At this moment in musical history, hipsters are seen as de facto indie music devotees. Of course, “indie” is a notoriously vague construct; it has no definition, but everybody knows what it “means.” And what indie seems to mean is, circularly, “music that hipsters listen to.” It’s an unspoken, vicious circle that equates indie with all that is cutting edge, sophisticated and avant-garde in contemporary music. If that’s the case, hipsters owe it to themselves to listen to metal, too. And if you’re into indie, you might discover that metal is more accessible than you thought.

Odds are most hipsters have dabbled in listening to many music genres, and possibly even tried to enjoy them. Maybe they’ve been meaning to “get into” the metal genre for a while. Maybe some listened to DragonForce, thought it was shit (bingo) and vowed to never touch the stuff again. Or maybe some decided to listen only to Mastodon, and (quite dubiously) decided that they’re the only cool metal band on Earth. And maybe you (quite possibly) are that indie aficionado aspiring to be a moonlighting metal-head.

By definition, metal is downright abrasive. To the untrained ear, much of it sounds like sonic refuse, its complexities often buried beneath lo-fi production, spastic drumming and nightmarish screams. But upon closer inspection, metal isn’t too different from other forms of modern music. And like any other addiction, there are gateway “drugs” for newcomers to get them started. So without further ado, here’s my messy short list of indie-friendly metal albums you should sink your teeth into.

For those who balk at the very idea of taking metal seriously and prefer to bask in the hazy glow of bands like My Bloody Valentine, I have the perfect record. Alcest’s Souvenirs d’Un Autre Monde is one of the most impressive crossover albums in recent memory. No, the band isn’t French. Its members are just terribly pretentious. But thankfully, like My Bloody Valentine, you can’t understand a word they’re saying. Alcest’s powerful waves of cotton-candy feedback lie right on the cusp between shoegaze and black metal. And the cooing vocals and folk influences should win over more placid listeners.

If that’s not enough of a challenge, fans of post-rockers like Mogwai should sample Agalloch’s The Mantle. Transpose the idea of post-rock onto metal, and, well, you get post-metal. Agalloch is one band in this unusual niche, joining harsh screeching vocals with sleepy yet serpentine compositions, sounding something like Mogwai’s evil twin. Proggy clean guitar passages give way to distorted tremolo figures, but even the harder-edged segments are tempered with a wintry grace.

All that rasping and Nordic noodling can get tiresome, so those looking for more straight-forward, fist-pumping fare should look no further than Boris’s Pink. While it isn’t the most traditional rock’n’roll band, the Japanese trio has a unique appeal. Boris takes the stomping, buzzing hard rock bombast of bands like Wolfmother and steers it toward the more arcane realm of doom metal, delivering sludgy, freaky, fuzzy, druggy out-of-control rock’n’roll. The band covers more musical territory than most amp-destroying rockers, exploring spaced-out soundscapes and way-out dreamworlds.

Despite the band’s boundless energy, Boris’s approach is fairly simple. Listeners who appreciate complex modern prog acts like The Mars Volta would do well to check out Between the Buried and Me’s landmark album Colors. Like The Mars Volta, BTBAM has so many musical influences (including classic rock and ragtime, among others) that it sometimes don’t know what to do with them. Pointless, wanky detours aside, the band consistently delivers blazing volleys of death metal riffage. The byzantine songs — full of sudden changes and break-downs — are dizzying and daunting, but that’s what makes Colors so fascinating.

Fair enough, you say, but what about those Mastodon fans I practically flipped off six paragraphs ago? Mastodon can serve as an excellent springboard into the world of death metal. Those ready for a heavier and more technical musical attack should start with one of the classics: Death’s The Sound of Perseverance. It’s also one of the most cleanly produced death-metal albums available, making for a fairly painless first listen. Death’s no-nonsense approach to delivering behemoth riffs with both visceral and cerebral appeal laid the foundations for the awe-inspiring LP.

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