Thursday, November 02, 2006


From the top to the very bottom, the biggest to smallest, there is no music more broadly scrutinized, dismissed or loved than metal. I know, I know, it’s a sweeping and arguably ignorant statement and one that could be argued by classical music and Steely Dan fans everywhere but I’m referring to music listeners of all ages and cultures. Let’s be honest, Classical music, like Criterion DVD’s or a good pen can only properly appreciated by people at least over the age of thirty and if someone younger claims otherwise they’re either lying to impress or have lost their entire youth locked in a room with a viola. As for Steely Dan, well, either you get it or you don’t and if you don’t I pity your unfortunate soul for you are not even remotely as ‘nerd cool’ as you think you are. Donald Fagen, Walter Becker, myself, my dad, my uncle, and other geniuses are laughing at you.

It’s a complicated world of genres, sub-genres, sub-sub genres and laughable styles that is both intimidating and for the most part a complete waste of time to even try to follow. This is of course the primary reason those who choose to follow it even bother. It’s like collecting hockey or baseball cards. It’s expensive, wastes space, is detailed oriented and all about the thrill of discovery. You are willing to sift through months of junk just for that one solid find. It’s a risky game, entering a room of cynical metal heads that have seen and heard it all. You throw in your tape or CD, or connect your mp3 player, it’s building inside, ‘they’ll love this’, you think to yourself, ‘I can’t believe they haven’t heard this band yet, they’re going to be so blown away’. Are they though? Was I tired when I heard it? Am I completely off? It’s a risk you take and a risk you love. Of course the pay-off is never instant. Like any metal head they won’t give you the immediate satisfaction. That usually comes a few weeks later when you’re in a car with all of them and they somehow now know the good parts. From there it’s air guitars, air drums, and winced eyed head-nodding all around. You’ve done it, time to start the search again.

The complications, though, arise from so many levels which is what makes the genre so difficult to crack into. As a metal head you are willing to listen to almost everything, for a few seconds. The reality is that that’s usually all it takes. If you’re seasoned enough, those two seconds aren’t even necessary and your seemingly closed-mindedness can be perfectly justified. Take a look at your current local metal scene; chances are the bands with the biggest draws are those with the tightest black pants and the biggest high-tops. If you’ve been to one of their shows you were most likely surrounded by a crowd full of people who wouldn’t know Alex Skolnick from Alex Van Halen while they feign interest in a below mediocre band playing songs that are less engaging than listening to a co-worker re-count the dream they had last night. There’s a reason why the most technically proficient musicians look like complete dorks and this reason is something I shouldn’t have to explain.

Here’s where it becomes difficult. Where the fine line blurs, fades, and hides. The local band wearing brand new 1990 Reebok Pumps would argue that they’re old-school, which is perfectly fair as long as you accept that your band will never go anywhere. The second you become that ‘old school band’ in town, that’s it. You’ve dug a stylistic hole that you’ll likely never recover from. The upside of course being that you at least had women at your shows which naturally meant that your audience was doubled, until you tried to evolve your sound. Then the quasi-interested metal heads forgot about you and moved on to some other old-school indulgence to party to in between Deicide binges, the girls left because they discovered some other band with tighter pants on Myspace and their boyfriends finally lost interest because their thirst to be the first to say that they found the new Wolf____ became too much for them to withstand. It’s ok though, shelling out all that extra cash to release a 7 inch was worth it in the end wasn’t it? At least that’s what Slayer would have done in ’84.

The opposite and likely adverse effect to this is a band like The Dillinger Escape Plan. These guys always seem to be ahead of the game, are remarkably proficient technically, and pretty much anti everything. Interestingly enough though is that if you go to a Dillinger show you’ll likely be surrounded by a crowd that wouldn’t know Jim Henson from Jim Martin (you see, I use Jim Martin because most people who would claim to follow Dillinger would be likely to name drop Mike Patton who is widely accepted in the ‘cool’ category as is Faith No More, but probably wouldn’t recognize the bespectacled wonder that was Mr. Martin – aka I’m pretentious). Anyway, I respect DEP but I’ll be damned if I can get through an entire record of theirs. If you haven’t heard them, imagine taking four Steely Dan albums, over-lapping them all, continually speeding up and then slowing down the music, and all this while putting a barking dog next to you while you listen to it. It’s pretty self indulgent stuff and I do encourage you to see them live as their performance is comparable to playing dodgeball with a bee-hive instead of a ball.

What all this could really be traced to is a potential personal indictment of all things power metal. Well, not all things, only things post 80’s. This is unfair of course…yeah, whatever. My point is when it comes to metal, if you have elements to your music that are references to something old and you are not making any attempts to mold or update it than you are likely wasting your time. If you can impress your friends with a wailing falsetto think twice before you put a band together for the sole purpose of making others listen to you sing like Rob Halford. The reality is that you probably suck and don’t sound remotely as good not to mention your lack of Tipton and Downing. It’s a combination of elements that make a great band, not one gimmick. On that note, my apologies to Dragonforce, you’ve got a lot of talent but let’s be honest, you’re robots making the soundtrack for the video game called life.

If you’ve made it this far here is your reward. A British band that I only discovered yesterday and was inspired enough to write about today (if you check for updates at all you can appreciate the meaning of this). They’re called Biomechanical and while they do contain elements previously discussed (mainly high vocals) they are without question taking these elements and processing them through a technical thrashing blender of full on fury and boulders to the face. It’s fast, riff riddled and aggressive. The vocals go from the gut to the top of your head with the high stuff executed very strongly. The worst thing about the fact that they’re touring with EXODUS is that they’re not playing in my living room.

Go HERE and listen to Enemy Within. If you don't like it you're definitely not ready for Aja.