In the last decade, the underground metal scene has experienced an explosion in a plethora of bands who seek to combine the ferocious energy of black metal with the peculiar influence of post-rock bands such as Mogwai, Explosions in The Sky and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The following albums have been selected as a result of their seminal influence on this unusual fusion of musical styles that has occurred following the turn of the millennium.
Agalloch – The Mantle (August 13th, 2002)
Formed in 1995 and hailing from Portland, Oregon, Agalloch were a metal band that crafted a unique blend of styles and influences from the worlds of neo-folk, post-rock, black metal and progressive rock. Following the release of their 1999 debut album, Pale Folklore, Agalloch set their sights on creating an album that would synthesise a wide range of musical wellsprings with their sophomore release, The Mantle. Agalloch’s second album, The Mantle, is a masterclass in the art of atmosphere and expressionism. Existential lyricisms, unforgettable musical motifs, unconventional song structures and the use of varied instrumentation such as the utility of mandolins, accordions, cellos, synthesisers, acoustic guitars and piano passages, adorn and ornament the album from its sombre opening minutes until its melancholic closing moments. Tracks such as ‘In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion’ and ‘The Hawthorne Passage’ demonstrate Agalloch’s ability to construct multifaceted tapestries of artistic brilliance whilst managing to avoid the redundancy associated with long-form progressive pieces of music. The Mantle is most certainly an album that is worthy of its place amongst one of the most influential Blackgaze albums of the 21st century.
Stand-out tracks: ‘In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion’, ‘You Were but A Ghost in My Arms,’ ‘The Hawthorne Passage.’
Alcest – Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde (August 8th, 2007)
Released in 2007 by Alcest, Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde is an emotionally compelling journey into the ethereal and mystical mind of sole songwriter and musician, Neige. Following the release of their 2005 EP, Le Secret, Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde opts for a blissful and forlorn exploration into shoegaze, psychedelia and black metal. Lacking the harsh vocalisations present on most Black Metal releases, Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde features the angelic clean vocalisations of Neige alongside the rapid-paced blast beats of yore, stunning acoustic guitar passages and haunting chord progressions. Lyricisms concerning Neige’s contact with an esoteric spiritual realm lace the album from start to finish, apparent from the title of the album which roughly translates into English as ‘Memories from Another World’. Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde is an album deserving of praise for influencing a host of contemporary acts combining the uplifting, dream-like elements of Post-Rock with the raw instrumentation of traditional Black Metal.
Stand-out tracks: ‘Printemps Émeraude,’ Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde.’
Wolves in The Throne Room – Two Hunters (September 25th, 2007)
Pacific Northwest, Cascadian Black Metal behemoths, Wolves in The Throne Room released their second full-length album, Two Hunters, during September of 2007 to heavy critical acclaim. This album contains all of the hallmarks associated Black Metal such as unrelenting blast beats, harsh vocals, raw production stylings and tremolo picked guitars. However, where Wolves in The Throne Room depart from the traditional Nordic Black Metal artists of old is in their uncompromising artistic vision in creating vast, sublime soundscapes evocative of the evergreen wildernesses of North America. Moments of psychedelic surrealism are also not amiss on this release, as Wolves in The Throne Room do not shy away from the use of different effect pedals to create lush, overwhelming walls of sound to transport their listeners to a wide variety of dark yet vivid musical landscapes. Tracks such as ‘I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots’ feature dynamic shifts in tonality, tempo and mood throughout their long-form runtimes, often exceeding 15 minutes in length. Overall, Two Hunters is a release the should not be missed for fans of Black Metal that explores the esoteric and atmospheric as opposed to the blasphemous and chaotic.
Stand-out Tracks: ‘I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots,’ ‘Vastness and Sorrow.’