In the increasingly saturated music industry, it can be difficult to find music that’s truly original. Most of the time music nuts are resigned to settling for a good rehashing of the same ol’ same ol’. In the unapologetic world of true metal, taking risks can actually be detrimental to a band’s success. But a few fearless bands have taken leaps and bounds to write some of the most unusual sounding and intelligent music in today’s jaded market. Experimental is an understatement for what these artist have accomplished. These bands are truly groundbreaking. Here are six of those bands.
Hailing from Iceland, Misþyrming proves that black metal still has room for growth and experimentation. The band’s debut, Söngvar elds og óreiðu, is shrouded in obscurity and steeped in experimentation. People have often compared them to Deathspell Omega. While I can understand where the comparisons are coming from, I would have to disagree with them because, as whole, they really don’t do this band justice. Misþyrming manage to create a menacing atmosphere that combines pulverizing intensity with depressive interludes, and even occasional instrumental breaks. The vocals are tortured and raw and the drums come at you like an onslaught. But the real stand out feature on this album is the sound of the guitars. The shift between the lows and highs is remarkable and unique. I love how this band isn’t afraid to change to the tempo throughout the album. It really sets them apart from the rest as an enigmatic force in the underground. This is what kvlt sounds like in the 2010’s.
Latitudes’ sound can be difficult to pinpoint into any specific genre. An almost entirely instrumental band, Latitudes encompasses a full range of sounds by crossing genres in an unusual and beautiful way. Latitudes’ trademark is their ability to incite intense emotionalism through progressive interludes. Wails of desperation are coupled with expertly executed harmonies and progressions. The band’s musicianship is truly exceptional. The interim of vocals that are featured on the band’s latest release are breathtakingly beautiful and emotional. Metal Archives lists this band as Sludge/Post Metal, but Latitudes’ sound is utterly undefinable; a band worth checking out.
Shrouded in mystery, Polish black/doom metal outfit Batushka are a force to be reckoned with. It is said that the band is a sort of super group consisting solely of members from prominent bands, but considering that Batushka has not yet revealed their true identities, we cannot be entirely certain of that. What’s more interesting about this band to me, is their interesting and downright weird sound. Combining elements of classic Polish black metal with doom and, most interestingly, Vatican inspired chants, Batushka creates an ambiance that’s as of yet unparelleled. Batushka pairs slow and emotional interludes with fierce atmoshpere and raw intensity in ways I haven’t heard before. The chanting is expertly placed amidst blackened shrieks and melodic, beautiful riffing. Memorable is the best way to describe this outfit.
Any metalhead worth his weight in salt could appreciate the beautiful musicianship and intricacy that Russian neo folk/pagan project Tamerlan hoist upon listeners. Combining elements of folk music with goth and even hinting at acoustic black metal, Tamerlan’s sound is extraordinarily eerie and captivating. There’s an underlying darkness in Tamerlan’s music stemming from its occult message. The female vocals sprinkled throughout the band’s most recent release, Ain, are remarkable and hauntingly beautiful. Tamerlan released Ain back in 2014 and is awaiting the release of their fourth full length album sometime this year. If you are looking for music that goes against the grain, Tamerlan is definitly the way to go.
2. Oceans of Slumber
The idea behind prog is that it can go in any musical direction and that it is a completely malleable musical genre, open for any sort of experimentation. That said, when someone mentions they listen to prog people come to immediate conclusions on what they might be talking about. Bands like Rush, Opeth, and Hawkwind instantly come to mind. Oceans of Slumber, however, completely break these invisible barriers in progressive music with their entirely original sound. The band coelesces haunting melody with occasional metal sounding breaks and melodic yet technical soloing. Even sprinklings of classic rock can be found in this band’s sound, especially with their flawless cover of the classic, Nights in White Satin. Cammie Gilbert’s ethereal yet strong female vocals add a unique flair to the band’s sound and pair nicely with Anthony Contreres’ harsher vocal stylings. Changes in tempo are effortless, never forced are confusing. The band’s latest release Winter is something of an epic in its beauty and integrity. Oceans of Slumber is definitely a band to watch for in the coming years.
1. A Forest of Stars
Of all the aforementioned artists none quite reach the level of complexity and utter weirdness that United Kingdom’s A Forest of Stars achieve. Dubbing their sound as psychedelic black metal (if doom thrash is a thing I suppose that psychedelic black metal is perfectly acceptable as well), A Forest of Stars breaks boundaries in exciting and beautiful ways. Shifting between sounds of utterly chaotic dissonance, captivating melody, and progressive interludes, A Forest of Stars creates a whirlwind of experience. Instead of the traditionally blasphemous lyrical themes routinely adopted by black metal bands, A Forest of Stars breeches more intelligent topics like philosophy and esotericism. The occasional injection of female vocals is a nice touch on certain tracks as well. A Forest of Stars has managed to transform black metal in ways yet unheard of. It’s absolutely remarkable.