Sunday Sesh: Build a New Metal Genre
Inspired by the excellent Guest List provided to use by Dave of Nucyulus, I got to thinking. If I wasn’t a talentless hack or if I had infinite dollarydoos to assemble an all-star cast of musicians, what new style of metal would I want to create? This goes deeper than lyrical themes or slight incursion of folk instruments or braindead aping of trad metal from the 80s (or what they teach you in school, mate). No, if you could dream up a new, perfect type of metal, what would you like it to be?
I hinted at this desire in the comments on that guest post, but allow me, if you will, to flesh them out here. What I’d really love to see would be the wholesale merger of extreme metal with desert and folk elements to create a new genre: Desert Metal. Sure, bands like Nile have been sampling world music and toying with the Phrygian scale (a technique they learned from arena rock giants like Led Zeppelin) since the early 90s, and prog rock to some degree before that, but I have yet to hear a band that actually builds their sound around those traditional desert-sounding instruments rather than merely leaving them as adornments on an undeniably conventional metal edifice.
I realize I’ve been a bit coy thus far in defining what I mean by desert sound/instruments, but in my perfect world, a desert metal band would build their brand around styles we tend to associate with shifting sands, scouring heat, and bitter-dry cold. That means flamenco guitar to capture the feeling of the American southwest; sitar, tar, and tabla to encapsulate the mood of the Arab peninsula and other regions throughout Asia. Vocals could still be delivered in typical metal fashion, but you’d also have chants and horns as accompaniment (see the electronic duo Demdike Stare’s track below). Lyrical themes could touch upon Zoroastrianism, Egyptology, Native American folklore and more, ideally all chosen out of a dedication to being a student of culture and to revere the people groups they represent.
Just picture it: a peal of horns inject the initial drama into a cold open still like a desert night before a rolling sitar riff and tabla raga roar beneath black metal shrieks. Eventually the tabla is joined by blast beats, and a Phrygian lead is added atop those sitar scales, but the core of the song remains distinctly desert-y. This track could then fade out as trumpets transition into the next track, driven by melodic flamenco flanges. Ahhhhh, that’s good.
Oddly enough, outside of the typical Egyptology stalwarts like Nile, one of the best implementations of a desert style comes from, and bare with me on this, Avenged Sevenfold. While most of “Sidewinder” is the typical glossy, pristinely-produced melodic trad metal meets metalcore you’ll find on the rest of City of Evil, at 4:45, an acoustic, flamenco-style guitar line joins the rest of the instruments, and the song shifts from the rapid-fire, melodeath-lite soloing you’d expect to an excellent, coiling journey through blowing sands. Apparently that flamenco guitar part was recorded by guitarist Synsyter Gates’s father, which probably explains why it’s the best part of the song. Just ignore M. Shadows’ grating caterwauling and enjoy the flavor. Skip to 4:45 to hear it.
I have searched in vain for months to find a band that builds the metal around atypical instrumentation to create a desert sound in the same way Botanist build black metal around the hammered dulcimer to capture a feeling of organic growth, but thus far, my search has been in vain. Oh well. Until the day this style does emerge, I’ll keep enjoying Nile, Cresent, Set, Maat, Akvan, Melechesh, Al-Namrood, Djinn-Ghul, Nephren-Ka, Hashshashin, Orphaned Land (these last two may actually be one of the closest to this), Kyuss, Turbid North, Artificial Fear, and more.
Or, when I’m not feeling as metal, Ravi Shankar or Charo.
Am I missing a quintessential desert metal band? Does the perfect band I’ve described actually exist? What is your dream genre? How tite is Ravi Shankar? Sound off in the comments below.