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Post-metal (or metalgaze)[1] is a style of music fusing heavy metal and post-rock. 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.[2] Due to the experimental nature of post-rock, 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.[3]

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".[2] Although Neurosis and Godflesh appeared earlier and display elements befitting post-metal, Isis – who, like Neurosis, are linked to the sludge metal scene[4][5] – are often credited with laying down the conventions and definition of the genre in less nebulous terms, with their release of Oceanic in 2002.[6]

Helmet's albums Meantime (1992) and Betty (1994) have been described as "definitive texts in post-metal"[7] for having "eschewed the traditional concept of heavy music" and "trademarked the drop-D power-groove in 5/4".

Previously, Tool had been labelled as post-metal in 1993[8] and 1996,[9] as well as in 2006,[10] after the term came into popularity.

In 2009, Jim Martin of Terrorizer commented that Neurosis' 1996 album Through Silver in Blood "effectively invented the post-metal genre".[11]


A typical post-metal set-up includes two or three guitars, a bass guitar, synthesizers, a drum kit and a vocalist,[12][13] 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,[14] 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".[14]

Criticism of the term[edit]

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.[15][16]

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."[17]

Isis is often cited as the source of a shared imagery in post-metal, although bands with similar visual themes playing in this style existed before Isis greatly popularized the subgenre.[18][19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Earles, Andrew (2014). Gimme Indie Rock. Voyageur. Retrieved 15 July 2016. 
  2. ^ a b Caraminica, Jon. "The alchemy of art-world heavy metal". The New York Times. Retrieved 2005-09-20. 
  3. ^ "Grunge's Long Shadow". Slate. Retrieved 2010-11-14. 
  4. ^ Mikkelson, Jill. "Neurosis Are Insulated • Interviews". Retrieved 2013-01-10. 
  5. ^ York, William. "The Red Sea – Isis : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-01-10. 
  6. ^ Thompson, Ed (2006-11-22). "In the Absence of Truth Review". IGN. Retrieved 2007-05-09. ...many credit the band with being the inspiration of the term post-metal after the release of their 2002 album Oceanic... 
  7. ^ "HELMET Rediscovery". X-Press Online. 2007-03-28. Archived from the original on 2007-08-31. Retrieved 2007-03-31. 
  8. ^ Ferman, Dave (1993-07-30). "At the main stage.." (fee required). Fort Worth Star-Telegram, archived by NewsBank. Retrieved 2007-05-09. Tool's vicious, post-metal attack is one of the more intense offerings of the day... 
  9. ^ Augusto, Troy J. (1996-10-16). "Live Performances: Tool". Variety. Retrieved 2007-05-09. The group's rhythm section, featuring new bassist Justin Chancellor, propelled the group's post-metal stylings with a twisted, near-jazz approach. 
  10. ^ Baca, Ricardo (2006-09-08). "Reverb, 9/01: Tool". The Denver Post. Retrieved 2007-05-09. ...Tool's bag of post-metal goodies, and it's every bit as fear-inducing as it was in 1993. 
  11. ^ Jim Martin, "Retroaction," Terrorizer #188, September 2009, p. 80.
  12. ^ Cult of Luna#Members
  13. ^ Callisto official biography Archived August 25, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ a b Porosky, Pamela. "Aaron Turner and Michael Gallagher interview". Guitar Player. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2006-09-06. 
  15. ^ Bosler, D. Shawn (2008-03-27). "Review of Jarboe and Justin Broadrick's J2". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2011-12-18. 
  16. ^ Bowar, Chad. "Isis – In the Absence of Truth Review". Retrieved 2011-12-01. 
  17. ^ Diver, Mike (2007-03-27). "Pelican: "We're neither trend setters nor trend followers"". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 2007-03-29. 
  18. ^ Steinbrink, Christian (2006-10-23). "Isis / Red Sparowes – Das Wunder der Auferstehung". Intro Magazin. Retrieved 2011-12-01. 
  19. ^ "Transmissions from Southern | The Southern Records Weblog". Southern. Retrieved 2013-01-10. 

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