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Thanks again for your thoughtful reply.
Now on to your main points of rebuttal. First, you make a very good point with your 1980s>90s>00s comment. I suppose you are right that we are products of our formative years in heavy metal, and therefore as things change over time, the more they by necessity stray from that starting point. Whether that makes it worse or not depends on perspective, and I guess I am just getting older, and maybe not wanting things to be as different anymore. Kind of sad—I hoped I would never get to be a cranky old man (oh, who am I kidding, I was even when I was younger…), but there you have it.
I was going to now argue that metal has become more limited, and with less diversity, but I think that is actually not true at all. If anything, it may be that metal has become too diverse! 20 years ago, there was a core of heavy metal that everyone listened to and enjoyed—you would say the words heavy metal and a few bands would come to anyone’s mind: Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica, Slayer, etc. In a way, that’s gone now. What is the prototypical heavy metal band at this point? I don’t know that I would be able to tell you. Maybe everyone would still agree on Slayer, but outside of that, anything goes. It’s sort of like how politics has been affected by the internet. 30 years ago, everyone got their news from the same sources, and therefore had some common, shared experience; thoughts and feelings might diverge based upon that, but one person wasn’t hearing something completely different than his next door neighbor. Now, one person’s heavy metal is Converge or Isis, another’s Bullet for My Valentine, and so on.
I want a return to a heavy metal middle ground that will never exist again, except in the minds of people our age; I think I’m not the only one, though, given how many of the classic bands are playing their “classic albums” on tour this year!
Another point that you rebutted was the decline of melody. First of all, even when there is melody, I feel like the screamed vocals impart a sameness that was not present at times in the past. While the Agonist, for example, is enjoyable, there is a brutality in the vocals that seems to overwhelm the melody in the guitar lines, and at times in the occasional clean vocals themselves. On its own, that is fine, but I feel like just so many bands have the same issue. For every Sepultura or Kreator, you used to have a Pantera or a Danzig; bands of the latter ilk are fewer and further between, and less prolific than they used to be. At the same time, the vocals of newer bands are more extreme, harsh, and tuneless than what used to be considered the heavy stuff! Your argument is that even the bands with gross vocals have melody in other places; the problem is that there are no new bands that don’t have gross vocals! Can’t I have some new music with just singing? Actual singing is now exclusively in the domains of power metal or self-consciously retro-thrash or -cock rock, neither of which I am particularly interested in. The young kids +today don’t have a point of reference for what non-screamed heavy metal vocals can be, since heavy metal is now equivalent to screamed vocals.
I would also argue that in many cases, the screamed vocals not only don’t add to the music, but are detrimental. Look at Isis. Does anyone not think that their new album would be better with solely melodic vocals? Would it make the album less heavy? Yes. Would that be a bad thing, given the tone of the music? No. I think that Mastodon saw that their vocals were single handedly keeping them from being more than a great heavy metal band, but simply a great band. Listening to that album, the songs have a richness that their prior albums lacked that is added solely by the melody and harmony of the vocals. Does this commentary mean that I am getting old? Yes, I realize that. My tolerance for grossness is decreasing to some degree, or at least I have a greater desire for diversity.
I think I mentioned to someone that buying the Beatles box set and immersing myself in those albums (most of which I’ve heard a million times) only cemented my opinion stated above, and put me in a bit of a bad mood about modern metal. In this case, it is not just that the songs are different, but are objectively better. Granted, I am comparing current music to what is the bible of modern popular song, an unfair fight for sure. But more bands ought to keeping the songs alive. For example, I listened to Lucifuge the other day, and that is just a great fucking album. I’ll be honest: I want another Lucifuge! And who doesn’t?
OK, I promise no more complaining from me about this, at least for a while. I just ordered a bunch of new and upcoming stuff, like the Overkill, Nevermore, Nachmystium, and I’ll try to remind myself that it’s 2010, not 1986… (though the first two can help me pretend it still is!)