Tag Archives: Avant-metal

The Dillinger Escape Plan – One Of Us Is The Killer (2013)

The Dillinger Escape Plan - One Of Us Is The Killer (2013)

The Dillinger Escape Plan are an experimental metal/mathcore band from New Jersey. I haven’t really been keeping up with DEP releases beyond their first few. After a pretty awesome EP, Under The Running Board (1998), and a fantastic debut, Calculating Infinity (1999), vocalist Dimitri Minakakis left to focus on his graphic design, the band recorded one of the most incredible EPs that I have ever heard, Irony Is A Dead Scene (2002) with Mike Patton taking vocal duties, while the band searched for a new vocalist, eventually finding fan,  Greg Puciato. At the time, I had a little listen to Miss Machine (2004) but DEP just fell off my radar.

The thing with DEP is that they are INTENSE, really really intense, and I find listening to them to be draining. Most of the time in a good way, but draining none-the-less, and even though I enjoy listening to them.

Fast forward 7 years and 3 albums and here we are with One Of Us Is The Killer.

As soon as you start listening, you hear a familiar high-pitched guitar staccato that informs you that you are in for a hell of a journey. And the schizophrenic, staccato, belligerent assault doesn’t really let up for 40 minutes, aside from the occasional quiet section (which, let’s be honest, is only there to make the intense sections sound even more intense). Title track, One Of Us Is The Killer, is a more traditional rock song, but don’t let it lure you into a false sense of security. In Paranoia Shields, DEP have somehow managed to sound like Tomahawk. In places, there are hints of some of the nu-metal cliches that I would say DEP are almost the antithesis of, but as with everything in this fast moving style, these are quickly passed, as if held up only to be beaten down.

And it is good but, as expected, draining. By mixing in an element of schizophrenic dynamic changes, one can make music more intense than through brutally fast or heavy music alone. DEP are masters of this schizophrenic energy and they manage to bombard you with their music without it ever becoming stale or repetitive. I like intense music, but DEP are a band I have to take in small sessions; in many ways, I think that is a good thing.

Favourite tracks: One Of Us Is The Killer, Nothing’s Funny, Paranoia Shields
Spotify link: The Dillinger Escape Plan – One of Us Is the Killer

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Sebkha-Chott – Ne[XXX]t Epilog (2012)

Sebkha-Chott - Ne[XXX]t Epilog (2012)

Sebkha-Chott are an avant-garde metal band from France, who I first discovered on Nagah Mahdi, their excellent second album. In the same way as Magma, GWAR or Secret Chiefs 3, Sebkha-Chott have generated an entire mythology surrounding their work. A mythology as intricate and manic, politically, geographically and socially, as their music; the band exist in Ohreland, a world not related to Earth, the latter they only enter for their “stopovers” (or gigs as the rest of the world calls them). 

Wailing sax, brutal blast beats, funky bass, dynamic shifts, metal guitars, ethereal interludes, Jazzy breaks and structured freak outs, This album will certainly appeal to fans of Mr Bungle, Fantomas and the like, with hyperactive rhythm changes and well-choreographed noise. Several listens wouldn’t even do justice to the depth and intricacy herein. Zappa, Primus, Fantomas, Tom Waits, Magma, Mr Bungle, Residents, Zappa, et al. are all represented and all clash in a glorious package.

Favourite tracks: Tourista et Fugue, Ballade Bouree et Courante, Saphonie Pastorale

Spotify link: Sebkha-Chott – The Ne[xxx]t Epilog
Bandcamp link: http://sebkhachott.bandcamp.com/album/the-ne-xxx-t-epilog-v-09
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Stolen Babies – Naught (2012)

Stolen Babies - Naught (2012)

Has it really been that long since Stolen Babies’ first album, There Be Squabbles Ahead (2006)? It seems it has.

Stolen Babies hail from California and sit rather comfortably into the Avant-metal tag, alongside Mr Bungle, Dog Fashion Disco, Circus of Dead Squirrels, Diablo Swing Orchestra, et al. Drawing influence from the three big Cs: cabaret, carnival and circus (in a sub-genre playfully called Dark Cabaret or Circus Metal).

At first listen to this kind of music, you could probably take it one of two ways, you’ll love the interesting instrumentation, the innovation and the influence of music not traditionally linked to metal, or you’ll find it more of a novelty than anything serious, and maybe a bit pretentious. I would hope that it goes without saying that I fall into the first category, and I hope that if you fall in the latter category, that you give it a another try.

This style of music tends to corrupt circus and cabaret music to create a kind of nightmare circus, à la Beetlejuice, Pennywise or Killer Klowns from Outer Space; or evoking the history of the freak show. On Naught, this is perhaps most evident on Behind the Days, a dark waltz with a gypsy dirge feel, or on Swimming Hole, beginning with a music box melody and moving into mournful theatrics.

And just when you thought you might have got a handle on Stolen Babies, they hit you with industrial-influenced I Woke Up and Second Sleep, or pretty much straightforward rock Dried Moat, sounding almost like Marilyn Manson, or Prankster, showing some influence from the Sisters or Mercy at times!

Naught would be a good place to start if you hadn’t heard this genre of music and is a good album overall; however, it would be a lie to say that I didn’t prefer There Be Squabbles Ahead.

Favourite tracks: Behind the Days, I Woke Up, Swimming Hole.

Spotify link: Stolen Babies – Naught
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Screaming Mechanical Brain – The Policy of Unilateral Hate (2012)Screaming Mechanical Brain - The Policy of Unilateral Hate (2012)

Screaming Mechanical Brain are one of those bands who seem to get associated with Avant-metal/experimental bands, such as Mr Bungle, Tub Ring, Ideamen, etc., which give you hope of what to expect from The Policy of Unilateral Hate.

However, what you get is pretty uninspired nu-metal/metalcore with keyboards. This would be more interesting to fans of Pendulum than of Mr Bungle. I found it boring overall, not very experimental, not very avant-garde, not very anything really, a bit pretentious

There is some consolation in the vague allusion to Tubeway Army in some the keyboard parts, and to Devo in A Series of Numbers (the only track on the album that I found that I liked, really).

Favourite tracks: A Series of Numbers

Spotify link: Screaming Mechanical Brain – The Policy of Unilateral Hate
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Igorrr – Hallelujah (2012)

Igorrr - Hallelujah (2012)

Igorrr (real name Gautier Serre) is a French breakcore artist, drawing influence from just about any genre he can get his ears on and generally submitting the listener to a brutal aural attack.

It was a few years ago that the comparisons between Jackson Pollack’s action paintings and Jazz music were highlighted to me. The free-flowing painting technique was likened to improvisation across the changes and the movement across his giant canvasses to the movement up and down the scales. It changed the way I felt about Pollack, and I began to envisage music in other visual art works; and likewise visual art in music.

I am reminded of an artist, though I can’t remember the name, who used to take antique books and tear out pages containing images and paint over them, and, through destruction, ended up creating something new, something different. Igorrr’s fourth album Hallelujah follows that mode; it is, at times, akin to taking a medieval Bible and drawing big penises all over it.

Genres attacked include opera (Tout Petit Moineau), baroque chamber (Damaged Wig), chansons (Absolute Psalm) and Eastern European folk (Vegetable Soup). These are treated to an abuse of breakcore beats and metal blastbeats by the truckload. In is an album of stark and deliberate contrasts, slow–fast, loud–quiet, old–new. It is also evident that Serre hears the music hidden within the noises of life, sampling a vacuum cleaner, a sheep, ducks; for that, I am joyful.

However, in spite of all the action here and the sonic interest, the majority of the tracks are fairly formulaic: soft music, then churned into oblivion, soft music reprised and then destroyed. Next track, repeat.

Igorrr’s 2010 album Nostril was altogether more exploratory, more experimental, more daring; Hallelujah, by comparison, just seems altogether much “safer”. That’s not to say that it is not skillfully and lovingly crafted, it certainly is, and there is a lot enjoyment to be had, but it is just a little shallow. I think that it would be a lot more shocking and interesting to those who didn’t know that this sort of music existed; such as in the instance of the teenager playing the album to his “uncool” parents, and I just don’t feel Igorrr has repeated the quality of Nostril.

I have a great soft spot for breakcore and I do like Igorrr, so I hope on his future releases, he ditches his safety net and gets lost in the violent aural wilderness again.

Favourite tracks: Scarletti 2.0, Vegetable Soup, Tootphase

Spotify link: Igorrr – Hallelujah
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Diablo Swing Orchestra - Pandora's Piñata (2012)

Diablo Swing Orchestra are a Swedish avant-metal band with a big leaning towards swing (as their name might suggest!). Always ready to put a symphonic metal twist on things, they could quite easily be dismissed by some as something of a novelty item, with operatic warbling, soundtrack-esque composition and nu-metal style chugging guitars; however, to do so would be to do them a great disservice  Yes, they are playful and prone to draw influence from non-metal sources, but they are an incredibly tight and talented group.

Pandora’s Piñata is the group’s third album after The Butcher’s Ballroom (2006) and Singalong Songs for the Damned and Delerious (2009), and their first since incorporating former session musicians to a permenant brass section.

Pandora’s Piñata is a great album and if you like their previous albums, you certainly won’t be disappointed. If you haven’t listened to them before, you may find the operatic vocals a little uncomfortable to begin with, but I shouldn’t think that would last for long.

I feel that, on this album, Diablo Swing Orchestra have expanded their influences to create an overall more dramatic feel, from the incidental music with trademark opera-style singing on Aurora, the use of strings across the album, the absolute pomposity (in a good way) of Of Kali Ma Calibre to the absolutely mind-blowing final 3 minutes of the last track, Justice for Saint Mary, which will leave you with shivers down your spine and a good taste in your mouth.

Favourite tracks: Guerilla Laments, Mass Rapture, Of Kali Ma Calibre.

Spotify link: Diablo Swing Orchestra – Pandoras Pinata
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