The ultimate problem with a lot of 21st century “metal” is something that has its roots planted as far back as the MTV-era, which is where metal (and many other genres) became more about the all-important video slot on the network than about the strength of your record. Now, obviously MTV itself isn’t as dominant of a force as it was in the ’80s, but that era set in place a set of strict rules that the music industry largely still follows today. What this set of rules has done is restrict the amount of experimentation and risk-taking that is allowed in the mainstream (if there even is one anymore). This is why Killswitch Engage and All That Remains, who sound virtually identical, get much more exposure than Vektor. Vektor should be receiving a ton of exposure, because of the fresh ways in which they’re expanding and interpreting thrash. Why aren’t they? Well, they simply aren’t trendy enough. Make no mistake, this is something unique to our time. The concepts of popular and underground have always been established, but Frank Zappa, for example, received exposure and praise in the ’70s without actually being part of the mainstream.
The fact is that the music industry has never recovered from the MTV-era and, in fact, things are worse now than they were then. The world has sped up over the past 30+ years and the music industry has far from been exempt from this. In a term, it’s about instant gratification; and so now, with each Born of Osiris or Thy Art Is Murder (Yes, the names did hurt to say.), the roots of the music dissipate further as the product becomes even more saturated and contrived. This is unsustainable. People will eventually grow tired of buying air. This generation can’t afford to have fair-weather listeners anymore. There is too much at stake. The djent resistance must be set in place (I volunteer myself and this site to lead.) and it must operate swiftly. Remember how thrash metal and grunge both acted as opposition to glam metal? Remember when punk rock acted as opposition to progressive rock and arena rock? The 21st century needs an opposition effort of its own.
This isn’t a trend that is unique to the music industry, of course. One needs to look no further than the mundane garbage that floods television networks to understand this. Honestly, does anybody actually find the endless amount of late night talk show hosts to be funny? Oh yes, the days of Letterman seem so long ago. The difference between Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, and Seth Meyers? Beats me. Sound familiar? What about the difference between “How I Met Your Mother”, “Two and a Half Men”, and “The Big Bang Theory”? I think you get the point. The only question is who has the willingness to push the pile anymore? Is our 21st century world simply too desensitized to push the envelope anymore? How would one exactly go about pushing the envelope in such a society? These are broad, tough questions that our world’s artists need to ask themselves. Someone needs to answer them and preferably quick.
The film industry is no different. Aren’t you all getting a little tired of the stale, lifeless superhero phase? What about the cutesy PG-13 action or comedy films that don’t even begin to scratch the surface of any kind of grit or edge? Is this not also reminiscent of many of the bands on today’s scene? Isn’t it about time that somebody injected a bit of life into our art and entertainment again? A metal band or an action film shouldn’t feel safe and cute. The beauty of a great extreme metal band or a ballsy action film is their ability to make you feel unsafe while simultaneously offering you some kind of promise at the finish line; something to stick around until the end for. When was the last time during the Marvel Cinematic Universe that you felt genuinely uneasy or surprised by some element of the plot, or even thrown for a loop by the ending? Was there ever a time when you were genuinely surprised by a specific innovative or unique riff on a metalcore record? This is no coincidence. Just think of metalcore and djent as the PG-13 comedies of the metal scene.
As you follow along throughout the music, film, and television industries, it becomes quite clear that popular culture (with a few notable exceptions), is much safer today than at any time in the past few decades. Risk-takers aren’t rewarded in the same ways that they used to be. Nowadays, there is a set formula that is tried and true that will always be looked upon as route number one. Of course, there always has been, but not to the degree that we are seeing today. This is simply unique. Many people will argue that this is the rambling of an old guy who’s out of touch (Think again, I’m a millennial.), but this is mistaken. Of course it’s true that there has always been a mainstream and an underground. No one will argue that fact. However, the degree to which the set in stone format for success in the music industry (metal included) rules the roost has never been more obvious and abused than it is right now. This goes beyond any old guy hates the new guy scenario and hits home on some troublesome aspects of 21st century’s popular culture.
And I, for one, am sick and tired of looking at this shit…