Starter Kit analyzes the ins-and-outs of some of the more obscure and niche sub-genres within the metal spectrum and offers a small group of bands that best represent the sound. Read other Starter Kit entries here.
Comprised of lilting, reverbial cleans, and hard-hitting, harsh walls of distorted aggression, the disparate dichotomy of post-black metal makes it an inherently difficult genre to get into. Fear not, though! The dynamic duo of Jimmy Rowe and Simon Handmaker is here to guide you through this fearful genre like it’s a forest at night and we’re the ones with the flashlights. Just follow us, and by the end of this, you too will be ready to navigate the darkened woods that make up this beautiful, evocative, and strange metal subgenre.
The sound of post-black is, for lack of a better word, formulaic, but in a way that works almost exclusively to the genre’s advantage: rather than being focused on constantly pushing boundaries outwards, post-black has nestled itself into a comfortable sonic niche. The two parts that make up its sound are, in the order of which they usually appear in a track, the typical black metal parts, comprised of wails, staggeringly distorted riffs, and plentiful blast beats, and the clean parts, which are usually instrumental, and often include little beyond guitar arpeggios absolutely drenched in reverb. These clean parts are, more than anything, what give the genre its distinct flavor, a fine bouquet of invigorating anger and refreshing peace that creates and then immediately relieves tension.
Post-black is one of the few metal genres that I would call “beautiful”. There’s a certain spectral elegance to the way the instruments intermingle and play off of each other that isn’t really emulated with any other subgenre within metal. And so, here, for your listening pleasure today, Jimmy and I have pooled our minds together to give you the definitive Post-Black Metal Starter Kit. Enjoy.
The first time I tried listening to this landmark album, I must admit, it bored me to tears. Waves of acoustic guitar washed over me like a warm sea, slowly putting me to sleep, and the minimal black metal instrumentation left me underwhelmed and confused; I thought I would be getting the typical black metal dosage of harsh, earsplitting violence, and instead I found naught but soft soundscapes and gentle winter lullabies. Disappointed, yet somehow intrigued, a few days later I decided to spin it again. Going in this time knowing what to expect, everything began to click. In place of the lifeless and monotonous ode to mediocrity, there stood a sonic forest, glistening with a fresh snowfall. Everything about The Mantle is crisp, cold, clean, yet still welcoming, and then in cuts the warm and reverberating acoustic guitar with its folky melodies, like a fire raging inside of a snug cabin. With each listen, I discover something new within Agalloch’s ethereal soundscapes. Intense, grandiose, and, quite simply, beautiful, The Mantle is a grand panorama composed of only the most powerful of elements.
Wolves In The Throne Room is a band that is entirely devoid of the typical black metal aesthetic. Going by Rick, Aaron, and Nathan, the three people responsible for this masterpiece of music are down-to-earth, normal fellows, hardly the sort of people who one would look at and say “yes, they are masters of their craft, and their art is ethereal, emotive, beautiful music.” These people would be wrong. The three men behind Diadem Of 12 Stars are geniuses of post-black, and here’s why: okay, I don’t have a list. Just listen to it, and you’ll know that I’m right, because this album is equal parts chillingly bleak and radiant with a powerful, emotional warmth. The 27-minute opening track, “Face In A Night Time Mirror”, is an odyssey in of itself, replete with grandiose acoustics, pummeling black metal, and wispy female vocals, elements that all meld together to form music so moving, it could realign the stars themselves. It could be a masterpiece of an album in of itself, and there’s still another half hour of music courtesy to sink your teeth into courtesy of the other two tracks. Everything about Diadem is perfectly composed and poised to take your heart by storm with its otherworldly combination of sadness, anxiety, and hope. I’m not crying, you’re crying.
French musician Niege is often regarded as post-black metal’s godfather, finding himself involved in numerous acts that popularized and influenced the massive wave of artists currently picking up on the blackened shoegaze style. Alcest, Niege’s most well known project, served as my personal introduction to the genre with its sophomore album Ecailles de Lune. Its disparate sound between beautifully nostalgic and ethereal shoegaze and vicious black metal was something entirely new to me at the time, and it was entirely captivating. Niege’s clean singing is as affected as his howls and conveys a powerful sense of longing, and the melodic hooks sink deep. Now it’s a fairly common formula, and this album is likely to blame (and/or thank). By the time the record’s chilling finale “Sur L’Océan Couleur De Fer” comes to a close, expect manly tears and repeated listens.
Up to this point, each niche genre in our Starter Kit series has only included three records. This time, we made the choice to expand to four for the purpose of including the critically acclaimed and hotly controversial Sunbather. For better or worse, Sunbather will likely be seen as THE definitive post-black metal record by many despite the online metal community being firmly divided on whether or not this record can actually be classified as metal at all, let alone something deserving of the black metal mantle. Either way you stand, look no further if you’re seeking an entry point into the genre; the grand melodic orchestrations and walls of guitars are warm and inviting, and will quickly acclimate listeners to the black metal aesthetic. If making the leap into black metal from the realm of punk, new wave, or post-rock genres, Deafheaven should serve to bridge the gap. Think more along the lines of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and My Bloody Valentine than anything particularly grvm or frostbitten, but Sunbather aligns itself as a post-black classic regardless.
- Amesoeurs – Amesoeurs (2009)
- Lantlos – .neon (2009)
- An Autumn For Crippled Children – Lost (2010)
- Abigail Williams – Becoming (2012)
- Altar of Plagues – Teethed Glory & Injury (2013)
- Vattnet Viskar – Settler (2015)
- Hope Drone – Cloak of Ash (2015)