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Modern Metal and Metalcore Sucks!

posted Oct 9, 2013, 4:08 PM by oneclipleft   [ updated Nov 29, 2013, 4:41 PM ]
Ok, so I've written/deleted posts like this a number of times, mostly because I'm having a difficult time expressing myself in a way that isn't saturated with contempt. I'll simplify it first, and then turn to a more in-depth discussion second. Simple: I hate most modern metal (metalcore, "djent," whatever it's called these days). I'm tired of the cookie-cutter sound and the cookie-monster/whiny vocal combo (which is NOT the same as heavy/clean vocal combo, but more on that later). I hate the vague, confusing, emotionally-charged-yet-meaningless lyrics. I hated it when it started, and I hate it even more today. I recently posted to my youtube channel a video of a song I wrote some years ago on the subject, but I feel like that's just me lashing out vaguely (which is exactly what it is). Let's get specific here.

Now, before I really get started on this, you should know that I’m not prone to black/white thinking or making absolute statements unless I’m pissed off. I’m not pissed right now, so if you start to feel like I’m ignoring x, y, or z band as an example of good modern metal, then spare me your response. I’m aware of many of those bands. Thing is, I’m not talking about bands, necessarily. I’m talking about formulas. Tired, boring, rehashed formulas that happen to make lots of money that can be endlessly carbon copied and rebranded by record companies. My argument is not specific to metal, it’s just relevant to modern metal and the -cores. Moving on.

Let’s start with the history of metalcore (which, as I understand is supposed to be some kind of mixture between metal and hardcore punk). I want to start here because the beginning of mainstream metalcore was the first time in my life that I abhorred an entire movement of metal. Oddly enough, the nu-metal of the 1990s did not have this strong an effect on me. I liked a few nu-metal bands, and hated others, but I could understand why other people liked it, and some of it actually grew on me over time. Well, my first experience with metalcore was roughly 10 years ago with bands like Killswitch Engage, Shadow’s Fall, Atreyu, etc., and none of it has grown on me at all. In fact, almost every new “brutal” band that comes out just makes me hate all of it that much worse. Here’s why.

During the early 2000s, most of my metal-head friends would tell me things like “dude, you HAVE to listen to this new band! So sick! So brutal!” They’d pop in the CD, and it was all I could do to be supportive of their musical choices. These bands sounded like sheep in wolves’ clothing to me. They appeared to be “brutal” and “heavy” on the surface, but if I listened too close or thought about it for more than a second, the illusion wafted away like a mirage. These bands felt disingenuous and fake. Their lyrics read too much like vague, unfocused poems a therapist would tell you to write “just to get it all out.” Their guitar parts were impressive, but lacked melody  and were instantly forgettable. The singers always seemed like they were trying too hard, like they didn’t trust their own sound or abilities. It all sounded fake, self-important, and boring. They sounded like those bands that eventually lose their original creativity but keep churning out albums ad nauseum, except most of these bands were on their first album, not their eighth.

I didn’t worry too much about it, though, because it was the first time I’d ever encountered a whole group of metal that made me feel this way, and I was SURE it would pass after a few years. Holy shit, was I wrong. It didn’t go anywhere. It evolved into a hideous caricature of its former self.

Fast forward to today (I ignored almost all metalcore in the in-between years, pausing briefly now and then to see if it had gotten any better. It hadn’t.), and metalcore, modern metal, post-post-hard-death-core, and “djent” are all the rage, and all the same. Sometimes I feel like the whole thing is one huge cooperative trolling on the metal community, like Metal Machine Music might have been.

We now have an endless list of bands who strive for ever-more brutal sounds combined with ever-more whiny soft sides. There is no rhyme or reason to any of it. I hear a song and wonder, “what is this dude even mad about? His lyrics make no sense? Then suddenly another dude starts singing like a sad 14-year-old who just got grounded? Why? What the hell are they even talking about?” These are not the things I want going through my head when I heard something that is supposed to be metal.

Not even the guitar parts make any sense anymore. It sounds random, even when it isn’t. If I’m having trouble finding the beat, then at least make it interesting to listen to and drop some clues so I can piece it together at some point. But no, the guitars/drums (do these bands even use bass guitars?) sound like someone emptied a jigsaw puzzle box all over the floor. Back when metalcore started, the only thing I really respected was the musicianship. Now it’s just a huge mess.

The “brutal” vocals don’t pack a punch anymore. There’s no feeling or personality attached to these singers. They sound/look identical and are literally interchangeable. I seriously doubt they care what words are coming out of their mouths, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a record label lyric-marketing guru wrote all the words for them anyway. The “pretty” vocals are so over-the-top that it’s comical. I can’t take these guys seriously. At all. But they seem to take themselves VERY seriously. They always sound like they’re on the verge of tears, but not in any real, human way. Again, these singers sound/look identical and are literally interchangeable between bands. Their lyrics often have nothing to do with the “brutal” singer’s lyrics, which makes each song even more mind-numbingly stupid. It’s pop. Shitty, boring pop.

Every single band might as well be one guitarist, and the two shitty singers. Every drum part sound the same and every drum kit and drumming style is the same now. I wouldn’t be shocked to discover that these bands use drum machines (less band members = less chance an actual idea will get in the way of the formula). Now, I use a drum sequencer, but this is because I do not have access to a competent drummer who owns his own kit anymore, nor can I afford the equipment to properly record said drummer. I’d love to, but I just can’t do it on my own. But these bands seem to be very uncomfortable with the idea of sounding just a little bit different from the last band that got semi-famous for two weeks then disappeared. Sad.

Bass player? What bass player? Oh, you mean the guitarist again, since he’s inevitably tuned so low that a bass guitar would be either redundant or non-functional. Right.

My biggest gripe with this new form of metal is that it doesn’t sound human. It sounds like a computer program designed to shape sound waves into the next big modern metal hit without any human input. There is no subtlety or expression aside from either unstructured savagery or unearned melodrama. If you close your eyes and listen to two different songs by two different bands like this, you’ll be hard pressed to tell which is which. Face it: if you have no personality, then the creative arts are not for you.

Anyway, so every year I hope is the year that this movement finally croaks. And every year I’m disappointed and enraged by a flood of “new bands” that sound like cardboard cutouts of last year’s “new bands.” Yes, I know there are a few good ones out there, but guess what? I have a full-time job and can’t be fucked to go looking for them. Besides, when I do find one of the “good” bands, they’re really not that much better than the shitty ones. Oh well, back to waiting it out.
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