Sprouting from the early 60’s, Avant-punk of Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground, to the late 60’s and the innovative Frank Zappa. Evolving from the experimental rock to the progressive rock of King Crimson from the late 60’s to mid 70’s  and late 70’s Led Zeppelin; throughout the 80’s with the experimental rock of Sonic Youth, Melvins, and The Butthole Surfers  to the heavier side of things with Celtic Frost and Voivod, extreme metal became a portal for the genre known as avant-metal.

The 90’s, saw an increase in avant-metal bands. We will take a look at avant-garde metal bands from the late 80’s, throughout the 90’s and beyond. From the now defunct Misanthropy Records to the growing Ipecac Recordings avant-metal is alive and well.

It’s time to let out the inner demons and embrace the quirkiness within.


Origin: Tokyo, Japan
Years Active: 1989-present

Representing avant-garde in the spectrum of black metal are natives of Tokyo, Sigh. Like many of their peers, a shift from extreme metal shifted to the more obscure and Avant-garde as we know it. Lead by vocalist, Mirai Kawashima who provided bass until 2004 when original drummer Satoshi Fujinami took over. Fujinami was also the original guitarist until Shinichi Ishikawa joined in 1992. You Oshima became the guitarist in 2014, with Junichi Harashima being the current drummer as of 2004. Dr. Mikannibal joined in 2007 adding female vocals and saxophone to the mix.

Originally signed by Euronymous (Mayhem) on his short-lived label Deathlike Silence Records, the debut LP, “Scorn Defeat” (1993) was released. After the demise of Euronymous, that same year at the age of twenty-five, a label change was on the horizon with follow-up, Infedel Art (1996), seeing the light of day, released via Cacophonous. The signing lasted with two more records; Hail Horror Hail (1997) and Scenario IV: Dread Dreams (1999). “Imaginary Sonicscape” (2001), which saw stronger elements of the avant-garde, was released via Century Media with the Us release of “Gallows Gallery” (2005) out on Baphomet Records, which was established by Killjoy (Necrophagia). Finding home with the End Records and now with Candlelight, their most recent effort, “Graveyard” (2015), has been receiving rave reviews and are one diverse group worth checking out.

Out of the Grave, taken from “Graveyard” (2015)

Ephel Duath

Origin: Padua, Italy
Years Active: 1998-2014

Sadly no more Ephel Duath were a promising avant-garde metal band who released six Lp’s with their debut, “Phormula” (2000) up until “Through My Dog’s Eyes” (2009). After the release of an EP, “On Death and Cosmos” (2012), “Hemmed by Light, Shaped by Darkness” (2013) it would be the final LP before the band split a year later in 2014.

Going through a number of male vocalists throughout their career; which included the likes of Davide Tolomei (2003-2004), Luciano George Lorusso (2003-2008) and Guillermo Gonzalez (2008-2009); before female singer, Karyn Crisis, joined the final lne-up of guitarist Davide Tiso, bassist Bryan Beller and drummer Marco Minnemann.

The Passage, taken from “The Painter’s Palette” (2003)


Origin: Norway
Years Active: 1995-present

Norway’s post-black metal/avant-garde beasts Solefald released eight LPs to date; which included their debut “The Linear Scaffold” (1997) released via the aptly-named, Avantgarde Music label, and their most recent, “World Metal. Kosmopolis Sud” (2015) on Indie Recordings. An EP titled, “Norrønasongen. Kosmopolis Nord” (2014) came out a year earlier.

The line-up consists of the vocalist duo of, guitar and bassist Cornelius Jakhelln (Sturmgeist, Castimoniae) and Lazare Nedland(Age of Silence, Borknagar, Carpathian Forest) who also provides drums and keyboards. Various musicians have played with the band throughout the career, however, the Norwegian double makes up the core of Solefald.

Mont Blanc Providence Crow, taken from “In Harmonia Universali” (2003)

Dir En Grey

Origin: Osaka, Japan
Years Active: 1997-present

Representing the Alternative Metal side of Avant-garde in Japan were Dir En Grey, who consisted of vocalist Kyo, bassist Toshiya, drummer Shinya and the guitar duo of Kaoru and Die. With nine LPs under their belt; including the debut “Gauze” (1999) and the most recent, “Arche” (2014), and three EP’s.

Dir En Grey have seen much success touring worldwide being part of Korn‘s Family Values Tour ’98, as well as joining the bill for various events such as Rock Am Ring and the Loudpark Festival.

Obscure, taken from “Vulgar” (2003)


Origin: Norway
Years Active: 1991-2007, 2011-present

Originally fronted by vocalist/bassist Marius Vold (Thorns, Mortem) with Garm (Ulver, Borknager) replacing until 2003. The current vocalist is ICS Vortex (Borknagar, Dimmu Borgir). Samoth (Emperor) provided guitar and bass between 1993 and 1995, with Knut Magne Valle (Ulver) current guitarist and Skoll (Ulver) as bassist. Sverd provides keyboards with longtime drummer, Hellhammer (Mayhem, Age of Silence, Winds) making up the last of the final lineup.

From EP, “Constellation” (1994), to their debut LP, “Aspera Hiems Symfonia” (1996) up until their most recent, “Arcturian” (2015) have dealt with astronomy, the supernatural and literature, focusing on
atmospheric black metal earlier in their career with progressive avant-garde metal later on.

The Chaos Path, taken from “La Masquerade Infernale” (1997)

Naked City

Origin: New York City, United States
Years Active: 1988-1993

Naked City was an avant-garde group from New York, lead by saxophonist/composer John Zorn. Musicians that joined Zorn included guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Fred Frith, drummer Joey Baron, Wayne Horvitz on keyboards and Yamatsuka Eye on vocals from 1988 till 1993. Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr Bungle) provided live vocals in 1991 and again when the band reunited for shows in 2003.

Seven LP’s were released from their debut, “Naked City” (1990) up until their final offering, “Absinthe” (1993). Genres were blended into a cocktail of sorts dabbing in to advant-garde metal terroritory with punk, jazz, grindcore, experimental and noise. No genre was out of bounds for the group of talented musicians.

Thrash Jazz Assassin, taken from “Grand Guignol” (1992)

Diabolical Masquerade

Origin: Stockholm, Sweden
Years Active: 1993-2004

The swedish duo that started as a project for guitarist Blakkheim (Katatonia, Bloodbath) who provided lead vocals, bass, guitar,keyboards and samples alongside drummer Dan Swanö (Nightingale, Witherscape,Bloodbath), who also provided keyboads, samples and backing vocals.

Before splitting in 2004, four strong LP’s were released from the debut, “Ravendusk in my Heart” (1996) till “Death’s Design” (2001). Lyrical themes dealt with everything from death to witchcraft, demons and horror, delving into darkness with their own blend of avant-garde atmospheric black metal

Under the Banner of the Sentinel, taken from “Ravendusk in my Heart” (2007)


Origin: California, United States
Years Active: 1998-present

Named after a well-known villain in French culture, Fantômas were an experimental, avant-garde metal band lead by crazed frontman Mike Patton. The debut self-titled LP, “Fantômas” (1999) was released on Patton’s record label, Ipecac, with the follow-up “The Director’s Cut” (2001), taking movie themes giving them an avant-garde spin. Two LP’s followed, the one-track “Delìrium Còrdia” (2014) and “Suspended Animation” (2015).

Buzz Osbourne (Melvins, Crystal Fairy) provided guitar with bassist Trevor Dunn (Mr Bungle, Tomahawk), drummer Dave Lombardo (Slayer, Grip Inc, Dead Cross) joing Patton. Dale Crover (Melvins, early Nirvana) provided live drums at past shows.

The Godfather, taken from the DVD, “The Director’s Cut Live: A New Year’s Revolution” (2011)

Blut Aus Nord

Origin: Mondeville, Normandy, France
Years Active: 1994-present

From the ashes of Vlad who formed in 1993, the French force known as Blut Aus Nord, which when translated from German spells ‘Blood from North’ has been going strong since 1994. Longtime members W.D. Feld and Vindsval, provide drums, electronics keyboards and guitars, vocals, respectively since formations in 1994. GhÖst joined as bassist in 2003 with Thorns joining in 2014.

The debut LP, “Ultima Thulée” (1995) was released via Impure Creations Records with their most recent LP, “Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry” (2014), out via Debemur Morti Productions, making it the eleventh full-length. Five EP’s and four split discs have surfaced over the years, notably, the split with Ævangelist, entitled “Codex Obscura Nomina” (2016), which features four new tracks from Blut Aus Nord and one forty-minute track from Ævangelist.

Delving into dark territory with songs about the occult, philosophy, and mysticism. Sharing atmospheric black metal with a heavy dose avant-garde, industrial and dark ambiance with the masses, Blut Aus Nord is definately worth going through their back catalog to dig up some gold.

Epitome X, taken from “777 – The Desanctification” (2011)

Mr Bungle

Origin: Eureka, California, United States
Years Active: 1985-2004

Formed in 1985 as a school band in Eureka California, early days were spent genre-blending as the group is known best for. Death metal was more of a focus in the early days, notably on their demo, “The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny” (1986), which caught the ear of guitarist Jim Martin (ex-Faith No More), which lead to Mike Patton replacing Chuck Mosley.

After a number of demos the debut, “Mr. Bungle” (1991) was released via Warner Bros. Records. The album became an instant avant-garde classic with the first single, “Quote, Unquote” (1991), which was originally titled, Travolta. The line-up was credited as Theobald Brooks Lengyel on saxophone, keyboards, Trevor Roy Dunn on bass, Scummy (Preston Lea ‘Trey’ Spruance III) (Faxed Head) on guitar, Vlad Drac (Mike Patton) on vocals, keyboards, Heifetz (Danny Heifetz) on drums, percussion and Bar (Clinton Mckinnon) on keyboards, clarinet, tenor Sax.

The follow-up LP, “Disco Volante” (1995) was the band’s most experimental, keeping the same line-up with hilarious credits which included Spruance going by the name of Uncooked Meat Prior To State Vector Collapse and Heifetz, simply as, I Quit.

Third LP, “California” (1999) saw band members use their real names and it would sadly be the last studio album, splitting up for good in 2004. The world of avant-garde metal had however sprouted Ipecac Recordings courtesy of Patton who released his solo recordings and continues to release creative new talent on a regular basis. Let’s hope Bungle does a reunion in the not too distant future.

Quote, Unquote (Travolta), taken from “Mr Bungle” (1991)

Honourable mentions:


Origin: Boismé, Poitou-Charentes, France
Years Active: 2011-present
Style: Progressive Groove/Death/Avant-garde Metal

Moonshine Limbo, taken from the EP, “Voodoo Moonshine” (2014)


Origin: Tokyo, Japan
Years Active: 1992-present
Style: Avant-garde Rock/Metal

Absolutego, taken from “Dear” (2017)

Sleepytime Gorrila Museum

Origin: Oakland, California, United States
Years Active: 1999-Present
Style: Experimental Rock/Avant-garde Metal

Helpless Corpses Enactment, taken from “In Glorious Time” (2007)

Sun O)))

Origin: Seattle, Washington, United States
Years Active: 1998-present
Style:Drone/Doom/Avant-garde Metal

Sunn O))) & Ulver: Let there be light, taken from “Terrestrials”


Origin: San Francisco, California
Years Active: 1989-present
Style: Avant-garde Rock

Cold & Well-lit Place, taken from “Thin Black Duke” (2017)

Australian Made:


Origin: Brisbane, Queensland
Years Active: 1994-present
Style:Extreme/Black/Death/Avant-garde Metal

13 globes, taken from “Outre'” (2007)


Origin: Hobart, Tasmania
Years Active: 2003-present
Style: Avant-garde Black Metal

Promo, taken from “The Viper Room” (2016)


Origin: Canberra, ACT
Years Active: 1987-2010
Style: Avant-garde/ Progressive Death Metal

Eve of the War, taken from the EP, “Eve of the War” (1998)

Kitties of Death

Origin: Adelaide, South Australia
Years Active: 1995-present
Style: Avant-garde Black Metal

Grave, taken from “Come in my friend, the ritual is about to begin” (2014)

The Levitation Hex

Origin: Canberra, ACT
Years Active: 2010-present
Style: Avant-garde/Progressive Death Metal

Hipokritikill, taken from “Cohesion” (2016)


Origin: Canberra, ACT
Years Active: 1992-present
Style: Progressive/Thrash Metal/Fusion/Avant-garde

Realization, taken from “Eventuality” (2004)

Abstract The Light

Origin: Adelaide
Years Active: 2015-present
Style: Black /Avant-garde Metal