I've noticed a trend in power metal recently, where the genre is getting fractured in a way that does no one any favors. On the one hand, there is a group of bands that are taking power metal in a darker, heavier, more modern direction. While I like some of these bands, they largely suck the fun out of the music, which is one of the things that makes power metal special when done well. On the other hand, there is another group of bands that has taken the term 'flower metal' to heart, and sucked all of the heaviness out of the music, which only serves to make it sound weak
It has always struck me as a bit insulting that when you consider the roles of women in guitar-driven bands, they are either treated as curiosities, or they are the eye-candy representatives of something other than what you're listening to. The majority of female singers in this kind of music get broken down into two camps; the pop stars who never found their big break, or the classical singers who are used to make metal seem more dignified.
Ever since the death of 'real' rock and roll, and the rise of modern rock as we know it, there have been a few bands that have tried to resurrect the style and spirit of Guns N Roses, who are probably the last pure rock band to ever hold the status as the biggest band in the world. The problem with almost all of these is that they either hold too close to the template to be of any artistic note, or they completely forget about the rich diversity Guns was able to showcase in their short career. Doing sleazy rock and roll is easy, but none of the bands that found success did it ex
Metal has evolved in too many directions to count, but a hallmark of many of its offshoots is an increased propensity for technical virtuosity. In every sub-genre, as time goes on, there has been a focus on heightening the difficulty of the music, because there is a misguided belief (that I'm assuming was propelled by Guitar Hero) that the amount of finger-twisting riffs in a song has an impact on the quality of the music. I can't recall how often I've heard people who are fans of technical music criticizing other music for the basic fact that it wasn't hard to play.
In my mind, when I think of twisted darkness, I don't turn to the frozen north. While extreme metal has for so long been driven by the sensibilities of that geography, the real heart of artistic darkness rests in the Gothic nature of the Victorians. They were the ones who built real monoliths to the dark side, who could see the beauty that came from looking at the worst we're capable of. It's a bit disappointing, therefore, that extreme metal has not often reflected that influence.
Putting aside my role as a music critic for a moment, one of the things that bothers me as a an of music, and someone who has dabbled in it myself, is the lack of productivity so many bands these days show. It is frustrating to no end when a band puts out a record (good or bad), and you know you have to wait four to five years for the next bite of the apple. Somehow, we have conditioned ourselves to expect professional musicians to write the equivalent of one song ever three to four months, without it being an outrage.
When we last heard from Enslaved, they were pushing forward with their blend of progressive and black metal, making a mixture of sounds that shouldn't work together sound unlike anything else. It was still a bit of a messy record, and I was far from in love with it, but Enslaved appeared to me to be one of the few bands in extreme metal that was doing something legitimately extreme; pushing beyond the assumed confines of the genre to explore what else lay beyond the horizon.
There is an old story in the worlds of physics and metaphysics (very different things, by the way) about a confrontation between a scientist and what we will call a layperson. They were debating the origin of the universe, when she proposes that the world sits atop the back of a giant turtle. The scientist asks the obvious question, what is below the turtle? She scoffs, as the the question is ridiculous. The answer, she says, is another turtle. In fact, it's turtles all the way down.
Let us take a moment to stop and ask a rather odd question: what is death metal? It seems sill to be asking such an existential question about a genre that is close to thirty years old, but I'm not sure anyone has ever figured out what the true essence of death metal is. Is it the growled vocals that define death metal? The riffing style? The dark and disturbing subject matter? Some combination of these elements has been needed to truly be considered a death metal release for as long as I can remember, although I can't recall ever hearing an exact formula be spoken of.
I remember vividly getting involved in what turned into a very ugly argument over the musical skill of people involved in pop music. The majority opinion seemed to be that pop musicians must be unskilled hacks, because the music they made was so simple to play. Not that I portray myself to be a master of music, I took the opposite position, that not only is simple music deviously hard to do well, but that the amount of skill shown off during a song is a wholly incomplete way of assessing the totality of a musician's ability.