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EXPERIMENTAL/POST METAL

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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 | 1053 ratings
LATERALUS
Tool
4.23 | 530 ratings
PART THE SECOND
Maudlin Of The Well
4.22 | 501 ratings
TERRIA
Townsend, Devin
4.21 | 425 ratings
ZILTOID THE OMNISCIENT
Townsend, Devin
4.18 | 524 ratings
JUDGEMENT
Anathema
4.29 | 126 ratings
THROUGH SILVER IN BLOOD
Neurosis
4.18 | 245 ratings
LEAVING YOUR BODY MAP
Maudlin Of The Well
4.16 | 218 ratings
BATH
Maudlin Of The Well
4.12 | 282 ratings
LIGHT OF DAY, DAY OF DARKNESS
Green Carnation
4.13 | 237 ratings
IN A FLESH AQUARIUM
Unexpect
4.08 | 470 ratings
ALTERNATIVE 4
Anathema
4.07 | 655 ratings
ÆNIMA
Tool
4.20 | 101 ratings
IMAGINARY SONICSCAPE
Sigh
4.12 | 183 ratings
PANOPTICON
Isis
4.09 | 274 ratings
MABOOL - THE STORY OF THE THREE SONS OF SEVEN
Orphaned Land
4.08 | 276 ratings
THE MANTLE
Agalloch
4.04 | 713 ratings
WE'RE HERE BECAUSE WE'RE HERE
Anathema
4.15 | 107 ratings
SOL NIGER WITHIN
Thordendal's Special Defects
4.12 | 120 ratings
SOMEWHERE ALONG THE HIGHWAY
Cult of Luna
4.07 | 211 ratings
OCEAN MACHINE: BIOMECH
Townsend, Devin

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

THE SECOND PHILOSOPHY
Nahemah
KÖLD
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Latest Experimental/Post Metal Music Reviews


 S.U.S.A.R. by INDUKTI album cover Studio Album, 2005
4.06 | 217 ratings

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S.U.S.A.R.
Indukti Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Gallifrey

4 stars SUSAR is the perfect progressive instrumental album. I say this, of course, in complete irony based around the fact that there are vocals on this record, but I feel that is one of the many things that add to make this such a great album instrumentally. Ever since progressive rock first cropped up in the late 60's, we have had bands trying their hand at a fully-instrumental variant of the style, to mixed results. Without the vocals, instrumental albums needed something to help the music flow, to give it a narrative, and they regularly flocked towards wacky sounding keyboards and solo duels to do the trick, which rarely worked. Quite frankly, instrumental albums, especially in a genre like progressive rock, completely bore me. There are exceptions, especially when it begins to border on post-rock, a genre known for its ability to stay afloat without vocals, but prog instrumental albums tend to lean so hard towards uncontrolled instrumental wankery, and because there is no room for the instrumentals to be subdued (because there are no vocals to support), the music loses all sense of melody and restraint and floats into nothingness.

And although the last 20 years have seen the invention and spread of progressive metal, instrumental albums in the style haven't got much better. In fact, one could argue that they've got even worse. Before SUSAR's release there was Liquid Tension Experiment, possibly the most indulgent and wanky group in existence, and after it we have the influx of "djent" and "tech metal" - with Blotted Science and all those legions of kids in their bedrooms making some of the most lifeless and coldly technical music I have ever heard. So could instrumental prog ever really exist as anything more than wanky garbage? Well, yes, it did. Briefly, as Indukti's debut record, SUSAR. SUSAR is, above all, an insanely unique release. It's a 75% instrumental album that features long instrumentals and brief vocal-led tracks (as opposed to the other way around which is the norm), it contains no keyboards (thank god), it flirts between the lines of progressive rock and metal, and is risen above mediocrity by two things - the guest voice of Riverside's Mariusz Duda, and the incredible violin of Ewa Jabłońska.

Mariusz is on three tracks here, although one of those is a very minimal contribution, and his voice acts as such a great break from the jamming instrumental onslaught of the longer tracks. Instead of using instrumental tracks as breaks like many vocal-based prog bands do, Indukti use Mariusz to create some pretty great, lower key music between the long songs. "Cold Inside" is the first of the two vocal track, which essentially feels like a softer Riverside track with a touch more folk, from the violin, and what I believe is a sitar (I could be wrong). While the song could have transitioned better from the opener, it definitely feels like the first vocal part of an immense epic - which "Freder" was the overture for. "Shade", the second vocal track, is definitely a far stronger song, and would probably be my favourite on the album if it weren't so short. Unlike "Cold Inside", it feels like far less of an interlude, and contains some great heavy riffs and tribal- like percussion that call Tool to mind. And to add to that, the "I TRULY AM THE SAME" hook line is one of Mariusz' best, ever.

Then there's the rest of the album - five songs, all longer than six minutes, and aside from some tribal wailing on "Freder", entirely instrumental. All of these pieces have such great energy flowing through them, and you can tell that a lot of them came about through hours of jamming together, because they all are so keyed in to what each instrument is doing and where the passage is gone. The guitars, bass and drums here are all relatively straight - we don't get huge wanky 42-note-per-second solos on this album, instead Indukti go for a very Tool- influenced, riff-heavy variant of prog metal jamming, and it makes for much better listening. Without wanky solos and without a keyboard player to splice in cheese, Indukti could play like this for hours and I wouldn't get bored. But all of this is accentuated and brought to life by the violin. Acting in the way a lead guitar would in this situation, the violin brings the melody, the contrast, the brightness, the intensity, and nearly makes this record on its own. With the melody being carried so wonderfully up high, the rest of the instruments can focus on rhythm, and there are some mighty fine rhythms in this album. A lot of the heavy guitars, and the way they jam them for long periods of time without reliance on a vocalist, remind me of sludge and post-metal bands like Isis and Neurosis. The metal guitars are thick and crunchy, but they know how to develop linearly, and aren't all-heavy-all-the-time, which is something those post-metal bands mastered in the early 2000's.

But, I must admit, the album does falter a little bit in the second half, and I think this is strengthened by the fact that Mariusz doesn't show up for the last 24 minutes. The best track out of the final three is probably "And Weak", the second part of "Cold Inside", but most of that is heavily relying on the melody of the former, and with the vocals missing, it doesn't feel quite as powerful. Both "Uluru" and "No 11811" are solid tracks, but aren't anywhere near as memorable as the first two instrumentals, especially since they essentially do the same thing. "Uluru", as the name suggests, has an interesting inclusion of a didgeridoo (something that groups like Tool have always been partial to), and although it's certainly a cool noise, it does feel a tad gimmicky, especially when it goes full gargle-mode in the middle of the song. The length of these pieces does seem to be a bit of a factor too, considering that long instrumental jams to tend to shift towards wank as they go along, and some parts of the last three tracks do lose the cohesion a bit.

I have to admit that this album is a bit of a missed opportunity, and there are a shockingly low number of bands playing this kind of music, but at the same time this could easily get very boring very fast. Aside from some hiccups, SUSAR is strong album from start to finish, taking the instrumental side of some of Tool's longer jams, throwing a violin all over it, bringing in some sludgy riffing, and having one of the 21st century's best vocalists sing a couple of tracks to keep it in check. Essential listening to check out, and if anyone wants instrumental prog metal that isn't wanky garbage, this is possibly the finest example.

8.1

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

 Judgement by ANATHEMA album cover Studio Album, 1999
4.18 | 524 ratings

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Judgement
Anathema Experimental/Post Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Prog Reviewer

4 stars ANATHEMA (which is Greek meaning something dedicated to evil) is a band that I have heard a few tracks from over the years and they have always rubbed me the wrong way therefore I have avoided this band like a flea-bitten varmint carrying the plague. The truth is this band has had so many different sounds over their career and judging them from any particular phase could leave out one phase that might actually rub you the right way. In this case their 5th studio album JUDGEMENT does just that and rubs that spot that feels oh so good. With a long list of credentials including a sound in alternative rock, acoustic rock, art rock and more, this album finds the band steering their ship out of doom metal waters into a progressive rock sea. In fact if you ask me this band is heavily influenced by the Porcupine Tree albums of the same era with a bit of alternative metal sounds a la Alice In Chains in the mix. Fortunately these influences are strong but not putting them into any particular clone department.

What I am finding pleasing about this album is the strong melodic melancholy with aspiring acoustic arpeggios mixed with grungy chords and passionate pleas to placate the pain. The story is the two Cavanaugh brothers recently lost their mother so the mood of the album fits. This album also finds the band losing bassist Duncan Patterson who was a major contributor in the songwriting department leaving Danny Cavanagh to take the major role as such. This was an album I picked up with much trepidation but since it was one of their highest rated and praised I thought I should at least give it a spin. I was fearing I would find it in the same camp as Opeth, which is a much beloved and highly praised band that I seem to lack the digestive enzymes to comprehend, but to my surprise despite the heavy influences being just a little too obvious, I find myself liking this album a lot. It has enough of its own personality to win me over. Now I can tiptoe through their discography a little bit more hoping to hit on another winner such as this.

 Distant Satellites by ANATHEMA album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.76 | 199 ratings

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Distant Satellites
Anathema Experimental/Post Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "Distant Satellites" is the 12th full-length studio album by atmospheric rock act Anathema. The album was released through Kscope in June 2014.

"Distant Satellites" treads an alternative/semi-progressive atmospheric rock path that is similar in sound and style to itīs predecessor "Weather Systems (2012)". The music is polished, dreamy, and slow building. Usually starting out mellow and then slowly building towards louder and more intense climaxes. The by now trademark melancholy of the bandīs music is as prevailent here as itīs always been. This is not depressive music though and although itīs not exactly happy music either, there is an uplifting spirit about the whole affair, that makes "Distant Satellites" a predominantly light melancholic album rather than a dark depressive one.

The male vocals by Vincent Cavanagh and the female vocals by Lee Douglas are the center of attention on the album and they share the spotlight equally. Atmospheric keyboards and guitars, and a well playing rhythm section complete the bandīs sound. Anathema have also included some electronic drumming on the album, which to my ears is a very successful move.

The first part of the album features organic drums, but when the 7th track "Youīre Not Alone" kicks in, the music style changes a bit as a result of the electronic drums. It becomes more ambient and Iīm reminded of artists like Massive Attack and Morcheeba. The short instrumental "Firelight" continues the ambient sound and the title track which follows is also quite ambient and features electronic drumming. The latter reminds me a lot of Coldplay and could in an edited version (this version is 8:17 minutes long) easily get radio airplay. Itīs the perfect example of how far Anathema have come since their early doom/death metal days. Itīs not unusual for Anathema to tweek their sound during an album. They did the same on "Weather Systems (2012)". They do it skillfully though which means that their core style and atmosphere are intact throughout.

"Distant Satellites" is packed in an organic and pleasant sounding production which fits the music perfectly, and all in all itīs another high quality release by Anathema. If I have to voice a minor complaint it would be about the lyrics, which are at times a bit too simple, naive, and starry eyed, and not exactly written with the greatest finesse. Iīll even go as far as to call them teenage-angsty, which is a bit odd to me, as I know these guys (and girl) are in their 30s/40s. Oh well...they are fortunately sung by strong voices and wrapped in beautiful melodies, so it is a minor complaint and a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is still deserved.

 Alternative 4 by ANATHEMA album cover Studio Album, 1998
4.08 | 470 ratings

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Alternative 4
Anathema Experimental/Post Metal

Review by FragileKings

3 stars I've had this album for two years now and I have been hesitating to review it because I wasn't altogether thrilled about it after the first few listens. The album is about ill-placed trust and loyalty, betrayal, anger, and finally getting one's strength back. The theme didn't particularly appeal to me but more so I felt that the concept wasn't delivered in a truly convincing way but instead sounded rather juvenile.

The music is often pretty slow and when it picks up and tries to exhibit more tension and power, I feel it never quite reaches a satisfactory level. Vincent Cavanagh does his best to sound crestfallen, betrayed, hurt, and angered but somehow something's missing. There are a lot of references in vocal style to Pink Floyd's "The Final Cut", most noticeable when in several places Cavanagh repeats his words like an echo as we can hear on "The Wall" and "The Final Cut". "I've lost all control, control, control, control." He also gets a few good screams in their too as Waters did on the Floyd albums. It's no surprise then that the reissue comes with four bonus tracks, three of which are Pink Floyd covers from the two albums I mentioned. And actually, Cavanagh does a mighty fine job of singing like Roger Waters did on the originals.

So, I wasn't wowed and put off reviewing this album until the time was right for me and suddenly it struck me that I was ready. After a good listen I found my views had softened a little. Actually there's some good music on this album and a few highlights. I like the violin, especially at the beginning of "Fragile Dreams" as I first thought it sounded like an er-hu (a two-string Chinese violin). "Regret" has some nice "ah-ah" harmony vocals in a minor key that sound almost like they could push for pseudo-Gregorian chant with a bit more effort. The last minute of "Feel" is where things finally turn around for our protagonist and the music at last breaks free of its depressing mood, becoming powerful and charged. We also get some piano, organ, and acoustic guitar here and there.

None of the music is particularly complex, going more for mood and atmosphere. The lyrics sound a little trite at times but are sincere if not a bit tedious in their bitterness. Since purchasing this album, I have on occasion added a song or two on mixed playlists and have thus become more familiar with certain tracks and even having a couple of favourites. Now I don't think it's quite so bad an album after all, though I wouldn't call it essential unless you're a fan of the band. Good enough.

 The Serpent & The Sphere by AGALLOCH album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.72 | 39 ratings

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The Serpent & The Sphere
Agalloch Experimental/Post Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "The Serpent & the Sphere" is the 5th full-length studio album by US doom/black metal act Agalloch. The album was released through Profound Lore Records in May 2014. Itīs been 4 years since the release of "Marrow of the Spirit (2010)", but looking down over their discography that seems to be their regular release cycle for studio albums. Agalloch have however released the "Whitedivisiongrey (2011)" compilation and the "Faustian Echoes (2012)" EP to bridge the gap between the two studio albums.

The music on "The Serpent & the Sphere" pretty much continues down the atmospheric and epic doom/black metal path that the band also tread on "Marrow of the Spirit (2010)". Itīs a music style thatīs actually a bit hard to describe correctly as it also features elements of folk, goth, post rock, and progressive rock. The only "real" black metal trait in the music is the raspy and raw vocals, which are occasionally whispering instead. Otherwise this is predominantly heavy, atmospheric and epic extreme metal. Itīs very dynamic music with both grand massive sections and beautiful mellow acoustic moments.

The album features 9 tracks and a full playing time of 59:58 minutes. Thereīre everything from 3 to 5 minutes long tracks to tracks like "Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation" (which features an opening that screams My Dying Bride) and "Plateau of the Ages", that both exceed the 10 minutes mark. As something extraordinary Canadian neo-folk musician Nathanaël Larochette has written and performs some acoustic guitar pieces, that work as little breathers between the more metal oriented tracks.

"The Serpent & the Sphere" is a well produced album featuring a warm, heavy and organic sound, which suits the music well and overall itīs another high quality release by Agalloch. Itīs not their most creative release but itīs still adventurous and well played and a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

 Distant Satellites by ANATHEMA album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.76 | 199 ratings

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Distant Satellites
Anathema Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Deathangel

4 stars I'd heard very mixed reviews about this album so was pleasantly surprised when I finally got to know it. It always takes me a few listenings before I get into any new Anathema piece, but this is beginning to get under my skin nicely.

Not a drastically different direction, and possibly a bit 'nice' now and then, but overall I'm liking Distant Satellites quite a bit. Very 'post-rock', very atmospheric and actually quite mature in the songwriting department, and with some really great harmony vocals going on. What I really like is the journey this album takes us on - it starts off good and just gets better as it goes along, with 'Firelight' and 'Distant Satellites' being standout tracks for me.

Not quite up to the standards of 'We're Here Because We're Here', but certainly a good 4 star album.

 The Serpent & The Sphere by AGALLOCH album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.72 | 39 ratings

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The Serpent & The Sphere
Agalloch Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'The Serpent & The Sphere' - Agalloch (71/100)

Agalloch is the uncommon result of an uncompromising vision and style. Though they've never let themselves be bound to one sound, their identity is strong and distinctive, even in the wake of recent imitators. With each album, Agalloch seemed to have found the perfect balance between staying true to one's own aesthetic, and shifting the style to the point where each album felt like a new journey. With that in mind, it's not surprising Agalloch have made such waves. Particularly in recent years, their momentum has snowballed to the extent where they're now one of the most talked-about bands in extreme music. Their second and third albums- The Mantle and Ashes Against the Grain- remain two of my best-loved albums ever.

With the unbearably high expectations that would no doubt arise with a new Agalloch record, I'm not altogether sure whether I could have listened to The Serpent & The Sphere without some sort of disappointment laying in wait. Agalloch's latest album is easily the least impression in their career thus far, but it yet stands as an impressive contribution to what is fast-becoming one of the best discographies in metal.

Similarly to the impression I had with 2010's Marrow of the Spirit, rather than renovate their entire style, The Serpent & The Sphere feels like a conscious consolidation of elements they previously innovated. The Ulver-esque black metal of Pale Folklore is arguably most prominent, with The Mantle's folk displays and Ashes Against the Grain's post-metal leanings filling out the rest of their palette. Taking the fourth album into account as well, The Serpent & The Sphere enjoys the distinct analog production of Marrow of the Spirit. All put together, you have an album that retains the rich quality and atmosphere of Agalloch, without so much of the identity I'd associate with their individual albums. Then again, Marrow of the Spirit also suffered this criticism, and I still consider it a masterpiece unto its own.

Whatever issues that may be had with The Serpent & The Sphere lay within the written material itself. The atmosphere remains as bold and vast, but in fusing their styles, the result is rather muddy and inconsistent. "The Astral Dialogue" and "Dark Matter Gods" pack a solid punch, but none of the individual songs have the memorable impact I may have taken for granted on earlier albums. In spite of coming off as weaker songwriters this time around, there are plenty of immaculate moments on The Serpent & The Sphere, precisely the sort of stuff that made them a favourite band of mine in the first place. "Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation" has a crushingly doomy feel, and while it lacks the dynamic impact of other slower Agalloch tunes (the masterful "In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion" comes first to mind), it sets the stage with a bleak atmosphere that carries throughout the rest of the record. While "The Astral Dialogue" seems to run together with "Dark Matter Gods" on the album, it stands out to me as one of the album's best cuts, with biting riffs that recall Agalloch's labelmates in Hammers of Misfortune. Perhaps it proves a point, but the included interlude tracks provided by Musk Ox acoustic mastermind Nathaniel LaRochette are the best written, most evocative tracks on the album. On top of creating a satisfying 'bigger picture' for the album, the interludes co-exist beautifully with Agalloch's bleakly solipsistic aesthetic, to the point where I hope this is not the last we've heard from him on an Agalloch release.

While the material on The Serpent & The Sphere does not impress me nearly as much as their last three albums, I can safely say Agalloch have improved the practical execution of their material to the point of virtual perfection. With the help of producer Billy Anderson, The Serpent & The Sphere isn't just the best- sounding Agalloch have ever been- it's one of the best productions I have ever heard on a metal album period. Marrow of the Spirit played with analog grit in the wake of the overly polished Ashes Against the Grain but didn't nail it entirely. The Serpent & The Sphere enjoys a richly organic production that sometimes even outshines the music itself. It's one thing to have a polished big-budget production, but it takes some level of vision and genius to find the optimal warmth and frame for a band's sound. Aesop Dekker's drumwork is thick and heavy, the guitars sound rich, and Jason Walton's bass work is consistently audible for once. From a technical standpoint, The Serpent & The Sphere arguably succeeds beyond any other album I've heard this year. It's a shame I don't find myself quite so impressed with the music itself.

There was something beautifully poetic and captivating about the way Agalloch sought to capture the essence of nature in their lyrics and music. It's certainly a bold move for the band to have stepped away from the earthly to explore its astral counterpart, but Agalloch's wordier approach to the ethereal doesn't carry the same resonance. Even so, if anything defines The Serpent & The Sphere in the context of Agalloch's illustrious discography, it is this conceptual liberation from the worldly plane. While the music is still perfectly recognizable to what Agalloch have conjured in the past, it is conscious of this change; space electronic embellishments and oscillations virtually unheard of in their work come to bear whenever the atmosphere permits. The lyrics reveal more depth when they're read, and taken into context with the album's interlude-heavy structure and cover art featuring the ceaseless worm Ouroboros, there is plenty of depth and thought-provoking content available to anyone willing to search for it. Agalloch are none the less meticulous in their work, but their earthly aesthetics of yesteryear are preferable to the road they've taken.

While he retains the rare gift of having a distinctive black metal rasp, Haughm has limited himself to a small set of familiar snarls and brooding whispers. Where his plain (and appropriately sombre) clean vocals might have added variety on past albums, his almost entirely rasped delivery on The Serpent & The Sphere doesn't offer the impact I would expect to hear from him. Come to think of it, it's probably a significant reason why I've never been able to connect to the album's theme and lyrics. There's nothing wrong with his snarl in of itself (and I might not have even noted the lack of range in a lesser black metal act) but by the sixth time he falls back on his default moody whisper to elocute some declaration to the universe, it no longer feels as poignant or moving as it should be.

If anything's been proven to me in this experience, it's that being a fan can have its downsides. Were this the first Agalloch release I'd had the pleasure of hearing, I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it more, but I'm certain that my lasting thoughts towards it wouldn't have been so critical. Perhaps the album needs a pair of fresh ears to enjoy to its fullest extent; the fact is that while Agalloch remains a powerfully resonant force with a gripping sense of style and atmosphere, they seem to be at the point where they have begun to rest on their laurels, at least when it comes to renovating their sound. The Serpent & The Sphere is a solid album for all intents and purposes, but for a band as breathtaking as Agalloch have been in the past, I was expecting more.

 Melting Sun by LANTLOS album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Melting Sun
Lantlos Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Gallifrey

— First review of this album —
4 stars Lantlôs were one of the many bands that French musician Neige brought to the forefront in the original blackgaze movement, but were honestly the only one I could never really get into. I guess I didn't really give them an awful lot of time, but of the one album I heard (2010's .neon), I wasn't entirely enthralled by the heavy reliance on harsh vocals and black metal riffing, but I understand if Neige wanted an output to throw his most kvlt and frostbitten music. But now, come 2014, Neige has left the band to continue full-time with Alcest, giving Markus Siegenhort (aka Herbst) full control over the band and its direction. And honestly, the way he's taking it is a tad ironic.

Melting Sun, as essentially a shoegaze/post-rock record with metal undertones, points rather directly at Shelter, the latest record from Alcest, both in its production, use of fully clean vocals, absence of blast beats, and gloriously sunny cover. Although Alcest managed to avoid this by only have sun in their cover, Lantlos have buried themselves straight into the new blackgaze subgenre of Pinkgaze ♥ ♥ ♥ (yes the hearts are part of the name), following the likes of Deafheaven and An Autumn for Crippled Children down into a blissful sea of pink and gaze.

But as much as this record does seem to be following a trend, I do like it, although not quite as much as the latest Alcest album. Markus makes his point of difference particularly in his vocal delivery, as well as some rather post-metal like heavy sections, with nearly no black metal to be found. The one thing that this album does that a lot of these nu-gaze albums are missing is clear vocals. I'll admit I'm a fan of a [&*!#]ton of reverb in my music, and I do love the Alcest records where you honestly can't hear a single part of the vocals, but it's just become a cliché. To hear the singing hear float so nicely over the instrumentation, clear in tone and in lyric, is a real breath of fresh air, for the same reasons I praised Neal Halstead's inclusion in the latest Alcest record. And it brings the vocal melodies so far forward, too - and there are some stunning ones here. The ending of "Cherry Quartz" brings some wonderful vocals in after a long (and oftentimes tedious) post-rock build for the first half. And the melody is absolutely beautiful, in every way, rivaling some of Alcest's best melodies at their peak. It lifts the song up so much, and nearly forgives that meandering intro with its beauty. But honestly, if I have a nitpick, it's that I don't really like the thick and almost djenty bass tone that comes through this part - it should be smoother, dreamier.

And that's the other thing - the heavy tones on this record. During some of the more metal sections of this album, evident during "Azure Chimes" as well as the first half of the aforementioned "Cherry Quarts", the tones are huge and meaty, reminding me the most of Russian Circles, and even pushing ever so slightly into djenty sounds - although the guitars are certainly never used in a djent-like fashion. And while it's a nice change to the blurred and frantic blast beats and tremolo riffs that many blackgaze bands utilise, I can't say it's honestly all too good, or all too fitting with this kind of music.

My other big issue with this album is how sometimes it feels like it simply isn't trying. I'll admit that I love the melodies and the chord progressions to bits, but sometimes there just is such a lack of energy in it, particularly in the wanky first half of "Cherry Quartz", as well as the last couple of tracks. They're all pleasant listening, as music of this style generally tends to be, but I can't really enjoy them more than that ? as ambient background noise. There are obviously other nitpicks that I have - "Aquamarine Towers" fading out is a completely stupid decision, the china cymbal in "Azure Chimes" is massively distracting, and all the songs have pretty much the same intro with the same building ambience.

On the whole, the melodies and brilliant emotions on this record definitely outweigh the annoying aesthetic decisions with the way they are arranged, and it's definitely a solid album worth your time. If you're sick of shoegaze having indiscernible vocals, then this is a must-hear, or maybe if you're a fan of Russian Circles-style post-metal, but I know that the melody that closes "Cherry Quartz", as well as the main one in "Jade Fields" are amongst the best melodies I've heard this year.

7.2

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

 Grave Human Genuine by DARK SUNS album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.84 | 67 ratings

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Grave Human Genuine
Dark Suns Experimental/Post Metal

Review by FragileKings

4 stars I found Dark Suns while checking out progressive metal bands on iTunes. I don't remember which of their albums I sampled first, but I later read that their first album sounded a lot like Opeth, their second began moving away from that, and their fourth I listened to a bit and found it very jazz-influenced. This one made the biggest impression on me and so I ordered a CD from Amazon.

My experience with progressive metal is still somewhat limited; however, at times I was reminded of Tool's "Aenema" because of the slow heavy bombast of guitar chords, bass, and drums. Dark Suns shy away from catchy riffs or speedy trash sequences. Instead they often use the louder instruments (electric guitar, bass, drums) for deafening blasts of doom-heavy sonic assaults. The opening instrumental in part sums up much of the heavier parts of the album.

What makes "Grave Human Genuine" so interesting, though, is everything else that Dark Suns employs to create the music. You'll find piano, flute, bongo drums, electronic effects, acoustic and clean electric guitars, strings, synthesizer, and possibly more that I have missed. The band uses all these to create delicate and beautiful acoustic music with drums and bass, symphonic metal, haunting and lonely musical passages, and music by which to go mad. They also don't hold back and fire full volley when it suits them. Listen to the wonderful acoustic guitar/piano/bass/drums opening to "The Chameleon Defect" which abruptly turns into an auditory bombardment at a rate that can hardly be counted in beats per second. Though the general atmosphere is dark and there are no catchy melodies to sing in your head, the music is very intelligent if not experimental.

A few words on the vocals, Nico Knappe's vocals tend to be sung very delicately and softly, which can work wonderfully to contrast the dark heavy side of the music. Sometimes though I wish he would put a little more edge into his voice. At times I think his style bothers me a bit but other times I am okay with it. There are also death growl vocals placed to good effect but I don't know who is providing them. Also, Vurtox of Disillusion guests on a couple of tracks for spoken parts. It's interesting that I ordered Disillusion's "Back to Times of Splendor" at the same time as Dark Suns, discovering them during the same iTunes hunt.

The album is both diverse and cohesive. The approach to the dark heavy music doesn't vary much but there's so much else on there that the album doesn't get tiresome. If you are looking for more standard metal then this one might not please, but for something in a progressive vein, I think this is rather original among the prog metal albums I have heard so far.

I don't feel it quite deserves five stars but a very strong four stars.

 Ziltoid the Omniscient by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2007
4.21 | 425 ratings

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Ziltoid the Omniscient
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Unitron

5 stars Devin Townsend-Ziltoid the Omniscient

I just recently started listening to this guy, and boy was I missing out!

Ziltoid the Omniscient is a concept album about an alien named Ziltoid who wants to travel to earth in order to find 'Their ultimate cup of coffee'. They then give him a cup of coffee, but he declares it as foul-tasting. So he gives the order to attack earth.

What a concept, I never thought I would see such a comedic concept coming from a progressive metal artist. Even though the story is sure to bring some laughter, it isn't just the story that makes this a masterpiece.

The music ranges from many different styles, from progressive metal, to ambient, to power metal, to space rock influences, to even death metal. With the short intro 'ZTO', the combination of death screams and operatic vocals fits very well. 'By Your Command', one of my favorites, has more combinations of death metal vocals and clean vocals with the drums pounding throughout. Surprisingly the more space-infused passages contrast very well with the powerful riffing and angry vocals. The bridge has great powerful riffing and space-infused keyboards. The end of the song is a among one of the best headbanger moments I've ever heard. It then flows smoothly into the song 'Ziltoidia Attaxx!' which shows Townsend using mostly death screams. Probably my favorite song is 'Hyperdrive', where Townsend shows his powerful soft vocals. The way his vocals flow perfectly with the driving guitar riffs. The thrash-death track 'Planet Smasher' is another song that stands out.

One thing that really amazes me, is that he plays every instrument himself. That is quite an amazing feat with such a complex album.

Overall, this album should appeal to most metalheads. If you don't enjoy a sense of humor when you're listening to music, it may not be for you but I still find this an essential album for many a metal collection. Certainly one of my favorite progressive metal albums of all time.

Hope you found this review helpful

(Originally written on MetalMusicArchives.com on August 28th 2014.)

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Experimental/Post Metal bands/artists list

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
ABANDON Sweden
ABYSSE France
ACROSS TUNDRAS United States
ACYL France
ADMIRAL BROWNING United States
ADRIFT Spain
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AGALLOCH United States
AGES GONE Germany
AKPHAEZYA France
AKROMA France
ALASKAN Canada
ALCEST France
ALTAR OF PLAGUES Ireland
AMARA United States
AMBEON Netherlands
AMENRA Belgium
AMESOEURS France
AMIA VENERA LANDSCAPE Italy
ANATHEMA United Kingdom
ANCESTORS United States
AND HARMONY DIES Italy
ANGEL EYES United States
ANTIGUA Y BARBUDA Spain
ANTIMATTER Multi-National
ANUBI Lithuania
APOCALIPSIS Mexico
APOCRYPHAL VOICE Finland
APOKATASTASIA Switzerland
APSE United States
THE ARKITECHT Mexico
ARKTIKA Germany
AS LIGHT DIES Spain
ASIDEFROMADAY France
ASPIRATION Norway
ASTROHENGE United Kingdom
ASTRONAUT DOWN United States
AT THE SOUNDAWN Italy
THE ATLAS MOTH United States
THE ATOMIC BOMB AUDITION United States
ATROX Norway
AUSSITÔT MORT France
THE AXIS OF PERDITION United Kingdom
AZIOLA CRY United States
BACK WHEN United States
BAK Australia
BARONESS United States
BAT CASTLE United States
BATTLE OF MICE United States
BATTLEFIELDS United States
BAUDA Chile
BEAK United States
BEECHER United Kingdom
BEFORE THE EYEWALL United States
BEHIND THE SUN Israel
BEING United States
ADRIAN BENAVIDES United States
BIRUSHANAH Japan
BISON B.C. Canada
BLACK MATH HORSEMAN United States
BLACK SEA Brazil
BLACK SHEEP WALL United States
BLACKWAVES Germany
BLINDEAD Poland
BLOOD & TIME United States
BLUT AUS NORD France
BOBEL Costa Rica
BOSSK United Kingdom
BOTANIST United States
BRIDGES TO DREAMS Canada
BUNKUR Netherlands
BURIED INSIDE Canada
BURN DOWN ROME United Kingdom
CAINA United Kingdom
CALDERA France
CALLISTO Finland
THE CANCER CONSPIRACY United States
CANDIRIA United States
CAPRICORNS United Kingdom
CAPTURE THE SUN United States
CARNIVAL IN COAL France
CARONTTE Spain
CATACOMBE Portugal
CAVE IN United States
CELEBRITY SEX SCANDAL United States
CELESTINE Iceland
CHASE THE SUNSET United Kingdom
THE CHRONICLES OF ISRAFEL Canada
CHRYST Austria
THE CIRCLE ENDS HERE Italy
CIRUELO CILINDRICO Spain
CLERIC United States
CLOUDKICKER United States
COALESCE United States
COLD BODY RADIATION Netherlands
A COLD DEAD BODY Italy
COLDWORLD Germany
COME SLEEP Sweden
COMITY France
CONIFER United States
CONSECRATION Serbia
CORMORANT United States
COSMONAUTS DAY Russia
COUNTERVELA Ireland
CRIB45 Finland
CULT OF LUNA Sweden
D.U.N.E. Italy
DAKRYA Greece
DAMASCUS United States
DARK CASTLE United States
DARK SUNS Germany
DARKESTRAH Germany
DARKSPACE Switzerland
DAUGHTERS OF FISSION United States
DAY WITHOUT DAWN United States
DE OMEGA United States
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DEAFHEAVEN United States
THE DEATH OF HER MONEY United Kingdom
DECORTICA New Zealand
DEEP IN THOUGHT Germany
DETERIOR United States
DEVIL SOLD HIS SOUL United Kingdom
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DIGRESSION ASSASSINS Sweden
DIRGE France
DISAPPEARER United States
DIVINA ENEMA Belarus
DØDSVERK Norway
DORNENREICH Austria
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DRAWN Norway
DREARINESS Italy
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ECHOES OF YUL Poland
ECHOSILENCE Estonia
EGOIST Poland
EHNAHRE United States
EIGHT BELLS United States
EINNA France
ELLIPSIS France
EMPIRES United States
EMPTY YARD EXPERIMENT United Arab Emirates
ENDER New Zealand
ENDNAME Russia
EPHEL DUATH Italy
ETERNAL DEFORMITY Poland
ETHERSENS France
EVIL INSIDE Spain
EXOTIC ANIMAL PETTING ZOO United States
EXTINCTION ALGORITHM Romania
FALL OF EFRAFA United Kingdom
FALLOCH United Kingdom
FALLS OF RAUROS United States
FEN United Kingdom
FLEURETY Norway
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FOLLOW THE WHITE RABBIT Russia
A FOREST OF STARS United Kingdom
FORMLOFF Norway
FOUNTAINHEAD Germany
FROM OCEANS TO AUTUMN United States
FUTURIAN Canada
THE GABRIEL CONSTRUCT United States
GANON United States
GARDEN OF SHADOWS United States
GARY SUICIDAL KIDS COMMANDO France
THE GATHERING Netherlands
GENERATION OF VIPERS United States
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GIRE Hungary
GNAW THEIR TONGUES Netherlands
GODSEND Norway
GONIN-ISH Japan
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GOSPEL United States
THE GRASSHOPPER LIES HEAVY United States
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GRAYCEON United States
GREEN CARNATION Norway
HAIKU FUNERAL Multi-National
HAIL SPIRIT NOIR Greece
HALCYON Australia
HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE United States
HAND United Kingdom
HARVEY MILK United States
HEIRS Australia
HELLAS MOUNDS United States
HERETOIR Germany
HIPOSPADIA Spain
HUMANFLY United Kingdom
HYDRA Mexico
HYPNO5E France
IDENTIFIED United States
IDIOT SAINT CRAZY France
THE ILLNESS United States
IN THE WOODS... Norway
IN.OVO Canada
INCOMING CEREBRAL OVERDRIVE Italy
INDUKTI Poland
INTER ARMA United States
INTRONAUT United States
IO United Kingdom
IREPRESS United States
IRONWOOD Australia
IRREVERSIBLE United States
ISIS United States
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IZAH Netherlands
JAKEL Canada
JANVS Italy
JESU United Kingdom
JEWY SABATAY Serbia
OLIVER KAAH Finland
KAILASH Italy
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KARABOUDJAN Sweden
KEELHAUL United States
KEKAL Indonesia
KHANATE United States
KHEMEÏA France
KHOMA Sweden
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KICK THE BUTTERFLY Australia
KINGDOM Belgium
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KONGH Sweden
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LANTLOS Germany
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MOD FLANDERS CONSPIRACY United States
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MONUMENTUM Italy
MORAINES Croatia
MORNE United States
THE MORNINGSIDE Russia
MORTIFERIA Norway
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MUTYUMU Japan
MY SILENT WAKE United Kingdom
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NANDA DEVI United States
NATIONAL SUNDAY LAW United States
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NEUROSIS United States
NIHIL Serbia
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NO MADE SENSE United Kingdom
NOCTIS Australia
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NORTH United States
NOVEMBRE Italy
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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
ORANSSI PAZUZU Finland
ORDO DRACONIS Netherlands
ØRKENKJØTT 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
PECCATUM Norway
PELICAN United States
PET SLIMMERS OF THE YEAR United Kingdom
PIKE Sweden
PINKLY SMOOTH United States
THE POSTMAN SYNDROME United States
PRISMA Switzerland
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THE PROPHECY United Kingdom
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PSYKUP France
PYRAMIDS United States
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QUBE Poland
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RADIATION 4 United States
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REFRACTION Ireland
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RWAKE United States
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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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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
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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
SUNPOCRISY Italy
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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
TENOCHTITLAN Russia
TEPHRA Germany
TERRA TENEBROSA Sweden
TESA Latvia
TETRAFUSION United States
THANATOSCHIZO Portugal
THENCE Finland
THORDENDAL'S SPECIAL DEFECTS Sweden
THY CATAFALQUE Hungary
TIDES United States
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TIME ZERO United States
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TOOL United States
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DEVIN TOWNSEND Canada
TRANSMISSION0 Netherlands
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TWIN ZERO United Kingdom
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USER NE Spain
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VAURA United States
VED BUENS ENDE Norway
VIRGIN BLACK Australia
VIRUS Norway
VISCERA/// Italy
VOID United Kingdom
VOID OF SILENCE Italy
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
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WINDS Norway
ANDY WINTER Norway
WIZARD RIFLE United States
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A WORKING MODEL United States
WORM OUROBOROS United States
YAKUZA United States
YEAR OF NO LIGHT France
YOB United States
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