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Mr. Fisting Comments: Evolve or Die
August 27th, 2014 at 12:54pm

CastilloAs someone who entered the world of metal during the mid-1990s, I quickly got used to bands evolving and changing established formulas. We never knew if someone’s next album was going to go techno, or go punk rock, or invent new subgenres entirely. Granted, a lot of these “experiments” had commercial motives behind them, and oftentimes the results straight-up sucked. But still, there’s something to be said for being surprised.

Looking at the current metal landscape, I see a general lack of surprises. So many bands are now concerned with mere survival, attempting the increasingly impossible task of making a living off of music. Predictably, this leads to a mentality of “giving the people what they want.” The next album Obituary makes will probably sound a lot like their last one. Ditto for SuffocationTestamentCrowbarMachine Head, and countless others. Even Metallica, the reigning kings of fucking around and disappointing everyone, played it safe with their latest album Death Magnetic.

Sadly, all of these bands have learned (sometimes the hard way) that change is not looked upon fondly by most metal fans. In the interest of paying the rent, they have chosen not to risk alienating anyone at all. Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth described this mindset as “the desire to be a creative artist…exchanged for considering a band as almost some type of corporation,” which I think is a fair comparison. McDonalds and Coca-Cola are never going to change the recipe as long as people keep buying it; neither is Dream Theater

For a lot of bands, this approach seems to be working. These albums typically get good reviews, the bands continue to tour and play festivals, the kids buy t-shirts, and all is well…except for one thing:

Man-sleeping-and-snoring-overhead-view

THIS MUSIC IS FUCKING BORING.

I fail to see the point in listening to retreads of older records, or any music that’s completely derivative. It’s like watching a movie for the second time; you know damn well how it’s going to end. It’s pathetic. And it paints heavy metal — a genre built on rebellion and pissing people off — as being conservative and hopelessly trapped in the past. We may appreciate Motorhead for reliably making the same record over and over again, but they should be the exception, not the rule. And by clinging to the tried and tr00 while resisting any kind of change, we risk turning into our dads. Which A) is really lame, and B) would mean the end of metal as a relevant genre of music.

Granted, there are plenty of artists that are still pushing the boundaries and occasionally offending people who need to be offended. The aforementioned Opeth is a good example. So are MayhemAnathema, and Ihsahn, to randomly name a few. There are also newer groups like Baroness and In Solitude who are building something original out of their influences. These bands don’t give a flying fuck what the Metal Cred Patrol® thinks, and we should be grateful that they don’t.

To me, the issue isn’t “why aren’t more bands taking risks,” but “why is altering the status quo even considered a risk?” So let me ask you this: Why are we rewarding bands for playing it safe? Why are we buying re-recordings of albums from the ’80s, or going to live shows where old records are performed front-to-back? Have we been burned by too many Iliud Divinum Insanus‘ and St. Anger‘s to keep an open mind? Are we such creatures of habit that the only thing we ask of bands is “hey, do that again”?

More importantly, what is it that YOU want to hear?

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