Metal has crossed paths with more diverse musical domains than just ‘rock.’ Dark ambient, extreme jazz, power electronics, noise, drone and the list goes on and on. Aspects of these genres are smeared all over the sound of more experimental metal bands, resulting in intriguing releases and further expanding the vision of its musicians.

In this column I will be going through a number of recent releases in experimental music, which miss none of the bleakness of black metal, the brutality of death metal or the experimental scope of avant-garde and post-metal.


The Thing With Five Eyes – Kosmos

Jason Kohnen has a very interesting history. He is probably best known for Bong-Ra, under which moniker he still releases excellent jungle and breakcore music to this day. However, his origins are found in extreme metal, since he was a member of the great doom/death outfit Celestial Season through their historic Forever Scarlet Passion and Solar Lovers albums. But, just to see how truly versatile this individual is, he was also a founding member of the dual The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble/Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation project, whose merge of jazz and electronic music with doom elements and cinematic leanings has produced a series of extraordinary releases.

The Thing with Five Eyes is Kohnen’s latest. The release of Kosmos finds him further exploring the sonic landscapes of dark jazz. Initially released as part of the Electronic Explorations session, this one hour long improv session sees Kohnen using new and old elements of existing tracks, which undergo live processing and experimentation. The end results sees the music moving in a similar manner to the concepts of TKDE/TMFDC, but with certain distinct differences. Firstly, the music leans more towards the electronic areas of the aforementioned project and the live vibe has given way to a colder, more mechanical aura. If the music of TKDE/TMFDC is projecting a film noir in the music dimension, then The Thing with Five Eyes is the projection of a dark, avant-garde sci-fi film.


Dead Neanderthals – Sluimer

Identifying with the phrase “New Wave of Dutch Heavy Jazz,” Dead Neanderthals started their careers through the unconventional mean of email collaboration, with drummer Rene Aquarius sending tracks over to saxophonist Otto Kokke. The extremity of their sound comes from both from leanings towards a grindcore vibe, and also their improv mindset allowing them to go into free jazz frenzy.

Their initial steps saw them dwelling on complete improvisation, with unpredictable structures and a dense sound, something that is prevalent throughout their career. The release of Prime in 2014 found them at a peak, unleashing chaos and extreme dissonance. With Sluimer the approach slightly switches to more ritualistic paths, retaining a minimal approach. It is essentially a constant build up, with a laid back vibe starting things off before the roaring feedback, construction of drones and jazz fury allow the reach of a devastating crescendo.


Shapednoise – Different Selves

It is not hard to believe that Nino Perdone, the individual behind Shapednoise, has a background in sound engineering. The purpose of Different Selves is to push the limits of what is sonically possibly, and if blowing up your speakers achieves that then the hell with it.

The industrial influence is apparent throughout this work, and the fact that Justin Broadrick (Godflesh, Jesu) makes an appearance is no coincidence. The raw power of the drum and bass is enhanced with a noise injection, the visceral quality of grime and dark ambient are twisted with phasing effects (“The Man From Another World”). The sudden switches in tempo, coordinated explosions of rhythmic patterns and the magnetizing designs of “Intruder” and “Heart Energy Shape” find Shapednoise at their most distorted form, while the radiating darkness of “Travels In The Universe of the Soul” and “Enlightenment” provide in-depth explorations of harsh electronic music.


D.A.S. D.A. - Features Vol. 4

Despite its relatively young age, experimental label Repitch has released a number of interesting albums, such as the Stave and Gaja EPs, as well as intriguing collaborations. However, it seems like the spotlight has been in its Feature series. So far they have seen Ascion & D.Carbone (Vol. 1), Shapednoise (Vol. 2) and AnD (Vol. 3) taking part in these releases, but the final part finds all five individuals working together, a rarity of sorts in the techno domain.

Metallic percussion is found through the five movements of this EP, manifesting in towering drum and bass manifestation, with “Corrupted Data 1” and “Corrupted Data 2,” or industrial-esque backgrounds in “Corrupted Data 3.” On the other hand, minimal noise leanings and ambient passages are revisited in “Corrupted Data 4” and parts of “Corrupted Data 1,” granting an ominous tone to the record.


Pact Infernal – The Descent (Chapter II)

Inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy, Pact Infernal set out to perform the ambitious task of representing the seven circles of Inferno. Split into two EPs, Chapter I of The Descent saw the dark ambient project setting off through “Limbo” and ending their journey on the fourth circle, “Greed.” Chapter II carries on this spiraling journey, towards the final layer of Hell, “Treachery.”

There is a strong tribal sense in this release. The rhythm patterns and the sound of the percussion giving a dark, ritualistic quality to the music, on top of which Pact Infernal explore spacious synths. The percussion adds an intense hypnotic state, ranging from the sharp bells of “Violence” to the drunken progression of “Fraud.” Repetitive motifs, background samples of chants and big drones with additions of dissonance and cacophony join in and dissolve over the majority of this work.


Orson Hentschel – Feed The Tape

Classically trained German composer Orson Hentschel is putting out his debut album, Feed The Tape. There is one specific goal in this release: taking the listeners to a journey through time and finding out about their limitations. He achieves this through long, repeated sonic arcs of intense volume, alongside neo-classical leanings and a strong sense of visualization (Hentschel also identifies as a multimedia artist.)

Greatly influenced by Steve Reich the record makes use of some standard techniques such as looping and distinct rhythmic patterns. However, there is also a very big glitch influence on this release, which at times brings in additional melody. The inclusion and manipulation of samples also make up a big part of Hentschel’s compositions (a nice reference on the album title as well). The most impressive moments come from vocal music from the late middle ages in “Florence” and “Slow-Moving.” On parts of “Noise of The Light” and especially “What's Going On” let on, the drums go into a frenzy and unleashing a devastating assault while the looping background makes the process relentless.


Multicast Dynamics – Outer Envelopes

Multicast Dynamics, the project of electronic producer/sound designer and visual artist Samuel van Deijk, aims at the construction of rich, ever-evolving sonic textures, which create a cinematic ambiance. The cold, frozen vibe of “Kabina” and “Atra II” evoke a spacious quality, while the darker tone of “Interior 1967” and “Merge” explore more claustrophobic sceneries.

This latest album, Outer Envelopes, is the final installment in a four part series, expanding van Dijk's exploratory vision while concluding this chapter of Multicast Dynamics.

Minimal noise and peaceful drones sweep the panorama of Outer Envelopes, adding an element of unpredictability, as in “Atra I.” The inclusion of percussion in “Sonar” presents a different representation of the minimalistic mentality in which Multicast Dynamics is so deeply rooted. However, there are instances where the layering of all these subtle inclusions, synths and effects amount to a busier stereo image.


Garaliya – Ventricle Replicant

Instead of applying their abstract form on their synths or instrumentation, Garaliya build around the loose structures of their rhythm section. As a result a disruptive feeling comes into view with Ventricle Replicant, accompanying masterfully their synthetic beats and maze-like sonic corridors.

At first you might consider that the tempering of the rhythm structures will only be affecting the unpredictability of the album, and in some cases that holds true, with “Z-Clones” presenting a straightforward approach in terms of rhythmic structure and tracks such as “Ventricle” encouraging the randomness of the beats. But, there are instances when the beats alone can radiate a darker vibe, as is the case with “Serpented,” where the sparsity of the beats allows for a twisted essence to emerge, or a futuristic drive, as is the case with “Replicant.” The further the tracks evolve, the stranger they become in this album with the inclusion of glitch achieving abrupt characteristics, but strangely enough, even moving moments.


Third Eye Foundation – Semtex

This is a bit of a throwback really, but there is a good reason for including it on this list. The debut album of TEF, Semtex, is easily one of the most influential records to come out in the drum & bass domain. Originally released in 1996 under Matt Elliot's own label, Semtex is now getting a very nice re-release at its twenty year anniversary from Ici d'ailleurs. This edition also includes about 20 rare or previously unreleased tracks, from the early days of TEF, between 1991 and 1997.

There is a density to this album. Its soundscapes overlap constantly, creating a very complex and varied feel. The cool vibe of “Rain,” the ritualistic trippy visions of “Once When I Was An Indian,” the hectic progression of “Next of Kin,” the noise inputs of “Sleep,” the shoegaze-like veil of “Still Life” and the industrial roughness of “Dreams on His Finger” are all able to co-exist and grant great continuity to Semtex. This is not an easy album, and it is the first taste of the uncompromising quality of Elliot.

—Spyros Stasis


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