The History of Rock Music: The 2000s
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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi)
(These are excerpts from my book "A History of Rock and Dance Music")
Eastern rockersTM, ®, Copyright © 2008 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's influence (loud and sloppy garage-blues) was still felt throughout the country, as proven by the Immortal Lee County Killers in Alabama with The Essential Fuck-Up Blues (2001); the Black Keys in Ohio with The Big Come Up (2002); and by the Kills in Florida, playing the version popularized by the White Stripes on No Wow (2005).
The Fiery Furnaces (4), formed by Matthew Friedberger and Eleanor Friedberger, siblings from Chicago who relocated to New York, exhibited a versatile and multi-faceted style on Gallowsbird's Bark (2003). Anti-crooning vocals and spiked guitar riffs as well as wildly unstable dynamics evoked the Rolling Stones at their most drunken/deranged, or Captain Beefheart's Magic Band fronted by Janis Joplin. At the same time the exuberant neglect of their arrangements was reminiscent of Pere Ubu. Blueberry Boat (2004) stretched out into longer and more ambitious songs, collages of genres and tours de force of arrangement (including electronic keyboards) that were meant to create a new form of musical theater. That form came to life on Rehearsing My Choir (2005), a work structured as a dialogue between an older woman and a younger one over a substratum of eccentric and cacophonous sounds. The concept was basically a suburban white folks' version of the concept of hip-hop music: analyzing life aloud against an atmospheric soundscape. Here the soundscape was the musical equivalent of hyper-neurosis, while mostly childish, spartan and even cartoonish. The shift towards the vocals continued on the even more bizarre Bitter Tea (2006), on which the arrangements (including greater doses of electronic noise and quaint keyboards) were inherently tied to the way the voice derailed the melody. The proceedings betrayed the influence of the futuristic vaudeville of the "Cabaret Voltaire" and to Brecht's technique of "estrangement". Widow City (2007), instead, marked a return to a linear, extroverted and fluid form of expression.
Breakneck garage-rock albums such as Roitan (2004) by Mississippi's Roitan kept alive the tradition of raw and visceral rock'n'roll.
Crude atonality and an amazing bad taste devastated Let It Bloom (2005), the third album by Georgia's Black Lips (1).
Heroine Sheiks, formed by the Cows' vocalist Shannon Selberg and the Swans' guitarist Norman Westberg, played confrontational rock music on Rape On The Installment Plan (2001) and Siamese Pipe (2002), sounding like the Swans playing wild Cows-ian romps or the Cows playing brainy noise-rock.
Detroit's glorious tradition of the Stooges and MC5 survived in the primal visceral rock'n'roll of the first two albums by Baltimore's Vincent Black Shadow: Vincent Black Shadow (2006) and More Deeper (2008).
Georgia's duo Jucifer (vocalist and guitarist Amber Valentine and drummer Edgar Livengood) juxtaposed lumbering, distorted, pummeling, crushing doom-grunge and ethereal female vocals on Calling All Cars On The Vegas Strip (1999) and especially I Name You Destroyer (2002), sounding like the Melvins fronted by a daydreaming girl.
At least two combos from England were successful at revisiting both vintage garage-rock of the 1960s and punk-rock of the 1970s: Art Brut on Bang Bang Rock & Roll (2005), and Ikara Colt on Chat And Business (2002) and Modern Apprentice (2004). They were angrier, nastier and noisier than the average.
In Advance Of The Broken Arm (2007) by New York's guitarist Marnie Stern was a romp through heavy-metal, punk-rock, garage-rock and noise-rock filtered through the sensibility of the new wave of the 1970s. Not quite an intellectual singer-songwriter a` la Patti Smith (although as possessed a singer as her), Stern had to rely on an intricate abrasive guitar attack to bestow meaning on her songs.
Texas' trio White Denim favored the jerky, sloppy and punkish garage-rock pioneered by Jon Spencer but augmented it with artful moves worthy of the new wave and even post-rock on Workout Holiday (2008).
The main heirs to the glorious tradition of Northwestern garage-rock were the Hunches from Oregon, whose Yes No Shut It (2002) and Hobo Sunrise (2004) were the sonic equivalent of a carpet bombing campaign.
Thermals, also from Oregon, opted for a poppier sound on The Body The Blood The Machine (2006), a political concept album.
Garage-blues was dominated by Seattle's Gossip, unrivaled with the 24-minute 14-song album That's Not What I Heard (2001) and the EP Arkansas Heat.
California had the most innovative groups.
San Francisco's Coachwhips (1) took the cliche' of distorted garage-rock to the punk-rock extremes of the raucous frenzied orgy that was Get Yer Body Next Ta Mine (2003).
Los Angeles' duo No Age (1) coined a new hybrid of noise, punk and pop based on distortions and drones on Nouns (2008). No Age were the leaders of the "Smell-generation", named after the club in Los Angeles that launched them. Fellow "Smell" alumni Abe Vigoda harked back to the angular, dissonant and convoluted form of new wave and noise-rock on Skeleton (2008).
In San Diego the saga of Drive Like Jehu and Rocket From The Crypt was continued by the bands formed by guitarist John Reis, notably the Sultans, although the punk-rock of Shipwrecked (2004) was more cerebral than visceral.
Washington's stoners Dead Meadow (1) mixed hypnotic litanies and noisy jams on Feathers (2004).
Vancouver-based stoners Black Mountain spiced the retro-psychedelic hard-rock of Black Mountain (2005) and In the Future (2008) with vocal harmonies a` la Jefferson Airplane.
The Red Sparowes, formed by Isis' guitarist Bryant Meyer and bassist Jeff Caxide and based in Los Angeles, summed up two or three schools of the 1990s with the super-heavy post-shoegaze instrumental progressive-rock of At The Soundless Dawn (2005).
San Diego's instrumental power-trio Earthless, fronted by guitarist Isaiah Mitchell, devoted its first albums Sonic Prayer (2005) and Rhythms From A Cosmic Sky (2007) to progressive guitar-heavy stoner-rock suites, two per album, peaking with the five-movement Godspeed, off the second one.
Santa Cruz's Mammatus gave stoner-rock a philosophical dimension with the massive and kaleidoscopic suite Dragon of the Deep, a spiritual concept influenced by progressive and folk music, whose first two parts dominated Mammatus (2006) and whose third part appeared on the more varied The Coast Explodes (2007).
Los Angeles' stoners Ancestors debuted with the two sprawling groove-based acid jams of Neptune With Fire (2008).
Kentucky's power-trio Cadaver in Drag unleashed the guitar-driven mayhem over pummeling drums of Raw Child (2007) with industrial and doom-metal overtones.
Finland's Tivol offered a sloppy compendium of garage-rock, stoner-rock and space-rock with the kaleidoscopic jams of the mini-albums Breathtaking Sounds (2003), Cyclobean Ways (2004) and Teema: Laskipaa (2004).
Pharaoh Overlord, an all-instrumental side-project by Circle's guitarist Jussi Lehtisalo, achieved a hypnotic balance of stoner-rock and progressive-rock on #3 (2005).
Argentina boasted a lively scene of stoner-rock, with Buffalo's Kyuss-inspired Temporada de Huracanes (2004) and
Dragonauta's doom and trash orgy of Luciferatu (2003) leading the way.
At the beginning of 2008 the "Metal Archives" website (http://www.metal-archives.com) listed 66,012 heavy-metal bands. There was no other musical genres that had fostered so many musicians. Each and every of metal's fringe subgenres was splintering in many new directions. The truly prominent bands were more interested in creating hybrids out of the fashionable attitudes of the 1990s; and metalcore was the most popular.
Metalcore, that wed heavy-metal's bombast and hardcore's rage, ruled the airwaves. Los Angeles' Avenged Sevenfold (1) bridged the gap between gothic rock, glam-punk and metalcore with Sounding the Seventh Trumpet (2001). Atreyu followed a similar strategy while contrasting snarling punk vocals and clear poppy vocals on Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses (2002) while investing in dual-guitar harmonies. These two bands conquered the post-emo masses with, respectively, the charming mess of City Of Evil (2005) and the catchy and retro The Curse (2004).
Boston (that had nurtured the first generation of punk-metal fusion) was a particularly fertile terrain, boasting bands such as Unearth, with The Stings of Conscience (2001), and All That Remains, with Behind Silence And Solitude (2002). Boston's Killswitch Engage (1) updated metalcore to the age of emo on Alive or Just Breathing (2002). And San Diego's As I Lay Dying updated speed-metal to the age of metalcore with their third album Shadows Are Security (2005).
Michigan's Black Dahlia Murder transcended metalcore on Unhallowed (2003) and Miasma (2005) by cross-fertilizing the acrobatic technique of death-metal and the emotional melody of black metal, a schizophrenia epitomized by the dual vocals, a black-metal shriek and a death-metal growl.
Following a decade-old intuition by Dying Fetus, bands such as San Francisco's All Shall Perish, with Hate Malice Revenge (2003), and Arizona's Job For A Cowboy, with the EP Doom (2005), popularized death-core, a style fusing elements of metalcore (e.g., breakdowns) and death-metal (blastbeats, shrieks), basically death-metal without the "death" themes in the lyrics. The legions of deathcore bands included Los Angeles' Suicide Silence, with The Cleansing (2007), and Tennessee's Whitechapel, with The Somatic Defilement (2007).
Canada's Protest The Hero coined an original and technical form of progressive metalcore on the Kafkian concept album Kezia (2006) and on the schizophrenic Fortress (2008).
Outside metalcore there were all kinds of crossbreds. Los Angeles' duo Black Cobra blended elements of stoner, doom-metal and grindcore thanks to abrasive vocals and seismic guitar (Jason Landrian) and manic drumming (Rafael Martinez) on Bestial (2006). Los Angeles' Otep (1) played gothic funk-metal on Sevas Tra (2002), a concentrate of expressionistic nightmares. Silentist (Oregon-based pianist Mark-Evan Burden) concoted an insane hybrid of post-classical music, free-jazz and grindcore on Silentist (2008).
However, the old-fashioned stately 1980s sound of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, already exhumed in the 1990s by the Lord Weird Slough Feg, staged a comeback with albums such as Advance and Vanquish (2004) by Vancouver's 3 Inches Of Blood, Closing In (2005) by Ohio's Early Man, Brutality- Majesty- Eternity (2006) by Chicago's Bible Of The Devil, etc.
Witchcraft, who debuted with Witchcraft (2004), led the contingent of Swedish bands that adopted a retro sound harking back to hard-rock of the 1970s; and not only Black Sabbath, but also Jethro Tull.
Britain witnessed a rebirth of the folkish pagan variant of black metal with
Winterfylleth's Ghost of Heritage (2008) and
Fen's The Malediction Fields (2009).
Others focused on technical prowess, and that's where the most relevant contributions of the decade were to be found.
Washington-based duo Orthrelm (1), i.e. Quix*o*tic's bassist Mick Barr (now on guitar) and drummer Josh Blair (a member of avantgarde ensemble ABCs), followed the 99-track 13-minute EP Asristir Vieldriox (2002), of a hardly recognizable metalcore sub-style, with the 45-minute suite of OV (2005). Through the unlikely marriage of grindcore speed and minimalist repetition, this piece represented the relentless, dense and tense soundtrack to a tortured stream of consciousness.
Georgia's Mastodon (2), featuring former Today Is The Day's guitarist Bill Kelliher and drummer Brann Dailor (one of the most versatile drummers of heavy metal), debuted their cerebral, convoluted metal music on Remission (2002). Influenced by Dillinger Escape Plan and Meshuggah, they devised a unique fusion of stoner-rock, jazz-rock and southern boogie. The concept album Leviathan (2004), a work of relentless intensity but also slicker production, indulged in lightning-speed guitar improvisations, tempo-free drumming, and noisy, intricate counterpoint.
North Carolina's Between the Buried and Me (12), led by vocalist Tommy Rogers and guitarist Paul Waggoner, ventured into a creative form of black metal on Alaska (2005) and then penned the exhilarating genre-bending collage Colors (2007) that bridged black metal and pop via all sorts of stylistic detours. Their mission continued with the multi-movement suites of The Great Misdirect (2009) and the pretentious concept albums that came later.
Pennsylvania's Commit Suicide played a hyper-technical form of "death-grind" metal on Human Larvae Earthly Cleansing (2002) and Synthetics (2004).
Georgia's Canvas Solaris espoused an acrobatic and intricate instrumental fusion of death-metal, industrial music and post-rock on Sublimation (2004) and Penumbra Diffuse (2006).
New York state's PsyOpus played brutal, frantic and intricate post-metal on Ideas of Reference (2004).
Anaal Nathrakh (the British duo of vocalist Dave "V.I.T.R.I.O.L." Hunt and multi-instrumentalist Mick "Irrumator" Kenney) topped the most extreme forms of black metal on The Codex Necro (2001): insanely loud and frantic drums, tortured keyboards, rudely-distorted riffs, and studio-processed psychotic vocals.
Truth Beyond (2002) by Montreal's Neuraxis vomited a hyper-kinetic "death" sound that was visceral and savage while humane and melodic.
New Zealand's Ulcerate (2) revitalized technical death-metal with Everything is Fire (2009), a parade of crushing, intricate, hysterical and labyrinthine songs. By the time of The Destroyers of All (2011), the guitar work had become a pure abstraction, mostly a torrent of free-form sound.
Italy's school of prog-metal continued to hatch new ideas.
Ephel Duath, the brainchild of guitarist Davide Tiso, achieved one of the most brilliant fusions of jazz and metal on their second album The Painter's Palette (2003).
Kailash resurrected Opeth's progressive black metal on Kailash (2007).
Thee Maldoror Kollective bridged black metal and industrial music via digital noise, beats and samples on the gothic concept New Era Viral Order (2002).
By the end of the 1990s, black metal had become one of the most popular genres in rock music. However the stereotypical elements of black metal (buzz, distortion, growls, blastbeats) were limiting the imagination of its practitioners.
Black metal had also become one of the most personal and (ironically) introverted genres of the age, because so many of its purveyors were one-man bands who locked themselves in their bedroom with a drum-machine, a guitar and a tape recorder. In fact, the hiss of lo-fi recording equipment had become an integral part of the stereotype of black metal.
Marduk's blazing style of black metal was continued by groups such as Norway's 1349 with the raw no-frills Liberation (2003). Norway's Khold, instead, opted for melodic midtempo black metal on their second album Phantom (2002).
In the USA black metal was dominated by the West-coast scene, a scene started in the 1990s by Weakling and the Lord Weird Slough Feg in San Francisco.
Los Angeles' one-man band Xasthur (Scott Conner) adopted an agonizing midtempo, a wall of sound, synthesizers and low-fi production on the EPs A Darkened Winter (2001) and Suicide in Dark Serenity (2003). Their second album Nocturnal Poisoning (2002) sounded like the equivalent of dream-pop for black metal, or ambient music for heavy-metal sounds.
San Francisco's one-man band Draugar (Tim Lehi) penned the blacker atmosphere of From Which Hatred Grows (2003), and inspired another local one-man band, Crebain, who debuted with Night Of Stormcrow (2007).
The hypnotic extended jams of Seattle's Wolves In The Throne Room such as the ones on Diadem Of 12 Stars (2006) and Two Hunters (2007), employed the same technique of blastbeats and repetitive riffs of Weakling, adding electronic drones and prog-rock touches.
On the other hand, Chicago's Nachtmystium marked the movement away from black metal and towards a sound that incorporated catchy melodies and psychedelic passages, especially with their third album Instinct Decay (2006).
And it was in Chicago that one-man band Light Shall Prevail spearheaded Christian black metal (also called "white metal", already pioneered by Trouble in the 1980s), that was neither hateful nor nihilistic, with the lo-fi, convoluted, trippy Defeat The Reign Of The Horned One Through The Light Of Christ (2006) and with the mini-album Unearthen Hymns Of Revolt (2007), that boasted even more warped vocals and more spastic drum-machines. That school (and that very man) also yielded Agathothodion's sprawling midtempo jams of Kan Guds Gjort (2007), and Flaskavsae's Philosophies (2007), buried into dense, thick droning hurricanes. Njiqahdda (1), another project by the same musician, was hardly black metal at all: post-rock dynamics (augmented with repetitions, overdubs and loops) and psychedelic spatiotemporal warping (with riffs, vocals and beats seemingly coming from a parallel dimension) altered the drums-driven pieces, and the drum-less pieces were just dark ambient music. The split personality of the project was evident from the double-disc Njimajikal Arts (2007), the first disc devoted to post-doom metal amd the second disc devoted to static music, and the extra-metal ambitions were also on display with the 53-minute dark ambient piece of Fortu Manske Orta (2007), credited to Njiijn, and the 29-minute super-droning Nostri Di Consivint Mek, off Almare Dosegaas Fyaltu (2007).
There were signs of renewal also in the "redneck" states of the South. Texan quartet Bahimiron played devastating acid metal (like Gorgoroth's hysterical black metal via Butthole Surfers and Texan garage-rock) on their second album Southern Nihilizm (2008), whose title was an apt manifesto. North Carolina's one-man band Jabladav contaminated its black metal with post-rock and ambient drones on Black As Pitch (2007).
Oregon-based guitarist Eldrig VanSee wed soaring quasi-shoegazing guitar tapestry, neoclassical keyboards and thrash rhythms on Everlasting War Divinity (2007).
San Francisco-based Mamaleek achieved a tense hybrid of black-metal frenzy, industrial syncopation, shoegazing distortion and dark ambience on Mamaleek (2008), notably the 18-minute Shout On Children, and on the jazzier and denser Fever Dream (2008).
Colorado's duo Cobalt (1) destabilized black metal with the grave and dynamic compositions of the sprawling Eater of Birds (2007).
The Meads of Asphodel, from Britain, contaminated midtempo black metal with pop hooks, psychedelic keyboards, electronic effects and programmed beats on Exhuming The Grave Of Yeshua (2003).
Swiss guitar trio (no drums) Darkspace (1), featuring Tobias Moeckl of Paysage D'Hiver, were master purveyors of "ambient black metal". I (2003) juxtaposed the noise of manic guitars and drum-machines (the blastbeats being inconsequential for the tempo and merely contributing to the mayhem) with droning ecstasy to paint an alien soundscape. The three juggernauts of II (2005) alternated between a thick droning fog to sudden downpours of chaotic noise, a tactic very similar to electronic cosmic music.
At the same time that he endorsed the most suicidal overtones of masters such as Katatonia, Sweden's guitarist Kim Carlsson also attacked the very foundations of black metal by adopting a broader range of vocals, clean guitar riffs and post-rock dynamics both with his band Lifelover on Pulver (2006) and alone under the moniker Hypothermia, for example in the two repetitive minimal suites of Kold (2006).
Another purveyor of Katatonia-style suicidal black metal was the Danish musician disguised under the moniker Make A Change Kill Yourself, who unfurled the four colossal agonies of Make A Change Kill Yourself (2005) and the two suites of II (2007).
Nagelfar's drummer Alexander von Meilenwald launched the Ruins Of Beverast (1) to further explore the darkest aspects of Nagelfar's sound. While Unlock The Shrine (2004) already represented a peak of horror, the ambient doom-black dirges of Rain Upon The Impure (2006) stood as one of the most nightmarish moments in the history of the genre.
The Ruins of Beverast had basically founded a German school that soon numbered Kermania, whose black metal on Ahnenwerk (2007) was both grandiose and folkish.
Germany's Ekpyrosis debuted with the 30-minute piece of Mensch Aus Gold (2008) at the border between post-rock and black metal.
Black metal was not born as a genre that easily allows musicians to come up with original variations. France was the one place where bands were capable of adding ever new ideas to the paradigm.
French duo Spektr (1), consisting of a guitarist and a drummer (but both also on programming and sampling), conceived Et Fugit Intera Fugit Irreparabile Tempus (2004) as a collage of industrial (frequently pushed to the limit of abstract noise), ambient (thick floating drones) and post-rock (indulging in extreme shifts of dynamics) elements from which only occasionally did blastbeats of black metal emerge. If that was a music of wild contrasts, Near Death Experience (2006) smoothed out the contrasts and was reduced to musique concrete with distant echoes of heavy metal. The stylistic implosion reached the nadir with the mini-album Mescalyne (2008) and its nightmarish hallucinations set in a desolate wasteland of sonic debris.
French duo Nuit Noire indulged in clownish, amateurish, punkish metal on Lunar Deflagration (2004).
Amesoeurs blended ecstatic shoegaze-rock and blasting black metal on the EP Ruines Humaines (2006).
The originality of Peste Noire (1) on La Sanie des Siecles (2006) lay in the ability to mix black metal's hysterical blastbeats and screams with all sorts of alternative scaffoldings, notably medieval-sounding melodies. Their offshoot Alcest (1), instead, crafted one of the most moving albums of shoegaze-pop ever: Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde (2007). Meanwhile, Peste Noire's hostile and ferocious L'Ordure A L'Etat Pur (2011) incorporated even elements of circus music and the musichall. Bands like these contributed to coin a "metalgaze" sub-sub-genre.
Aluk Todolo (2), instead, assembled a menacing parade of industrial, psychedelic and post-rock events for the four cryptic instrumentals of Descension (2007) and an even broader palette for the double-disc Occult Rock (2012) ranging from frenzied black-metal orgies to languid psychedelic distorted laments.
French bassist Christophe Mevel's Tank paid tribute to Neu's "motorik" music on 66 Degrees Nord (1997), while the Dale Cooper Quartet (2), formed with electronic and jazz musicians, paid tribute to Angelo Badalamenti with the anemic instrumental litanies of Parole De Navarre (2006) and with the transcendal ballads of Quatorze Pieces De Menace (2013).
The impact of post-rock's non-linear, convoluted, cryptic dynamics was felt on Glorior Belli's second album Manifesting The Raging Beast (2008).
French-Canadian duo Gris played Burzum-inspired black metal that was folkish, dreamy chamber music on Neurasthenie (2006) and Il Etait Une Foret (2007).
One of the most exciting additions to the canon of heavy metal came from the ranks of black metal. A number of bands played a music that was filthy, malevolent and sloppy while being raw, amateurish and stripped-down and while being heavily distorted and buzz-drenched. This had been the formula of garage-rock since the beginnings of rock'n'roll. Therefore these bands de facto offered a fusion of both the ethos and the sound of garage-rock and black metal. Songs were characterized by a snarling, pounding, atonal, lascivious appearance. They exuded a ferociously negative attitude.
Canadian duo Akitsa harked back to the guitar-heavy tradition of black metal with the manically droning riffs, hysterical shrieking and relentless pounding of Goetie (2001). But their successors rapidly abandoned the guitar as the main instrument.
Influenced by Ildjarn, the Australian one-man band Striborg was perhaps the most prolific purveyor of "lo-fi black metal" of the 2000s, with a sound dominated by keyboards and drums. Mysterious Semblance (2004), that contains the 20-minute Mysterious Semblance Of Spectral Trees, and Spiritual Catharsis (2004), that contains the 13-minute Spiritual Catharsis, defined his routine of electronic ambience, drum-machine beats and fuzzed-out doom.
Australian outfit Portal (1) delivered the droning and cacophonous Seepia (2003), one of the most original death-metal albums since Gorguts, an evil symphony of squealing metallic guitars and spastic blasting drumming performed inside a forest of sound effects. Outre (2007) was less chaotic but more nightmarish, focusing their superhuman firepower and technique on building up a sheer sense of terror.
From here it was all downhill towards higher and higher degrees of mayhem.
Oregon's Velvet Cacoon (1) unleashed a claustrophonic orchestral squall of monster fuzz drones on Genevieve (2004), although it also included an extended horror-ambient piece (Bete Noir).
Canadian trio Wold (1) hid eerie melodies in the barrage of melodic repetitive keyboards, programmed beats and shoegazing guitars of L.O.T.M.P. (2005), approaching Japanese noisecore via ambient electronica on Screech Owl (2007) and, pared down to a duo, on the equally disturbing Stratification (2008).
Bone Awl, a San Francisco-based duo of guitar and drums, played black metal that bordered on white noise on Meaningless Leaning Mess (2007) and the EP Undying Glare (2007).
The Mausoleums from Chicago bridged the fury of black metal and the ambition of post-metal. I Am The Mausoleum (2007) explored an unlikely wedding of raw metal bordering on Japanese noisecore and intellectual metal bordering on post-rock.
Australian one-man band Nekrasov (1) managed to produce a furious and manic sound while experimenting with a broad spectrum of avantgarde techniques on Into The No-Man's Sphere Of The Ancient Days (2007), with ambient and industrial elements colliding with his black-metal roots and with abstract vocals that approach the noise of the guitar. The Form Of Thought From Beast (2008) matched the debut's ambitions with the progressive and psychedelic 20-minute juggernaut The Form Of Thought From Beast.
Lo-fi practitioners in Finland included Circle Of Ouroborus, with the sloppy and dissonant Shores (2006), and Vordr, with I (2004). Dead Reptile Shrine churned out A Journey Through The Darkest Of Forests (2005), a chaotic and dissonant mixture of folk and metal with a horror-industrial-psychedelic attitude.
Dutch duo Urfaust filled the black-metal nightmares of Geist ist Teufel (2004) with all sorts of grotesque events. Verraterischer Nichtswurdiger Geist (2005) was even dominated by droning ambient music.
Of the genres of the 1990s, doom-metal had perhaps left the strongest mark on the new century. In the 2000s this (apparently) most narrow-minded of all narrow-minded subgenres managed to split into many new sub-subgenres.
Finland's Reverend Bizarre were the most faithful worshippers of the gospel of Black Sabbath and St Vitus with their defiantly repetitive and monotonous exposition of the most sinister doom stereotypes (cadaveric tempos, earth-shattering bass lines, crushing guitar riffs) over gargantuan-length pieces, notably the ones of In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend (2002).
Boston's drums and guitar duo 5ive played brutal, distorted doom-metal on The Telestic Disfracture (2001).
Khanate (3), a supergroup formed in New York by bassist James Plotkin, Sunn O)))'s guitarist Stephen O'Malley, Blind Idiot God's drummer Tim Wyskida and Old's hysterical vocalist Alan Dubin, turned the lengthy hypnotic jams of Khanate (2002) into a festival of massive sustained distortions, magniloquent passages and funereal litanies. A lot more suspense went into the four expressionistic psychodramas and harrowing soundscapes of Things Viral (2003). This art of silence, distortion and screams was refined manically by the two lengthy ceremonies of Capture & Release (2005). Their best monoliths achieved a psychological synthesis: the agony of a damned soul, the hallucination of a heroin addict and the extreme blank of a suicide bomber all combined together.
Aethenor was a collaboration among Sunn O)))'s Stephen O'Malley, Guapo's pianist/percussionist Daniel O'Sullivan and keyboardist Vincent DeRoguin (of Swiss metal band Shora) devoted to magniloquent doom metal, whose debut Deep In Ocean Sunk The Lamp of Light (2006), was a four-movement ambient-psychedelic-jazz-gothic symphony.
Florida's Torche reinvented pop-metal or grunge or both for the generation that had been raised on doom-metal. They sounded like a super-heavy version of Nirvana on Torche (2005) and Meanderthal (2008), packing catchy bubblegum melodies into bombshells of massive distorted riffs and seismic drumming.
Britain's Marzuraan tried to inject a romantic feeling (via melancholy melodies a` la slo-core) into droning doom-metal on Solid Wood (2006).
The marriage of post-rock and doom-metal spawned yet another subgenre of heavy metal, largely inspired by Neurosis and Isis. Mostly instrumental and frequently incorporating keyboards, this was the mutation of prog-metal after the deluge of post-rock.
Swedish septet Cult of Luna played a creative form of metalcore on Cult of Luna (2001) that evolved into the synthesizer-tinged spleen of Salvation (2004) and Somewhere Along the Highway (2006), two albums drenched in shoegazing guitars.
Georgia's duo Angelic Process buried the aching lullabies of Coma Waering (2006) and Weighing Souls With Sand (2007) in a thick layer of blissful "shoegazing" guitars and slow-motion industrial rhythms.
Chicago's instrumental combo Pelican (1) gave spectacular essays in droning metal with the four terrifying pieces of the 30-minute EP Pelican (2003) and the stately counterpoint of drones and jagged, discordant passages of the album Australasia (2003).
The "post-doom" generation was heralded by Chicago's Buried At Sea with the three untitled pieces of Migration (2003), whose subliminal funereal style was later revisited in the 29-minute suite of the mini-album Ghosts (2007).
Maine's Conifer coupled the brainy dynamics of post-rock with the massive riffs of doom metal on Conifer (2004).
Baroness, hailing from Georgia, created one of the most eclectic fusions of elements on the EPs First (2004) and Second (2005) as well as on the album Red Album (2007). Each song was a kaleidoscope of infectious melodies, post-rock alienation, metalcore fury, stoner languor, cerebral drumming and electronic veneer.
Ohio's Mouth Of The Architect were the most obvious transposition into doom-metal of Godspeed You Black Emperor. Time & Withering (2004) was majestic and melodic despite the onslaught that devastated the lengthy, intricate and slow-building pieces.
Minsk, from Chicago, detonated Out Of A Center Which Is Neither Dead Nor Alive (2005), reminiscent of the heavy brooding psychedelic ambient doom of Isis with the addition of viscous, rumbling and droning electronic keyboards.
The tone of Resurface (2005) by Boston's Tides was mournful and solemn, with occasional dreamy/psychedelic detours, a balance of moods and dynamics that peaked with In Their Arms, from the EP From Silence (2006).
Maine's Ocean specialized in lengthy, slow and funereal pieces, such as the three on Here Where Nothing Grows (2005) and especially the two juggernauts of Pantheon Of The Lesser (2008), that followed the aesthetics of "ebb and flow" to mutate into psychological monsters.
Philadelphia's Rosetta (1) appropriately split the dense and intense The Galilean Satellites (2005) into a disc of crushing doom-metal songs and a disc of atmospheric and convoluted abstractions, and made them sound like they were two sides of the same coin. Wake/ Lift (2007) wed the fury of metalcore and the brain of industrial-metal to churn out brutal, frantic, sprawling and huge musical monoliths of apocalyptic doom.
Missouri's Warhammer 48K packed their hyper-kinetic extravaganza Uber Om (2006) with all sorts of abrupt shifts and crazy inventions.
England's quintet Hey Colossus packaged a three-pronged guitar attack into a hypnotic, funereal, loud, distorted fusion of doom-metal and Neu-like "motorik" rhythm on the mini-album Hates You (2004). Post-rock dynamics matched the trancey quality of their sound on II (2005), creating an even stranger (but no less "heavy") hybrid. Death-metal and white noise further destabilized Project Death (2007), whose harsher moments bordered on pummelling noisecore.
Hlidolf (1) (the project of Norwegian multi-instrumentalist Vidar Ermesjo) created a haunting all-instrumental blend of doom-metal a` la Earth, gothic electronica a` la Lustmord and cosmic music a` la Klaus Schulze with the 69-minute piece of V01d (2002).
Sweden's Funeral Mist managed to achieve both extremely pummeling speed and extremely dense heaviness on Salvation (2003).
Germany's Ocean Collective (1), conducted by Robin Staps and featuring multiple guitars and multiple vocalists, engineered one of the biggest sounds of their time on the double album that was released as two separate albums, Fluxion (2004), containing the "orchestral" pieces, and Aeolian (2005), devoted to hard-hitting songs. Keyboards and string section interfered with the bombast of riffs and growls. The schizophrenia worsened on the double-disc Precambrian (2007), one (short) disc being permeated by dissonant metalcore fury while the other disc indulged in ambient/progressive detours.
Dutch one-man band Gnaw Their Tongues (1) elaborated a hybrid of hellish shrieks, doom hypnosis, guitar noise, snippets of horror soundtracks, industrial drumming, electronic glitches and orchestral samples on the albums Reeking Pained And Shuddering (2007) and An Epiphanic Vomiting Of Blood (2007).
Australian duo Halo (drummer Robert Allen and bassist Skye Klein, also the brain behind Terminal Sound System) resurrected the ghosts of early Swans and Godflesh on Guattari (2001): sedate cyclopean drumming and industrial-grade bass lines regurgitating lava-like feedback that combined to create a disorienting sense of absence.
Australia's Whitehorse belonged to both the super-slow current and the post-rock current that had taken hold of doom-metal. Their best moments were on meandering improvisations full of ambient drones and walls of (feedback) noise, mostly recorded live until the EP Fire To Light The Way (2006) and the 22-minute The Unwelcome Return, off the double-disc Whitehorse (2007).
The Australian guitar-less trio Fire Witch (two basses and drums) followed a similar course with the two monoliths of I Spit Lies (2007).
British quartet Palehorse increased the amount of sinister vibrations in doom-metal by employing two basses and no guitar on Gee That Ain't Well (2006). That also allowed the bassists to improvise in a number of different directions.
Spanish power-trio Orthodox debuted with the heavy doom monoliths a` la Earth of Gran Poder (2006) but introduced elements of jazz and of progressive-rock on Amanecer en Puerta Oscura (2007) .
English bass-and-keyboards duo Trollmann Av Ildtoppberg (1) began as a lo-fi version of Skepticism, relatively melodic and folkish, on Forest Of Doom (2001). Their music morphed into the abstract, glacial and distorted Arcane Runes Adorn The Ice-Veiled Monoliths Of The Ancient Cavern Of The Stars (2003) and the ambient, trance-like Tolling Beyond The Tombs Of Ancient Grimnity (2003) before exploding in the brutal, massive sound of Dark Clouds Blacken The Sky On The Eve Of The Thousandth Sacrifice (2004).
The monolithic ultra-doom dirges of the British band Moss were the ultimate embodiment of the idea of doom. Cthonic Rites (2005), containing the 44-minute The Gate, and Sub Templum (2008), containing the three-movement suite Gate III - Devils From The Outer Dark.
Other creative albums of doom-metal of the time included:
Something To Do With Death (2005) by Chicago's Angel Eyes,
Samus Octology (2005) by Boston's Irepress,
Message To Ourselves Outside The Dreaming Machine (2006) by Germany's Woburn House,
Power Hor (2007) by Seattle's Lesbian,
Peasant (2008) by New Orleans' Thou,
Lights Bane (2008) by Oregon's Trees,
Book Of The Black Earth (2006) by Book Of The Black Earth (Seattle-based multi-instrumentalist Chet Scott),
Angel Eyes (2008) by the Texan one-man band Brown Jenkins,
Murkrat (2008) by Australian female duo Murkrat,
Salome (2008) by Virginia's Salome (melodic doom-metal fronted by a woman),
Skepticism's and Thergothon's super-slow doom-metal had its own disciples, practicing the kind of dense, heavy and glacial sound prophesized by "drone-lords" Eyehategod, Karp, Earth and Sunn O))). These bands worked in a fashion that resembled the work of the digital avantgarde: their slow and huge sounds sculpted vast and gloomy free-form doomscapes that worked both as hostile amphitheaters and as naked psyches.
Finland's Fleshpress (1) debuted with the super-slow doom-metal of Fleshpress (2002), that ranks among the supreme works of that sub-subgenre, but then evolved towards a more articulate sound with the extended Asphalt on the mini-album Worm Dirges (2004). The sparkling production of All Hope Lost on III (2005) harked back to art-rock, and the trance of Pillars (2007) was derailed by sudden accelerations and grindcore beats.
French quartet Monarch (1) wed the demonic vocals of a female singer (Emilie Bresson) with catatonic beats, basically stretching each riff to the limit of human tolerance. The three colossal agonies of the double-disc 666 (2005), the two blurred and disjointed dirges of Speak Of The Sea (2006), and the two excruciating ceremonies of Die Tonight (2007) drilled into the psyche of a black hole.
Dutch combo Bunkur concocted the lugubrious 65-minute piece of Bludgeon (2004) in the vein of slow monotonous doom-metal drenched in guitar feedback and deprived of rhythm by sparse narcotic drumming.
Catacombs, a one-man band from Arizona (Jon "Xathagorra Mlandroth" DelRussi), was able to carved out of the EP Echoes Through The Catacombs (2003) and the album In The Depths Of R'Lyeh (2006) something close to evocative and even touching art.
San Francisco's Asunder, featuring Weakling's guitarist John Gossard, added a cello to the recipe of super-slow doom-metal and stretched the idea to impossible lengths in the three heartless monoliths A Clarion Call (2004) and the 50-minute Rite Of Finality, off Works Will Come Undone (2006).
Los Angeles' Asva, featuring bassist Stuart Dahlquist, two guitarists (including Mr Bungle's Trey Spruance), Burning Witch's drummer, a female vocalist and an organist, concocted the dense drone-fests of Futurist's Against the Ocean (2005) and What You Don't Know Is Frontier (2008), each containing four lengthy jams.
Animus, a one-man band from Israel (Golan Weiss), made intelligent use of both repetition and droning to achieve the hypnotically suicidal atmosphere of Poems For The Aching, Swords For The Infuriated (2006), scarred by a massive guitar buzz and a robotic beat.
Black Boned Angel (1) was a project by Birchville Cat Motel's Campbell Kneale that devoted the hour-long pieces of Bliss And Void Inseparable (2006) and The Endless Coming Into Life (2008) to slow, heavy and deep music in the vein of doom-metal, augmented with a bit of post-rock dynamics.
Minnesota's Celestiial added a new dimension to slow and glacial metal by pouring natural sounds and the timbres of ancestral instruments (Celtic harp and Native-American flute) into Desolate North (2006).
Idaho-based duo Pussygutt performed droning doom fantasies for home-made instruments, chamber instruments, electronics and power-rock trio such as the four pieces of Sea Of Sand (2007) and the 47-minute piece of She Hid Behind Her Veil (2008).
Belgian multi-instrumentalist Stijn van Cauter became the super-specialist of ultra-doom, first with Symphony I and II (2001), under the moniker Until Death Overtakes Me, then with the monoliths of Fall of The Grey Winged One's albums Aeons Of Dreams (2002), including the 42-minute title-track, and the more electronic Death Time Emptiness (2003), including the 37-minute Emptiness, and then with Beyond Black Void's Desolate (2003), that was perhaps the best manifestation of his ambient muzak of crushing heaviness.
Other notable slow-motion recordings (the slower, the doomer) were: the EP Stay Smoke Stay Stone (2001) and the 40-minute EP Dot (.) (2004) by Japanese power-trio Dot (.); Season Of Seance Science Of Silence (2003) by New York's Unearthly Trance; Documents Of Grief (2004) by Los Angeles' Graves At Sea; the 30-minute piece of the EP Stormbringer (2005) by Oregon's Roanoke; the single-song EPs The Ancient Method (2005), The Destroyer Of All (2006), Cruelty (2007) and Absence (2008) by Monument Of Urns; Aftermath (2006) by the new project of Sons Of Otis' guitarist Ken Baluke, named Ox; etc.
Oregon's Yob (1) coined a bombastic sound (stately crushing riffs, satanic growls alternating with macabre melodies, and martial drumming) that merged the various branches of metal in the juggernauts of Catharsi (2003) and The Illusion of Motio (2004) and then ventured beyond it on The Great Cessation (2009).
By the end of the decade, bands like these had stretched doom-music to its absolute droning limit, venturing into an art of soundsculpting based not on notes and chords but on timbres and tones, while replacing the role of melody with pure heaviness.
Canadian duo Nadja (1), featuring the ambient composer Aidan Baker, churned out colossal drone-based jams for bass, guitar and drum-machine such as Slow Loss, off Skin Turns to Glass (2003), the 21-minute piece of the EP I Have Tasted the Fire Inside Your Mouth (2004), Bug Golem and Memory Leak, off Truth Becomes Death (2005), the three-movement suite Bliss Torn from Emptiness (2005), Clinodactyl and Ossification, off Bodycage (2005), the three monoliths of Radiance Of Shadows (2007), which were exemplary takes on doom-shoegaze fusion, and the 62-minute lungubrious piece of Thaumogenesis (2007), often sounding, basically, like a psychedelic version of Earth and Sunn O))).
Nadja's "doom-gaze" became more popular as the popularity of ecstatic droning rock increased.
Explorers of this no man's land included:
Florida's Goslings who conveyed thickly distorted doom-metal with gentle drifting female vocals, leaning towards the dream-pop end of the spectrum, on Between The Dead (2005);
Hjarnidaudi (Vidar Ermesjo of Hlidolf), who exposed the morbid connection between doom-metal and shoegazing rock on Pain Noise March (2006).
Drumcorps, the project of German digital musician Aaron Spectre, applied the manipulation techniques of dance-music (such as instrumental hip-hop, techno and drill'n'bass) to grindcore and death-metal. The result was the brutal and frenzied collage of Grist (2006) in which blastbeats and metal riffs were two sides of the same (rhythmic) coin.
Philadelphia's Genghis Tron, a combo featuring multiple electronic keyboards and drum-machines but no bassist and no drummer, perfected a dizzying fusion of grindcore, techno music, glitch music and synth-pop on Dead Mountain Mouth (2006) and Board Up The House (2008).
North Carolina's Killwhitneydead saturated their ferocious music (more metalcore than grindcore) with hundreds of samples, basically using the sampler as a second vocalist, on So Pretty So Plastic (2005).
Japanese duo Noism (guitarist Yoshiro Hamazaki and beat programmer Tomoyuki Akiyama) assembled rabid dissonant disjointed industrial grindcore montages on the mini-album +/- (2008).
Breakcore, the successor of Atari Teenage Riot's digital hardcore via James Plotkin's Atomsmasher and Jason Smith's Schizoid, was still producing original works,
Cross Contamination (2002) by Canada's Unitus: manically distorted guitars, pummeling drill'n'bass breakbeats, lugubrious electronic drones.
The punk-rock universe had split so many times into so many subgenres that they were hardly related anymore. They all continued to thrive, although few seemed still relevant, and none sounded even remotely revolutionary. However, from the ashes of hardcore's virulent nihilism there arose a generation of bands that channeled angst into new forms of sonic violence.
The visceral, harsh, convoluted hardcore of Jesus Lizard survived in Los Angeles' Icarus Line, at least on Mono (2001).
An anti-emo movement was led by the Hope Conspiracy, whose angry rants bridged metalcore and garage-rock on their second album Endnote (2002).
The punk-folk compromise was best represented by Florida's Against Me, an outfit that sounded like a progressive punk band a` la Clash fronted by a screaming bard in the Billy Bragg tradition (Tom Gabel) on the multi-stylistic Searching for a Former Clarity (2005), featuring longer songs and grander arrangements than the anthemic/desperate Reinventing Axl Rose (2002).
The cow-punks of the 1980s found their heirs in Tennessee's Kings of Leon, also influenced by southern boogie and hard rock, especially on Aha Shake Heartbreak (2005).
Among the few new ideas of the decade was the odd piano-driven hybrid of German cabaret and British punk-rock concocted by Boston's duo Dresden Dolls (1) on Dresden Dolls (2004) and Yes Virginia (2006).
Seattle's Akimbo pioneered the unlikely wedding of garage-rock, doom-metal and post-rock with the wild, insane, raw sound of Elephantine (2003).
The tradition of jazzcore was continued by New York's trio Off Minor, born from the ashes of Saetia, on albums such as Heat Death of the Universe (2003).
The Magick Markers, the New York-based trio of guitarist Elisa Ambrogio, bassist Leah Quimby and drummer Pete Nolan, performed chaotic dissonant free-jazz with punk fury, like a psychedelic version of God Is My Co-pilot, on I Trust My Guitar (2005) and A Panegyric To The Things I Do Not Understand (2006).
Seattle's Gatsbys American Dream pioneered a sort of progressive punk-pop in which the vocals alternated between hardcore and pop styles while the rhythm section alternated between mathcore and dance styles, notably with the two concept albums Ribbons and Sugar (2003) and Volcano (2005).
Los Angeles' Horse The Band (1) played demented and lo-fi keyboard-driven screamed videogame-infected metalcore impregnated with progressive-rock ambitions on R. Borlax (2003) and The Mechanical Hand (2005). Erik Engstrom's keyboards alternately lent melody, ambience or noise to the epileptic fits of the band, and well complemented the varied vocal theatrics of Nathan Winneke. A Natural Death (2007) even flirted with dance-music and musique concrete.
Toronto's Fucked Up (1) revolutionized both the ethos and the aesthetic of hardcore by transforming it into a studio-based art. The mini-album Looking for Gold (2004), a stream of untitled songs, introduced a hardcore's equivalent of Phil Spector's massive "wall of sound": painstakingly studio-constructed songs that stretched to twice or three times the usual duration of a punk rigmarole and relied on thick overdubs to capitalize on Damian Abraham's abrasive roar and the twin-guitar attack led by Mike Haliechuk. Chemistry Of Common Life (2008) brought that idea to fruition with a set of engaging songs and transfigured genre cross-pollinations.
By the middle of the decade, "screamo" hardcore had evolved into a more sophisticated style, that often was basically screamo without the screams. New York's From Autumn To Ashes came up with a hybrid of metalcore, screamo and pop, underpinned by the harmonies of singers Benjamin Perri (screaming vocals) and Francis Mark (clean vocals), on the melodic emo concept Too Bad You're Beautiful (2001). Their British counterpart were Funeral For A Friend with the equally catchy and "metallic" Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation (2003). Boston's the Receiving End Of Sirens employed multiple singers and guitarists plus drum machines on Between The Heart And The Synapse (2005). Virginia's Far-less alternated screamo turbulence and dream-pop ecstasy on Everyone Is Out to Get Us (2006).
Blue (2008) by Miami-based trio Capsule introduced a new form of hardcore that was part spazzy grindcore and part desperate screamo.
Baltimore's Ponytail, fronted by creative Yoko Ono-esque vocalist Molly Siegel and featuring two guitars but no bass, fashioned a catchy form of Japanese noisecore on Ice Cream Spiritual (2008).
Texan quintet Black Angels were the most convincingly derivative of the garage masters of the 1960s: Passover (2006) and especially Directions To See A Ghost (2008) evoked 13th Floor Elevators, Doors, Velvet Underground, etc.
New Jersey's sextet Titus Andronicus, fronted by singer-songwriter Patrick Stickles, wed the emphasis of blue-collar rock with the anger of punk-rock and the depression of emo-pop to produce the vehement and anthemic rants of The Airing of Grievances (2008).
The Vivian Girls, a female trio from New York delivered catchy and sprightly, albeit sloppy and noisy garage-rock on the mini-album Vivian Girls (2008) that bridged the Velvet Underground and Jesus & Mary Chain.
Danish duo Raveonettes harked back to the era of garage-rock and Phil Spector's girl-groups, but filtered through Jesus And Mary Chain's feedback-pop, on Chain Gang Of Love (2003).
The Butthole Surfers had unwillingly coined a new genre, a sort of "junk-rock" that overwhelmed the listener with an acid, trashy, delirious, distorted, gargantuan cacophony. Among the disciples of the 2000s were: Texas' Rusted Shut with Rehab (2005); San Francisco's the Hospitals with I've Visited The Island Of Jocks And Jazz (2005); San Francisco's Wildildlife, with Six (2007); and especially New York's Health, who unleashed the chaotic, dissonant and sinister pandemonium of Health (2007), orchestrating manic tribal beats, razor-sharp guitar attacks and vampire moans.
Philadelphia had a particularly virulent school, highlighted by the anguished abrasive noise-rock of the Pissed Jeans on Hope For Men (2007), a work devastated by Matt Korvette's agonizing vocals; by the demented and sloppy garage-rock of the Violent Students with Violent Students (2006); and by the claustrophobic post-hardcore of their successors Clockcleaner on Babylon Rules (2007).
Sixties garage-rock and Jesus & Mary Chain were the main inspiration for New York's Psychic Ills on Dins (2006).
Michigan's duo Empire Auriga debuted with the catastrophic industrial rock of Auriga Dying (2008).
The Japanese girl-duo Afrirampo (guitar and drums) played primitive, sloppy and witty garage-rock on A' (2004).
The Drones, an Australian band, debuted with Here Come the Lies (2002), split between lengthy meditations and brief eruptions of teen angst.