Friday, September 05, 2008

Ambient Metal Roundup Part 1

So I've picked up a shitload of new music recently and this is mostly the fault of the fine mp3 blogs Invisible Oranges and I'm The Most Important Person In The Fucking World. Both of these sites have been dishing out a decent dose post/ambient metal in recent weeks and I'll make a start on writing about some of it in this post.

Ambient metal may well sound like an oxymoron and it could be argued that some of this stuff isn't truly metal. I certainly wouldn't say so but the guy who tried to tell me on Saturday night that metal was by definition 'dumb' (and that henceforth Isis and Dillinger Escape Plan aren't actually metal bands) probably would. In any case there's a definite subgenre out there that takes distorted metalish guitars and the general feeling of heaviness associated with metal, and uses them to create long instrumental tracks with structures better described as soundscapes than songs.

We'll start out with Breatherman by Ocoai, the least ambient of all the albums in this post. They still comfortably sit within the genre described above as their songs are fairly long and sans vocals, but compared to the other bands I'm about to describe they still have some inclination towards providing melodies and riffs. These guys are pretty upbeat for a metal band too, which is a refreshing change and they keep this mood without skimping on the heaviness. For all their chiming piano solos, melancholy trumpet noodling and their slow pace Ocoai still make sure they bust out a huge lumbering monster of a guitar riff every now and again. They may not be as heavy as some but their more relaxed, spacious and positive atmosphere makes a pleasing alternative to the more downbeat and oppressive likes of Isis and Rosetta.

Fitting far more easily into the ambient metal genre are The Angelic Process and their album Weighing Souls With Sand. This record totally eschews the standard metal repertoire of riffs, solos and screaming in favour of a heavy chug and a haze of ambient distortion accompanied by distant vocals that has as much in common with industrial as metal. The outcome is (perhaps a little surprisingly) a very beautiful, soothing sort of music with a mood not dissimilar to that of Wolves In The Throne Room. It's a very good album, but sadly there won't be any more like it since one of the principal members of the band passed away earlier this year.

Lastly we have the self titled album by asbestoscape. This is some seriously great stuff, although I'm not sure if I'd call it either metal or ambient. It certainly sounds unique and doesn't fit into any preconceived genres, a very pleasing quality in an age where it often feels as though there is nothing new under the sun. Absestoscape's songs are (relatively) short and based around simple repetitive buzzsaw guitar riffs, backed by droning bass and processed drumming that ranges from the straightforward to IDM influenced glitch. Yet from these simple elements we get some remarkably catchy and engaging tunes. It's smart, unique and fun music, I highly recommend it to pretty much anyone.

There'll probably be a part two to this post in a couple of weeks but odds are that it might wait a while since fucking awesome concert season kicks off with Opeth this Saturday!

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