|Cultural origins||Mid-1990s, United States and Sweden|
Post-metal (or metalgaze) is a stylistic fusion of heavy metal with post-rock and/or shoegazing. Hydra Head Records owner and Isis frontman Aaron Turner originally termed the genre "thinking man's metal", demonstrating that his band was trying to move away from common metal conventions. Due to the experimental nature of post-rock and shoegazing, post-metal is closely related to avant-garde metal.
Journalist Simon Reynolds writes that:
[T]he term post-metal seems increasingly useful to describe the vast and variegated swath of genres (the thousand flavors of doom/black/death/grind/drone/sludge/etc., ad infinitum) that emerged from the early '90s onward. Sometimes beat-free and ambient, increasingly the work of home-studio loners rather than performing bands, post-metal of the kind released by labels like Hydra Head often seems to have barely any connection to metal as understood by, say, VH1 Classic doc-makers. The continuity is less sonic but attitudinal: the penchant for morbidity and darkness taken to a sometimes hokey degree; the somber clothing and the long hair; the harrowed, indecipherably growled vocals; the bombastically verbose lyrics/song titles/band names. It's that aesthetic rather than a way of riffing or a palette of guitar sounds that ties post-metal back to Judas Priest and Black Sabbath.
According to Aaron Turner of Isis, experimental bands such as Melvins, Godflesh and Neurosis "laid the groundwork for us ... we're part of a recognizable lineage". Although Neurosis and Godflesh appeared earlier and display elements befitting post-metal, Isis – who, like Neurosis, are linked to the sludge metal scene – are often credited with laying down the conventions and definition of the genre in less nebulous terms, with their release of Oceanic in 2002.
Helmet's albums Meantime (1992) and Betty (1994) have been described as "definitive texts in post-metal" for having "eschewed the traditional concept of heavy music" and "trademarked the drop-D power-groove in 5/4".
A typical post-metal set-up includes two or three guitars, a bass guitar, synthesizers, a drum kit and a vocalist, though many post-metal acts are instrumental. The overall sound is generally very bass-heavy, with guitars often being down-tuned to B or lower, the equivalent of a seven-string guitar. Post-metal songs tend to 'evolve' to a crescendo or climax (or multiple ones within a song), building upon a repeated theme or chord shift. As Aaron Turner of Isis states, "the standard song format of verse-chorus-verse-chorus is something that has been done and redone, and it seems pointless to adhere to that structure when there are so many other avenues to explore".
Criticism of the term
Since this genre is relatively new and is only represented by a small number of artists, the need for an entirely independent classification of music has occasionally been questioned by music reviewers and listeners. As a label, some see post-metal as redundant, since some bands listed as post-metal contain many elements similar to doom metal, progressive metal, sludge metal, and stoner metal. Others, however, argue that these elements have been combined and altered in ways that go beyond the boundaries of those respective genres, creating the need for a single, distinguishing label.
Pelican's Trevor de Brauw said, "I have an affinity for metal, but I don't think of Pelican as a metal band. So when people call us 'instrumetal', or post-metal, or metalcore or whatever, I can see why they say that, but it's not something that I feel a close connection with... I feel our [music] has more in common with punk and hardcore."
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