Saturday, April 18, 2015

Unnecessary Agression: A Retrospection on Heavy Metal Elitism, Irony, and the Legitimacy of Certain Sub-Genres

Remember the Nineties? I don't, I was just a kid way back then. But I've read just about everywhere that that decade was supposedly rock bottom for metal music. Grunge was all the rage, putting a curb-stomp finisher to glam in some quiet alley. Metallica had abandoned their thrash roots in favor of becoming grease monkey cowboys with a wah pedal. Bruce Dickinson and Rob Halford abandoned their main bands to do other things; the albums their replacements were on might as well not have been made to some. However, the greatest stain from the decade-- to some-- comes in the form of variation of metal brewing along the coasts. Something new was on the horizon. Or rather... something nu

See what I did there?

Depending on who you ask, bands like Korn, Deftones, and Linkin Park were either the best thing or the worst thing to come out of the Nineties. The former would say that it was metal's way of adapting to the times, trying to diversify itself in order to gain more appeal and stay relevant. The latter party would simply state the bands to emerge out of this era sucked balls. I can see some points from both sides, but ultimately, the nu metal deniers-- those who would try to widen the gap between themselves and the Nineties and early Aughts bands to keep their br00tality at maximum level and kvlt status clean-- are being closed minded twats.

Often when elitists want to blast nu metal-- or anything under the alternative metal umbrella-- they'll pick out a group like Limp Bizkit. Granted the band is sort of an easy target, given their image as a "mallcore" band since a lot of their fans are probably suburban kids with access to a Hot Topic and Fred Durst's tendency to say and do stupid things. People tend to either like them or hate them. But one bad band (thought I don't actually believe one really exists... yet) does not taint a whole genre. Maybe the execution isn't being carried out properly to some. You have to listen and you'll find something you dig. Though I've never been a major fan of the genre as a whole, there are plenty of bands I really dig: Otep, Faith No More, Rage Against the Machine, Slipknot, the list goes on for great bands!

The other reason some metalheads try to make a clear-cut line between "real metal" and alternative metal is for the sin of breeding it with other genres. "HOW DARE THEY MIX MY METAL WITH HIPPITY HOP!" "This band is influenced by Judas Priest AND Alice in Chains? FUCK THEM!" Dumb stuff. I'm making those up, but odds are someone out has said these circa 1997. Can we just talk about how idiotic that concept is? Metal has always been about going against the grain, doing what everyone else isn't. I'd say blending all these genres into one super-genre was probably the most metal thing to happen in the Nineties. Plus, anyone bitching about combining metal with alternative rock or rap is more than likely a big death metal or black metal fan, which inherently has punk elements to it. Way to be hypocritical.

I was always curious about the term "alternative metal" because it's such a loose meaning. You'll probably look at that and say "well clearly, it's a mixture of alternative rock and heavy metal", but I've realized it's more than that because it's not just alt-rock. The genre is so broad. It encompasses just about goddamn everything. I like to think of it as beginner's metal. Like very rarely is someone going to listen immediately dive into bands like Deicide or Watain, unless you come from a family where that shit is playing all the time. You gotta get into something that's more accessible first. For some, that might be something like Papa Roach or In This Moment. Eventually, they might warm up to the "scary stuff". Hell, that's how I got into metal. Mid-to-late Aughts I was into Godsmack, Disturbed, and Drowning Pool; now I'm going to Maryland Deathfest for my second time to revel in some good ole fashioned death metal.

The hate was never limited to nu and alternative metal. Internet metal nerds would rage for years to come. Metalcore, deathcore, folk, tech death, djent, industrial, melodeath, doom metal... I've heard people just slam all of these genres and more for one reason or another ("Is this song still playing?!"-- said the grindcore kid about the stoner doom song). Folk metal sort of falls under the same wagon as nu metal; they mixed shit up. Some people will criticize technical metal for being too complex or call it self-indulgent musical wankery. But that's just, like, their opinions, man.

Next to nu metal, metalcore and deathcore have by far received the most hate from people over the past fifteen or so years. Metal and punk have been simultaneously married and divorced since the late Seventies. People constantly argue which influence is more prevalent in bands like Killswitch Engage or Whitechapel. "Is this more metal or is this hardcore?" To some people, it would seem the difference is a matter of life or death. Others turn their noses to bands for using clean vocals or if they wear make-up and costumes. It almost appears as if the only change acceptable to elitists is when it's an expansion of what's already incorporated into the music, but that's exactly what -core is doing (if we're going on with the thrash model).

Now, I can totally understand it if people have their preferences. No one's saying you have to like everything; I just happen to be the guy who finds enjoyment in every sub-genre. All I'm trying to get is for the people who put their music on a pedestal acknowledge and accept that whether they like it or not, these fusion genres are in fact metal and not just some stain that offends their ear holes.

Because it is metal. No excuses. All the elements are there, just tweaked a little bit.

I cannot understand why it is that metalheads have put such strict rules and regulations on what constitutes as metal. When did everyone turn into old men afraid of change? Are you really happy listening to an album today that sounds the same as something released twenty-five years ago? We cannot have the music stay stagnant. We cannot be stuck in the past. These new bands are going to act as a gateway for all of the greats.  And the people who stick to beginner's metal? That's fine by me. They can listen to whatever they want. A dude who listens exclusively to rap metal is in my eyes the exact same as someone who only listens to black metal.

I for one am excited to see where the next step in metal is going to go. What new genre is going to sprout up? I mean, we haven't seen anyone REALLY change things up since Babymetal and that's just one band. There hasn't really been an influx of bands following that style aside from maybe one or two other groups in Japan and Korea. Maybe it'll catch on eventually. Maybe we'll start seeing something entirely different. 

What will it be, I wonder...

I've probably opened up a horrible can of worms on this post. Go ahead and comment. How do you feel about certain genres? Are you an open person or generally stick to one thing? Were you born into metal or did you have to weasel your way in? Talk amongst yourselves.

Stay heavy, my friends.

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