Battle of the Bands: MetalPosted 03/24/2011 01:58PM by Zach Roth as Article
I’ll admit I’m still growing into metal, but I do know that it is probably one of the largest and most divisive genres out there, usually requiring various adjectives and –core suffixes to even begin adequate classification. It’s also probably one of the most underappreciated. Being so caustic to the uninitiated listener, countless talented musicians that choose metal as their primary means of expression go overlooked. The least I can do is shed a little light on a few bands you haven’t yet heard of, right?
That being said, if you’ve been keeping up with my features, you’ll have already heard of It Starts With Alaksa and Sailing With Ghosts, two metal chart-toppers (both very worth checking out, too), so I’ll be filling in two spots with bands I particularly like, because I am as corrupt and biased as American Idol voting. Deal with it.
In the Wake of Tragedy (Rock / Metal)
First on my list, but currently second to It Starts With Alaska on the metal polls, In the Wake of Tragedy play that particular brand of derivative metalcore I complain about in most of my reviews falling within that genre. There’s a huge market for it out there, and I’m sure these dudes will do fine for themselves, but unless you’re really starved for keyboard core with chipmunk vocals, there are tons of bands doing it better right now. “In the wake of tragedy” would be the state I am in after listening to one of these songs, bitterly weeping for the death of creativity.
Marsera (Metal / Metal)
It worries me when bands repeat genres; they’re usually overcompensating. A band that lists metal twice is probably half as metal as their single-metal colleagues, and that’s more or less true for Marsera. These Quebecers are the musical equivalent of tar paper: cheap and rough—Stoner Metal for people who refuse to listen to Baroness and Mastodon because they only listed metal once in their genre bar on myspace.
This Ship Has Sailed (Screamo / Metal)
This Ship Has Sailed play that particular brand of derivative metalcore I complain about in most of my reviews falling within that genre. There’s a huge market for it out there, and I’m sure these dudes will do fine for themselves, but unless you’re really starved for keyboard core with—woah, déjà vu. To be fair, This Ship Has Sailed work their keyboards a little more. “FDL” even has an auto-tune and synth dubstepdown with a piano and electric drum outro, but I could throw a dart blindfolded at Victory Records recent discography and hear something just like this regardless of where I hit. Very astute band name, the keyboardcore ship has indeed sailed, and guess who’s still ashore?
Death Bed Confession (Metal / Rock)
I can tell these guys will sound different already because of instead of silly asymmetrical scene haircuts, they have goatees and skull caps on. At this point, I’m welcoming this. But let’s just wait until I actually liste—oh hey I must’ve mistakenly turned on Metallica how funny. I’m not sure I can yawn wide enough at this. The production values are definitely there, but Death Bed Confession sound undeniably 90s. If you’re down with that, they’re a decent listen. I must really be showing my age, but I was 8 when Load came out, so this does nothing for me.
Saturnalia (Metal / Rock)
Wow. Wow. Saturnalia, where have you been all my life? Go listen to “The Colline Gates” and then come back to this article. I’m hearing double scoops of early Protest the Hero sprinkled with rainbow chiptunes. Is this really happening in my ears right now? Saturnalia already won over the literature nerd in me with the mythology references; it’s just a bonus that the music is great too. While the instrumentation is definitely busy, there’s an acute attention to good songwriting at work that makes all the difference.
Cursed by Reason (Metal / Screamo)
I’m already acquainted with Cursed by Reason, because I was working on another secret Battle of the Bands feature the other night and stumbled across them. They’ve already lost points because I had to stop listening to Saturnalia, but I’ll try to regain some semblance of objectivity. My favorite thing about Cursed by Reason is that they don’t flaunt the fact that they have a GIRL among their ranks like a lot of other bands are doing in this competition. She’s just a guitarist, and yeah, okay, she’s in front in their promo pics, but it’s not like they built a metal band around a pop singer just because she was a girl because metalheads are 99% lonely men. It’s almost refreshing that she’s just a member of their band. I realize that I’m totally ruining this by pointing her out, so let’s forget she exists. My second favorite thing about the band is that they operate within the genre of metal without sounding as derivative and samey as the first three bands in this article. They certainly aren’t pushing any boundaries, but they also aren’t walking them like a tightrope.
Right to Fall (Rock / Metal)
Right to Fall play a radio-friendly brand of hard rock. It’s the kind of music you want to play when you’re sewing a black, sleeveless sweater with needles made of sharpened ribs. It’s heavy, it’s gritty, but there’s melody underneath all the aggression.
MONOGON (Metal / Metal)
MONOGON is another double-metal band. Vocals certainly need some work; he’s got the elocution of Hopesfall’s Jay Forrest. Otherwise, there’s a definite stoner-vibe at work; however, the music is very samey. There’s a reason that Mastodon has a Grammy, and it’s not because their music runs together like dirt clods in a downpour. Despite bright spots of competence, MONOGON are eye-rollingly mediocre.
Here Lies the Hero (Metal / Experimental)
I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the combination of metal and experimental, only to hear a cookie-cutter metal band that isn’t even close to earning that experimental tag. One of the few bands that live up to their own classification is Here Lies the Hero. These Texans are severely underappreciated. The variety of the five songs on their profile outstrips full-length albums that I’ve listened to. Think Oceana meets Broadway. A real treat hidden amongst the mediocrity that currently owns the metal charts.
In Her Memory (Metal / Rock)
Another underappreciated band in the same vein as Here Lies the Hero, In Her Memory hit fast and hard, have great production values, and manage to throw a few open-sea worthy hooks into the mix (see, open-sea fishing requires very strong hooks because the fish you are fishing for are huge and they will snap that shit in two and I was using hooks as double entendre because hooks are also catchy parts in songs and… nevermind). The real tragedy here is that they only have two songs up to listen to. Their music is concise, but the instrumentation is impressive and diverse. No, scratch that, the real tragedy is that this band is still unsigned.
All in all, I’m pretty disappointed with the frontrunners in the metal genre. Maybe I just don’t know what I’m talking about, but it seems like the best bands in this genre are buried treasures hidden beneath the first page. At this point I feel like a Super Hipster: “Nah man, the only good music is the underground of the underground. You go find the underground bands, but you say fuck it to the bands on the front page of the underground, cos they’re mainstream underground, dude.”
For those of you with small attention spans and poor reading comprehension, I REQUIRE you to listen to Saturnalia, but definitely do check out Here Lies the Hero and In Her Memory. And hey, Right to Fall and Cursed by Reason aren’t half bad either.