Most people wouldn't know it by looking at me, but half of my heritage comes from Poland. Knowing that fact, you might think that I would taken at least a passing interest in the music scene from that country, but that isn't the least bit true. Poland has not been a leading exporter of music I would want to listen to, but the fact that Decapitated comes from one of my ancestral homelands is enough to at least pique my curiosity.
If there is a band that is a better example of the dangers that come with artistic evolution in the world of metal, I don't know of them. In Flames has, over the course of their career, inspired more venomous rage amongst their fans than anyone this side of Metallica. After pioneering melodic death metal with their early releases, they did the natural thing and changed course as they got older. At first they dipped their toe into the sounds of nu metal, but quickly moved on to a mix of modern rock and sinewy guitar riffs that was more befitting a band of their age.
Music is, in essence, the art of carefully controlling noise. In the massive spectrum of audible sounds, we have singled out the ones that are pleasing to us, and those are used as the basis for everything we choose to pour into our ears. The fact that it is still noise is forgotten, unless we are griping about a style of music we don't enjoy.
In what I would consider a shocking turn of events, black metal is bigger now than it's ever been. Sure, there isn't the same mystique as during the second wave in the 90's, nor do the bands draw as much attention by virtue of demolishing the standards and norms of both music and culture, but it's undeniable that black metal is bigger today than it was in its heyday.
Of all the things that perplex me about the current state of music, maybe the most difficult to fathom is how power-pop, a genre that is about nothing but making catchy music for you to sing along to, became an underground genre. These purveyors of sunny, feel-good music have become vampires to the mainstream, surviving in the shadows that thrive on message boards in the deep recesses of the internet. There was a time when power-pop was huge, as it should have been, but somewhere along the way music fans have apparently decided they don't want their music to be enjoyable. Go figure.
I come into contact with a lot of people who do not share my musical tastes, and I notice certain trends among them that often catch me by surprise. One of those is that fans of mostly extreme metal often have a soft spot in their hearts for traditional metal, despite all the clichés about it that their preferred style of music tried to eradicate. And among those fans who have such a proclivity, Wolf is one of the bands that often gets brandished as an example of what traditional metal should be.
It was only natural that once metal music became intertwined with video games that there would be a degree of co-mingling, that bands would start to soak up the sounds and influences of the games that took metal under their wing. It's odd, in a way, that a genre that tries to push boundaries would instead have a faction that aims to introduce regressive sounds, but that is exactly what has happened. The soundtrack of old 8-bit video games has seeped into areas of the metal culture, and has created an odd amalgam of sounds that I could never have predicted.
I first heard about Dragonforce before they became popular through the Guitar Hero games. I heard about their first album when it came out, and I was quite puzzled by what I was hearing. It was lightning-speed power metal, played at tempos I could barely register, and topped off with some of the most gloriously cheesy vocals and melodies I had ever heard. On paper, it sounded like a disaster, but they somehow made it work.