Unearthing The Metal Underground: The Instrumental Metal Scene
In this week’s edition of the Unearthing the Metal Underground column we’ll take a look at three bands that all defy one of the most basic and recognizable traits of extreme metal – a strong vocal presence. These bands feature musicians who have ditched the front man to let their instruments do all the screaming, crooning, whispering, chanting, and shouting.
Whether as a conscious decision, or simply due to the lack of a talented vocalist who can match the music, these three lesser known bands all show that metal doesn’t need grunts or shrieks to tear off faces and shatter ear drums. Without a vocal element, the musicians have the opportunity to bring many different sounds to the forefront that are easily lost by other bands, creating a completely different experience than the standard thrash or death metal track.
Spokane based three piece Odyssey is an instrumental act by choice, having no use for vocals getting in the way of the instrumentation. Don’t let that fact make you think the music doesn’t sing, however, as the long tracks are filled to the brim with technical showcases and progressive transitions that paint a picture in the head just as well as a vocalist could conjure with either clean singing or growling.
Odyssey has very clear influences from the technical metal giants, as well as some of the more well known progressive acts, but the music is more about the journey than the label found at the destination. Any given song can have any number of stylistic shifts, and even throws in a sound reminiscent of metalcore or deathcore from time to time, while keeping everything together into a unified whole.
To hear what Odyssey has to offer, you can check out the entire “Schematics” EP (reviewed here), which is available for streaming through the group’s Bandcamp page, or read our interview with the trio at this location. The songs “Iconoclast” and “Ascendance,” from the debut “Objects in Space” album, can also be heard in the clips below.
Composed of only two members, the Italian entity Le Scimmie is more of a newcomer to the scene and is still establishing a proper footing. The band’s distorted and guitar driven sound doesn’t lean nearly as heavily toward the extreme end as either of the two other bands in this week’s column, having more of a psychedelic hard rock and grunge tone in places. With a trance inducing style and plenty of headbangable moments, Le Scimmie has a little something for fans of many different musical persuasions.
The music video for the title track off the band’s debut album “Dromomania” (review coming shortly) can be watched below, or you can head over to the project's MySpace page.
Composed of members who themselves can’t really claim the title of “underground” (well, in the metal world anyway), the band Blotted Science unfortunately still remains significantly less well known than the other projects associated with these talented musicians. With a lineup consisting of Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse, Hate Eternal), Hannes Grossman (Obscura, Necrophagist), and Ron Jarzombek (Watchtower, Spastic Ink), it should be no surprise that Blotted Science has some truly amazing technical heavy metal, and all with nary a vocal to be found.
Given a brief mention in an editorial on technical metal in 2009 here, Blotted Science shows the strengths of an instrumental approach by having a huge bass presence that would normally be drowned out in similar music. With the bass at the forefront, rather than being overcome by all the screaming, the music is given a drastically different sound than normal death metal. For anyone who ever wanted to float across an Obscura-style technical death metal solo for an hour or so, Blotted Science’s “The Machinations of Dementia” is the album you’ve been waiting for.
The level of technicality and the progressive nature the band is going for should be apparent just from the song titles alone, with names like “Synaptic Plasticity,” “Last Lobotomy,” and “Brain Fingerprinting,” which can all be found below.
Instrumental metal may take up a significantly smaller section of the wider metal world than many other genres, but there are still plenty more quality acts out there that make a go of it without any vocal support. Feel free to comment below with suggestions of other instrumental bands to check out, or let us know what you think of Odyssey, Le Scimmie, and Blotted Science. Join us again next week as we dive headfirst into even more underground metal bands that deserve your attention.
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