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Unearthing The Metal Underground: 3 Bands With Completely Unexpected Sounds

The ascendancy of Nergal's new dark blues / country project Me And That Man got me thinking about all the utterly unexpected sounds that have come through my speakers in the years I've been writing here.

For every thrash rehash, modern metal copy and paste job, or a slew of utterly identical melodic post-hardcore emo bands, there's always some outfit hanging out just below the surface that no one has ever heard of - but is putting out awe-inspiring sounds.

Today we're going to focus on those groups that go way off the beaten path, offering a very different take on various sub-genres than what you'll hear from the average metal band. You aren't going to read about them on Rolling Stone, but these are the innovators pushing boundaries that deserve to thrive in the metal underground.

Zeal And Ardor

This one-man project creates something that is so incredibly obvious in hindsight but has barely been scratched by the scene as a whole: a collision of old African American spirituals with extreme metal. Reading that description for the first time, it seems like those two forces wouldn't be compatible, but just think about the connotations for a second.

Why did black metal arise in the Scandinavian scene in the first place, and why are the early days of the style so closely associated with church burnings? American slaves persecuted by Christianity have more in common with the pagans of European lore than you might think.

Imagine if those same slaves had access to guitars and decided to take their music in a more extreme direction. I'll let the project's Bandcamp description explain the rest:

Imagine this: Django sacrifices a goat on stage while intimidating slave chants roar and screeching guitar riffs burn in the background. Then the rhythmic chain rattling evoking a satanic summoning makes way for the eerily familiar melodies of Norwegian black metal.

Intrigued? While the album as a whole does have some down points and a lack of focus (a full review is coming), the tracks that stick to this collision of ideas are top-notch. Zeal & Ardor's "Devil Is Fine" is due to officially drop February 24th, 2017.

Montfaucon

I had literally no idea what I was getting into with Montfaucon. The album artwork didn't appeal to me, and a description about a concept pulling from The Hunchback Of Notre-Dame didn't exactly get my engine revving, either.

With the medieval themes I was expecting some sort of half-assed folk/black metal hybrid that would have me hitting "skip" well before a single song was over... but then I gave it a chance, and I can freely admit how ludicrously inaccurate my assumptions were there.

While unquestionably an extreme metal release, "Renaissance" is more piano-led than guitar-driven, creating a totally different paradigm than you'd expect. It's got metal in spades though: slow doom, fast thrash licking, progressive/symphonic twists, and more.

There are transitions everywhere as songs shift major gears repeatedly, and just when you think you've got this sound nailed down, it goes somewhere else. The vocals are old school, but the music is a modern and fresh twist on all things metal. Check out an advance song below, and look for the full album to arrive February 17th, 2017.

Ashenspire

If you've been following any of my entries in the Unearthing The Metal Underground series, you know I'm a fan of the avant-garde side of metal, and that's what Ashenspire offers with debut album "Speak Not of the Laudanum Quandary" (reviewed here).

Do me a favor and look beyond the pretentious album title, because Ashenspire is pulling from another era of metal entirely, from back before the genres had shifted into their current forms and we weren't all a bunch of jaded web commentators who had heard it all.

The album is a truly wild ride, offering sprechgesang vocals and an incredibly theatric approach that calls to mind the cult underground days of Devil Doll, when metal was unpredictable and dangerous. You'll hear a little bit of everything on this album that goes way outside the expected genre norms.

These are but three of the vast horde of bands across the underground metal scene that are well worth your time. What did you think of our picks, and what bands would you recommend that offer completely unexpected sounds?

xFiruath's avatar

Ty Arthur is a freelance writer who writes for both entertainment and technical instruction sites. An avid fan of many different forms of metal, he has been involved in reviewing music for several years and is currently a contributing editor for Metalunderground.com

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