The Avant-Garde Metal

(Last Updated On: October 25, 2022)

Welcome back once again to Metal Shop Class, I’m your instructor Mr. GrayMetal. Look, I know it’s October, and I haven’t been around. It’s fine. I’m fine. We’re fine. EVERYTHING IS FINE. Being a railroader right now and trying to have hobbies isn’t just a pain in the dick, it’s basically impossible. Throw in training all summer, and… you know what, you’re not here to hear all of this. You’re here to read and hopefully learn about metal. So let’s do that. 

Today, we’re going to dive into the odd. The weird. The strange. Avant-garde is a very all-encompassing term, so we’ll get into a lot of different sounds in this installment. I’ve got quite a bit to look at, so we’re going to jump right into the deep end. But first, a word from our sponsor, RAID SHADOW LEGE-just kidding, we’re not sponsored. Funny joke haha. 

The first band I’m taking a look at is The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza. If that ain’t one hell of a name. They get pretty creative with song names, as well, because of course they do. Such as “Big Pun’s Not Dead Because I Just Saw Him at Krispy Kreme,” and “I Don’t Mean to Impose but I am the Ocean.” Weird names aside, TTDTE fashions themselves a “mathcore” band. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but my mind goes straight to “highly technical.” Giving a listen, yeah, I’d call that fairly accurate. Lots of odd string bends, some erratic drumming, etc. Reminds me of Iwrestledabearonce, which is convenient, because they fall under the same avant-garde umbrella of weirdly good shit. 

Now, I’ll fully admit that my attention span sucks, so in doing research for this, I found out that Krysta Cameron, the original vocalist for IWABO, had been replaced by Courtney LaPlante basically past 2012. Yes, I know, Courtney has been gushed over by yours truly, but I have a lot of shit to keep straight in my head. Anyway, they’re good. “You Know That Ain’t Them Dogs’ Real Voices” is up there as one of my all-time top 50 metal tracks. Probably their best known song is “Tastes Like Kevin Bacon.” 

Keeping in the same framework, let’s move over to Psychofagist. Like I said, same kind of framework, so the sound is kind of erratic. Very erratic. Not like the drums I was talking about earlier, but the whole ass thing. It’s kinda fucky, honestly, and one of those things where you’re not sure that you like it, but you’re glad that they felt like they could do what they really wanted. Like “The Optician Part 1.” Meanwhile “Asphyxiating Harmony” reminds me of what would happen if Devin Townsend composed the music for a haunted house. 

Speaking of Devin, that man is basically the face of odd shit. People like me who were exposed to him first through Strapping Young Lad would most likely shy away from his solo stuff, or his Devin Townsend Project stuff. As far as him solo goes, “Bad Devil” is fucking good, and I won’t hear a damn word otherwise. So is “Daddy.” Now, Daddy isn’t metal, but it’s Devin. These are a couple examples of his “closer to rock/metal” type releases. His latest venture, The Puzzle, gave us a lot more ambient/mood type music, like “Anxiety in Pyjamas.” That’s not to say it’s bad, but it’s not metal. And that’s fine. Strapping Young Lad, though? Fuck yeah. SYL was my gateway into a lot of way heavier stuff than I was previously listening to. My first exposure wasn’t even “Love?,” it was “Detox.” Picture 2005 Mr. GrayMetal getting his mind blown off in Bury St. Edmunds, UK. I’m sitting in my armchair, with my feet up on my poof (that’s what they call an ottoman over there). I’m trying to meet locals to hang out with in other ways, because the bar scene is getting boring. I find a person with some music I’d never heard of on their Myspace profile. I give a listen. I hear “PLAY THAT STUPID PIECE OF SHIT! RRRRAAAAAAHHHHH!” Hooked. Immediately. 

So now I’m going to slow up and run us back a bit. I have to jump around, or this gets too much structure. Anywho, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my Uncle Kelly and Queensryche. I’m not taking the time to insert the umlaut over the y. Also, no, Kelly Gray isn’t actually my uncle, but that’d be pretty fucking sweet. At least he spells his last name right. So you may be thinking “the “Silent Lucidity” and “Jet City Woman” guys? Avant-garde?” Yeah! How many metal bands do you know that had a concept album back in the late 80s? None? Well that’s Operation: Mindcrime. There’s some pretty standard 80s rock faire in there, but the overall sound is crazy different from what we would have been hearing from most places in 88, especially from Queensryche. “Speak” and “Breaking the Silence” both kind of sound like a fusion of Megadeth and Motley Crue. “Spreading the Disease” gives me Anthrax, Priest, and Alice Cooper vibes. 

Let’s keep it in the era and talk about Living Colour. Yeah, “Cult of Personality,” sure. How about the rest of the album Pride? “Release the Pressure” is a god damn good song. Bring the blues guitar, the funk, and make it shred. “WTFF” adds some old school hip hop notes to the album with the sampling. It’s not heavy hitting metal, but it’s still got that metal edge to it. I also have a running theory that Corey Glover is Mummy Cass from Here Come the Mummies

I’ll finish this out with the band who originally inspired me to write this piece, The Diablo Swing Orchestra. Honestly, I was trying to find some kind of fusion between ska and metal (look, yeah, I like ska). Start with “Balrog Boogie.” That’s some music for a Halloween party if I ever heard it. Let’s turn it more metal with “Exit Strategy of a Wrecking Ball.” To wrap up, check out the ridiculous tone shifts of “Superhero Jagganath.” 

I’m going to forego homework for this session, because there’s just not anything huge that I’ve been listening to lately that I really feel the need to point to, plus I’m way far behind on new releases. Well… I guess that’s not fully true, but I’ve been off the beaten metal path. I’ve been drifting back into a lot of EDM, specifically phonk music. If you do the whole Tik Tok thing, I guarantee you’ve heard some phonk. For now, just throw horns, break stuff, and stay metal! Class dismissed!

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