Sunday, 3 July 2011

Problems with metal.

Well, this is my first attempt at a sort of essay type thing, and what better way to start than with something completely opinionated and most likely disagreeable with everyone (metal fans or not.) Well, it's my blog, and I can say what I want! Wait, wait, where are you going? Did I mention dear reader, that you are also quite handsome? Oh yes, most certainly! I'll talk more about how handsome you are further in by the way, just thought I'd add that. It's beyond that 'read more' button, guess you'll just have to press it to see what I said, eh?

Firstly: Genre trappings. A large problem with many bands is how much they feel the need to conform to a really specific sub-genre. It's not enough to just have loud electric electric guitars, you have to have a specific style, tempo, clean vocals to growling vocals ratio, song structure and even image. Of course this is true of many genres, but rarely is it so limiting across the entire spectrum than in metal. Take metalcore for instance. Right now I can tell you if you're listening to a metalcore song, it's almost certainly tuned to Drop C, with C being heavily used as a pedal note in its verses, a clear divide between heavy verse/singy chorus, a pop structure of verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus (the bridge will either be a breakdown or another singy part, depending on whether it's meant for airplay or not). This isn't even a typical example, this is the norm. about 90% of the songs you hear will conform to this.

The problem here is that genre and sub-genre become more than a classification tool by listeners, they become the guiding force that drives the band; the band writes to conform to whatever their favourite genre is, never pausing to consider how much more interesting it'd be if they pooled their music from any other number of genres and styles.

Another problem is vocals. No, I don't think have anything against growled vocals in principle. Anger is a powerful tool, they can drive a song, stir an emotion within us, and can be a gut wrenching reflection of what the singer is feeling. But very, very few bands do this. They see growling as a means to an end. They learn how to do one bark, and then they're set. There's no emotion in their words, the entire foundation of shouting to begin with. It's this paradoxical approach to singing that can really hold a band back, creating just a droning noise in the background to the music, not adding anything either musically, or more importantly, emotionally. Now this is pretty subjective, I'll readily admit that. Maybe the singers really do feel a genuine emotion when they bark out their lines, and often the difference in sound can be really hard to hear between a vocalist who cares, and one who doesn't. But I can definitely hear it. As an example, to me Lamb of God's newest album was a real step up for their vocalist, Randy Blythe, and his style barely changed. He still has that same deep timbre in his growl, but it was the mere act of inflections, rising up for some sections and lower for others; it felt like a human was singing it.

The fundamental problem of course, is that a lot of shouting in metal is completely monotone. This serves no purpose at all. Anger is not monotonic: a primal wail rises and falls with intensity. You don't press a button in your vocal chords to get a preset response, when you get angry your tone and volume become barely contained, spiralling wildly from quiet to explosive at the tip of a hat. Musically it serves no purpose either. When something sounds the same for every note you'll tune it out. It becomes background noise.

Now naturally, I'm not talking about every band. Hell, there's literally dozens of bands I listen to that avoid nearly all of this. And I'm not saying bands who succumb to one or the other are altogether without merit. They can make some cracking tunes. But these are problems which are holding back metal as a whole. If a band does something slightly different, they're either called sellouts or they're pioneers of a new genre and everyone follows them instead. This shouldn't happen. If you're any sort of fan of music at all, you should embrace change. Your old favourites will still be there, it's the uncharted territories that make it worth it to keep on truckin'. And for the growlers: Just emote already.

Oh, and that shirt looks good on you.

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