Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Mercy Side: Metal is Dead

I said a few months ago that I'd be doing an article on dubstep. The idea of that article was that, frankly, I don't like dubstep but I'd try and get into the genre. Why? Why get into a genre you don't like? Well, I feel I should like dubstep but don't. It's a combination of dance music, electronic and in some cases, metal, particularly industrial metal influences. All of these genres when done correctly, interest me. Hell, I just did a Mixtape of my favourite Industrial songs. So while a lot of my friends and large parts of the world are embracing dubstep, I was stuck, as I didn't like the genre. I asked a lot of people on some forums and on my Facebook to put their favourite songs of the genre up so I can try and get into the genre. It kinda failed as I anticipated. I was going to write that article but it just got forgotten about in the end. That was until, I decided I'd review KoRn's new album "The Path of Totality" for this site. Fingers crossed, you'll see that review tomorrow if you're interested.

This article is not just about dubstep though. This article is about a topic that I've been dreading to talk about for some time, but hoped it wouldn't be true. It all stems from this quote that Jonathan Davies, lead singer of KoRn said on the 5th December 2011 to Revolver Magazine:

"You have an open mind. The album is getting people to have an open mind and just accept that this is the future – accept the change."

Now, I only came across this quote this week when it came up on my Facebook (I follow KoRn on Facebook). It pains me to say it, but good old Jonathan Davies is spot on. And if he's saying it, it's got to be at least half right. I mean, I'm not saying that the words of Jonathan Davies are gospel or anything, but the man knows a thing or two about music, metal in particular. The guy is not a pioneer of the genre, but man, KoRn have been consistent in the genre for a good near twenty years. I love KoRn's sound. They're not my favourite band or anything, but I could listen to KoRn any day of the week because they sound fantabulous. I love the raw guitar sound they have, a sound that as far as I'm aware, has rarely been replicated by any other band. What's sad though is that Jonathan Davies has said this now. I'm not bigging up myself or anything, but I sensed this a long time ago. Probably about five years ago.
KoRn. Man, they like dreads don't they?
You see, I remember having a conversation at school with a friend about the future of music. She isn't really into my style of music, she likes her RnB music, her dance music and her pop. She was a dancer after all. I haven't spoken to her in a few years actually. Anyway, we were talking, and "SexyBack" by Justin Timberlake came on the radio while we were talking. I told her that this is the future of music. You see, this was a time where Timbaland was dominating the charts by collaborating with RnB artists but giving them an polished electronic sound. He had also worked closely with Nelly Furtado. This is the Nelly Furtado that sung this piece of cheese six years prior. And what does Timbaland do? He cranks the volume up a little, gives Nelly a harder image, puts some of that electronic polish on her music, and she sounds pretty damn badass, as RnB goes. "Maneater" is the song I'm talking about if you didn't know. Yes I like that song. I liked a lot of the Nelly Furtado songs of this part of her career. She's gone off the rails a little recently but 2006 was her year.

It's electronic sound that Timbaland mastered in this era is a precursor to how music sounds today. Timbaland is a pioneer.  Look around you. On the softer side of music you have this electronic sound everywhere. Everyone's doing it. One of the biggest RnB artists of the moment is Nicki Minaj. What about LMFAO? Black Eyed Peas? This electronic sound is all over the place.

Why am I mentioning this exactly? What has this got to do with dubstep, or hell, metal? Did you listen to "Maneater"? It's a good track. Oh sorry, to answer your question, well... metal has gone in this direction too. My silly prediction in a classroom five years ago has become true. But not in the way I expected. It's happened everywhere. Everyone is including electronic music into their music. Laptop and computer electronic music is bigger now that it ever has been. Dubstep came from this idea, that your computer can make music. And it can. And now look at the genre. It's exploded to the mainstream. But it's also threatening metal as well. I say threatening because this is the genre I grew up to love as a kid, and it's dying. It might already be dead.

I've been asking a lot of people to get me into new metal bands for years without success. Do you want to know the last great metal band I really liked? Do Grinderman count? Grinderman being, Nick Cave and co. forming a new band? Are they even metal? Erm... how about Pendulum? What, they're dance music? Damn... I erm... I don't know actually. Okay let me do some research...
Click on this picture. No seriously.
...okay, after scrawling through Wikipedia, The Murderdolls formed in 2002... Audioslave in 2001... Brand New in 2000... and they're okay but I wouldn't say they're a GREAT band... let me look a little further... aha! The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster formed in 1999! There we go! Oh wait, I don't know how many of you have heard of them. Besides, are they metal? They're more psychedelic rock and punk... okay, let me go a bit further in case that doesn't justify it... in 1998 Jerk formed but they only did one awesome album... Skindred formed in 1998? Skindred are pretty cool... should we go with them? If I go to 1997 I find Mindless Self Indulgence. Now that's a GREAT metal band.

You see, I have to go 15 years into the past to find the last great metal band. Obviously that's personal taste, I'm sure there are bands formed since then that you or anyone else will like a lot. Not for me though. I love metal, most of my favourite bands are in the genre. Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Rammstein, Rob Zombie, to name a few. A lot of these bands were prominent in the nineties but that's not to say that there wasn't great metal to be found in the noughties. If you look at my Top 100 Favourite songs of the decade, you'll see plenty of metal bands and songs in the list. Bands like Drowning Pool, Disturbed, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Avenged Sevenfold and System of a Down.

But then around 2007 time, something changed. What is now known as emo music started to dominate rock and metal. It's a genre that also went mainstream and it was everywhere. I hated emo. I still do. I didn't think it killed off metal or anything, I mean, emo incorporates modern punk and metal after all. But it definitely knocked metal back a peg, and great metal bands were finding it hard to adapt to the change. Some bands did. Slipknot, Papa Roach and Linkin Park come to mind when it comes to bands who changed their sound slightly to appeal to the emo rise. They started including more melody in their songs and less metal. It was more about the whine in the voice, the sentiment in their lyrics. But other bands ceased to exist in some ways, Limp Bizkit come to mind as an example of that.

And now, we have dubstep. We have electronic music fusing with all the genres around us. It got to RnB, you can see proof of that above. It's also gotten to indie music. Bands like MGMT and Foster the People come to mind that like to fuse the sounds together. I mean it's nothing new in a way, Radiohead have been doing it for years. But there's something different this time around, because it's just so much more prominent, so much more... successful. It's become the norm, become the way to make music. And I have very mixed feelings about this.

"You have an open mind. The album is getting people to have an open mind and just accept that this is the future – accept the change."

I just thought I'd put Jonathan Davies' quote back up there as a reminder. Times are changing. Music is changing. It's always changed. I have to be honest, in my lifetime, we've had a lot less change and what has changed has been at a snails pace in comparison to the past. We had jazz and blues, rock 'n' roll, then glam rock, then punk rock, then new wave, then indie. Now we have this electronindie thing going on. In the world of pop we now have artists using electronic music quite a lot. In metal we've used electronic music, but it's always been as a booster, as an enhancement. Look at industrial music as a means of looking how electronic music has been used in metal the most. The best song to suggest is my favourite band of course, Nine Inch Nails with this blistering effort that I put in my Industrial Mixtape last week. From 1:38 onwards is absolutely amazing.
Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails.
But as a general rule, metal hasn't embraced the change. It hasn't accepted electronic music, and dubstep, into its genre. It's been trying to push it away. Metal has suffered as a consequence of this I'd say. As I said, I have mixed feelings about it myself, dubstep as a sound is okay, but it's repetitive and boring. I like electronic music as an enhancement myself, but not when it becomes the source of a song. But KoRn's new album has taken a big bold step forwards for a new way to incorporate metal and electronic music and dubstep. Do I like that album? Well if you read my review you'll find out. But before I review that album I thought that this article was worth writing. I thought it was worth talking about the changes in music at the moment, where electronics and dubstep are becoming more prominent, are becoming the focus. 

Someone, I can't remember who, told me that in five or ten years time, the stars of the future will have started making their music on computers in their bedrooms. I think that person is right.

What do you think? Is metal dead? Does metal need to accept the focus on dubstep and electronic music to survive? Disagree? Comment below. Thanks for reading.
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