Perhaps one of the most highly contentious subgenres to exist on the heavy metal family tree, ‘Djent’ was originally a musical term synonymous with a high gain, percussive and metallic guitar tone/playing style that over the years has evolved to refer to a scene of DIY Progressive Metal projects that sprung up in the late noughties which continues to grow to this day. The following is a list of some of the most influential releases associated with the ‘Djent’ scene.
Periphery – ‘Periphery’ (2010)
Perhaps the most critically-acclaimed and well-known release on this list, Periphery’s debut full-length album ‘Periphery’ is a masterclass in the art of groove and the Avant Garde. The material for the vast majority of the album was written and produced by primary songwriter and guitarist, Misha Mansoor from as early as 2004 until its eventual release 6 years later. Featuring complex rhythmic patterns, unconventional song structures, ambient interludes, heavy extended-range drop tuned riffs and highly dynamic vocal phrasing, Periphery’s first album contains all of the hallmarks of the stylings associated with the modern era of progressive metal. Although Periphery improved upon these aspects in more recent releases, their first album still remains as one of the cornerstone albums that defined and influenced an entire scene built upon online grassroots.
Stand-out tracks: Icarus Lives! Letter Experiment, Jetpacks Was Yes!, Racecar
Tesseract – ‘Concealing Fate’ (2010)
Although technically catalogued as an extended play album and not a full-length release, Tesseract’s debut EP ‘Concealing Fate’ is one of the most shining examples of progressive mastery released circa 2010. A six-part conceptual release, ‘Concealing Fate’ explores heavy-handed themes of struggle, loss, grief, depression and guilt within its 27-minute runtime. In comparison to their contemporaries, Tesseract opt for a more atmospheric and immersive listening experience with each song ebbing and flowing seamlessly between each other, with memorable melodic and lyrical themes that are tastefully laced throughout ‘Concealing Fate’s’ track listing. The EP’s stunning instrumental section is further complimented by the mesmerising and soul-wrenching vocalisations of Daniel Tompkins who offers some of the most well-executed clean vocals heard on a release within the past decade. Overall, despite its short-runtime in comparison to the other entries that appear in this list, ‘Concealing Fate’ remains as one of the most remarkable and impactful progressive metal releases within the ‘Djent’ scene since the late noughties.
Vildhjarta – ‘Masstaden’ (2011)
Swedish metal goliaths, Vildhjarta have grown an impressive international fanbase within the last decade which is largely owed to the release of their debut full-length album, ‘Masstaden’. In comparison to their contemporaries, Vildhjarta perform a style of progressive metal or ‘Djent’ which is both more ominous and extreme in its execution when compared to acts such as Periphery or Tesseract. Taking significant influence from extreme metal legends, Meshuggah, Vildhjarta make ample use of heavily drop-tuned grooves, oppressive ambient interludes, and harsh vocalisations akin to many of their extreme metal predecessors. In a similar vein to ‘Concealing Fate’ by Tesseract, ‘Masstaden’ is an album that is tied together throughout its runtime by an esoteric, occult inspired conceptual plot which is heavily left to interpretation for its intended audience. ‘Masstaden’ is a release that is definitely worth investigating to gain insight into the influences behind many modern acts that combine ‘Djent’ stylings with the brutal and intimidating atmospheres of more extreme music genres.
Stand-out tracks: Dagger, Benblast, All These Feelings, Eternal Golden Monk
Animals as Leaders – ‘Animals as Leaders’ (2009)
Formed in 2005, Animals as Leaders are an instrumental powerhouse fronted by Tosin Abasi on guitar, Javier Reyes on guitar and Matt Garstka on drums. Despite the current lineup, Animals as Leader self-titled debut full-length was entirely written, produced and recorded by 8-string virtuoso, Tosin Abasi in partnership with Misha Mansoor of Periphery fame. Featuring dazzling guitar gymnastics, intricate polyrhythmic drum patterns, electronic synth textures and captivating jazz-influenced musical sensibilities, Animals as Leaders full-length release contains more than its fair share of unforgettable musical ideas across it’s 52-minute runtime. Animals as Leaders debut album is perhaps one of the most ground-breaking and innovative instrumental albums of the last few decades, earning Tosin Abasi a name amongst the likes of guitar gods such as Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and John Petrucci. Furthermore, the vast array of techniques and abstract technical style that Tosin Abasi demonstrates on Animals as Leader’s debut release is most commonly credited for inspiring an entire generation of musicians to invest in extended-range instruments decades after their initial release to the guitar-enthusiast market. If one was to select an album to highlight the jaw-dropping evolution of contemporary technical, instrumental, progressive music, Animals as Leaders debut release is one album that should not go without mention.
Stand-out tracks: CAFO, Tempting Times, Modern Meat