Do terms such as “avant-garde”, “transcending” and “experimental” are the key to unlocking doors to other unexplored dimensions concerning extreme metal? Or does this new and swiftly arising tide wash away the original purpose of black metal in particular? These two have been composed while silently observing how people comment on black metal as well as analysing what is becoming trending in recent years.  Increasingly, fans are getting more curious and dare to leave their “comfort zone” because as everything in this world, things evolve; some eventually for the worse, some for the better. Black metal-wise, there is a contrasting division putting up purists against avant-garde fans where the main problem is narrowed down to traditions and preserving an initial concept in its immaculate state. I’ve been reflecting a lot lately about this subject matter and everytime I had to draw the end of the line, I realized that I never took a sides. Why?! Well, cause I fucking love metal and I embrace creativity no matter how bold sometimes it may be or simply hard to be understood (in the beginning).

In this 3-way recommendation, which you may have already noticed that does not resemble anything I have done before, I present three bands and three albums in a way that could not only be thought-provoking but also encourage broad-mindedness. As of lately, one of the main sources for experimental music where I draw inspiration from is Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions; a small and independed record label that promotes blends of black and post-metal with a stunning use of sublime artwork. Despite its seemingly short roster, the guys behind it (special regards to Blandine) have proven multiple times how dedicated to music they are. Currently, according to LADLO Productictions’ homepage, the number of artists they represent is eleven and believe it or not, they are all mindblowing. As it is said “quality over quantity”, this perfectly applies to what this record label stands for. Several months ago, I have been honored to dissect the work of four of the  bands they work with, three of which you will find in this very article. After immersing myself in each individual record, I got inspired to approach this recommendation in the same way as the albums have been – differently or more leaning towards the experimental side. Now let’s  get straight into presenting today’s recommended albums, which I assure you they are black metal but it’s just a matter of an individual perspective.

Regarde Les Hommes Tomber – Exile

Born in 2011, Regarde Les Hommes Tomber is the first out of 3 features who are all bound by three common characteristics: they are French, they are experimental and they have paid their tribute to black metal in a way that makes me proud of them a great deal for being so devoted to be unique yet obviously promote the charm of the blackened art. Even if you are a purist, this simple fact on its own deserves appreciation. Hailing from Nantes, Regarde Les Hommes Tomber  have conceived two full-length records by now, where the latest one has fallen under the SBM radars. Titled shortly “Exile”, the content it offers inside is a magnificent form of art in both visual and musical manner. I still and probably for a long time won’t be able to get my eyes off the artwork. Just take a moment and look at the picture below and see each individual detail.

 Having seen the masterwork illustrated on the visual part of the album, you might wonder how the actual album feels. Let me put it this way, if “Exile” is to be visually interpreted with strokes of ink and paint, the final outcome would be as good as the artwork. It was carefully crafted and combines elements from black metal and primarily post-hardcore; it gets intense as hell, but it also maintains stability from start to end without losing control and resulting in something looking as poorly scrambled eggs.. This shit is a badass because it was thought out over and over again and the use of post-influences does not go over the top, in my opinion. Therefore, you can enjoy a smooth transition back and forth between furious black metal, post-hardcore and even sludge. If you are curious or have any doubts about the album, please do yourself a favor and don’t think too much. Just play “Exile” and you will be surprised how worthy it is. Let’s see who is next..

Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions, release: 19.09.2015
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Total running time: 42:23

Deluge – Æther

Unlike their collegues above, Deluge come from Metz where the sparkle of its existence was ignited in 2013. Some of the most important facts I managed to collect for the band is that the lineup does not feature musicians who participate in any other projects and it appears that “Æther” is their first full-length so far. Anyways, this doesn’t really matter for you will be totally blown away by the maturity of their sound and the overall professionally executed pack that the album comes with. Before going further, check out how awesome the packaging is:

 Frankly, the layout does not fall into the obsure/blasphemous/and evil-looking kind of categories and in fact, it is completely the opposite way. The artwork is a complex unification of simple and beautifully designed shapes and most of all, the only one that does not emit obscurity unlike the rest of the featured albums in this article. Very much like Regarde Les Hommes Tomber,  the cover artwork of “Æther” hints what you should expect from the album itself. The dominance in this one is in favor of post-hardcore with a solid usage for blackened atmosphere. Crushing down everything on its way but instead of leaving horrific images of post-apocalypse, it feels like it creates a somewhat beautiful abstract state of life forms. The only way to get me to the fullest is by getting back to the artwork above. Another curious fact about “Æther” is that in the 3rd track “Mélas|Khōlé” Neige (Alcest) takes a guest-part. Essentially, Deluge created an overwhelming debut album that promises exceptional quality, top-notch visual design pointing to the core of their music and leaves room for high expectations of another outstanding album in time. While waiting, check this one first.

Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions, release: 19.09.2015
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Total running time: 55:33

Maïeutiste- S/T

If you are still here reading these last words, I congratulate you because this means you feel experimental and have a profound curiosity for avant-garde music. The last mention for this installment however, goes to Maïeutiste and their self-titled debut album. This act is the oldest of all three being established in Saint-Étienne in 2006. Nevertheless, Maïeutiste does not offer a huge list of recordings in their discography. Excluding their self-titled release that I am presenting right now, they have put out a demo in 2007, which I find it to be the ultimate definition of the style they play “Socratic Black Metal.”  Starting from the cover artwork first, this is the least detail-oriented one of all three covers relying on pure minimalism and still gets to the point music-wise.  Check it below:

As much as blacks and greys occupy the cover artwork, twice as much reeks of black metal vibe. “Maieutiste ” is the closest album to the original meaning of the genre comparing the rest two that could easily appeal to a die-hard pure black metal fan. All in all, it is moderately fast and decorated with obscure riffage suggesting that the primary source of inspiration that they have drawn from points towards the colder, lesser experimental and more doom/haunting side of the genre, which is why I enjoyed it the most. As somebody unknown once said “Let the music speak for itself.”

Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions, release: 19.09.2015
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Total running time: 01:16:22

I hope you enjoyed the first and hopefully not the last of this kind articles dedicated to post/avant-garde music. I also hope I managed to convince you that bands such as the above mentioned do not harm the original intention black metal was made with, and actually give it yet another shade making it one of the most diverse musical genres out there.