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Experimental Metal

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Title: Experimental Metal  
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Experimental Metal

This article is about avant-garde metal. For the post-rock influenced heavy metal genre also known as experimental metal, see Post-metal.
Experimental metal
Stylistic origins Heavy metal, experimental, avant-garde, progressive rock, jazz fusion, extreme metal
Cultural origins Mid 1980s in Central Europe
Typical instruments Electric guitar, bass guitar, drums, drum machine, keyboard, various string and wind instruments, vocals
Regional scenes
Norway, Sweden, United States
Local scenes
Boston, Los Angeles, Oslo, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Tokyo
Other topics
Progressive metal, experimental rock, noise music, ambient music, post-metal

Experimental metal, also known as avant-garde metal or avant-metal, is a subgenre of heavy metal music loosely defined by use of experimentation and characterized by the use of innovative, avant-garde elements, large-scale experimentation, and the use of non-standard and unconventional sounds, instruments, song structures, playing styles, and vocal techniques. It evolved out of progressive rock, jazz fusion, and extreme metal, particularly death metal and black metal. Some local scenes include Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, and Seattle in the United States, Oslo in Norway, and Tokyo in Japan.


Experimental metal has been called the most difficult heavy metal genre to define and describe.[1] However, it is characterized by the use of innovative, avant-garde elements, large-scale experimentation, and the use of non-standard and unconventional sounds, instruments, song structures, playing styles, and vocal techniques.[2][1] The term "experimental metal" is also often used as a term for the separate genre of "atmospheric metal" or "post-metal", which was named in reference to post-rock.[3] Experimental metal is related to progressive metal, but experimental metal often has more experimentation, while progressive metal usually has a tighter focus on traditional metal instrumentation and higher levels of technical complexity.[1] Experimental metal also uses unusual sounds, breaks conventions, and often includes new elements. The lyrics and visual presentation of the genre are eclectic as well.[1] According to Jeff Wagner in Mean Deviation, electronic percussion and drum machines see widespread use by experimental metal bands, along with female vocals and operatic elements, all of which he attributes to the influence of the band Celtic Frost.[4] The Canadian group Voivod also influenced future bands in the genre, pioneering technique such as robotic vocal effects, unusual time signatures, and fractured, dissonant, unorthodox guitar sounds.[4]


According to Ian Christe, experimental metal emerged out of death metal as a number of musicians "abandoned the tightly wound structure of the music and experimented with abstractions of its founding elements."[5] Progressive rock has also been cited as an influence.[6] Some early examples are the King Crimson releases Larks' Tongues in Aspic and Red in 1973 and 1974 respectively,[7][8] with the latter album's title track defining an "avant-metal style" that Robert Fripp would revisit years later.[8] Another early example is the 1976 Led Zeppelin album Presence.[9] Pioneers of experimental metal include Celtic Frost,[10] Boris,[11] Earth,[12] Helmet,[13] Maudlin of the Well,[14] Neurosis,[15] Sunn O))),[16] and Voivod.[10] In the late 1990s, Misanthropy Records emerged as a promoter of Norwegian experimental metal until it folded in 2000,[17] and, according to Jeff Wagner, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, a so-called "new wave of avant-garde metal" was spearheaded by The End Records.[17] Wagner states that "with the support of [Misanthropy and The End Records] and other specialty labels, metal's new avant-garde had arrived."[17] Some other record labels which promote experimental metal are Aurora Borealis,[18] The Flenser,[19] Holy Records,[20] Hydra Head Records,[21] Ipecac Recordings,[22] Napalm Records,[23] the Relapse Entertainment imprint of Relapse Records,[24] Seventh Rule Recordings,[25] and Southern Lord Records.[26] In the United States, local experimental metal scenes have emerged in the San Francisco Bay Area with bands such as Giant Squid, Grayceon, and Ludicra,[27] Boston, with bands such as Isis, Kayo Dot, and Maudlin of the Well,[28] and Seattle.[29] According to the New York Times, some regional scenes that developed in the mid-1990s included the cities of Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Oslo.[11]

See also

  • List of experimental metal artists



  • Wagner, Jeff (2010). Mean Deviation. Bazillion Points Books. ISBN 0979616336.
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