Let me get this out of the way right at the top: I don't hate Deafheaven. They are a perfectly decent band that make solid music, and I have no real disdain for their fans either. My primary beef with them has everything to do with level of exposure. In my time writing music recommendations, I have come across DOZENS of bands in the post-black genre that I consider far more impressive and deserving of the spotlight. And yet when the genre comes up, these guys continue to be the first, and sometimes only, name that comes to mind for most people. With that context, I felt like sharing a few groups that I believe to be releasing superior material. My goal is to broaded horizons, not stamp out a fandom. I can already hear some readers arguing about whether some of these groups fit the moniker, but my list, my rules.
Numenorean are an atmospheric/post-black group from Calgary, Alberta that were picking up a following with their breakthrough album, Home. According to the band, it deals with the "longing for something that we as humans will never achieve" In reference to the off-putting artwork, the band states, "The little girl on the cover represents this final resting place for us – beyond our existence in this world. And our album title sums it up once you realize that she doesn't have to go through all the pain and sorrow of becoming an adult." Fittingly, the music follows this theme very closely with its melancholic mixture of bliss and sorrow.
Talk about hitting the ground running.UK band Underdark know how to take some really scathing black metal vocals along with heavy instrumentation and turn them into a highly emotive catharsis. I am so impressed with how many feelings are conveyed across the three songs on their latest release, Mourning Cloak. They navigate so well between the spiraling hellfire that is the intro to "With Bruised and Bloodied Feet" and the tranquil meditation of "Span of Black Nihility." This is a stunning debut EP that shows so much promise for this band's future.
In 2016, Siberian act Ultar release of their debut album, Kadath. Kadath's material was inspired by the works of H. P. Lovecraft and fuses highly atmospheric and melodic post-black with the likes ofWolves in the Throne Room. We throw the word "atmosphere" around a lot, but Ultar have made a fuller investment than most. In addition to the usual reverb-washed-madolins guitar tremolo sound and cascading walls of blissful catharsis, Kadath occasionally goes pure aesthetic as on the ambient nature sounds of "Shores of the Sleeping Seas." The entire concept seems to flow outward from it, as exemplified in how perfectly it sets up the explosive emotional torrent of "Xasthur." Excellent stuff.
Underling is a bit of a supergroup formed in Northern Califronia by members of Fallujah, Arkaik, Battlecross, WRVTH and Sidian. Expect plenty of soaring melodies and varied arrangements that sometimes belie the "post-black" label, and also a harshness that comes through not from the guitars, but largely via the vocals and drumming. Seriously, if you could see these hooks, they would sparkle. The balancing of light and shadow is excellent. Bloodworship is a great album that I enjoyed immensely, and one that even surprised me a bit.
Listening to the grim, cutting vocals of opening track "Storm" or the violent guitarwork of "Vakuum," it's impossible to deny the pure black metal inspirations laced within MØL's music. These Danes certainly take heed from from their Northern peers. While many post-black bands feel like a post-rock or post-hardcore band simply appropriating mildly BM elements, Jord feels more like an even spread. Sure, there are still drifting, atmospheric moments akin to Phobonoid, but even clear, meditative wellsprings like "Lambda" are quickly poisoned by the viciously assaultive transitions to others like "Ligament." Much like real life, both terror and beauty lurk around every corner.
With their black hoods and more traditional black metal aesthetic, Lithuanian band Au-Dessus might actually take offense to being called post-black. Even so, the hallmarks are there...just with a darker approach. In fact, this is likely the most "black metal" band on this list. For every passage of post-metal magic, expect a ferocious counterpoint. I like how songs will start off with a really dark tone and then evolve into something more melodic over time, or sometimes vice-versa. The overall sound is very deep and heavy, the vocals alternatively high and harsh. This dichotomy helps to create a strong dynamic and range. Expect plenty of crunchy bass guitar in the mix to further fill out the sound. I highly recommend their debut EP to start with.
Meet Archivist, a multi-national group with members hailing from Austria, England, and Germany. They have come together to create something they aptly describe as "ethereal," slowly unveiling the story of the last survivor of Earth who has stowed away on an escape pod. Their sound is largely progressive in nature, but there are more than enough post-black elements to warrant including them on this list. The overall effect is massive: like a tsunami casting a shadow over a major city. The aesthetic is fittingly tragic, but the constant handle on hooks and dynamics provide a sense of hope as well. Arrangements rise and fall from moody, clean guitar and piano to avalanches of cathartic distortion and drums. I am partial to their self-titled debut, but the follow-up Construct was not without its moments.
Now simply going by Vattnet and sporting a pretty much metal-free sound, Vattnet Viskar dropped one of my favorite albums of 2015 in Settler. While much discussion centered around the album's cover (not unlike Deafheaven's famously pink Sunbather), this was a very accomplished record on a musical level. Nearly every track was an instant winner for me, from the uplifting title track to the crater-inducing “Impact.” The opening on the latter is positively scathing. Something about the spacey post-rock riffs and particularly the infectious bass groove towards the end of “Glory” just screamed Saturday Night Wrist or Koi No Yokan. In any case, this remains one of my top releases in the genre. Listen below.
So Hideous from New York are here to enter the ever-growing fray, combining elements of post-hardcore, post-rock, alternative, and a very loose, melodic take on black metal. Each post-black group seems to have their own unique stance on the sound, from increased electronics to frenetic drumming. In the case of Laurestine, the flavor is overwhelmingly symphonic. Each song on the album began life as a piano piece with the orchestration soon to follow. Only then did the guitars, bass, and drums take their own positions. A thirty-piece orchestra was assembled by the band members called The First Light Orchestra. It consists of brass and string sections as well as a small choir. Their sound is a truly stunning and unique experience.
Brattleboro, Vermont's Barishi came with a vengeance and rose to the ranks of Season Of Mist very quickly. Their unique and eclectic sound combines the likes of Deftones, Vattnet Viskar, Glassjaw and WRVTH; but manages to never sound like any of them. Sascha's blackened vocals are plenty harsh throughout, but the music at any given moment is what determines how they come across. Post-black, post-metal, sludge, progressive, experimental...all seem equally applicable, but none capture the full scope of the journey that is Blood From The Lion's Mouth.
I feel like Botanist was post-black before we even had a real name for it. This one-man hammered dulcimer-focused project out of San Francisco is a common meme on our site, but only because I find it ridiculous that they have been snubbed from Metal Archives for the approach. Botanist's music is arguably the most innovative on this list and also, in a word, haunting. The sound of the instrumentation is difficult to describe; creating an effect of both strings and percussion that has a certain dreamlike quality. This ethereal aesthetic breaks from reality even further with wispy, clean vocals that rarely elevate beyond a droning hum. It's like black metal ASMR that occasionally spirals into waking nightmares The latest album, The Shape Of He To Come, was massively well-recieved in their little niche of the metal community, and you should definitely check it out.