(Grant Skelton compiled this unusual collection of music — a rare focus on acoustic music for our site.)
I love live acoustic performances and acoustic renditions of “heavy” songs. Maybe it’s because I’m a child of the ’90s. I remember MTV’s Unplugged show. Alice In Chains’ Unplugged is my absolute favorite of their discography. Days Of The New may never again release new material, but their first self-titled album is a timeless musical triumph.
There’s something almost fragile about acoustic performances. You hear the vocalist inhale before he utters a note. The squeal of the guitar strings. The hum of the bass and the click of the drumsticks as the drummer counts into the next song. While some bands may not perform acoustic sets of their studio material, they may record an occasional acoustic interlude or ballad. How many thrash and death metal albums have you heard that have an acoustic introduction on the first track?
I’ve been compiling a list of metal bands performing acoustic versions of their material and/or acoustic-influenced songs or side projects for my radio show, Metal X (shameless plug). When I previously wrote about Dolven (shameless plug #2), I sifted through the InterVoid to try and find songs fitting this style. Opeth are a given. Acoustic instrumentation is no stranger at all to their music. Panopticon have toyed with folk and bluegrass on their recent albums. Katatonia’s Dethroned & Uncrowned pleased many and disgusted others. Agalloch (a band much beloved by the staff and readers of this site) have made extensive use of acoustic guitars, especially on their 2002 album The Mantle. Funeral doom stalwarts Mournful Congregation are likewise infatuated with acoustic guitars (thanks to TheMadIsraeli for that recommendation!).
So, what I have here are a few of the gems I found during my search for metal bands performing acoustically. For those who might like to dig a bit deeper into music like this, I have also included some of my non-metal findings.
First, the metal.
Scott Kelly/Steve Von Till
Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till of Neurosis both have solo acoustic projects. Expect a forlorn, mellow, and dismal mood here. Anyone who enjoys Johnny Cash’s American Recordings should warm right up to these guys.
Scott Kelly performing “We Let The Hell Come Home” from his 2012 album The Forgiven Ghost In Me:
“Birch Black Box” from Steve Von Till’s A Life Unto Itself, released this year:
Scott “Wino” Weinrich (St. Vitus, Spirit Caravan, Shrinebuilder) has also dabbled with acoustic material. Check out his 2015 album Freedom Conspiracy with German guitarist/vocalist Conny Ochs:
Thurisaz are a black metal band from Belgium. Their most recent album The Pulse Of Mourning was released back in March on Sleaszy Rider Records. But in January, the band put out a live acoustic album called… Live & Acoustic. Watch/listen to “Years Of Silence” below:
While they unfortunately have broken up, Uaral were a band from Chile whose style can best be described as “folk doom.” Stream Sound Of Pain and you will see why their demise is truly a shame.
Hailing from Helsinki, October Falls make music in two formats: metal and acoustic. Their first full-length album Marras was an entirely instrumental acoustic album. Its sound was influenced by Ulver’s Kveldssanger (another noteworthy album for this roundup). October Falls’ folky brand of black/viking metal is also worth your time. But for the purposes of this post, listen to Marras below. The band’s Facebook page seems to indicate that they have written music for a new acoustic album, which they will hopefully record and release this year.
This German band broke up in 2006 but luckily reformed in 2010. Their 2014 offering The Turn Of The Tides was their first in 12 years.
Lucian The Wolfbearer
A one-man funeral doom metal project whose first album Void sounds like viking hymns sung around a campfire.
And now for the non-metal portion of the round-up. From my understanding, this type of music is sometimes referred to as “neofolk,” a genre that was entirely new to me.
Ottawa, Ontario’s Musk Ox have shared the stage with Agalloch in the past. Founded in 2005 by Nathanaël Larochette (classical guitar), the band also includes cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne and Evan Runge on violin. Stream Musk Ox’s 2014 album Woodfall on Bandcamp.
The “About” tab on the band’s Facebook page explains their music much better than I can:
Nebelung is an old german name for November, the month of melancholy and herald of forthcoming winter. It is at this time of the year – when the last leaves have fallen and the land lies bare and bleak –, when man has to lay down his weapons and confess his weakness towards the omnipotence of nature. It is the time of coming home, embracing the beloved ones and drawing nearer to the fire. For those, who wander lonely through the nights, it is the time of introspectiveness, sorrow and despair. With their music, Nebelung capture these feelings, mirroring in autumn rain and winter nights.
Nest are an ambient/neofolk project from Finland masterminded by Aslak Tolonen. Their music prominently features the kantele, a stringed instrument of the dulcimer family. In June of last year, Tolonen performed two different sets of Nest songs by himself on the kantele. One of these performances is posted below. They can be downloaded, along with Nest’s studio albums, at Nest’s Bandcamp page. As an aside, the band’s 2014 compilation Within A Decade includes covers of Skepticism (“The Gallant Crow”) and Agalloch (“Haunted Birds”).
This list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to post your own acoustic recommendations (metal or otherwise) in the comments. I welcome any suggestions and will listen to anything that is recommended.
I realize this is something a bit different than our usual fare here on No Clean Singing. Notwithstanding, I hope you have enjoyed it.