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thomash
Metal Philosopher

Joined: Tue Oct 31, 2006 6:31 pm
Posts: 1855
Location: United States
PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2009 2:27 pm 
 

As with any (worthwhile) musical genre, there are many different possible ways to enjoy metal. I've always been very interested in the idea that there are basically two types of ways that music can appeal to its listeners. I'm particularly interested because I see both types in particularly acute conflict in metal. Metalheads can't seem to agree on which is more important, resulting in the common laments regarding metal's musical direction. I think that metalheads often become frustrated because the metal scene can't seem to resolve the conflict between the two; both seem to be very important in metal.

On one hand, music can focus on accessibility; this type of music is generally called 'popular' in the West. Advocates of this type of music argue that musical complexity isn't necessary for music to be worthwhile and fun. Often, this results in a backlash against musicians and bands that introduce too much complexity because this is seen as inauthentic, sacrificing the visceral effect of the music for 'pretentious' displays of musical skill. In metal, this type is often championed by straightforward, traditional styles and 'raw' styles of music. In the extreme metal underground, it often goes hand in hand with punk influences, but it's also apparent in 'old-school' styles. (Ironically, it's also apparent in many of the 'poser' styles, particularly metalcore.)

On the other hand, there are those who find musical value in complex arrangements, technical virtuosity, and unusual musical progressions. This aesthetic philosophy seems to value density in musical content, so to speak; music is interesting when there's more to hear and find in it. As a result, these people tend to favor new sounds, seeking things that they haven't heard before. Consequently, this aesthetic philosophy is much less conservative with regard to musical styles than is the other. A lot of oft-maligned bands are rejected insofar as they belong to this category - Behold... the Arctopus, recent Deathspell Omega, and much of technical/brutal death metal.

Of course, these categories simplify a broad range of musical possibilities and most metal bands attempt to integrate both types into their music. Even the catchiest flower metal band will often draw from the latter category in solos. The categories are merely there to provide a framework for a discussion of what metal is and should be. I would like for this thread to offer direct discussion on issues that are often important but not often explicit on this board. Metalheads generally have ideas about what metal is and, more importantly, what it should be; I know I do. In posing the following questions, I assume that there is such a thing as 'bad' metal, so don't worry about sugar-coating your thoughts with the mantra of opinion; instead, identify the maxims that you think should be made universal in metal. If there are none, then say so.

What is it about metal that you enjoy? What musical characteristics do you consider detrimental in the genre? Also, how do you think metal ought to progress or should it focus on exploring the full possibilities of established styles? What role should musical experimentation play in metal and what types of musical experimentation do you think are valid and/or productive?


Last edited by thomash on Wed Apr 08, 2009 9:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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wight_ghoul
Metal newbie

Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2004 1:44 pm
Posts: 294
Location: Canada
PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2009 2:59 pm 
 

Well right away I'd say that simple/complex being associated with accessible/less accessible isn't a very accurate way of looking at things. Opeth and Children of Bodom are more complex than Von and Ildjran, yet I would say they are far more accessible... I don't think it's very accurate to attempt to simplistically associate "accessibility" with what shows up on sheet music.

I think these two styles are in conflict to some extent, but only at the extreme ends... there are those who refuse to listen to anything simple or minimalistic or that doesn't have complex solos and riffs, and there are those that are adamantly opposed to anything that could remotely be considered "wank." The most fertile ground in metal probably lies between extremes of complexity and minimalism.

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thomash
Metal Philosopher

Joined: Tue Oct 31, 2006 6:31 pm
Posts: 1855
Location: United States
PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2009 3:27 pm 
 

wight_ghoul wrote:
Well right away I'd say that simple/complex being associated with accessible/less accessible isn't a very accurate way of looking at things. Opeth and Children of Bodom are more complex than Von and Ildjran, yet I would say they are far more accessible... I don't think it's very accurate to attempt to simplistically associate "accessibility" with what shows up on sheet music.

I think I should clarify that. I seem to have used the term in a sense different from how it is normally used. Anyway, what I meant was that it's easy to understand everything that going on in the music; it's immediately apparent in an Amon Amarth song, for example, what the riff is. In this sense, I think that Von and Ildjarn are also 'accessible,' although I agree that they're 'inaccessible' in the sense that their style of music is something of an acquired taste.

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vigilius_haufniensis
Metal newbie

Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2009 2:48 pm
Posts: 76
PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2009 3:32 pm 
 

I can definitely agree with certain types of black metal being inaccessible. Try as I might to give all metal a fair hearing, most black metal usually just grates on my nerves (which is probably what it is supposed to do). So far four levels have been distinguished. Complex and inaccessible. Complex but accessible. Simple and accessible. Simple and inaccessable. The most interesting question, I think, is what is appealing about the fourth category? I think most black metal and ambient fit hear, as well as a lot of grind, brutal death, and hardcore punk. What is it that makes this music "appealing"? Why would anyone like this stuff? I'm not saying that in such a way so as to put it down; I like a lot of music that fits into that category, but the origins of my affinity elude me.

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RageW
Marisa's Harlot

Joined: Sun Sep 07, 2008 11:44 am
Posts: 839
Location: Colombia
PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2009 3:36 pm 
 

vigilius_haufniensis wrote:
The most interesting question, I think, is what is appealing about the fourth category?

What's not to like about Welcome to Hell/Deathcrush/Transilvanian Hunger? The riffs are there, the evil as fuck atmosphere is there, the headbanging is there...Unless you don't consider those classics as 'inaccessible'.
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theposega
Poser Slayer Grindman Arselick Level X

Joined: Tue Mar 11, 2008 9:42 pm
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Location: Basedworld
PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2009 9:31 pm 
 

I enjoy almost all aspects of metal across the spectrum. From the pure evil of "Severed Survival" to the technical unholiness of albums like "Planetary Duality" or "Epitaph". Accessibility doesn't really mean anything to me. It just means maybe I won't be alone in liking it.
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thomash
Metal Philosopher

Joined: Tue Oct 31, 2006 6:31 pm
Posts: 1855
Location: United States
PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2009 9:38 pm 
 

I think the thread is getting a bit off-topic. I don't really want this to be about how accessible metal should be, per se. What I want to know is: Should metal focus on straightforward riffs or should it be more experimental? What do you want to hear metal do in the next few years?

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theposega
Poser Slayer Grindman Arselick Level X

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2009 9:41 pm 
 

I think real metal is going down the right path right now. Technicality is the way of the future. I mean, sure, the old-school/raw, straight-ahead stuff is great, but that's been done to death. I wouldn't mind hearing some more left-field fusion genres either. Like doom/grind or something.
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Empyreal
The Final Frontier

Joined: Thu Nov 30, 2006 6:58 pm
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2009 9:41 pm 
 

What do I like about metal, huh...well, I know it's pretty much obvious to most people who are familiar with my posts here, but I am mostly a fan of the less technical and spastic spectrum of the genre. While I don't lean only toward the bands that keep it simple and easy to understand, I like bands that keep their songwriting to a mostly linear style without too many deviations into drastically different elements or progressions. I like well written music that stays within the boundaries of one singular sound, because that shows a talent I find extremely admirable.

I don't mind predictability in my metal (to some degree), as long as the songs have energy to them and some sort of aural hook that I find appealing enough - a certain atmosphere, a certain type of riffing, the vocals, et cetera. It's a pretty broad spectrum, that, but I just like music with energy and heart to it. If it sounds too dull, lifeless or limp-wristed I won't listen to it. If it is too unambitious and flat, I won't listen to it.

The most detrimental thing to metal is the holding back and restraining of fury or passion. Bands that water down their sounds into a smooth, dry polish that gets old after a few listens. Metal should always be larger than life and extreme and grand, and bands that bring it back down with self-piteous lyrics or safe, unambitious song structures that don't even really try to be anything more than "adequate" and "listenable" might as well just fucking break up now.

My favorite genre of metal is the more traditional Heavy Metal leanings. I love epic riff build-ups and catchy, face-smashing guitar wizardry and lyrics about fantasy and horror and the occult. I like bands who can lose me in a quagmire of transcendent riffery and melodicism, who can transport me to other worlds or inspire me with a triumphant chorus and verse arrangement. I like all types of metal, but this...this will never get old.
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kwellada
Metal newbie

Joined: Sun Mar 12, 2006 11:48 am
Posts: 197
Location: Canada
PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2009 9:41 pm 
 

thomash wrote:
I think the thread is getting a bit off-topic. I don't really want this to be about how accessible metal should be, per se. What I want to know is: Should metal focus on straightforward riffs or should it be more experimental? What do you want to hear metal do in the next few years?


Metal should be whatever the musicians want it to be. I leave it in their capable hands. The thing is that if you don't like one aspect of metal, there's probably something you'll love in another area.
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Perplexed_Sjel
Metalhead

Joined: Mon Feb 13, 2006 3:33 pm
Posts: 2182
Location: Afghanistan
PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2009 9:42 pm 
 

thomash wrote:
What is it about metal that you enjoy? What musical characteristics do you consider detrimental in the genre? Also, how do you think metal ought to progress or should it focus on exploring the full possibilities of established styles? What role should musical experimentation play in metal and what types of musical experimentation do you think are valid and/or productive?


I enjoy the fact that its true to life. Metal is the most honest genre, in my eyes and I consider myself to be a brutally honest person, to the put of being a blunt prick, just like a lot of metal musicians. :) I find connections between my personality and metal, as a whole. My first love is black metal and when I first got into it, I enjoyed it because it was the only form of music I had heard that corresponded with how I felt. I was angry, it was angry. I was sad, it was sad. It felt how I felt when no one else did and that meant a lot to me. In many ways, music became my vice, my safe haven. A place I could always visit in my head (which is important) and leave the outside world until I felt comfortable enough going back to it, which explains why I listen to music everywhere I go.

Simplicity and honesty are what I value most in terms of metal. As I've grown older, I have developed more appreciation for the experimental and the avant-gardé, but I will always come back to my simplistic black metal that resonates in me.

I personally feel metal is progressing well. As an avid fan of black metal, like I've said, people focus on the 'good old days' far too much and it pisses me off. I think metal, especially black, is in a far greater position now than ever before. Yes, we might have one too many DSBM bands, but there are so many bands out there now (due to the creation of the internet - THANK YOU for that, by the way!) that it doesn't really matter how much shit there is because it will never consume the entire genre. Metal is progressing well, in my eyes.

Experimentation can play its role however it wants to. I am keen to let metal develop any way it wants. If you don't move with it, you get left behind etc etc ... Having said that, I would like to see more 'exotic' instruments being implemented into metal, more experimentation with instruments would be nice.

*Rambles*

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KingVold
Metalhead

Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2008 10:05 am
Posts: 1082
Location: United States of America
PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2009 9:44 pm 
 

I think metal should focus on both. To me, thats what makes metal so great. you have talentless, fun, bands like Venom and uber-technical shredmasters like Necrophagist. Metal is the most varied form of music (Except maybe World or Folk, which are broad terms) to my ears.

I also dont think the simplistic, fun bands are commercial. The form of music that most embodies this, punk, is still underground, although, like metal, ti exists in commercialized forms.

To me, Commercialization is the death of art.

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BastardHead
Magic Mike

Joined: Thu Aug 18, 2005 7:53 pm
Posts: 5261
Location: Oswego, Illinois
PostPosted: Thu Apr 09, 2009 1:56 am 
 

Metal as a whole shouldn't really focus on going in only one direction. The beauty of metal is how diverse and intricate it is. But even then, the genres themselves shouldn't really push for one direction or another. There are great bands in virtually every subsubsubgenre of metal. Let's look at just one style, doom. We've got the traditional sound, the epic sound, the funeral, and many others. Each one has a sound that works well with certain bands. Sure, Confessor's attempt at technical doom fell fairly short but the point is that it was even possible in the first place. Even in a genre that's fairly divided like death metal. Where one camp complains about all of the new tech death bands being pointless flair and praising the old school style and the other bitching about how boring the old school sound is whilst playing 255 bpm sweeps with their dicks. The point remains that Odious Mortem shouldn't try to sound like Cardiac Arrest nor vice versa.

So what I'm trying to say is that nothing should really try to go towards either style as a whole. It should go on a band by band basis, and whatever that band is good at should be what they do.
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zuke2323
Metal newbie

Joined: Wed Apr 02, 2008 3:36 pm
Posts: 112
Location: United States
PostPosted: Thu Apr 09, 2009 2:25 am 
 

BastardHead wrote:
So what I'm trying to say is that nothing should really try to go towards either style as a whole. It should go on a band by band basis, and whatever that band is good at should be what they do.


This. To me that's what makes metal so great, is that it covers such a vast array of styles and approaches to music. Metal as a whole should not try to become more simple OR more complex, because going either way would cut out a lof of great music. I happen to be able to enjoy both approaches (simple and complex) because I can see the merit in both. Flashy solos and constant time signature changes would sound really weird in an Immortal or Amon Amarth, whereas repetitive riffs and a lack of technicality would make Symphony X significantly less enjoyable (in my mind).

I love Dio, even though their song structures are predictable and I could almost tell you where the solo is going to be, because that's what works for that kind of music. I also enjoy Wintersun because it is often impossible to guess what is going to come next; every time I listen to the s/t Wintersun album I hear something that I have never heard before.

Metal as a whole should not strive to go in one direction; there is too much to enjoy at both ends of the spectrum.

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thomash
Metal Philosopher

Joined: Tue Oct 31, 2006 6:31 pm
Posts: 1855
Location: United States
PostPosted: Thu Apr 09, 2009 11:55 am 
 

While I agree with a lot of the posts so far, I think we might be able to go a bit deeper. What I love about metal is that, at its best, metal can combine intricacy with energy. From the beginning, and by the 'beginning' I mean Black Sabbath, metal bands have demonstrated their ability to show their chops while maintaining cadences that make for some very moving, headbang-inducing material. This, to me, is what makes metal so great as a genre: it can combine the best of both types of music.

However, I think that metal is constantly subject to internally divisive forces precisely because some bands belong to one type more than another. Recently, it seems that a lot of metalheads have been gravitating to one style or the other. As, I admit, I tend to belong more with those metalheads who give priority to intricacy, I often feel like there are a lot of metalheads who dismiss innovations too readily. It seems that denigrating bands that introduce new influences to metal has become a pastime for the subculture; new extreme metal, in particular, seems, unjustly, to be used for target practice.

Perhaps I'm seeing a problem where there is none. However, the fact that I perceive the problem makes me ask: How does/can metal reconcile the two sides? As a tentative answer, I propose that metal would do better at reconciling the Apollonian and Dionysian drives it expresses if technical innovation were given a more respected place within metal. Not all innovations are worthwhile, but they do create fertile ground for new bands by stirring up the soil, metaphorically speaking.

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