I’m Starting a New Trend: Killing Off Trends

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Hi there, my name is Jimmy McNulty and I love heavy metal. Well I shouldn’t single that particular genre out, as I like all kinds of music except for modern country. And no matter what genre of music I could be jamming, I never get over my rage at the rise and fall of trends in art. Please join me, I’m starting a movement… to end all movements.

This is pretty long form, so have a great song to listen to while you read:

After I graduated college and moved back to my hometown to search for a job, I needed a good public house that would sell inexpensive booze and serve as a meeting place to hang with my other “adult” friends. The perfect pub presented itself in a small, dimly lit venue inside of a strip-mall, called “Our Place.” Every Thursday night I would meet up with two of my hometown friends at Our Place and complain about our jobs over pitchers of cheap draught beer. For months, this was paradise… until, of course, it started to catch on with other locals whom we knew from high school. Once our initial of party of three expanded into the double-digits, it was time to move on and find the next “Our Place”, where we could go back to the old days of sharing our tales of misery without having to shout over all the noise.

After reading the above description, you might be compelled to consider me an elitist; but here is where I differentiate myself from the pack: I have never sought out obscure art for the sake of being part of a minority of people, nor have I turned down popular art for the sake of leaving the majority of people. I like people in general, and enjoy being around them more often than not; so it’s not the crowd that scares me away. And should anyone think that status of any importance to me, just remember that I wrote reviews of Hilary Duff and Marilyn Manson records. I own a few Kelly Clarkson CDs. No dear friends, I just know that for every crowd of people there will be a few innovators, followed by several imitators, leading to a critical mass that can no longer sustain itself and implode into a black hole.

over

Knowing that history will repeat itself every time a crazy cool and unique thing crops up in music, why do these artists insist on following trends? It’s because they aren’t aware this thing is a thing yet, and it feels intrinsically good to metaphorically shout “me too!” when it comes to things that are cool. Deathcore became a thing in music and then a billion other bands shouted “I can do this too!”, and soon after they did deathcore started to suck. We cannot fault them for joining that one, or any, particular movement because it’s probably not a movement at the time (popular phrase “hindsight is always 20/20” might be appropriate in most of these situations). And then there are the bands who see what sells and adjusts their sound and/or image for the economical gains.

Singling out deathcore wasn’t fair to that sub-genre of metal; though I may not enjoy 95% of deathcore, it isn’t intrinsically bad. Death metal combined with hardcore can produce some stellar results, but it evolved into something that turns many metalheads off. “Blackened Death metal” became a buzzword when Hot Topic started stocking Behemoth’s The Apostasy on their shelves. The term “re-thrash” was tossed around so much it became a bad word around the time Warbringer and Evile were releasing their respective sophomore LP’s. Shall I discuss the history of nu-metal, or is the mere mention of it enough to paint a clear picture in your mind? Aside from a few dedicated nu-metal fans scattered throughout the globe, it leaves most with a particularly foul taste in their mouths.

Recently Matt Calvert of Toilet favorites Dark Descent Records used the following as a Facebook status:

matt_calvert

I just love his attitude towards the “Old School Death Metal” movement. Death metal is in itself, old school. We shan’t provide that movement its own label, lest provide a breeding grounds for more bands to latch onto, eventually turning into a trend. Death metal is great, and always has been; let’s not ruin it by adding a new level of convenience for start-up bands that want to play the “me too!” game. Cannibal Corpse likes unleashing a new death metal album every two-ish years, Obituary is probably playing at a metal venue near you in a couple of weeks, and newer bands like Sewercide and Castle Freak are releasing material that sounds like it could have been released decades ago… it would seem silly to assign different genre labels to any of those four bands.

Remember Machine Head? I’ll bet you do: for they were present for several different shifts in the heavy metal landscape over the past two decades, starting with thrash and ending up with something that’s kind of thrash-esque (?) with progressive song structures (?) and “extra bits” like childrens’ choirs and a back-up orchestra. How many great albums has Machine Head given us? I’m willing to offer the answer of two: Burn My Eyes and The Blackening (at least going by what I’ve witnessed in the heavy metal community, those two seem to be the most popular). Burn My Eyes being their 1994 debut and The Blackening being their resurgence from a hiatus that could have lasted indefinitely. What do both albums have in common? A “no fucks given” attitude about them. There were certainly trends in metal at their respective times of release, but at each point in time Machine Head had nothing to prove (except for the ability to write some great riffs and solos).

What is going on here? I used to know, but I have since repressed those memories. Was the band TRYING for a Toilet ov Hell Video Breakdown?

Let me remind you of three fantastic albums: Carcass’ Surgical Steel (2013), Failure’s The Heart Is a Monster (2015), and Autopsy’s The Headless Ritual (2011). You’re either wondering what they have in common or you’ve already reached the conclusion: all three are instances of a band emerging from a lengthy hiatus and wowing listeners with something that fit perfectly within its discography from before said hiatus. Were they hopping some kind of trend? No way. The Heart Is a Monster is an album that could be magically transmitted back to 1995 and the listeners wouldn’t be any wiser. The point is this: if any of the aforementioned bands had incorporated elements of things that were trendy (upon the release of their respective comeback albums), we all would have let out a collective sigh and and wondered if they were just trying to cash in on what was selling at the time.

To the bands of the world, I beg of you: please don’t chase any trends! You might sell a few shirts at the local Hot Topic, but the music is going to suffer. Don’t make an album that will be remembered as “that time Celtic Frost experimented with hip-hop“. Don’t let your discography include a black sheep because nu-metal (or djent, black metal, whatever) was popular at a given time. Write music that feels natural to you, write the next Paracletus or the next The Moon Lit Our Path: something that one day will become a timeless classic. Experiment, innovate, combine genres, do whatever you have to do; for it shall go appreciated.


(image via, via)

  • Óðinn

    Thanks, McNulty. Good read.

    I’ve always felt that The Blackening is an album I should like more than I actually do. I bought it based on the hype, but if I’m honest my attitude is apathetic towards that album.

  • Señor Jefe El Rosa

    HAIL MCNULTY! I loved every bit of that.

  • Elegant Gazing Globe

    I like YOU Mcnulty

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      And that’s no trend. Just a well known fact.

  • Elegant Gazing Globe

    Question: Doesn’t the -core tag originally mean that the music did not contain traditional guitar solos?

    • Jack Rabbit

      I always just thought it meant a fusion of hardcore music and whatever the prefix is. But it often results in something shittier.

    • Dumpster Lung

      I don’t think the tag itself has anything to do with solos specifically, but like Jack Rabbit said, it’s more an indication of being rooted in hardcore, and hardcore/punk aren’t known for solos the way metal is, so it just works out that way a lot of the time.

    • That’s probably a fair statement although at some point some metalcore bands got more metal than core and adopted solos.

  • Howard Dean

    Macabre Eternal was the 2011 return album for Autopsy, not The Headless Ritual. But no worries, as I knew exactly what album you meant (and it fucking slays).

    Also: “write music that feels natural to you, write the next Paracletus…”
    I agree with this, and encourage bands to write what feels “right” to them. However, I don’t think bands should ever try to copy Paracletus, as the end product is likely to be vastly inferior (see: the 50000+ dissonant black/death metal bands from the last 8 years). Better just to stick with what you know, what you are good at, and what you like!

    Nice article, Jimmy!

    • Guacamole Jim

      I’d assume he meant “write the next Paracletus” in the sense that artists should write an album that naturally progresses their own sound and voice – as in, artists should figure out what their own “Paracletus” would be. But yeah, I agree!

      • Howard Dean

        I agree, as I knew he was implying that bands should create something new and innovative as their “masterwork” of sorts (a la Paracletus). I just wanted to comment on the fact that a boatload of bands have done exactly what this article suggests they shouldn’t do, and have tried to capture that DsO magic because it became “cool.” Pretty much all but two or three have failed pretty miserably in my opinion.

        • Guacamole Jim

          Ah yeah, I’m following you then. I blame being exhausted for my inability to read properly today.

        • W.

          You know who doesn’t get enough love? Immolation.

          • Howard Dean

            Agreed. They were writing really weird and really dense death metal riffs before almost anyone. They took Trey’s off-kilter Morbid Angel riffs and cranked up the angularity and dissonance.

            True story: The first time I listened to Close to a World Below was in my truck back in the day. I had just bought the CD and tossed it in. The first track, “Higher Coward,” starts with that kind of dissonant buzz, and then the “Didn’t you say Jesus was coming?” sample followed by the explosion of drums and that Robert Vigna signature guitar riff. I nearly swerved off the road. It was pretty much the loudest and most oppressive thing I’d ever heard.

          • Lone Biker of the Apocalypse

            Definitely…and all the way through to the album ending title-track. I remember seeing them play a small headlining tour for that album with Goatwhore opening, and I was talking before the show with Alex, their drummer at the time, and when I complemented him on his skill and was asking him about parts and fills, I always remember exactly what he told me…he said that since this band is his art, he views his drumsticks as his paintbrushes, and he has to feel moved and inspired to play what he does, and when he does it…his fills are his artistic bushes on the masterwork they were trying to create.

            That, to me, was, (and always has been) “Metal”.

          • more beer

            And they are some of the of the nicest guys in metal.

          • Waynecro

            IMMOLATION!!!

    • I sincerely apologize about the Autopsy error. They deserve more respect than that

      • Howard Dean

        Seriously, no worries. They released like 5 albums in 4 years once they returned. I can’t keep track of the recent ones, I just always remember Macabre Eternal because it blew me away.

  • Guacamole Jim

    Honesty in music seems to be too rare, even in the underground. Probably one of the reasons I like pop music is I find it to be completely honest, albeit incredibly superficial. It’s in it for the money. Whereas something like djent feels like pop that can’t admit it’s pop. Not to say it’s all bad, but it’s a 90-10 thing, like you’ve noted.

    To me, artists like Lady Gaga and Tesseract are the same – they both want to pretend they’re “art” while they write pop. If you’re writing pop, embrace it (like 12 Foot Ninja, for example). But it feels disingenuous for Gaga to dress in a meat dress, produce the same pop shit everyone else is producing, and pretend to be artsy – or for Tesseract to pretend to be deep in all their videos when they haven’t written anything interesting or challenging after their first album.

    All this to say, I agree – trend hopping is irritating and weak. And it gets hard to find the good bands in any (sub)genre after having to make your way through a flood of imitators, trying to reap capital (monetary or social) from a successful pioneer.

  • Eliza

    Trends fade away quickly and are forgotten soon afterwards. Trying to keep up with seems tiring.

  • tigeraid

    I believe this will begin a trend about writing about killing off trends.

    • Howard Dean

      “Trend-Kill Tuesday: A Metalinjection Exclusive Feature”

  • tigeraid

    I generally agree, and you could easily trade “trend” for “sub-genre” to argue against this obsession we all have (me, you, LOOKING AT YOU) of trying to define everything as post-blackened-crust-nu-thrash-hillbilly-death instead of just calling the goddamn thing metal.

    EDIT: and Unto The Locust is Machinehead’s best album. FITE ME.

  • Great read, McFriendo <3 Sometimes people get fucking hostile (pun intended) at genre tags and trends.

    So, let's kill'em all! (another intended pun).

    • KyleJMcBride

      upvote for ‘McFriendo’

    • Joaquin Stick

      Link! I just listened to The Ride Majestic for the first time since last year and forgot how much I liked it. Read your review again. A+.

      • Thanks to you, Joaquín. Did you managed to listen Death Resonance?

        • Joaquin Stick

          Nope! I’ll check it out though.

          • First songs are great. It’s a compilation disc, but the two new songs worth it! Also the Beyond the Infinite EP it’s another banger!

  • AeonsOvChaos

    Good column who makes me think about what “Metal music” is and which direction is taking, the struggle for some bands to find some credibility is hard, underground or not, the ones who follow the trend are ruining integrity about something that I would call “spirit” and for what reasons, just to makes us think, whoa, so brutal, so dark, so mean, these people are real, me too then! and you start a band who plays “Metalcore” and after a process of so-called “evolution” you leave it to jump on “Deathcore train” because is the new thing, no, we don’t need this false attitude, just like people who thinks that is playing Black Metal because they have some fucking tremolo picking in his song with a raw vocal and a production who sounds like a cage full of angry squirrels who has the “hate quality syndrome” in the steel drum. There is meaning behind things or not? I thinkthat some people is true and serious, some others just follow trends, metal is not fucking fashion, fuck the trends, thanks Jimmy, I appreciate this review!

  • Trends are something we don’t have much control over. Everything goes in cycles. Something gets hot because one artist makes it popular and then the clones and lesser imitators swarm in until it becomes oversaturated. Then it dies and something else arises in its place. The best bands are always going to stand out and likely have longevity. I do agree that bands that are a known quantity shouldn’t alter their sound for sales. Establishing yourself and evolving your sound is how it should be done.

    • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

      I agree with p much everytjing in this article, and furthermore with what you’re saying, with one exception: “Establishing yourself and evolving your sound”-bit I will never agree with. Basically, this is how I prefer bands doing, but I’ve always loathed progression for the sake of progression. I don’t know if it’s what you mean, but it doesn’t really get mentioned ever so I figured I might as well.
      Evolving just to evolve, out of fear of repetition – instead of an inborn motivation to do so – is as hollow and dishonest as it gets, just the other side of the coin EVEN THOUGH the resulting music can be marvelous all the same.
      Note that this doesn’t mean absolute stagnation.

      • To clarify I’m talking about a natural progression or evolution. I guess the best way to describe is that it is incremental and develops over several albums. Not a dramatic shift. I’m at a loss for an example right now but I hope that makes it clearer.

  • Scrimm

    Good job Mcnulty!!

  • Waynecro

    Yo, I like Machine Head’s The Burning Red even though I’m old and sober. I should probably be ashamed of myself, but I’m not. Excellent article, McNults!

  • ME GORAK™✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    GORAK WANT KNOW IF BOWEL MOVEMENT MUST BE ENDED TOO!!!!!!!!!!!! GORAK MUST TAKE DUMPS!!!!!!!!

  • Ted Nü-Djent ™
  • Hey Dusktone sounds pretty sweet. Thanks McNugget!

  • Lone Biker of the Apocalypse

    Awesome article – but for what it’s worth, I’d also include Machine Head’s “Through the Ashes of Empires” disc as truly excellent…this was really their comeback album after they were label-less and had returned to form.

    • yeah i dig it too. and it’s no coincidence that they were JUST burned by a label prior to writing it. they had nothing but creative juices flowing, and it shows on that rekkid

  • James

    Nostalgia.