Metal, rock and punk bands are typically composed of a vocalist, drummer, bassist and one or two guitarists, but many acts have differentiated themselves from the crowd by including something different. Adding in a brass or woodwind instrument isn’t guaranteed to make a band into something good, but when a new element can be incorporated in a natural way, it can really make their sound pop off. Take a look below for 10 metal bands who use unconventional instruments.
Rivers Of Nihil
Rivers Of Nihil were one of the most-talked-about metal bands in 2018 due to their incredible inclusion of saxophone on their record Where Owls Know My Name. Their material prior to this album is good, but adding in that one extra element helped them boost themselves from the middle of the death-metal pack to leaders of the bunch.
Israeli heavy-metal act Orphaned Land have been a prominent part of Asia’s metal scene since their beginnings in the ’90s. Their sound is unlike anything most metal fans picture from standard sections of the genre. The lyrics focus on positive messages through bringing together the three main Abrahamic religions, and their sound uses instruments such as a bouzouki, xylophone and multiple forms of lutes.
Swiss crew Eluveitie helped form a new wave of folk metal throughout the early 2000s, bringing in bagpipes and a hurdy-gurdy into their music, among other instruments. Similarly to how Slipknot have nine members bringing countless different flavors to their sound, the band have enough members to layer their music with unconventional sounds from a variety of instruments.
Australian progressive death-metal band Alchemist brought an unconventional psychedelic tone to their sound through traditional Aussie aboriginal instrumentation and Middle Eastern instruments. They remained an underground act during their tenure, but across their 20-plus years together, they managed to push the boundaries of extreme metal.
From straightforward death metal to folk and prog metal, Amorphis built something fresh within the genre through layering saxophone, flutes, choral sequences and more within their music. The added instruments take them from your run-of-the-mill extreme metal band to something truly unique, helping give them longevity from their start in the early ’90s.
Folk metal spans a vast range of sounds, and Korpiklaani began with folk before turning to metal down the line. They incorporate shamanic instruments as well as violin, accordion, a wide variety of drums and more for a spacy yet extreme sound.
Agalloch mix black metal with elements of folk metal and doomy post-metal, bridging gaps between the genres, but they pulled something off that no other band have done. Throughout some of their songs, you can hear a clicking noise that is one of the members smacking a deer skull to create hollow percussion noises.
Japanese extreme metal act Sigh fuse black metal with more traditional instruments such as woodwinds, saxophone and more, and their avant-garde sound has broken into the Western metal world. Cited as one of the first black-metal bands from Japan, their one-of-a-kind sound has carried them through more than 10 records and counting.
Dog Fashion Disco
Dog Fashion Disco are hard to pinpoint into a certain sound or movement, similarly to how Mike Patton’s Mr. Bungle don’t really fit into any specific category. They mix prog metal, groove metal, alt-rock and generally strange sounds for a unique tone with trumpets, saxophone, woodwinds and more. While they aren’t around anymore, fans can check out Polkadot Cadaver, founded by some former members, to hear more of their maddening sound.
Symphonic metal act Apocalyptica began as a Metallica cover band and later expanded into original music. They’re likely the most notable metal group to incorporate classical instrumentation, having sold millions of records as people keep returning to their music, which is filled with cellos to create a metal orchestra.