The art of the instrumental is a delicate one. Taking away the vocals is a surprisingly big step, whereas before there was a ‘wall’ that would divert the focus away from the instruments a little, now every note and flourish is on display at the forefront for all to see. But, whether they use that method to craft obscenely complicated displays of musical proficiency or build a soundscape with which to immerse the listener in, the challenge is always the same — keeping it interesting without the most human and instantly connective element present.

The rules were fairly simple:

  • The track must be instrumental. No vocals, guest or otherwise.
  • Must have been released in the last 10 years. To keep it simple, this basically means any album released between 2003 and 2013. This was done to rule out some of the more obvious contenders such as ‘Orion‘ and ‘Transylvania‘.
  • Although I hate to be that guy, the band must be predominantly metal. This meant the omission of some important and influential bands that fell more under the post-rock banner such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Explosions In The Sky.

So, with some collaboration with rest of Heavy Blog, here’s what I came up with:

10. Chimp Spanner – Möbius Pt.I/II/III


Paul Antonio Ortiz is no mere monkey. The guitarist crafts sweeping and up-lifting instrumentals that can swing wildly between surging and juddering rhythmic stabs and smooth, glittering lulls that all act as the under-carriage for his virtuositic guitar playing. The ‘Möbius‘ suite comprised of three five-minute long movements and acted as the peak and conclusion of the Chimp’s latest EP, All Roads Lead HereChimp Spanner represents one of the most exciting prospects for instrumental music in the coming years and I have a feeling that ‘Möbius‘ is only a hint at what he’s capable of pulling off.

Definitive Youtube comment:

I feel like I’m starting a race in F-Zero GX

09. Behold… The Arctopus – Alcholocaust


Behold… The Arctopus are infamous for their excessive technicality. It’s nigh impossible to find a mention of the band that doesn’t at least provoke someone to declare ‘it’s just random notes!’ However, if you’re willing to give them the proper time, you can really start to unravel it all and appreciate the offerings from the deranged minds of Colin Marston (DysrhythmiaKrallice), Mike Lerner and Charlie Zeleny (Blotted Science, Joe Lynn Turner). ‘Alcoholocaust‘ is the definitive offering from the band and perfectly showcases their maddeningly frantic technical prowess — a must-listen for anyone interested in how metal is really pushing the boundaries of acceptability.

Definitive YouTube comment:

Fuck. Why do I like this?


08. Blotted Science – Laser Lobotomy


Another group that brings together some of the most precise and adept players in the world of metal is Blotted Science, who’s 2007 debut The Machinations Of Dementia blew minds left, right and centre. The group, comprising of Ron Jarzombek of Spastic Ink, Alex Webster of Cannibal Corpse and Charlie Zeleny of Behold… The Arcotpus, built an instant reputation for putting out insane feats of laser-precise tech-metal, including the aptly named ‘Laser Lobotomy‘, that twists and turns through a seemingly endless number of hand-contorting riffs and frenetic drumming.

Definitive/Hilariously Awful YouTube comment:

I have this as my ring tone!

07. Obscura – Orbital Elements


Driven by the precise picking of guitarists Christian Muezner and Steffen Kummerer, the tasteful drumming of Hannes Grossmann and the smooth, enticing tones of Jeroen Paul Thesseling’s fretless bass, ‘Orbital Elements‘ is more laid back than the rest of it’s sister-material on Cosmogenesis. This mid-paced approach results in giving the band more room to experiment with their respective solos and churns out some of the most soaring and memorable passages that the band have ever produced. It’s about as beautiful as technical death metal can get.

Definitive YouTube comment:

Thesseling > all.

06. Pelican – March To The Sea


Arguably the kings of instrumental post-metal, Pelican helped define the genre with the ebbing flow of ‘March To The Sea‘. Eleven minutes of winding and meandering passages that made up the centre-piece of The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw, creating one of the most evocative and tangible manifestations of the sheer power and force of nature. Pelican released many albums worth of great material throughout the last decade, but they never quite managed to top the intensity on display here.

Definitive YouTube comment:

this is what I would play going into battle.


05. Revocation – Across Forests & Fjords


Revocation are the kings of modern thrash. So, it’s no wonder that when they turn their attention to making an instrumental, it produces something truly special. ‘Across Forests And Fjords‘ takes the tech-influenced spastic thrash the band are so well known for and uses it to craft a galloping and epic instrumental that, according to the time I saw them live, is about dragons fucking. It’s brash and bold, with all the atmosphere of the most anthemic Amon Amarth track and yet it manages all that without a single lyric.

Definitive/Hilariously Awful YouTube comment:

can you tell me if their drummer uses four or two bass drum petals?

04. Cloudkicker – We’re Goin’ In, We’re Going Down


Ben Sharp’s Cloudkicker project is somewhat legendary in the instrumental metal circles. Unsigned and all alone, Sharp has been toiling away for nearly 5 years, creating music that is both heavy and beautiful and given away through a ‘pay what you want’ scheme. His break-out work came in the form of an album by the name of Beacons, which in turn gave us a track entitled ‘We’re Goin’ In, We’re Going Down‘, that proved in the digital age, that even a single person can create a sound that is absolutely gargantuan.

Definitive/Hilariously Awful YouTube comment:

:O !!!!!! i cum like 100000000000000000000000000000 times!!!!!!!!!1


03. Dream Theater – Stream Of Conciousness


It wouldn’t be a collection of the best instrumentals without an entry from the kings of prog-metal. ‘Stream Of Conciousness‘, taken from the aptly titled Train Of Thought, acts as the band’s most ambition instrumental yet, lasting a good eleven minutes and scrolling through more musical ideas in one songs than many band’s muster in an entire album. It’s quintessential Dream Theater and what more could you possibly ask for?

Definitive/Hilariously Pretentious YouTube comment:

To all the haters: fuck you, your little mind can’t understand complex music, so go and listen to all the crappy 1,2,3,4 music of these days that even a child can understand

02. The Ocean – Wille Zum Untergang


‘Hauntingly beautiful and delicate’ aren’t terms that can always be applied to The Ocean Collective‘s music, but here on ‘Wille Zum Untergang‘, there is simply no other way to describe it. This instrumental, taken from the latter effort of the -centric albums, was tucked away near the tail-end of the album but made a huge impression the first time I heard it. Acting in complete contrast to the rest of the material, the track is guided through clean, twinkling guitar lines and lethargic but suitable drumming before peaking in a pulsing wave of delay and reverb. Not many bands could pull this off so effortlessly.

Definitiva comentario Youtube:

excelente gracias

01. Animals As Leaders – CAFO


What else could it have possibly been? Animals As Leaders are not only one of the most important instrumental bands of the last decade, they’re one of the most important metal bands of the last decade. Following the disbandment of Reflux, Tosin Abasi was offered the chance to create a solo album by Prosthetic Records and after taking some time to go back to studying for a while, he took up the offer and released the self-titled debut album, which grew out of a collaboration between himself and Periphery guitarist Misha Mansoor. Finding that sweet spot between the push and pull of ridiculously proficient musicianship and tight, coherent songwriting, ‘CAFO‘, much like the rest of the material on Animals As Leaders, is nothing short of spectacular and would easily find praise among anyone appreciative of either side of the coin.

Definitive/Hilariously Awful YouTube comment:

crap dragon force rip off


Honourable Mentions:

Bongzilla – Stonesphere

Cannibal Corpse – Infinite Misery


Bossk – I

Lye By Mistake – Vanguard To Nowhere

Exivious – Ripple Of A Tear


So there you have it, I’ve no doubt missed something glaringly obviously. But what it is?


– DL


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