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.