Dark Cabaret / Circus Metal
Jan 12th 2012 Patrick Saad Miscellaneous

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The most recurring themes in Avant-Garde music are Cabaret and Circus, simply because the potential fusion these genres can have with other genres such as Classical, Baroque and Folk is really interesting. As an avid fan of both genres, I found that they’re closely related to Metal music, since they have that common “outsider music” feel that’s usually directed to the different, freaky and deranged – something that any Metal music fan can relate to.

Indeed, many musicians in Metal have already taken the initiative of playing Dark Cabaret / Circus Metal. In addition, genres like Gypsy, Industrial and Folk music end up in the mix, so the final result is an experimental and intense combination of macabre moods and strong theatrics, having both intensity and entertainment.

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So what’s the main attraction in this music? Well the elements that stand out the most are the theatrics of the songs, where the vocalists’ objective is to engulf the listeners with creepy vibes from the circus world, and whimsical seductiveness from Cabaret gone Dark (think of the darkness behind Tim Burton’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street“), thus making it natural for Metal’s distortion to blend in without sounding too odd. It’s also notable that this kind of music most often incorporates more musical instruments than in a traditional Metal band setting (xylophones, accordions, horns, etc).

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Some experimental bands that often have Circus/Cabaret elements in their music are Dog Fashion Disco, Mr.Bungle and Estradasphere. As each of these bands have way more than 5 musical genres under their belts, not all their musical catalog features Circus/Cabaret, but since the influences are undoubtedly there, one must credit them because these bands are most famous for bringing nontraditional influences to the Metal world.

Check out “Charmed, I’m Sure” from Circus Contraption‘s album “Grand American Traveling Dime Museum“:

Also a band that should be mentioned for its bold use of Cabaret moods and dark themes is Swedish band Diablo Swing Orchestra. D.S.O shocked the Avant-Garde world with their creative mix of Opera, Metal, Swing/Jazz and occasionally Circus/Cabaret. The band is set to release an album entitled “Pandora’s Piñata” in early 2012.

Now it’s hard to find a Metal band that uses these bizarre influences in all of their songs, but here are some bands that most often feature Dark Cabaret / Circus Metal influences with Metal:

– American band Stolen Babies are probably the most referenced band in this subgenre, their performances, costumes and music is focused on circus themes while also incorporating Metal. The band’s debut and only full-length to date “There Be Squabbles Ahead” was released in 2006 under The End Records.

– Australian band Vicious Hairy Mary also managed to release an eerie album under this genre. Aptly named “Orchestra Phantasma“, the album is in itself a big freaky circus show, with additional influences drawn from the likes of Les Claypool and Mr. Bungle. The band also draws influences from Classical and Opera.

– The last two bands I’m gonna mention are Australian bands Darth Vegas and Headkase. They are somehow unknown to most, but they are definitely worth checking out.

I hope this overview helped you to get you started with the genre, it’s definitely not easy to embrace the nontraditional ways of Avant-Garde Metal, but if you’re a fan of Folk music and can withstand experimental music, then this sort of genre Fusion will definitely appeal to you.

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  • Definitely one of the best articles about Experimental Metal I have ever read, and it did initiate me to this exceptional genre in Metal

    Thank you LebMetal

  • Patrick

    Thanks Bassem, glad you liked it.

    On a side note, although they don’t play Metal, I have to recommend this track by one of my favorite Circus bands Circus Contraption, it’s called “Charmed I’m Sure”, here’s the video link:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDLx271Ot0k

    I started looking for Dark Cabaret / Circus Metal music after I began listening to them.

  • Elee Kh

    Nice article.
    I really enjoy Circus contraption’s work.

  • Patrick

    Thanks Elee, Circus Contraption are definitely one of the best circus act out there!

  • Igor Kalashnikow

    I made a little playlist on this topic: this circus / cabaret fusion fascinated me for long time https://open.spotify.com/user/1128696235/playlist/6WkplL5OYSe4mbIpj3Yg07

  • Cool!