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 Definition of Avant-garde Metal? 
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Post Definition of Avant-garde Metal?
Hello to all,

in the "first feedback"-threat Fred from France has asked for a stylistic definition of avan-garde metal. As some of you may know there are big disputes about it. There are several different definitions around. And there are lots of people who say that AM isn't a genre at all.

What do you think about it? What is avant-garde metal for you? What could be a specific definition that also satisfies even the critics? Bear in mind that definitions always have to be sharp, short and precise. Long, complicated stories on avant-garde metal will not convince any critic.
Is a definition meaningful at all in the case of avant-garde metal? Or is it better to leave it free and undefined?

Chrystof


July 9th, 2007, 10:42 pm
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To me, Avant-garde music is music that is heavy enough to be classified as "metal", but does not fit into any other genre.


July 10th, 2007, 1:07 am
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To me, "avant garde metal" is interchangeable with "art metal," or even "post metal." I suppose it can work in more than one way. It can mean uncompromisingly abstract or bizarre metal that draws on a wide array of outside influences, it can mean any metal that falls outside of the existing categories (in other words, a kind of permanent "other"), or as Washer said, heavy guitar driven music that doesn't fall squarely into any one musical category- under this definition even metallic/grindy free jazz ala Zorn's Painkiller could be admitted.

Given the wide array of possible definitions, it might be best to not think of it as a genre at all, but as a large category of heavy music that is unusually colorful, exotic, strange, or abstract. In a round about way I more or less agree with Washer. We should not think of avant garde as a sub genre, but rather a loose array of bands that push the envelope. If we try to say it's a genre, then the rulebook comes in and next thing we know we have this narrowly defined thing like prog, RIO, post punk, or whatever.

A US Supreme Court Judge once said "I know (obscenity) when I see it." That's how I feel about "avant garde" or "art" metal. You know a band's pushing boundaries or exploring new terrain when you hear it. There's no reason to apply a hard and fast criteria.

James

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Last edited by Freon Trotsky on July 12th, 2007, 6:08 am, edited 1 time in total.



July 11th, 2007, 3:12 am
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Avantgarde metal to me is experimential and progressive metal with some use of unconventional instruments and sounds.


July 11th, 2007, 5:34 pm
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AGM is that metal which defies all borders, that doesn't think but feel and act accordingly, raising long-fingers to all preconceptions.

And concerning the term... In the 1999 reissue of Celtic Frosts "Into The Pandemonium", it is called an "avant garde metal classic" or something similar. Perhaps not the first mention of the term, but definitely the earliest album called AGM (1987, was it not?). Does anyone know any earlier release in this "vein"*?


*AMG has not one vein, but as many as it has bands and musicians....


July 11th, 2007, 7:47 pm
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Forgive me for being pahthetic but avantgarde for me is-
The dance between khaos and kosmos.....or if U want it the other way Khaos and kosmos making love.....


July 12th, 2007, 12:06 am
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oh my god, i hate these genre-specifying :D

I first used the term for myself when i was listening to Buckethead (the best guitar legend alive) and Dornenreich (austrian avantgarde metal with black metal roots).

Especially the Album "Her Von Welken Nächten" of Dornenreich is know worldwide for its unique style.

In my point of view it depends on the artists.. if they are operating in there scene unlike the rest and have no borders.. personal or musical... then they are avantgarde.

I think it is impossible to sort artists into categories but it is funny to discuss things like that.

Sorry for my bad english, i'm trying to improve my skills in the future^^

Gregor


July 12th, 2007, 12:50 am
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I sure agree with your comment about the impossibility to give a formal aesthetic definition to the genre, I'll disscuss later of that issue in the next post, but here first I'd like to reflect on that comment you made.

Freon Trotsky wrote:
"I know (obscenity) when I see it.”


Common sense is all fine and dandy and it can be indeed a simple, fast tool in practice. But if there is such a controversy about the existence of AGM, that’s because common sense is not enough for some apparently. And when I see countless people who continuously mistake and confuse genres together just because 'they know them when they see them", I would tend to be cautious with that method. Even though I wouldn't question this method for people like you who probably know what they deal with.

Your quote also reminds me what some psychologists once said.

“Everyone knows what (an emotion) is, until asked to give a definition”

Of course we all can rely on common sense to recognize AGM. I don’t doubt anyone of us here can recognize it here instinctively. But here my concern is to legitimate the existence of that musical tendency when so many people argue it doesn’t exist or “that what we call AGM is actually only prog metal”.

They argue about it precisely "because when they see it they don't recognize it"


Last edited by FRED on July 12th, 2007, 7:58 pm, edited 4 times in total.



July 12th, 2007, 7:28 pm
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Freon Trotsky wrote:
If we try to say it's a genre, then the rulebook comes in and next thing we know we have this narrowly defined thing like prog, RIO, post punk, or whatever

Protector wrote:
I think it is impossible to sort artists into categories but it is funny to discuss things like that.


This where I think there’s a misunderstanding concerning my question.

I absolutely agree with you guys with the latent argument behind your comments: AGM has no unifying aesthetic.

But I wasn’t asking for defining it accroding to a specific aesthetical orientation. Because we all agree it is impossible when you see how different the bands can be from each other.
Defining AGM according a certain number of aesthetic criterions is simply impossible.

but this is precisely one of the defining traits of AGM to insist on. It doesn't aim to have unifying aesthetic. As obvious as it seems, I think it would be important to underline this crucial aspect as a defining aspect.
That’s btw what Reviewer Cray tried to explain more or less:

“Avant-Garde Metal cannot be treated like other genres, such as Black, Death, Doom, Thrash, etc. Those genres are rooted in similar aesthetics and ideologies, leading to strong commonalities amongst bands united under one genre. With the Avant-Garde, on the other hand, there really is no common aesthetic or ideology. The bands have to be taken on a one-by-one basis, evaluated individually rather than on genre aesthetics.”

Why Do I think it is important to insist on this?Because this is generally one the main arguments people use to dismiss the existence of AGM.
" There's no common unifying aesthetic between those bands so this genre doesn't exist."


But he argument is biased.


July 12th, 2007, 7:31 pm
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Freon Trotsky wrote:
Given the wide array of possible definitions, it might be best to not think of it as a genre at all


I don’t know if we should think of it as a genre or not. It depends on what you expect a genre to be. If a genre is supposed to imply an unifying aesthetic I guess you're right.
But if we consider a large experimental and avant-gardist genre like contemporary music (That is to say the experimental modern descendant of classical music) that’s the same. There’s no unifying aesthetic, but still contemporary music is considered as an admitted genre. Even though it is very varied due to its experimental and avant-gardist approach.

If AGM is a genre it is not a unifying one aesthetically speaking. The very basic principle of this music (the experimental nature) makes it unpredictable and therefore prevents it to fall under under any orthodox common aesthetic. Because AG approach is precisely to question commonly admited paradigms.

For my part, I'm engaged into musicological research and I tried to work on the english and french article AGM wikipedia. And while I agree there’s no common aesthetic, I noticed however a certain recurring use of some precise musical tool/traits. (at least for bands I know Ulver, Blut aus Nord, Fantomas, Peccatum, Arcturus, Ramzet, Atrox, Moonspell experimental album).
Technically speaking we can notice

• Some use and research for unconventional arrangements in particular
• An emphasis on new timbre and sonorities
• Use of some unusual harmony (unusual and frequently dissonant chords, uncommon scales, obsessive and persistent ostinato, polytonality, bimodality and sometimes even flirt with atonality)
• Use of unconventional vocal or instrumental techniques
• Frequent loans from industrial metal, from contemporary music or Jazz (most particularly free-jazz and/or avant-jazz), experimental rock and occasionally from other different genres.
• Use of unconventional song structure
Sometimes
• Use of unusual rhythm and time signature (even though avant-garde metal isn’t necessarily obsessed by them)


Last edited by FRED on July 12th, 2007, 7:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.



July 12th, 2007, 7:44 pm
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Quote:
It can mean uncompromisingly abstract or bizarre metal that draws on a wide array of outside influences, it can mean any metal that falls outside of the existing categories (in other words, a kind of permanent "other"), or as Washer said, heavy guitar driven music that doesn't fall squarely into any one musical category- under this definition even metallic/grindy free jazz ala Zorn's Painkiller could be admitted.


So AGM would be any metal that goes experimental, bizarre and draws on a wide array of outside influences? Fine

Now here’s another problem: what do we call metal? I’m not kidding, yeah everybody knows what metal is….the average fan will tell you this just some “heavy music with loud guitar”. Wow, really?

Yet music such as hardcore, grunge, grind core are heavy music but they generally are not regarded as metal per se. And other heavy music such as “Nu metal”, “metalcore”, “alternative” and sometimes “Indus metal” are controversial whether they can be regarded as metal.
So Is avant-garde metal any HEAVY MUSIC going experimental?
Or is Avant-garde metal any experimental heavy music keeping track with “true” metal roots?

Some have argued that AGM have generally influences or roots from extreme metal scene (notably black and death) . That’s often the case. But is it necessarily a condition? I wonder.
When I see a band like Atrox which displays no apparent extreme influences.

Well, I doubt anyone cares about this issue here since common sense and approximate definition is ok for you. But I really wonder because that’s the kind of approximation that gives reasons to some to believe it doesn’t exist.


July 12th, 2007, 7:57 pm
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Freon Trotsky wrote:
To me, "avant garde metal" is interchangeable with "art metal," or even "post metal."


For my part I agree. Yet for some reasons some tend to consider them as distinct genres.
Some bands are clearly classified as Avant-garde metal ( i.e. Fantomas) whereas some other (such as Isis) are considered as Post-metal. So what’s the truth? what do you think about this?


July 12th, 2007, 8:03 pm
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Well, it seems like Fred has scared everyone off!

This is an interesting matter for sure, and it deserves much more than a forum discussion. Why not write a whole book on it, Fred? But I'm not certain if one should concentrate all of his efforts, when trying to define such a vast object of investigation, only on avant-garde METAL music. I would say that if you're to find a specific explanation of what avant-garde metal music is, then this explanation should be first and foremost in accordance to avant-garde music IN GENERAL and not only to its limited metal fashion.

I know I'm kinda out of the question here, but it would be easier, I think, to first of all try defining avant-garde music in general as the basic phenomenon, and only then apply this general definition to every one of its specific expressions. What you're doing here is a little bit strange to me: you're explaining the nature of a whole 100 years old tree by trying to understand what one of its leaves might be. It appears to me that this method is forever condemned to confusion and arguments, because a leaf is not a leaf unless it grows from a tree. You always have to keep in mind the whole picture. In other words: a tree will never come out of a leaf, but leaves always come out of a tree. Understand the basic fonctions of a tree and you'll be able to explain how and why, in the end, there are these types of leaves growing out of it.

Avant-garde metal will therefore never be understood in itself, out of its natural context, cut from its origins, unless you understand where it is coming from and into what it is rooted as a specific form of musical expression. There certainly is a red-thread between all specific forms of avant-garde music. Find it and you'll know what avant-garde metal is.


July 13th, 2007, 10:02 pm
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I think avantgarde metal to be a genre where all or some features of metal are always included (static) and new styles comming from all kinds of music genres are added (dynamic) to make it sound different from everything else heard before. So once a band makes something which sounds like what another band has done already, it is not Avantgarde-Metal anymore but more "fill in the blank" - Avantarde-Metal. (Fill in the band it almost exactly sounds like)
I´d say this can actually be done with every music genre.
We could have Avantgarde-Jazz or Avantgarde-Punk and so on. So it is very questionable if this is a real genre or not, because there are no fixed boundaries which are actually necessary to call something a genre.

But personally I have listened to all kinds of music genres throughout my life and I once stopped at Metal and thought it would be my religion. But then, after a while it became boring to me. Always the same clichés. Almost no surprises anymore. For some reason still didn´t want "to give it up", searching for really wicked, freaked music. Then entered the world of Angizia, Korova etc. and knew this would be my kind of stuff forever if it just stayed ever surprising for me.

I´d also go with metal and folk or metal and children songs or metal and trance.. as long as it sounds different to everything else I´ve heard before. It just must be entertaining.


July 13th, 2007, 10:43 pm
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Yeah I've also been diving head first into many other genres for years so I know what you're talking about. It is important to open your mind to every kind of musical phenomenon, because there are hints of avant-garde behind every locked doors. What upsets me is when someone only listening to metal music is trying to define what avant-garde music is all about, as if metal was the only key leading to avant-garde. I mean come on, metal is only one drop of sound among millions of others right.

In that sense, avant-garde is always about destroying and surpassing what you already know or can conceive of music. Avant-garde is for me essentially a movement, a motion in space and time, it is an expansion, a dynamic as you put it. Therefore a rigid definition is useless here, unless you try to capture this specific movement of destroying & surpassing into a general formula. Now let's head into hegelian territory haha!


July 13th, 2007, 11:22 pm
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