Sunday Sesh: Of Line-Up Changes And Old Man Ramblings

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Not long ago, our Dubious leader lamented good bands calling it quits a little too soon. Some of these bands leave an immaculate legacy, others break up right after a perfect record. Some just leave you wanting for more. Today, we’re going to be discussing (seshing?) about bands that didn’t go anywhere, but aren’t really there anymore either.

No, I’m not talking about bands stuck in a limbo or lost albums, fated never to surface. I’m talking about bands that carried on but “stopped being the same band”, changed and no longer managed to put that smile on your face. There are obvious examples, like Opeth. A band tied to the vision of Mikael Åkerfeldt so strongly, that few ever question if the changes in direction have stemmed from something else. Like from the fact that the band’s former members could populate a Vault-Tec Corporation Societal Preservation Program Vault. Between Morningrise, a personal favourite, and Still Life – an unquestionable masterpiece of deathy prog-metal, exactly half of the band had changed, and today only bassist Mendez stands by Åkerfedt’s side. The band’s undergone several stylistic changes as well and it would not be strange to expect that the current 70’s-prog-meets-modern-metal won’t do it for fans of their early material.

Some bands have been doing the exact same thing for decades, but I’d be surprised if I couldn’t find several people pining for the oozy magic of Motörhead’s original line-up, and several more not finding much to marvel after the demise of the classic line-up. Manowar has remained the same, at the core, though their style has seen some revisions. I’d be willing to bet most fans of both bands find a particular era much more likeable than the rest. But does that mean they weren’t the same band anymore? Motörhead’s always been so inarguably tied to Lemmy I don’t believe any sane person would ever have questioned whether it was the same band or not, as long as it was Lemmy’s band. Likewise, Manowar is strongly tied to Joey DeLameo – though never quite so strong, and every now and then you find a fan willing to pretend Manowar faced a horrible traffic accident, claiming the lives of all members in 1989.

So the question is this, is there a point in which a band has changed so much from the one you fell in love with that you can’t rightly consider it the same thing anymore? And for the record, despite all the prattle, we’re talking strictly line-up changes here, because the answer’s a little too easy if we let musical changes into this. And because the band that got me thinking of this hasn’t really wandered far from its roots. The band in question being death/doom masters, and one of my all-time favourites, Hooded Menace. When I fell in love with them, it wasn’t with the original line-up. But it was a radically different one.

It was always clear Lasse Pyykkö, despite being one of the best death metal vocalists of all time, never really enjoyed performing in that particular style. For much of the decade Markus Makkonen has been the mouthpiece of the band on stage, while Pyykkö remained the studio-vocalist. An arrangement that obviously could not continue, so I was not as much surprised as I was disappointed when it was announced Harri Kuokkanen (Horse Latitudes) would step in full-time to take over the mic in studio and on stage. Around the same time, Makkonen became a live-only member (as a bassist) to ensure things were no less complicated. But now that the band is closing on finishing their fifth full-length, the die has once again been cast; not only will Antti Poutanen (Church of The Dead) take over the bass full-time, but long-time drummer Pekka Koskelo will be vacating the seat as well. And I find myself asking a question that may not be very important, but one that bothers me all the same.

Hooded Menace did release a split with Algoma, introducing their new vocalist. “Celestial Dissection” is without a doubt a good song, but so many things don’t really feel the same anymore. Differences so small you can’t really point all of them out, but ones that you can’t help but notice. Though I remain excited for their upcoming material, with even more changes since – I wonder if Hooded Menace really even is the band I fell in love with anymore. Is there a point where line-up changes have taken something vital out of a band for you?

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