Monthly Archives: May 2013
Okay, okay, this is seriously the last time I use that title and this is the first of only two posts today.
Per interviews with members of some of the bands mentioned in earlier installments, it’s important to note the influences outside of metal that these musicians I’ve lumped together into this prospective genre of Atmospheric Metal. For most of these bands, metal is their profession and they tend to ignore the movements within the greater body of the metal genre for other styles.
One of the most common bands I see listed as an influence is Godspeed You! Black Emperor from Canada. They play a very interesting atmospheric progressive rock that washes the listener in sound:
Obviously, Porcupine Tree’s Progressive Rock era is a major influence in a large number of European bands:
Radiohead is often mentioned as well and is a specific influence on the shoegazing types:
Classic progressive rock is also an important influencing factor on these bands as well, such as:
Genesis’s early period:
And, many, many, many others.
Folk and classically inspired music is also greatly important, especially for a few of the Swedish bands:
This is evidenced even here thanks to Trioscapes:
So, there’s a very short list of some of the outside influences on bands that I have haphazardly thrown together. Expand your ears and give them a listen to see what you think. Here’s a list of bands that I consider as part of this movement:
Devin Townsend (some releases)
Fall of Every Season
Amorphis (some releases)
Wolves in the Throne Room
Anathema (late metal period, early progressive period releases)
Amorphis (some releases)
Swallow the Sun
L’Alba di Morrigan
An Autumn for Crippled Children
Decline of the I
Edge of Sanity
Sul Ad Astral
Mar de Grises
Old Silver Key
So, now I’ve gotten myself into this damned corner, I need to figure out how to get out of it, hey?
Starting with the actual music, I believe, ultimately, that most of this progressively minded music is inherently related in more than just its abrasive sound and usage of extreme vocals. The main dividing lines I see come up most often (and now I freaking realize I missed Deafheaven – stupid, stupid, stupid me) are a sort of Cartesian plane where the X axis is the degree to which the metal is either Black or Death and the Y axis is the degree to which the music is classic rock inspired or folk inspired. Some bands, especially the French bands currently, are adding a third dimension to the music in which the use of electronics, looping and effects is done to ramp up the positivity or negativity of the sound or the soundscape’s atmosphere. Referring to the music I embedded in yesterday’s installment, it’s easy for me to see this progression of a sort of three dimensional approach to music. As this is the music’s most base qualities, I feel this breaking down of the completely superfluous ideas of “blackened death metal,” “deathened black metal,” “shoegaze prog-funk jazz-trio fusion post-metal metal” to be the most important aspect here.
Lyrically, all these bands have related themes. This is not to say that Opeth and Katatonia speak to the same subjects or that Wolves in the Throne Room are saying the exact same things as Agalloch. Rather, they’re in the same universe, somewhat similar to Eliot, Yeats, &c inhabit similar places in time. Since this is a form of art rock (I sincerely and genuinely believe this), that analogy is the best descriptor I can consider here. Typically, these bands tend to avoid political discussion at all or rather make their words demonstrate the convictions they have. Often again, I’ve noticed that a good number of them are environmentally minded (Agalloch, WITTR, Gojira, Autolatry, Krallice, Fen); others deal with traditionally romantic themes (Opeth, Katatonia, DT, Fen, Alcest, Amesouers). Satanism is discussed (Akercocke, I’m looking at you), but is more often a tool of opposition against the mainstream than a fastidious religious concentration. Ultimately, most of the focus seems to be on a philosophical or emotional examination of a particular situation (in concept albums) or of a particular feeling or thought (in the case of single songs).
Other commonalities, based off the above mentioned, include long, complex emotional pieces and an intense regionalism. It reminds me very much of the Bay Area Thrash versus the English Steel in the 80s, but with much, much more collaboration and related music styles. The Northeastern US brings bands that talk about the ghosts of history, nature, and people of the Northeast, while the Northwestern US bands have a far more tribal feel to them. The French bands really seem to look toward art and the romantic landscapes (regardless if it is Deathspell Omega ripping your eardrums to shreds).
Ultimately, it’s not fair to call one band a member of X movement and another a member of Y just for the sake of differences. I realize metal is good at that in that metalheads want a typology so that they know which version of the uniform in which they feel most comfortable. Yet, it is ultimately so limiting when attempting to define how these bands sound or the specifics of the movements in their work. Therefore, to describe this unique, inter-connected though grossly diverse collective of metal, I believe that just using Atmospheric Metal works just fine. No, it’s not really hippie music though it is dark folk music at its basest level.
From Dan Swano’s collaboration with Ragnar Widerberg due out to the states on August 6th.
So, in going over some music stuff again today, I came across this regarding the musician, Dan Swano.
Don’t pigeonhole yourself; do it all.
All right, so we made it to through the naturalistic/philosophical forebears to Agalloch’s 1999 release in the last item. Now, we’re in the most recent period of these types of extreme music. From this point forward, I’ll be discussing things in the present tense, focusing on scenes in and out of Scandinavia, that have continued the innovation of this sound.
If you’ve read anything by me, then you’d know how much I hate the idea of the “genre” of avant-garde. The majority of time, bands have a very short avant-garde period where they are innovating their specific sound and refining it to coalesce into the things that others take only the most simplistic parts and evolve them into their complete sounds. Bathory, for example, offered three avant-garde albums that began the genres. Avant-garde literally means advance guard; these are those that are “ahead of their time.” To me, when listening to music that relates to this very delineated genre styling, Peccatum serves as the avant-garde (from 2004)[yes, another Ihsahn project]:
This is a very definite attempt to combine industrial elements, black metal, and pop together to craft something bleak and tragically melancholy.
In France, Gojira began a litany of quality bands, using heavy music that discussed outrage over strongly environmental themes. Their piece, Terra Incognita (2001), was their first full length release:
Similarly, they use death metal combined with nearly industrial elements, creating a very cold atmosphere with monolithically heavy riffs. Whereas Deathspell Omega’s Infernal Battles (2000) and Blut Aus Nord (2001) brought black metal in with a furiously thrashing and cold environment:
Amesouers, on the other hand, strikes from melancholic black metal, starting the foundation for the blackgaze movement:
Amesouers would eventually diverge a step away into Alcest, whose music is far more seated in progressive rock than metal:
Further, they also build into Les Discrets, an atmospheric band whose music a touch more like Katatonia:
Meanwhile, around the same time in the Ukraine, a band whose politics are a bit concerning and whose ideas are musically far reaching, Drudkh brings their spin on the naturalistic styled music, replacing the Satanic imagery and philosophical questioning with Ukrainian poetry and folklore:
Hardcore even gets into the act with straight on folk metal, thanks to the Swiss band Eluveitie on their album, Spirit (2007):
This music uses folk instrumentation alongside the heavy metal strikes, more openly demonstrating the hallmarks of this style by this use.
Not to be outdone by the continentals, the UK began to sprout bands that concerned themselves with this style as well. Paradise Lost was one of the earliest, focusing on death/doom stylings relating to death, sin and all things from Milton’s work:
Akercocke’s offerings during their lifespan approached the blasphemous and explored sexuality; song from Rape of the Bastard Nazarene (1997):
Winterfylleth offers an ambling, folksy approach to their particular brand of darkness:
Fen focuses very much on the boggy, murky landscape of the Isles, especially on The Malediction Fields (2009):
Others, including Nine Covens, have joined the scene as well, focus on the very British interpretation of this style.
In North America, Agalloch seems to have led the charge of this style of music. Wolves in the Throne Room are a close second to Agalloch in this style from the North American scene. Their explicit intention is not to indulge in raging violence, rather it is to emotionally release the negative:
Beyond this, you have great variability and exploration of the style. Devin Townsend joined in as well on Terria (2001):
Ludicra (now defunct) also contributed to the style:
Grayceon has as well:
Krallice makes sure the East Coast is well represented as well:
The same is true of Autolatry, a band from Connecticut, that focus on the Northeastern landscape and folklore:
In a new release from earlier this year, reviewed by this blog, Anciients’ from Vancouver, BC offers a stunningly amazing piece:
Ultimately, I’m sure I’m missing something. I know I did not include the German school at all due to fact that all the German bands I’ve heard attempt this sound just don’t pull it off well to my ear, and further I must still be in love with German Power Metal. That written, this demonstrates ultimately that this style belongs apart and separate. It is inherently regionally focused in that folklore way. Tomorrow’s piece will be far less music heavy, but will focus on the arguments I hope to complete. Friday’s installation (and the last piece of this series) will focus solely on non metal influences to these styles.