Any views or opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.
Vol. 2: Meshuggah, Djent, and Some Barely Coherent Babbling About Stagnation
This is guaranteed to piss some people off, but if there is one band that have managed to almost singlehandedly ruin an entire subgenre of music, it is Meshuggah. The constant fellating of Opeth’s post-Deliverance output was annoying, but it never really translated into any influence. So thankfully we didn’t get a whole legion of insipid Death-Doom bands with overlong acoustic interludes and frontmen labouring under the tortured illusion that they could actually sing. The constant rhetorical knob slobbering that music outlets have given to Meshuggah, on the other hand, has translated into a little cult of pretentious 8 string slinging hipsters who have thus far spent their entire career melding the tired pseudo-complexity and obnoxiousness of post-Chaosphere Meshuggah with the weepiness of late Nu Metal. Oh, and tapping, don’t forget tapping. This ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, is Djent. A genre so predictable, right down to its uniform, that as soon as you see the press photo of the collection of girly men in skinny jeans, problem glasses, and Chuck Taylors, or the bedroom shredder sporting a mental illness haircut whilst tightly clasping his headless 8-string guitar, you know exactly what you’re gonna get. The Djent song can be summed up thusly: Clean intro (usually on two guitars with lots of reverb, chorus, and delay, all digital of course), the “Rational Gaze” riff, the “Bleed” riff (with tapping over the top, always tapping), and some type of outro. Intersperse Slipknot meets Linkin Park verses and Linkin Park meets Coheed and Cambria choruses where applicable. I love Progressive Metal. When it is healthy, it’s a very diverse and vibrant genre. Unfortunately, the Meshuggah cult have spread so much and infected the genre so deeply that every time I see a glowing article from some metal blog or online magazine extolling the creative genius of some new Progressive Metal act, there’s a 99 percent chance they end up sounding like 7/8 of a Meshuggah clone and playing a song (and I use that term loosely) with the structure I outlined. It’s funny, If you had asked me back in 2003, just before its long overdue fall from grace, what I thought the worst trend in Metal was, I would have said Nu Metal. Worst band? Why the musically retarded 1999 graduates of the Des Moines School of Clowning of course: Slipknot. Now, though, I would definitely have to say Djent is the worst trend, and Meshuggah the worst band. There were some decent songs produced in the Nu-Metal genre early on, after all. Djent, however, has been creatively bankrupt and treading water from the word go. Which is perfectly understandable when you consider that the band whose music the genre piggybacks upon have been creatively bankrupt for the last twenty years. The idea that Djent is in any way progressive is laughable. So many people seem to associate the term Djent with Progressive Metal these days that it is effectively the public face of the genre. And when the sound representing a genre built upon the idea of pushing boundaries has effectively dragged said genre back 15 years and effectively nailed its feet to the ground there, it is in no way progressive anymore. In fact, I would go so far as to say that as long as this creatively bereft bastard child remains the public face of Prog Metal, Prog Metal is effectively dead. Before any of the cargo shorts and wallet chains crowd send me poorly spelled death threats over this rant, it should be noted that there was a time when I was genuinely a fan of Meshuggah. That is to say the work they produced when they were a metal band. I have a well worn copy of their first album that I bought (yes, bought music, what a quaint notion) back when I was first getting into progressive metal. Destroy, Erase, Improve, even Chaosphere are outstanding records, but there is no worse act to build an entire genre around than the outright garbage that that band transformed into after the release of that record. I don’t care how much sweep picking or how tap arpeggios you throw over it or how many faux emotive choruses you stick on it, it has all the entertainment value of listening to roadwork. The existence of Djent, and really the general stagnation of mainstream Metal at the moment can at least partially be blamed on some of the other metal blogs out there, like Metal Injection and a certain other somewhat related site that I promised I wouldn’t mention again, but they share the initials of my home state. Cats like that pissed and whined for years about how metal wasn’t taken seriously enough by the mainstream music press and it didn’t get enough respect and yadda yadda yadda, and then when that respect started to come, they immediately pivoted to bitching about how metal takes itself too seriously and needs more levity. Now, being a Death Metal fan, I can assure you Metal has had plenty of levity for a long time. Don’t impugn the sense of humour of the entire genre because your knowledge of it only extends to a bunch of Norwegian hipsters with a proclivity for facepaint, arson, and pretension. If you think a lot of those Death Metal lyrics aren’t written with tongue planted firmly in cheek, you have to be a stone cold moron. There is and always has been humour in metal music. It might be dark, it might be off colour, or “blue,” but its there. It doesn’t necessarily come with making monkeyshines in front of a webcam whilst covering “Expendable Youth” on a hammer dulcimer made out of rubber bands and a hat box. It doesn’t surprise me that the same people who continually signal boost such banal idiocy also continue to signal boost Djent. A genre that is itself partially perpetuated by the very same webcam buffoons that these self styled tastemakers think should be the face of metal. Certain outlets (you know who) also seem to be virtue signaling themselves out of covering particular bands, if not entire subgenres, at such an alarming rate, that all they can cover is Djent or the latest ambient-post-doom-black-gaze-death-shoe-core bands. Of course, I should probably not worry about it too much, because in a couple years time this Djent noise will probably be relegated to the same joke status as Nu Metal and there’ll be something else godawful turning my stomach and making my hair gray. Until next week, folks. Keep listening to metal and remember that 4/4 played at half time is still 4/4 and not an “odd time signature.”
Wednesday: I review the touching story of a boy and his raptor.