September 05, 2012

Why Your Kids Will Like Metal

This musical era is not a particularly good one for metal fans. Especially in America, heavy metal has fallen far since its heyday in the 70's and 80's. The last band to enter the mainstream that could possibly be considered metal was Linkin Park, and that's really stretching it. The great festival that was Ozzfest has died, and Metallica's festival offering, Orion Music, only included a few metal bands in the lineup. Even the still successful Mayhem Festival this year features Slipknot, Anthrax, Motorhead, and Slayer, all metal titans whose careers are hardly on the rise. This would be alright if there were hordes of groups vying for the throne, but there simply aren't many young musicians playing metal, in comparison to a thousand other genres. Luckily, a metal fan is a fan for life, and the era when metal reigns again may be near.

I'm not just babbling and hoping. I have seen some pretty convincing signs that a shift towards the heavy darkness is occurring, albeit slowly. Here's why:

Dubstep and metal are far more similar than most fans of either genre are willing to admit. 

For the last few years, as EDM has been taking the US by storm, more and more kids are foregoing learning guitar for making tracks on their computers. It is impossible to deny that nothing is more now than electronic music. It is very difficult to find a Top 40 hit that doesn't have synths, extreme vocal processing, dubstep influence, or all three. If Britney Spears is doing it, you know it has caught on. As this has been happening, dubstep has exploded like no genre pre-Internet could. The sound is now firmly locked in everyone's spheres. Dubstep is at frat parties, on indie blogs, at festivals, on the radio, and in movies.

One visit to a Skrillex concert is all you need to agree with the metal comparison. Aside from the fact that he collaborated with Korn and used to be in a screamo band, the show is about as close as you can get to metal without guitars. People mosh! Skrillex's huge drops, especially the one in "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites," sound just like a heavy metal breakdown. In both genres, there is a focus on intensity, heaviness, and huge sounds. Even Skrillex's guttural sounds are reminiscent of a tuned down guitar.

SPIN magazine recently came out with a ranking of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Imagine everyone's surprise when they open the issue and see none other than Skrillex at number 100. While the writer admits that he doesn't even play guitar, he says "no contemporary musician has a more primal understanding of adrenaline-pumping, pulse-raising, chest-caving bulldozer riffs than dubstep mosh ambassador Skrillex." Adrenaline-pumping? Bulldozer? Mosh? Those are metal words!!

Of the thousands of Skrillex covers on YouTube, one caught my eye. The Good Time Boys, a rock band from Sweden did a hard rock cover of Skrillex's remix of "Cinema" by Benny Benassi. The cover makes me realize how much of an ass-kicking Guns 'n' Roses could give that song.

Electronic music and live music are meshing.

A few groups have already begun mixing live and electronic music: Ratatat performs with live guitar and Big Gigantic uses live saxophone. So electronic music is already beginning to incorporate live instruments, but is the reverse happening? Of course! Hundreds of bands use synthesizers in their live shows, and many even use pre-programmed loops that they play over.

Many electronic artists sample guitar lines, and often make sounds that sound like guitar riffs. On the other side, guitar sounds are being explored and processed in so many ways, they often sound computerized! Power metal group Dragonforce uses so many effects and lightning fast playing that their guitar work can easily be confused for computerized sounds. Even Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello's spastic octave-pedal solos sound futuristic and walk the line between guitar and electronic sounds.

Metal bands are also huge users of synths. Especially present in Scandinavian metal groups, keyboardists often provide important melody and harmonies to a band's sound. Children Of Bodom utilizes synths to flesh out their sound and for soloing. Daath as well allows keyboard to play a crucial role in their unique sound.

Metal and electronic music share common influences

People who aren't fans often understate the diverse nature of metal's influences. Metal takes significant influence from jazz, blues, classical, progressive rock, and much more. Many of these influences are among the same that electronic music draws from.

Metal shredders have long been influenced by classical composers. Whether you listen to Yngwie Malmsteen or Bodom, the influence is clearly there. Nowadays, EDM producers can be found sampling classical works, or just taking influence of their chord progressions. Wolfgang Gartner recorded his take on Beethoven's 5th, and up-and-comer Porter Robinson's "Spitfire" makes clear use of traditional classical progressions.

Jazz has also directly influenced both metal (especially progressive metal) and electronic music. Metal guitarists have always been trying to push the envelope when it comes to complexity, and using jazzy progressions and chords has aided them in their quest. Opeth, one of metal's progressive European titans, has been known to combine quiet jazzy interludes and complex progressive rhythms with their huge, gut-busting metal riffs. On the electronic side, Pretty Lights samples old soul, funk, and jazz recordings in a huge number of his tracks.

Metal has been getting some indie cred

This year, Baroness and Gojira have each come out with spectacular albums that have gotten a lot of attention from the indie crowd. It seems that taste making blogs like Pitchfork are beginning to get into the metal scene, and that is promising news. Also, have you been to a Sleigh Bells show? The only real difference between that and a metal show is less moshing, no live drums, and a poppy sounding singer. I could definitely see them going on tour with a metal band in the future.

Who knows? Maybe I am completely wrong. But maybe not! Maybe metal will one day rule the charts.  What this all boils down to, is the fact that genres are constantly coming in and out of the mainstream. And I believe that eventually, metal will fill the spot that electronic music is in now. You might want to get used to those devil horns. 


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