Battle of the Bands: ExperimentalPosted 03/30/2011 11:06AM by Zach Roth as Article
If it isn’t already apparent from my other three Battle of the Bands features, I am a sucker for bands doing it differently. I’m hopeful that the Experimental category will not disappoint. Too many bands tag themselves as experimental, but their bio reads, “So we play metal, right? Well guess what? Are you sitting down? We play metal that has keyboards in it!” I mean, yeah, that was experimental as hell a half-decade ago. Nowadays it’s about as experimental as mixing vinegar and baking soda.
As for the top bands in the experimental category, we’ve already seen Sailing with Ghosts and Schmegma, so I’ll fill-in with some bands I think are worthy. I’m hoping for crazy diversity. Don’t let me down, Experimental!
From Under the Heavens (Metal / Experimental)
That’s some classy watermarking, Mr. Band-Photographer. From Under the Heavens kick off my experimental binge with a nauseating wave of disappointment. They’re not bad, they’re just barely different enough to differentiate themselves from other metal bands, let alone different enough to be even barely classed as experimental. And y’know what? I’ve had enough metal. If I run across another Metal / Experimental band, if they aren’t creating miniature stable black holes with their breakdowns, I am skipping them. LOOK WHAT YOU DID FROM UNDER THE HEAVENS.
The Promethean Labyrinth (Experimental / Metal)
…Oh come on! What did I just say?! I mean, I guess Experimental / Metal isn’t Metal / Experimental. Fine. What the The Promethean Labyrinth lack in polish, and music and vocals that are generally pleasing to the ears, they make up in actually being experimental. There’s a lot of potential in these busy, lo-fi recordings, and I’d definitely be curious to hear what these guys sound like in a year’s time.
Like Beasts (Experimental / Screamo)
I don’t have any silly turns-of-a-phrase for this band. Straight-up, Like Beasts are outstanding. They give me a heavy Defeater vibe, with a little bit of Life in Your Way’s penchant for ambience. The lyrics are earnest and literate, and the music is well-crafted and real. Melodic hardcore at its finest. I’ve been looping the two songs they have up for about a half an hour.
The August Name (Rock / Experimental)
The August Name make me think The Receiving End of Sirens, or maybe Blueprints for the Black Market-era Anberlin—driving rock songs mixed with silky-smooth post-hardcore. Get ready for an obscure name-drop, but the vocals also have a real Slow Coming Day sort of feel. Overall, it's a nice trifecta of melodic rock references. These guys write tunes that are genuinely interesting, which is more than I can say for a lot of bands I've heard in this competition so far (and bigger ones that I've been reviewing this year). Also, "Eleven Minutes" has a little cello, and neither I nor Bill Cosby argue with cello. Or was that... oh, nevermind.
Scarecrows for Hire (Screamo / Experimental)
Really? This band has over four thousand votes? In case you can’t read it (you can’t, I shrunk the hell out of that image), that young man’s guitar reads: “Mean people suck.” He’s right, I do suck, but so do Scarecrows for Hire, and I don’t care if that’s mean and sucky of me to say. The lyrics are Pierce the Veil-bad, the vocals are locked into sour notes, and the instrumentation is sloppy and bland. Granted, this band is young, but they’ve got a lot of growing to do.
I, Apparatus (Screamo / Experimental)
I’m going to give I, Apparatus a solid “good.” They blend metalcore with hardcore and throw in some noodly guitar work—kinda like heavier Manipulator-era The Fall of Troy, y’know, except with good production. They pack a lot of diversity into the two songs they have on their page. And if we’re doing straight genre-to-genre comparisons, they blow Scarecrows for Hire away like a thousand-foot wall of jet turbines.
Only at Night (Rock / Experimental)
Now we’re getting into experimental territory! Only at Night are some bizarre amalgamation of Voltaire and the B-52s—macabre, electro lounge music. If no drugs were used in the writing of these songs, I will be genuinely shocked. Points for being different, but, to quote some of their lyrics, “avoid the insanity parade.”
Ocean Lies Ahead! (Experimental / Screamo)
The clean vocals are the best part about this affront to all that is good in this world, and they come courtesy of Saul Castillo of Emerson Grey. Emerson Grey have about 3,000 less votes, somehow. Go check them out instead.
Evelynn (Metal / Experimental)
Evelynn only have one song up, but they’ve got surprisingly good production values. The only reason I’m including them is because their lead singer hits higher notes than the castrated lovechild of Anthony Green and Michael Jagmin. That’s impressive.
Crimes Against Broadway (Alternative / Experimental)
Crimes Against Broadway also have only one proper song up, but I’m giving them the Zach Roth Golden Thumbs-Up of Approval. They play Emarosa-influenced post-hardcore with sky-high vocals. I mean, not Evelynn high, of course, but vocalist Chad Miranda has a pretty respectable set of pipes.
Modern American Theatre (Indie / Experimental)
A refreshing change of pace from all this damn screaming, Modern American Theatre are a divine combination of Maps & Atlases and Paramore, and I can’t recommend them more highly. Their particular brand of cheery indie has some serious musical chops backing it up. I’ve actually bought their album already (the entirety of which you can listen to on their page), and you should too. Listen to “Out for Blood” and tell me that track isn’t a thick slice of awesome. You won’t.
And that about wraps up my foray into the experimental category. While it’s nice that the aggressive genres are burgeoning, I’m kind of disappointed in how much they monopolize this category. A good majority of bands on the first four pages are either metal or screamo / experimental (with very little that sets them apart from each other). And if not, they are “rock” or “alternative” and are instead varying degrees of post-hardcore. I guess I was just hoping for more bands like Modern American Theatre; instead, this is basically Battle of the Bands: Metal II. Oh well, I’ve still got about eight thousand bands to go!
Alright, class. Homework for tonight is to listen to Like Beasts and Modern American Theatre. The August Name, Crimes Against Broadway, and I, Apparatus are pretty good too, so they’ll be optional extra credit. Hit the books!