kingdom
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VULTURE INDUSTRIES Norway
THE WATERS DEEP HERE United States
WE LOST THE SEA Australia
WE MADE GOD Iceland
WEAKLING United States
WHAT MAD UNIVERSE France
WHAT THE BLOOD REVEALED United Kingdom
WHEN DAY DESCENDS Australia
WHIRLING Sweden
WHOURKR Multi-National
WIDEK Poland
WINDHAM HELL United States
WINDMILLS BY THE OCEAN United States
WINDS Norway
ANDY WINTER Norway
WIZARD RIFLE United States
WOBURN HOUSE Germany
WOODS OF YPRES Canada
A WORKING MODEL United States
WORM OUROBOROS United States
YAKUZA United States
YEAR OF NO LIGHT France
YOB United States
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