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10 Blackgaze albums released before Sunbather

The word blackgaze is used to describe one of the most improbable genre fusion we could ever imagine to happen; Anticipated by Alcest’s 2005 EP Le Secret and officially explosed in 2010, the genre is a mixture between black metal and shoegaze.


For all those who are not very familiar with such styles, black metal is the most extreme form of heavy metal named after a Venom album from 1982, transposed into a genre by a few very extreme thrash metal bands such as Bathory, Celtic Frost and Sodom, and then exploided with its second wave consisting in a scene composed by norwegian bands active during early 90’s (Mayhem, Immortal and Emperor are a few examples). The genre is frequently associated to a very stereotyped (often reaching ridicolousness) imaginery of musicians with black and white facepaint and long hair with conceptual themes about darkness, occultism and northern european landscapes.

On the other side we have shoegaze, a mostly UK phenomenon of mid 80’s and early 90’s, which is a very dreamy and fuzzy type of alternative rock born as a lighter counterpart of 80’s darkwave and post-punk (Some essential bands are Slowdive, Ride, My Bloody Valentine, Lush and Cocteau Twins).

It’s important to say that while shoegaze has been a thing for a short time with most of its leading bands breaking up, black metal has always been very prolific and since the beginning several bands experimented with weird fusions of the genre (Ulver, Fleuerty, Ved Buens Ende, Enslaved) and completely ignored its estetical and conceptual stereotypes.

But how it’s possible that such opposite worlds would collapse together into this new odd marriage? The non so obvious answer is “completely accidentally”.

In 2005 a very underground french act named Alcest, solo project of Stephan Paut (more known as Neige), a black metal musician with no idea of what shoegaze was, released an EP with both ethereal/dreamy atmospheres and harsh vocals/metal fast drumming called Les Secret. While this EP remained not much more than an innovative underground gem, it is with Neige’s other project Amesouers (same formula, but more post-punk oriented) and the following Alcest full-length Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde (2007, basically Le Secret with zero metal elements) that he gained a strong popularity and got its formula transoformed into the blackgaze genre with the following Alcest album Écailles de Lune (2010);  a record that influenced tons of bands all around the world.

As said some rows up, Neige had no idea of what shoegaze was at the time and that result came up simply following his artistic creativity. Later after reading reviews mentioning the shoegaze genre he would eventually fall in love with it and becomes a very good connoisseur of that style of music and its main and less known bands.

Like him almost every band that approached to this genre at the time came from a metal background, with a small knowledge and interest in shoegaze, even perceptible in the way of playing clean and dreamy guitar parts, sometimes way too dry and rough .

From 2010 to 2014 a lot of blackgaze bands have been formed, mostly Écailles de Lune influenced and coming from a black metal background, than San Francisco based band Deafheaven released their iconic album Sunbather and things completely changed.

This list is intended to gather some essential records from the early blackgaze period before the release of Sunbather, of course i can already confirm that there will be a second part entitled 10 Blackgaze records released after Sunbather.

Last but not least, blackgaze is just a term invented by music journalists, it is never been a real genre, but mostly a way of making music.

Alcest - Écailles de Lune Lyrics and Tracklist | Genius

Alcest “Écailles de Lune” (2010)

Released in spring 2010 with a strong hype behind, this should be considered the real blackgaze manifesto and the album that gave Alcest the boost to arrive where they are now.

Everyone who was into atmospheric black metal at the time has been captured by the mellow tunes of this records and its unique mood made of melancholy and nostalgia.

Contrary to its predecessor Souvenir D’un Autre Monde, that had a very fuzzy sound, this album shows a very massive and modern production, with chrystalline sounds, explosive metal guitars and liquid/dreamy clean arpeggio driven sections. Also the vocals shows both harsh black metal screams and ethereal Cocteau Twins-ish singing, which is a unique trademark of the project.

The first three songs Écailles de Lune parts 1 and 2 and Percées de Lumière are already longtime classics and their emotional impact is really powerful and irresistible.

Écailles is elegant, sad and incredibly beautiful: An ocean of dreams that completely absorbs the listener into a magic and comfortable world, and this is not a random example. Indeed Alcest’s music and lyrics on the first three albums are completely based on some visions that Neige had when he was a child that seemed to be sparks of memories from an early life in another world; and this spiritual component of the music in particular makes this album a really unique and mysterious journey. Essential.

Amesoeurs - Amesoeurs - Amazon.com Music

Amesoeurs “Amesoeurs” (2009)

As mentioned on the introduction, this is another project formed by Neige.

This time it is a sort of more collaborative project, initially only with singer Audrey Sylvaine and later with Fursy Teyssier (mastermind of Les Discrets) and Jean Deflandre (Alcest drummer, also playing with Les Discrets at the time): This self titled album is their only full-length released and the last work before splitting up because of internal disagreements and according to rumors also because of Audrey’s open affiliation with neo-fascism and embarassing nationalist right wing ideas.

But even if their carreer was short lived, this album is already an iconic and really wonderful release, with uniqe way of portraying grey urban landscapes through the melancholy of post-punk with some black metal influences.

A strong tribute to Joy Division is certainly not hided here, clearly perceptible across the enthralling bass driven sections of songs like Gas in Veins and Les Ruches Malades, but there are also strong tributes here and there to bands like Asylum Party (Amesoeurs), The Cure (Video Girl), and even some very dark massive metal moments (I XIII V XIX XV V XXI XVIII XIX – IX XIX – IV V I IV and Au Crépuscole de Nos Rêves). Guitar work and songwriting here are incredible, showing very simple, but yet absolutely emotional moments, expressed with sad arpeggios and touching melodies. Also Audrey’s vocals are very well crafted and seems absolutely perfectly mixed with the music offering a unique and magic performance.

Amesoeurs is another worth to listen album you absolutely need to know, it is a fantastic journey across abandonment and sad human feelings, screamed at loud in a city where no one is paying attention to the others, and where the skyscrapers’ shadows are devouring you.

Une Matinée D'hiver | Les Discrets

Les Discrets “Septembre Et Ses Dernières Pensées” (2010) 

Fursy Teyssier is a very talented video maker, designer and painter, known for its unique style and creativity; the project Les Discrets is the demonstration that he is also an amazng songwriter and musician.

This is the first album of his solo project, released after Amesoeur’s split up, and with the help of Jean Deflandre on drums who is already behind the rhytmic sections of Neige’s main project Alcest; it is also interesting to mention that at the time both Neige and Fursy were playing live bass on the other’s respective project.

Needless to say that this is another fantastic jewel emerging from France 11 years ago, merging dark post-rock (L’échappée, Songs for Mountains) with french chanson (Une Matinée d’Hiver), acoustic guitar driven folk and even some Ulver’s Bergtatt recalls (Les Feuilles de L’Oliver). Frusy’s approach to music is very original and shows a strong personality emerging from his beautiful voice and his evocative lyrics.

This album contains one of the most impressive atmospheres that melancholic music has created during the last decade. Absolutely recommended.

Lantlôs – .Neon Review – Last Rites

Lantlôs “.Neon” (2010)

One of the most suggestive and beautiful metal albums released in the last years, .Neon is one of the most interesting and well realised things of the whole post-black metal/post-rock hybridation.

Dark jazz vibes, urban desolation, nocturnal music, Deftones inspired parts and black metal blast beat driven section are just only a few of the things you’ll find in this masterpiece, which is the perfect soundtrack for a lone walk at night through the urban lights, able to let you drown into the beautiful calm of dreams. Lantlôs is the solo project of Markus Siegenhort from Rheda, Germany, an artist and music producer that made some of the best music of the period and never disappointed an album with this project.

The very original vibes present here on .Neon make this album absolutely unique and beside the almost perfect songwriting and execution (Markus plays all instruments) should be mentioned the good suffering vocal work recorded by Neige (who also provides some french singing on Neige de Mars) and the beautiful cover art designed by Fursy Teyssier (who also made the artwork of all the records i have mentioned till now).

The way post-rock and black metal are balanced here is fantastic, Markus has actually a really good music knowledge and he’s not only a metal musician, but is really aware of what post-rock, shoegaze and noise rock are, and that is perfectly perceptible basing on the way this album sounds like; perfectly riverbered clean tremolos and amazing guitars with a distortion tone halfway between icy sound and modern production that makes every part to sound like something coming from a nocturnal dream. If you are familiar with insomniac nights, this is the perfect album to hear during them. Definitely one of the records of the decade.

mortuusinsomnis777: Cold Body Radiation - The Great White Emptiness

Cold Body Radiation “The Great White Emptiness” (2010)

Ok, seems like the bands from the scene around Neige are finished on this list.

Cold Body Radiation is one of the bands that circulated a lot when the first flowers from the blackgaze seeds where flourishing, alongside projects such as Sleeping Peonies, Dernier Martyr and Sun Devoured Earth. The things that associates this band and all these ones i mentioned is a very fuzzy and raw use of guitars, which is in a certain way typical of some not so famous space shoegaze bands such as Flying Saucer Attack and Alcian Blue.

This album has in fact a lot in common with the most noisey form of shoegaze, but it’s still very melancholic, melodic and black metal influenced with its icy screams and blast beats.

Despite its raw nature, this album is incredibly organic, and the wall of sound on the most melodic parts totally hits you with an immense power (Close your eyes and listen to White Light for a demonstration), also the use of dirty distortions makes the bass even more audible with its proggy verses (Loss, Radiance).

Dark, suggestive fascinating and mysterious.

Deafheaven "Roads to Judah" - Deathwish Inc

Deafheaven “Roads to Judah” (2011)

Alongside Bosse-de-Nage, Deafheaven is America’s first answer to the blackgaze euophoria, and before creating their own way  of approaching the genre with the following Sunbather, they were already answering in a less original, but absolutely impressive way to the genre.

After the release of a very good demo in 2010 that gave them the inclusion in Deathwish Inc.’s roster, they put out one of the most intense and interesting american black metal albums of the last decade.

Even if a strong Lantlôs influence is present here, Defheaven also shows strong roots on the US atmospheric black metal way of sound providing influences from bands like Wolves in the Throne Room, Weakling and even Liturgy.

The album is divided in 4 very long movements, marked out by dark and desperate blast beat explosions, very melancholic atmospheres and some very convincing post-rock interludes, that shows how the band really knows how apporach to such style (at the time their line-up included members of shoegaze bands Whirr and Nothing). Deafheaven is indeed one of the first bands showing real post-rock and shoegaze roots compared to the other european colleagues who were mostly people coming from black metal who discovered post-rock and shoegaze very lately and only beacuse of this new trend.

As i already mentioned on the intro, Deafheaven will later become the most distinctive blackgaze band around with the release of their masterpiece Sunbather and completely changed the approach to the genre, influencing mostly musicians outside metal to embrace such vibes, while in the early it was the opposite.

Also the lyrics here should be mentioned, showing a completely original take, different than any other similiar band who have approached this music; narrating stories and reflections on everyday life with a very impressive poetical work and lexicon.

In conclusion Roads to Judah is another foundamental piece of this puzzle, providing some of the most beautiful melancholic tunes created at the time.

Heretoir | Heretoir

Heretoir “Heretoir” (2011)

When blackgaze started to become a thing, a label in particular answered immediately to this new trend; this label is Pest Productions from China and a foundamental blackgaze release from them is a compilation entitled The World Comes to an End in the End of a Journey, that immediately became a cult release for people interested in such atmospheres.

Heretoir was one of the almost unknown demo projects present there and it is the one that got the bigger recognition not much years later.

This is the debut album by the german one man band leaded by musician David Conrad, who answered with strong Lantlôs and melancholic black metal influences to the blackgaze genre. This album is very good, even if it shows some imperfections on the production, which is way too raw and dry on a post-rock perspective, and on a sometimes too repetitive songwriting; but beside these two things this is undoubtely beautiful and worth to listen.

The song Fatigue is still one of the stronger Heretoir tracks, with its decadent depressive vibe able to let you drown into wonderful sad melodies; this journey into pure sadness than continues through a few instrumental interludes and reaching other high points on the songs Graue Bauten and the conclusive long Heretoir. Also the vocals shows a very good clean singing, often enriched by beautiful harmonisations, accompanied on the other side by black metal screams that are not too impressive, but that certainly do their work.

With the following album The Circle (2017) the band will release a more mature album that also sees the addition of Thärnenkind/King Apathy members, showing a more various and complete repertory of influences and embracing anti-fascist sensitivity, which is always a good thing.

From The Swamps

Dopamine “Dying Away in the Deep Fall” (2010)

Technically this is an unofficial release that started to circulate in 2010 as a digital/streaming fan made album, based on unreleased material of a project recently disbanded; it will be officially released by the band with a different cover only in 2019.

Dopamine is another band part of the split The World Comes to an End in the End of a Journey released by Pest Productions: formed in China under the influence of Alcest, on this album they show a very strong influence from the french band providing sad melodies (Melting, Dying Away in the Deep Fall), but also more post-rock oriented vibes (Incised by Water). Production is generally fine, but sometimes too dry,  which is a common problem of albums released at the time.

However the overall feeling related to this album is definitely good, Dopamine certainly knows how to craft emotional music and even on the more depressive black metal influenced parts (i can hear also a strong Austere, Woods of Desolation tribute) they remain sticked to an original formula. At the time this record had already become a sort of cult album among blackgaze listeners, which is pretty much atypical for an unofficial release.

Harakiri for the Sky | Harakiri for the Sky | AOP Records

Harakiri for the Sky “Harakiri for the Sky” (2012)

Nowadays Harakiri for the Sky is one of the bigger names of the genre, even after the Sunbather revolution that dosen’t influenced much their formula.

This duo was formed in Austria in 2012 between Vienna and Salzburg, and it is composed by Michael Jimbo Jones (Vocals, lyrics) that provides the hardcore influences (a good trademark for the band in my opinion) and Mathias Sollak (all instruments and songwriting), which comes from a more black metal background.

When this self titled album came out the band was pretty unknown and their music has been received as a sort of mix between the newborn post-black metal/blackgaze (Lantlôs, Alcest), modern german post-black metal in the vein of Agrypnie and atmospheric black metal inspired by Austere and Woods of Desolation.

Harakiri’s musical approach is pretty distincitive and differently than very similiar bands like Heretoir and King Apathy they haven’t changed much their style through the years on their five albums, the production has always been very modern, a bit too digital sounding for my taste, but certainly coherent.

This is with the following Aokighara (2014) their best effort in my opinion, showing proudly their enthralling drums driven sections accompanied by melancholic metal guitar melodies and hardcore-ish vocals.

Il debutto Dreariness, tra depressive black e shoegaze

Dreariness “My Mind is too Weak to Forget” (2013)

Even if it is not the best by this band, this albums is important to be included since it chronologically closes the cycle of very well received albums before the release of Sunbather, and it is obviously more associable to the Écailles de Lune influenced formula.

Formed in Rome, Italy back in 2012 this band revolves around three members with some constant collaborators. After an unpleasant experience with an old vocalist that continued to use the band’s name and instrumental arrangements, the remaining members answered to this event by forming their own version of the band with a more convincing and solid imaginery and sound (the other band have released nothing more than demos) expressed thorugh this album.

Distincited by some very extreme vocals (which is probably the only metal thing alongside some double kick patterns), and long minimal songs with very catchy melodies, Dreariness’ formula have been very well received. Some moments here are very good like the incredibly melancholic chorus arpeggio of My Mind is too Weak to Forget, or the one from Lost, both beautiful and intense. Also the very addictives melodies of One Last Wish (which is one of the best songs on the album) are definitely impressive.

Beside that some other moments (Coming Home, Dysmorphophobia) are not convincing in the same way, and the very digital and compressed production haven’t aged really well, especially guitar distortions  that are probably the most penalised element.

In 2016 Dreariness released Fragments, a more mature album that shows more post-rock direction and some very good songwriting moments.

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10 Records with Don Anderson (Sculptured, ex-Agalloch)

Episode 39 - with guest Don Anderson (Agalloch, Sculptured) - Curated by  Mirai Kawashima (Sigh) - I Hate Music | Lyssna här | Poddtoppen.se

Musician and songwriter Don Anderson is better known as the lead guitarist of Portland based atmospheric metal band Agalloch, one of the most interesting musical outputs coming out of the metal universe at the end of 90’s and active until 2016.

Started as a studio project, Agalloch’s initial goal was mostly experimenting with melancholic music, taking influences from here and there and melting them into a unique sonic experience made of doom, black metal, early post-rock, neofolk, post-industrial, krautrock, psychedelia and progressive.

Agalloch is probably the best example of a band outside genres and speaking of Don in particular he has a very distinctive approach to his instrument providing very melodic metal guitar solos perfectly mixed with a classic rock attitude (that Gilmour/Pink Floyd influence on The Hawthorne Passage beautiful solo is evident) and folk sensitivity (the hazy EP The White (2004), the acoustic parts of The Mantle (2002), and in particular the track A Desolation Song completely written by him). His style was also complementary with John Haughm’s (the other guitar player and singer) way of playing that was more post-punk/Fields of the Nephilim inspired with some loud post-rock/GY!BE moments too (Limbs).

But Don Anderson’s music is not just Agalloch, his solo project Sculptured is another impressive band worth to listen. Started as a 90’s melodic extreme metal band with the first album The Spear of the Lily Is Aureoled (1998), he later enriched the band’s formula with some more epic and cinematic elements on the second Apollo Ends (2000) and finally destroyed all with the weird and abstract technical prog of the last album Embodiment (2008).

I’m very happy to have Don Anderson as guest for this new article, showing his personal 10 records list, which consist in albums that had a particular impact on him and his life, as a musician and as a listener.

Former Agalloch Guitarist Don Anderson on 'The White' & 'The Grey'  Reissues, Repairing His Relationship with John Haughm and a Live  Performance Video With Panopticon's Austin Lunn | Decibel Magazine

Buy Rising Force [180 gm black vinyl] Online at Low Prices in India |  Amazon Music Store - Amazon.in

Yngwie Malsteen “Rising Force” (1984)

If it weren’t for Malmsteen, I wouldn’t be playing guitar. 

The first record I heard was actually Trilogy, but this was and still is my favorite. 

To those who think Malmsteen is just a shredder, listen to the track Icarus Dream Suite Opus 4; so much feeling and a highly underrated vibrato.

Death: Human [1991] | RockWorld.vn

Death “Human” (1991)

As I gradually got into death metal I knew the music could achieve a high level of musicianship, but I didn’t really find it until I heard this record. 

I came from a formal musical background and although I loved the speed and extremity of both thrash and death metal, I really wanted a band that also had chops. 

Death was that band.

Original …And Justice for All Producer Explains Why He Didn't Work With  METALLICA

Metallica “And Justice for All” (1988)

This was a gateway album for me. 

My introduction to truly heavy music and thrash generally began with the gradual volume swell of the track Eye of the Beholder. That riff sounded so incredibly heavy to me.  It changed my life and musical trajectory. 

I stopped exclusively listening to guitar heroes and began to seek out other bands like Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, Sepultura, and soon after death metal and black metal.

J.S. Bach “Orchestral Suites” played by The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields with Neville Marriner (1971)

Bach was also a gateway composer for me. It was his music that showed me polyphony and how multiple melodies work together. 

It also helped that Malmsteen constantly talked about him. 

These suites are so powerful and perpetually revealing, as all of Bach’s music is.  After Bach I went straight to the 20th century and listened to Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and the experimental ones like Xenaxis, Nono, Cage, Ligeti, and Penderecki who I all love. 

But, if you were to ask me about the composer that matters the most to me, it’s J.S. Bach.

Maurice Ravel “String Quartet in F Major” played by The Emerson String Quartet (1990)

Yet another gateway work. 

As I said, I went from Bach to the 20th/21st century and skipped all the classical, romantic, and late-romantic composers. I wrote many of them off as too “ornate” or “excessive” in their lush orchestration. 

Honestly, I was just being close-minded and overly dogmatic about contemporary classical music with its atonality, inaccessibility, and difficulty.  But, this string quarter is simply brilliant. The 2nd movement with the plucked strings is the most famous part and for good reason. 

This led me to devour all things Ravel like the piano works and especially Tzigane. In his music I can hear the work of many 20th century composers like Reich and Glass; he really is a red thread leading to the minimalists of the 20th century. 

From Ravel, I finally opened up to Debussy, Saint-Saens, Borodin, and others.

Cover of ELP Brain Salad Surgery Album - Keep Contemporary

Emerson, Lake, & Palmer “Brain Salad Surgery” (1973)

And this record was my gateway into progressive rock. 

I was a music theory student in college when I discovered ELP and found in them, as I did with Death, the perfect combination of musicianship and rock music. There was also enough weirdness to captivate my rebellious side as well. 

From here I discovered Van Der Graaf Generator, all the great Italian Prog bands, and finally prog from Germany, France, Belgium, Scandinavia, and South America.  I became a total prog-head.

The Royal Scam: Steely Dan: Amazon.it: Musica

Steely Dan “The Royal Scam” (1976)

The title track is a doom song.  I could see Bell Witch covering it. 

But, more importantly the guitar solo in Kid Charlamagne is easily one of my favorite guitar solos of all time.  Larry Carlton’s note choices and intervallic relationships are always surprising and pure ear candy. 

I’m a huge fan of the Dan with their precise recordings, hip lyrics, and again, incredible chops. They simply sound like no one else.

Various Artists “Grindcrusher: Earache Records Sampler” (1989)

So, to risk sounding like an old man… “back in the day” we didn’t have the Internet or the ability to literally hear anything, anywhere.  And if you were a 12–16-year-old kid, you didn’t have much money. 

So, I spent my money very carefully which meant maybe buying a tape a week.  Having access to a sample like this one allowed me to hear a whole lot of bands for the price of one cassette. 

So from here I got into Carcass, Entombed, Nocturnus, Carnage, OLD, Naked City, and many others.  This comp is so important to the history of death metal simply because it offered an affordable way for people to hear all these crazy bands.

Charles Mingus - Mingus Plays Piano LP - Superior Viaduct

Charles Mingus “Mingus Plays Piano” (1964)

Everyone knows Mingus as a composer and double-bassist, but not enough folks talk about how great of a piano player he was. 

I don’t think he played the piano that much, but this record reveals just how intimately connected he was to the piano. 

What you have here is an incredibly personal recording of Mingus improvising on the piano.  It’s captivating and inspiring.  Along with all the other great Mingus albums, this one remains in my top 3.

Current 93 - Of Ruine or Some Blazing Starre Lyrics and Tracklist | Genius

Current 93 “Of Ruine or Some Blazing Starre” (1994)

During the mid to late 90s, I was really exploring outside the confines of metal. 

Current 93 was a group that wildly expanded my idea of experimental music, especially with the combination of electronics and acoustic guitar. 

I was also taken by David Tibet’s whole worldview: the combination of religion, the apocalypse, the occult, and childhood innocence. 

From here I explored what me and my friends all referred to as the “World Serpent Family” which was the label/distro at the time that released groups like Coil, Nurse with Wound, Legendary Pink Dots, and many others.  That whole post-Industrial scene was really inspirational.