I often wonder whether, before going on stage, Kerry King of Slayer – born in 1964 no less – looks at himself in the mirror with the tattoos on his skull, his warlock guitar, the 800kg chains hanging from his leather trousers… and still believes in what he’s doing. How does one ‘stay metal’ when adult life has caught up with you? How to fully embrace yet also grow old with music that is so viscerally and undeniably linked to adolescence? It’s a contradiction that often challenges me when I have to dress for a special occasion and find myself choosing between thirty invariably black t-shirts, invariably printed with skulls of all kinds, that invariably carry the message: ‘Help me, I got stuck at 16’ when in actual fact I didn’t: the music has matured with me, but at its heart it has remained the same.
The bands and artists on this playlist all – or almost all – started by expressing themselves in an orthodox and aggressive metal register. They applied the codes and the folklore required in order to affiliate themselves with this style, before transcending it all and making their music evolve with their adult sensibility by mixing and enriching it or, conversely, by purging and radicalising their music.
Here we find two perfect examples: first of all James Kelly, who originally founded the Irish black metal band Altar Of Plagues and has since focused his dark purpose on two purely electro projects – first Wife, and then the icy hybrid electronica project Bliss Signal who are still going and whose title “Surge” you can hear here. Second, is the Belgian group Amenra. They were long considered the pious disciples of Neurosis before coming into their own by radicalising their ascetic approach to metal on album after album, whilst at the same time developing an exciting mix of musical and artistic projects (dance, video, installation, performances) making them the most exciting and unusual band that the style has given birth to. The track “Bonen” on this playlist is a great representation of the heights reached by the group in their development of bleak, stripped down atmospheres that are deceptively monotonous, yet offer a subtle contrast between gloomy darkness and blinding grace.
This playlist is divided into six chapters. It starts with the classics; the big names of the post-metal wave of the early 2000s. It then proceeds, guided by feeling, through the different movements of the post-metal era up to 2018 – from the icy and epic beauty of Envy and Yob, to the mathematical coldness of Sumac and Meshuggah; from the extreme purity of Sunn o)))) and Amenra, to the triumphant return to the heavy heritage of Pelican and Baroness, finishing up with a glimpse at potential connections with pop, electronica, and that which is purely experimental. To note, care has been taken to not focus solely on the US scene (Sweden, France, UK, Ireland, Japan, Belgium, and Norway are all represented).