The Problem with "Djent"
Post date: 13-Mar-2013 01:25:20
Most of you might have guessed by now that I'm not too fond of the newest trend in metal: djent. But, what is wrong with djent exactly? Well, aside from the fact that I can't stand all but maybe one or two djent bands, one of the biggest problems is that djent is watering down metal into a pseudo-prog-pop mixture of over-produced, talent-wasting dog shit. If I had a 14 year old sister, I would expect her to love djent in about the same way that my female classmates from middle school loved the Backstreet Boys and/or N'Sync. The only thing heavy about most of these bands is the weight of the diarrhea that blasts from my body after listening to them, plus about one guitar riff per song. Anyway, here's my actual analysis of djent and why the vast, vast majority of it sucks.
First off, and let's get this out of the way early because djent fans love nothing more than to try to prove other people's opinions wrong by mentioning how good band X or band Y is, not all djent sucks. Just almost all of it. People most often tend to cite Animals as Leaders as a good djent band. I'll agree with that, even though I'm not big into progressive solo guitarists of any kind (sorry Vai, Satriani, Batio, etc, I just don't care how good you guys are at guitar). The two biggest advantages AaL has over the average djent shitpile is 1) Tobin Abasi is an incredibly skilled and musical guitarist. He doesn't just shit all over the neck just because he can. You can tell that his music is orchestrated in ways vastly superior to, say, any other djent band ever (note: Meshuggah is not a djent band). 2) No shitty vocals ruining every second of every song. Let's face it, if you want to be a prog-guitarist virtuoso, you'd better keep your talk-hole shut while you do it. Animals as Leaders knows exactly what it is trying to do musically, and does all of it well. Okay, now that we have that out of the way, let's talk about some other bands that don't have the fortunate musical foresight that AaL has. Every single one of these bands sound practically identical, carbon copying the same elements until I can't tell the difference between them without consulting Wikipedia first. So, which band should I talk about? How about the one whose name pops up almost as much as Animals as Leaders, but whose music is much, much worse.
That's right, you mouth-breathing morons, I'm going to shit on your whining-screeching-tapping-chugging gods, Periphery. Sad thing is, I thought I was going to like Periphery at first. I bought their self-titled album after previewing it at FYE (what is this, the bronze age?), and I had high hopes for it. However, from the very first track, "Insomnia," it was instantly apparent that I wasn't going to be listening to music, nor metal, for the next 72 minutes. Full of clashing, confused sounds, Insomnia is probably one of the worst opening tracks I've ever heard. You know what makes for a great album opening? 15 seconds of Enya followed by a stock Fear Factory riff played by epileptic robots (that's sarcasm, for the stupid people). While I'm sure it takes some technical skill to play the song (for the musicians, at least, I'll get to the singing in a minute), the song itself is more like a guitar training exercise than an actual song. Guess what? If you buy a 37-string guitar, add enough comp/gate effects in-chain to mask any sloppy playing you might suffer, and then play almost solely by taps and single-note palm mutes (neither are difficult), then you'll probably sound inhumanly good at guitar. Because it is inhuman. There is nothing organic about this sound. The guitars don't even sound like guitars half the time. If I wanted to listen to robots short circuiting, I would listen to fucking dubstep.
Then there's the atmospheric, ambient, hippy portions. It's Enya time again. These sections are often accompanied by techno-style programmed beats, which makes these sections jarring, boring, and pointless at the same time. This is sad for me, because I really like big contrasting changes in songs, but only as long as they service the song. It seems that most djent bands, Periphery included, write music 30 seconds at a time, then just smash together whatever they have so far to create a "song." This is what shitty song writers do. Even that pedophilic-looking rap guy who produced Rebecca Black's awful song displays more song writing skill than Periphery does most of the time, just by following the shitty pop formula. The worst offender of this shitty ambient music that I can think of is "Jetpacks Was Yes!" which is also one of the stupidest song titles I've ever heard. It's what Linkin Park would sound like if every single band member suffered a severe stroke right before recording their new single. Now, all of this would be forgivable. All of it might even be enjoyable in some strange, avant-garde sense. But the singing. Dear god, the fucking singing.
Spencer Sotelo, and almost every single other djent singer, sounds like they have no idea what metal sounded like prior to 2010. I love heavy, growly vocals. I even love certain types of screeching, screamed vocals. But these guys always manage to sound like Cary Elwes from the end of Saw. They don't fit in with the music, and they don't ever stray from a very small subset of harsh, painful screams. There is very little skill employed to achieve the sound these guys seem to love. They seem to strive to sound like Jens Kidman, but none of them even come close. It's just plain awful. Then, after the obligatory screamed verse, comes the obligatory clean singing chorus. And although I usually really enjoy clean vocals, this is where the shit-train fully derails and kills all the orphans it was transporting. Here, Spencer Sotelo, and most other djent singers, sound like they would be right at home in One Direction or singing backup for Justin Beiber. It's overly dramatic, overly auto-tuned, and makes me wish these guys had stayed the fuck home instead of joining a band they have no business singing for. This is how djent is turning metal into pop, and I hate that more than anything else I've mentioned so far. It's the worst part of metalcore mixed with unlistenable music.
But even that I could get past. I wouldn't listen to it, mind, but it wouldn't bother me so much if it wasn't for djent fans. Djent fans are the single most indecisive, passive-aggressive, whiny turds I've ever encountered. They're never afraid to let you know how truly ignorant of metal they are while continually insisting that they're right about everything. These are the people that say "guitar rift" instead of guitar riff. I get it. They're 12-18 years old, and this diluted, whiny pop-metal, the only metal they can stand, is "blowing their minds." But Jesus, calm the fuck down and learn to laugh once in awhile. You would think a group of people that can't get enough of songs with titles like "Ow My Feelings" and "Froggin' Bullfish" could take a joke now and then, but they consistently prove themselves to be uptight twats. Now, although I've been pretty hard on them today, I do truly wish the guys in Periphery all the success in the world. I believe they are hard-working, talented individuals who are partially responsible for some interesting sounds coming into existence. That's awesome. I respect them as artists, musicians, and people because I understand what they are trying to do, even if I don't like it. I would never wish ill on them for any reason. Their fans, however...are annoying fucking trolls without the slightest credential to make me give one shit about them or their opinions. Probably much the same way they feel about me. Such is life.
So, after all that, which bands do I actually like? Well, Mnemic is much less annoying than most other similar bands, although I'm not sure why. I just want to gouge my ears out a lot less when I hear Mnemic than when I hear a band like Periphery. I like some prog-metal groups like Disillusion. I think God Forbid is about as close as I'll ever come to liking djent, though, and they're not even djent. But, as a guitarist, I'm much less wowed by technical skill than I am by great song writing. You'd be surprised at how good many "shitty" guitarists actually are, they just never felt their endless guitar skill was needed in their songs (Billy Corgan, John 5, and some say Kurt Cobain was a much better guitarist than he let on). Overall, though, I've given up on djent, and now I just wait for the day when people look back on it with as much disdain as they do for nu-metal now.