Recently a certain fact has become harder and harder to escape. It seems as if almost every piece of extreme music, or just any music in general, that you listen to has at least a dash of post-punk, or, now more notably, one of its most distinct sub-genres — shoegaze. There has been a spike of interest in these genres as bands like Kylsea and Deafheaven, and now even Baroness, move into far more shoegaze driven territory, embracing the idea that metal is allowed to both be pummeling and relaxing, often at the same time. Similarly, from the hardcore side of the spectrum, acts such as Ceremony and Coliseum have almost entirely abandoned their hardcore roots in favor of sounds far more closely linked to Joy Division and Interpol. While it may not be completely changing the face of metal as we know it, post punk and its associated sub-genres are now an undeniable element in the playing field of extreme music, allowing artists to explore new areas that were, before, completely closed off to them. Below we will explore some of the more popular mash-up genres of post punk and metal, explaining why and how they work.
Perhaps the most instantly recognizable, and most polarizing, of this new interest of mixing post-punk with metal is what many refer to as blackgaze, or post-black metal. Post-black metal has earned its fair share of hate from “classic” black metal fans (i.e. the guys in their mom’s basement wearing their Immortal T-shirts and posting slurs angry rantings in online forums), as it melds a style formerly very reserved and focused on “anti-mass appeal” and truly “kvlt” and evil sounds, and capitalizes on an element that was always there, but never used to its fullest potential. This is, of course, the natural ambiance and mood set with many 1st and 2nd wave black metal artists. While not intentionally trying to make ambient music, a certain emotional backdrop and mood is set with the overall natural “creepiness” of black metal and, while it may seem odd at first, makes it a natural fit for ambient, atmosphere driven elements of shoegaze, allowing the two to go together like peanut butter and jelly.
The long, ambient, dreamy areas of shoegaze transfer beautifully into dark, moody black metal instrumentals, turning those once dreamy shoegaze parts into somewhat depressing, staring out a rainy car window while half asleep sort of parts. The shoegaze isn’t supposed to overpower the metal aspect, but more so allow the natural atmosphere created in black metal to grow and flourish, becoming a central piece instead of the music instead of a backdrop. Blackgaze is the psychological horror movie that slowly works its way into and around your head just as black metal is the instant scare, load your diaper classic horror movie. They’re merely two sides of the same coin, each presented in their own way.
Deafheaven – Sunbather
Alcest – Ecailles De Lune
Lantlos – .neon
Fall Of Rauros – Believe In No Coming Shore
Funeralbloom – Petals
First of all, no, I am not saying that every stoner metal artist incorporates shoegaze or post punk elements, as that is a blatant lie and complete overstatement. However, as shoegaze has made a bit of a comeback slipping into the “mainstream” of alternative music again, many stoner metal and doom artists have begun to use it to expand on two genres that already carry their fair share of ambient spaciness. With that being said, enter the world of doomgaze, a sub-genre currently minuscule that its sole purpose is to tack onto already established bands who take their spaciness to the next level.
Take, for example, Kylsea. While they retain an undeniable sludgy-ness to their sound, and the riffs still riff and crunch nicely, they have undoubtedly steered their sound into a direction more ambient direction, at times simply dripping of My Bloody Valentine and Hum influence so thick that if it were a milkshake, it would probably just still be ice cream. Besides, they tagged their newest singles with #MyBloodyValentine on Soundcloud, what more of an indication of a definitive shoegaze element in their sound could you want? This mixture of doom/stoner metal and post-punk has also allowed for the rise of some exciting new artists, such as my favorite, Texas based True Widow. While being a through and through stoner metal band, they’re also a through and through shoegaze band, understanding the difference between just slapping on reverb and calling it a shoegaze song and actually carefully crafting a rich, dreamy soundscape for the listener to get lost in.
Kylsea – Ultraviolet
True Widow – Circumambulation
Windhand – Soma
Jesu – Why Are We Not Perfect
The Angelic Process – Weighing Souls With Sand
Forgive me for the sub-par naming, but there really isn’t too much else to call it. There is no real official sub-genre tag for this, as Post-Hardcore is most definitely its own thing, so here we are, stuck with the most literal name ever. It is odd, as well as extremely interesting, that in recent years, many hardcore bands have abandoned this idea that they must maintain a certain level of “credibility” in favor of making more interesting, daring music.
Take, for example, Ceremony, and their more recent efforts. By all means, they could have stayed on the same trajectory for at least another decade, putting out mind boggling, quasi-powerviolence records and continually giving angst ridden teenagers something to listen to, but, instead, chose to follow a different path entirely. Enter their album Rohnert Park, where the blast beats were almost entirely abandoned in favor of Interpol-style post-punk riffs and Jay Reatard-style garage rock riffs. The album marked a drastic change in their sound, putting out one (extremely lackluster) garage punk effort before releasing their full-on post-punk debut earlier this year, The L Shaped Man.
While Ceremony may have simply dropped their hardcore aspect, other bands more warmly embrace it, using it to enhance their post-punk style, and choosing the hardcore bark over the simple, monotone voice of post punk. Bands such as Creative Adult and Self Defense Family, who can be equally pummeling and oddly relaxing. Post-punk even invaded screamo/emoviolence, with the band Comadre making it a main element of their sound, and walking away with a large cult following in return.
Ceremony – Rohnert Park
Comadre – Comadre
Self Defense Family – Try Me
Creative Adult – Dead Air
Arctic Flowers – Weaver
While post-punk may have lost significant amounts of steam after dominating the alternative music world in the late 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s (in the form of shoegaze), it has made an astounding comeback, and almost primarily based in extreme music of all places. Bands do not simply play only post-punk or only metal, but instead use it to create a more diverse sonic palette from which they can create their music, providing far more interesting, experimental music than they ever could of made defining themselves simply with one genre.