This my list of the 10 essential post-metal albums. But what the hell is post-metal? It’s a fleeting subgenre that surely is hard to define. Many of the bands on this list border on other genres and will be included on my lists of the best atmospheric black metal bands, best blackgaze bands and the best atmospheric sludge metal bands as well.
From post-rock to post-metal
The term post-rock started showing up in the 90’s. Post-rock grew huge over time and indie bands like Sigur Ros, God is an Astronaut and Mogwai are among the most popular bands in the genre. The most common features of post-rock are drifting, immersive melodies and an urge to structure the music differently than conventional rock music. This resulted in many post-rock music playing instrumental music, or music with sparse vocals.
During the evolution of post-rock, many metal bands desired to do the same thing. Psychedelic, atmospheric and progressive metal bands had existed for a long time, but suddenly there was a whole new blueprint to adapt to and utilize in metal music. The super-dynamic, meditative music from Neurosis was instrumental in forming what was to be post-metal.
Today the genre lines are extremely blurred. The term post-metal includes everything from black metal, progressive, folk and doom to shoegaze and other non-metal concepts. Here you can find my brief intro to post-metal. Let’s start exploring the 10 best post-metal albums.
Alcest – Les voyages de l’âme (2012)
Alcest is a giant in the blackgaze genre, a music style that merges black metal and shoegaze. This genre is one that incorporates a lot of the post-metal concepts, and vice versa. Many people prefer the first two Alcest albums, but 2012’s “Les voyages de l’âme” is my personal favorite.
Atoma – Skylight (2012)
Anyone who’s talked to me or read my material for more than five minutes knows how much I worship Slumber’s death/doom classic “Fallout”. The demise of Slumber spawned several awesome new projects; Atoma is one of them.
Cult of Luna – Salvation (2004)
Swedish atmospheric sludge metal band Cult of Luna started out playing some pretty raw hardcore-ish stuff. Over time, more and more post-rock ideas came into their music. “Salvation” went full circle, being a post-metal album to the core, with long buildups and repetitions. It also retains much of the violence and apocalyptic nature of their earlier music.
Eyes of Fire – Ashes to Embers (2004)
Neurosis is not the easiest band to get into at first listen. Eyes of Fire takes a lot of influences from mid- and late-90’s Neurosis, putting into a more accessible packaging. “Ashes to Embers” also has a lot of post-hardcore overtones, and an opening track that reminds me a bit of Anathema. Obvious influences aside, this is a very underrated album that definitely belongs on a list like this.
Ghost Brigade – Guided by Fire (2007)
Finland’s Ghost Brigade has been one of my favorite bands for many years. Sadly, they’ve gone on infinite hiatus that looks like it’s completely over for the band. Ghost Brigade released four quality albums with an interesting mesh of music styles. It’s somewhere between atmospheric sludge metal, post-metal, doom metal and melodic death metal. The broad influences means that the band manages to be both musically adventurous and catchy at the same time. Debut album “Guided by Fire” from 2007 remains my favorite.
ISIS – Panopticon (2004)
This album is my bible for both post-metal and atmospheric sludge metal. The way the songs develop, ebb and flow is just masterful. It has an extreme hardcore edge that hits pretty hard, but there’s also an intangible “Tool but better” progressive rock feeling to a lot of the intricate rhythm ideas. If you haven’t heard “Panopticon”, fix that now! The perfect place to start exploring post-metal and atmospheric sludge.
Junius – Reports from the Threshold of Death (2011)
Junius is a strange gang of genre chameleons somewhere between post-metal, post-rock, sludge metal, doom metal and alternative rock. After I saw them open for Katatonia back in 2013 I’ve been absolutely addicted to Junius, and the 2011 album “Reports from the Threshold of Death” remains my favorite. Like a couple of other bands on the list, Junius are experts at using their bank of musical influences just right, creating a mix that’s equally atmospheric and catchy at the same time.
Neurosis – A Sun That Never Sets (2001)
Neurosis are masters of post-metal and atmospheric sludge and the band has a vast, consistent discography. I pick “A Sun That Never Sets” for my essential album, but “Through Silver in Blood” and “Times of Grace” are equally awesome. There are also several other great records to check out.
Solstafir – Svartir Sandar (2011)
Except the obvious fact that this album has the eternal Solstafir hit song “Fjara”, it’s a damn nice display of post-metal. Solstafir is a very original and influential band, really making their mark with their music style. “Organic” and “dynamic” are two adjectives that come to mind when describing “Svartir Sandar”.
The Ocean – Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic (2018)
The Ocean is another super-consistent band with a whole bunch of good albums. I choose the latest one, a lot because it features Katatonia’s Jonas Renkse on a fantastic guest spot on my favorite tune. Most of their sound is based in atmospheric sludge and post-metal, but there’s also a strong progressive metal influence in their more extreme parts.
Final words on post-metal
I hope this list gave you enough info to dive right into the post-metal subgenre. Tell me what you think of the bands in the comment section. Also, I hope I helped you find something new to listen to if you’re already into the genre.
One final thing: please check out my progressive death/doom metal and Soliloquium. It’s a pretty diverse band with clear post-metal elements in some the songs. I think you might like it.