Estimated reading time: 7 minute(s)
I’ve been thinking a lot about your answers to my question. I agree with both of you on some points.
In particular, I can think of plenty of examples of bands that have a shifting relationship with the genre over time. (Hey, we can’t all be Overkill Inc.) And yet, most people don’t talk about metal albums; the categorization happens around the band. Maybe the whole genre is gentrifying over time, from a musical ghetto that is impossible for a band to leave, into a more legitimate artform that other bands visit incorporate in varying degrees into their sounds throughout their careers.
And I do think that there’s something about the emotional charge that the music evokes in the listener. I agree that it’s no longer exclusively about rage or hate. But I also think this hopeful anger isn’t enough of a differentiator. Punk (particularly power punk) and hardcore have been having a similar trajectory since the monotonous early days. But the distinctions between genres while diminished in more recent years is still intact. Also, metal has been making steady progress in exploring other emotional state while still keeping its edge. Bands like Opeth, TesseracT, Chimp Spanner, Skyharbor, The Ocean, Dark Tranquility, and Agalloch all come to mind.
So maybe the criteria is more complicated, taking into account technique (general musicianship with an emphasis on palm muted guitars and fast runs over ) and emotional charge.
This reminds me of a question that my partner brought up a few years ago. I was enthusing about Sevendust’s “Black Out The Sun,” and she asked me why I love Sevendust but hate Nickelback. After much thought, I suggested it was because it feels like Nickelback is a pop/rock band playing at being metalheads, while Sevendust is a metal band working within the constraints of popular rock. The former (and this is also true in my opinion of Creed, Saliva, Shinedown, and their ilk) come across as affectations, largely because they don’t hit the metal checkboxes. And they do successfully sound metal-adjacent if you’ve got quad-tracked guitars and Mesa Boogie amps. Technically easier (but definitely rarer in fact) to find a metal act who takes up the theory forms of rock, and does it well. (I’m not talking about the ballady bullshit that most metal bands add as deep cuts; I mean earnest attempts to pay attention to hooks and song structure in a way that is far more familiar and mandatory to radio-friendly forms.) And then you’ve got Mark Tremonti, one of the guilty parties in Creed who then went out and created two legitimately metal albums as a solo act. Perhaps I need to listen to more Creed, to quantify exactly why they’re not metal.