Starter Kit: Free Jazz

Regardless of one’s musical background, free jazz is one of those genres that can be extremely confusing and often border on nonsensical and sonically belligerent. There are even fans of jazz who still can’t get into the likes of the late works of John Coltrane or anything made by Pharaoh Sanders, preferring instead to listen to other, less insane iterations of the genre. While we believe that music’s value is something strictly decided by the listener, we’ve also found that, despite the difficulty of the genre, free jazz is incredibly rewarding. There’s something undeniably special about musicians that can improvise; if music is the expression of the soul, then free jazz is the direct output of an unrestrained musical voice. While it can sound like noise, it’s in fact a huge show of musicianship, as the artist in question must compress everything they know about music theory into one single point and, in a sense, abandon the strictures it causes for what they feel. In this way, we think free jazz can be one of the most magical and spiritually uplifting genres of music out there, and for those interested in exploring the genre further, the following albums are great introductions to the most liberated plane of jazz.

Starter Kit: Real Emo™

What exactly is Real Emo™? To put it simply, Real Emo™ was a movement started by a select few hardcore bands located in or around DC in the early 80’s and continued on through the late 80’s/early 90’s. Around this time is when bands on the West Coast adopted the more experimental, melodic approach to hardcore punk music and began to lay many of the foundations for what would eventually become screamo. The music is often stylistically similar to early hardcore acts such as Minor Threat or The Bad Brains in that it is fast and passionate, but differs in the sense that the lyrics tend to be a bit more introspective and the overall sound far more melodic. With bands like Nation Of Ulysses and Moss Icon further experimentation became increasingly popular as well, adding many “spacier” elements as well as incorporating a bit of spoken word. Nation Of Ulysses even had a saxophone occasionally, something that later bands like Native Nod couldn’t help but pick up. And, interestingly enough, not a single had any “twinkly” guitar parts.

Starter Kit: (Harsh) Noise

Starting sometime in the late 70’s, early 80’s a new genre of futurist music arose. It sought to push the boundaries of music, warping the very concept of what music could be. It was harsh, dissonant, and altogether uncomfortable, yet somehow drew legions of devoted fans. The lack of boundaries,…

Starter Kit: Progressive Sludge

Progressive sludge metal. Sorta sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Progressive metal is all about fast, technical sections chock-full of crazy time changes and head-spinning instrumentation; sludge metal is pretty much the exact opposite in just about every way. Of course, in metal music, when there’s a will, there’s a…

Starter Kit: Doom Metal

Doom metal is one of the most diverse subgenres of metal and subsequently one of the more difficult ones to understand. The problem here – should you wish to categorize it as a problem – is that very little actually ties doom’s styles together beyond the general focus on riffs…

Starter Kit: Max Cavalera

I’ve previously expressed my opinions, however brief, about Max Cavalera: ex-Sepultura singer, groove metal pioneer and overall Brazilian badass. While I haven’t been the biggest fan of Cavalera’s recent output of music, I nonetheless owe a great debt to this man, as without him I probably wouldn’t be into metal…

Starter Kit: John Zorn

Despite being relatively underground in the general world of music, John Zorn has established himself as one of the most important avant-garde musicians ever. With one of the most prolific discographies in music—accounting to about 90+ solo albums and 50+ side projects in genres ranging from classical to film score work to jazz to metal to free and structured improvisation and (seemingly) everything in between—Zorn has simply conquered music, like a sax-wielding Alexander the Great.

Starter Kit: Thrashcore/Crossover Thrash

My last Starter Kit (on Contemporary Thrash) brought in more recent bands and albums that cranked their amps past 11 and shredded faces with their speed. However, any genre is (to quote Shrek), like an onion; there are layers and layers of difference all balled up in one, and thrash metal is no different. While most people are at least aware of the genre’s staples (Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth, etc.), they might not know of the lesser known bands that speed even past the big names.

Starter Kit: Contemporary Thrash Metal

We all know the thrash greats, like the Big Four, but even beyond that, most metal fans could probably tell you a couple of really important thrash metal bands/albums, including (probably) Testament, Exodus, Kreator and others. Thrash is a staple genre in heavy metal, and is hugely responsible for the formation of death…

Starter Kit – Blackened Hardcore

Ah, blackened hardcore, taking two subgenres of extreme music with a violent desire to “prove” oneself, as well as inciting the most sweaty internet arguments, and mashing them together. A true recipe for success in all ways, shapes, and forms. However, in blackened hardcore’s defense, it does prove to be somewhat of an anomaly, skipping out on the worst fans from either genres and existing more for the true misanthropes present in both; dirty, grimy people who truly just hate everyone else (as well as themselves). That is where the true magic of blackened hardcore lies, not that it (somehow) has some of the most tolerable fans out of any of extreme music’s subgenres, but that it so perfectly portrays what extreme music always strives to be; nasty, brutal, and abrasive. It is not music to be taken lightly, and is best listened to all alone in a dark room somewhere so that one can truly feel their complete and utter contempt for reality.

*DISCLAIMER: Blackened grindcore, as well as blackened hardcore, will be included in this list since the two are so closely linked. Neo crust, while similar, still remains distinctly different due to its more heavily atmospheric/post rock-ish leanings.*