“Avant-garde” is arguably the most misused genre descriptor in modern metal. Whether in blog posts or comment sections, there’s always someone that’s touting a slightly off-kilter album and immediately slaps on the old “A-G” tag. That said, I’m not going to use Område as an example to parse out the differences between avant-garde, experimental and progressive metal (an article worth writing by someone who wants that to be their hill to die on). I’m actually here because of the French duo’s invigorating take on avant-garde metal—an approach that captures the essence of the genre in gorgeous, meticulous detail. Whereas bands like maudlin of the Well and Pan.Thy.Monium found success by thrusting death metal into avant-garde territory, Område excel by nailing down the core of avant-garde metal and renovating it’s structure with intricate furnishings and vibrant coats of paint. There may be no shortage of high-quality albums to recommend to metal fans flirting withe the avant-garde, but there are a sparse few that rival Nåde‘s marriage of accessibility and bold artistry.
As with any well-written avant-garde metal album, Nåde defies easy classification, though its most common sonic palette blends the gamut of styles found in Nine Inch Nails and Ulver‘s careers, accented by the sharpest industrial metal edge of Blut Aus Nord‘s 777 trilogy. This descriptor’s broad brush leaves swaths of white canvas, though—most notably, the whirring saxophone croons on “XII” and “The Same for the Worst” sound like Jan Garbarek improvising with the chords from Pink Floyd‘s “Us and Them.” But the bulk of the album feels like the result of Trent Reznor and Garm collaborating on a synthesis of avant-garde metal, industrial and modern classical, and yes, it’s as tantalizing as it sounds on paper. “Enter” sounds like the soundtrack of The Downward Spiral‘s synth-heavy industrial and Messe I.X-VI.X‘s electronic-tinged modern classical making passionate love, with the sound of the latter of these albums acting as a frequent bedfellow for Område’s other sonic proclivities. This chemistry turns rough on the tail end of “Styrking Leið,” when the duo gnashes their heavy, industrial-grade teeth, a recurring theme up until the operatic finale of “Falaich.”
Admittedly, everything Nåde has to offer does initially sound like a smattering of disparate sounds crashing into one another. But with a steady compositional hand, Område have leveraged their influences to produce a truly incredible addition to the avant-garde metal cannon. We often frame our recommendations based on their context within the current year; if you’ve ready our 2017 coverage, you’ve likely noticed the year’s outpouring of quality releases has been a consistent focus of our writing (and for good reason). But while Nåde has certainly bolstered this year’s narrative, the album takes quite a few additional strides in a more influential direction. If hindsight proves to be fair, Nåde will remain as a landmark album, joining the ranks of Bath & Leaving Your Body Map, Khaooohs & Kon-Fus-Ion and Róka Hasa Rádió. Jump on this album now so you can stay ahead of the pack.