Monday, 4 June 2012

Totally pointless ramblings: If your favourite metal band says they're going to change their style, you're gonna have a bad time.

 Well, it's now June and that officially means that my time of music blogging has reached a full year. That's not true exactly since I really can't remember the full date things kicked off. It was definitely later than this but... I'm tragically impatient. It's been a very cool run especially as things have progressed in recent times. Because looking back now, at some of my original posts, well, what a difference a year makes. Realising that getting into music journalism would require breaking new ground and seeking new bands has led me to find a tonne of new bands that I never would have come across previously and without a doubt my music taste has become enriched, as I've gotten into all kinds of underground bands and grown appreciation for older bands that had passed me by previously. It's been awesome! Thanks to all you regular readers who've supported this over the past year.

 But, while I'm now having an awesome time listening to Antlered Man and Les Discrets and many many more... and gaining a bit of respectability from fellow rock and metal fans who also dig a bit of underground rock and metal, when I started off blogging in June things were a little different. My music taste was hardly as in depth as it could have been and the most in depth band that I knew at the time was the Truckfighters after getting into their Gravity X album following videos of Josh Homme telling me I needed to listen to them. Although I've never known anyone around me to be into the Swedish fuzzmasters, I was still a long way from knowing about the full nature of their musical background of glorious stoner rock, which I got into which I followed up by moving on to black metal and the more underground names in classic heavy metal, hardcore,post-hardcore, metalcore, whateveryouwantcore, alternative rock and again, many many more. You see a year ago I, well, how do you put it, I still had faith in nu metal advancing into the 2010's.

 Yeah, one of my first posts is me explaining why I sill loved nu metal in spite of all the common criticisms against the genre, stating things like people's complaints that the genre was too repetitive did not affect me since I always do shuffle songs on my iPod, thus proving I would never consider sitting through an entire nu metal album and best of all, I stated that bands like Disturbed and Korn were still bringing nu metal to the mainstream, only to have Disturbed go on hiatus and Korn returning six months later with the dubstep infused The Path of Totality. It was foolish at best, so if you ever do feel like reading some of the earliest stuff... don't. I guess you could and sort of watch me get progressively better at writing.

 So, that particular post featured Linkin Park as the main subject following my total despise towards their 2010 release A Thousand Suns because you know, it wasn't nu metal. I should say at this point that I still do like a lot of classic nu metal albums (Except Limp Bizkit, always except Limp Bizkit with last year's Gold Cobra being the main reason that nu metal has no hope in the 2010's) but well, it's lost it's fire now. Now all the kids want dubstep n' deathcore! Anyway, having now re-listened to some stuff from A Thousand Suns, in honesty, it really wasn't as terrible as I remember it to be when I first heard stuff from the album. As the band intended, it's more atmospheric dreamy material that remains very gripping.

 Soon the band will release their fifth album, the clearly angry LIVING THINGS since it's written in all capitals and caps lock always means anger. Having heard lead single Burn it Down a few times now, which I think is great, I would say that the Agoura Hills sextet are reaching a compromise between the atmospheric impact of A Thousand Suns with the hard hitting riff orientated Minutes to Midnight, with a more crystalline crisp production so it doesn't just sound like the nu metal of old. It's led me to many thoughts regarding their decision to do this, with my most cynical suggestion being that they've brought big riffs and choruses back into their mix to win back the fans that they lost with A Thousand Suns. This led to my thoughts about when metal bands decide to change their style as radically as Linkin Park did on A Thousand Suns. Does it always lead to a butthurt reaction from fans who wanted to hear the sound from the band that they're used to, even if the album is actually good? Let's think of some examples to waste your time.

 Of course, the whole section of wether the album was actually good or not is all a matter of taste and in several cases there are moments where I feel a bit isolated because everyone hates a lot of the albums in question. It's a bit like going out into respectable society as a fan of Dolan Comics. respcbl socitii pls. So, with that considered let's open this totally pointless rambling with the obligatory Metallica reference. As I've had to explain several times before with my head hung in shame, I do actually like St. Anger. I mean, I'm never going to say anything like "It's an hidden classic!" or "It's totally underrated!", it's still my least favourite 'Tallica album (Without counting Lulu) but, it has some cool moments. But the mass amounts of hatred it received from fans was quite clearly enough for the band to be put off recording anything with the rougher production and visible post hardcore influence that the album had. So, when the awesome Death Magnetic came out five years later, Metallica discovered their roots in making thrash metal which hadn't really been focused on since 1988's ...And Justice for All. Again, it was an awesome album, but I couldn't help but cynically think "This is just to win back the fans they lost with St. Anger, innit?" Maybe, you wouldn't look into that at the time but the fact that last year they released their four track Beyond Magnetic EP just two months after their atrocious collaboration with Lou Reed on Lulu bombed, cynicism rose to an all time high.

 But this kind of thing sees metal fans being the most unforgiving towards the band's choices to change their style, especially when being totally revolutionary. Just look at Morbid Angel. The death metal veterans received much critical acclaim in the 90's with Altars of Madness and Blessed Are the Sick, two of the finest death metal albums of our age, so last year, when they clearly went into the studio after extended plays of Ministry albums and recorded Illud Divinum Insanus which was, well an industrial metal album. And what did the death metal fans think? Well, it can be answered best in this video that came out shortly after which made the Hitler Reacts videos to parody Downfall cool again. It's pretty funny and will only be understood by death metal fans.

 Haha, a video that portrays Hitler as a death metal fan won't make me look good in front of all my friends that already take the piss out of me for liking death metal. But indeed purist death metal fans haven't forgiven Morbid Angel for that album and indeed have had no real reason to forgive the band, with the fire only being fueled further with the release of a remix album. Once again, I'm the only person in the world that enjoys this album since I like industrial and death metal. Sometimes I feel like my levels of tolerance and accepting are scarily high.

 Often the rage towards bands that change their style comes from the fact that it makes them "sell-outs" and there's always a number of people that oppose that term and say that it's just the band doing what they want to do. But let's use a big example where it really was a case of selling out. Swiss extreme metallers Celtic Frost started with their own truly unique take on metal with 1984's Morbid Tales and 1985's To Mega Therion which both had a massive influence on black metal and death metal to come before going on to challenge themselves and listeners further with 1987's Into the Pandemonium, an album which saw the band open on a wide range of influences bringing in more industrial and gothic elements and avant-garde experimentation. When the band re-emerged a year later following a complete change in line-up, they essentially fucked up their legacy with the release of Cold Lake which saw them try and be Mötley Crüe, after moving to California and being tempted to make a glam metal album. I can only begin to imagine how disappointing it must have been for fans at the time. I had a difficult time trying to get through one Cold Lake song before then going back to listening to Babylon Fell. It was truly an example of a band selling out.

 The cases of an majorly positive reaction to a metal band changing their style is rare indeed. But when such a reaction does exist, you get the case of Anathema. Their 1993 debut Serenades saw the band craft upon their own brand of doom metal, which along with the works of Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride became highly influential upon the death/doom sub-genre as well as further symphonic metal bands like Within Temptation and Lacuna Coil. Throughout the 1990's their sound may have gradually softened but the atmosphere of doom did not. It was only until the release of 2001's A Fine Day to Exit that the group veered away from the darkness and focused solely on making new prog rock. And was there a furious uproar of doom metal fans enraged at their decision to embrace the light? Of course not! The spaced out prog was embraced to the extent that their most recent effort Weather Systems has seen the life-affirming prog songs continue. And it's beautiful. It's hard to think of an album in which I've been so immersed in an album for a long time. But I suppose what makes Anathema an exception against the uproar of annoyed metal fans is that their movement into prog music truly is a case of progression, where the musical complexity and atmospheric and emotional impact is broadened upon, rather than sounding cheaper and as though they've sold out. After all, there is still a wide range of death/doom bands to fill the boots of old Anathema. So many death/doom bands like... like....

 And of course, there's the little section mentioned at the beginning of proceedings, the case in which a negative response is given when bands don't change their style. And in an age where certain types metal has been suited for the changing world of musical trends. And that's why nu metal can't last in the 2010's. It was a musical genre that when it started in the form of Korn's self-titled debut was a darkened thing of it's own. But as it went on, it was watered down and crafted to be the kind of metal that could be played on the radio and became a musical trend that with the rise of indie rock, pop punk and emo bands just couldn't keep up. So, bands that continue to make radio-friendly nu metal anthems aren't going to get a positive reactions in the 2010's. That's why Limp Bizkit had such a shitty time with the release of Gold Cobra last year. There was no change from what they did in the 90's and early 2000's. If anything it presented them as being more annoying as Fred Durst rapped about how he was still better than everyone else, only now he was in no position to do so. Needless to say, the album bombed, they got dropped from Interscope and signed onto Cash Money Records belonging to obnoxious rapper Lil Wayne and... that's about it. It's not the most positive music story. I guess it's because they never really had a devoted pure metalhead fanbase. People were always pissed with them. The sound never changed and the people who liked their songs at the height of their popularity moved onto other bands. It's why Papa Roach became a glam rock band, why Disturbed switched to regular hard rock, why Korn switched to dubstep and ultimately, why Linkin Park started making albums like A Thousand Suns. Nu metal is long dead.

 Granted, it's a short selection of examples and there are many more cases to pick up on. There are classic cases out there with The Beatles turning to psychedelic music, Queen turning from solid hard rock to synth-infused radio-friendly pop tunes, even the case of Slipknot reducing the levels of DJ effects and synthesizers to make solid heavy metal belters has caused certain levels of fury, but with those examples, it's clear that the world of metal is a world where fans want their favourite bands to do the right thing. They don't want Celtic Frost to stop being the most daring and dynamic names in metal and instead make cheap glam metal. It's why they want Metallica to keep being the kings of thrash and they don't want nu metal to survive. But truly, bands should be able to do what they want without any pressure from fans. If they lose fans, they lose fans but at least they've fulfilled their musical desires right? The complaint from fans that they can't believe that the band they've known to write music they've liked previously shouldn't make them hate everything about the band as it seems to ave in some cases. You could always think of the band albums as the work of a demented side project gone wrong or something.

 Well, those are my totally pointless ramblings regarding the issue. Maybe I've spread some thoughts. Probably not. I'm pretty sure tonnes of you will totally disregard my opinion forever since I've revealed myself to be a fan of Dolan Comics. Oh well, happy fake anniversary ROARF and thanks for changing my musical life forever again.

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