Redefining Metal: Explore Beyond Deftones

todayFebruary 10, 2023 331 14 4

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By Lane Dent

Music Journalist

Metal has been declining in popularity since the mid-2000s, but nu-metal has recently seen a spike in interest due to TikTok’s peak during the COVID pandemic. Seeing the fame that some ancient nu-metal acts have garnered, modern metal bands are starting to incorporate mainstream aspects from pop, rap and EDM genres, hoping it brings them the same success, and their fame has already started to show…

The last booming wave of metal occurred in the 2000s metalcore era. Bands like Killswitch Engage, As I Lay Dying, August Burns Red and Trivium led the movement with their Drop C tuning, dissonance, chugs and scream/clean vocal combination. This was the last time metal had true popularity. Electronic, alternative indie and pop music swept it under the rug for around a decade before the glimpses of a renaissance in 2020.

Through TikTok and other social media, metal emerged once again, but only a certain subgenre. Nu metal bands like Slipknot, Deftones and Korn somehow showed a sporadic growth in popularity, with very few songs going viral in short periods of time. With the resurgence in blunt, distorted guitar riffs and false chord screams, modern acts started to wonder if they could gain the same status.

Modern metal bands who are chasing this contemporary internet-fueled fame, are hoping that their similarities to the societally-beloved top 40 charts will put them on the map. These bands show an homage to the building blocks of metalcore: Extremely low tuning, harmonies, chugs and guitars of seven or eight strings, but they are gaining mainstream attention because of their rap/pop-influenced use of 808 trap bass drums, bright pop-synth progressions and clean vocals (added to the mix of fry screaming). Vocal pitch has risen, as well, to overpower the reputation of low guttural screams that causes amateur listeners to shy away from the metal genre as a whole.

Canadian Heavy Metal Band Spiritbox. By Andreas Lawen Foto: Andreas Lawen, Fotandi, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Spiritbox, the female-led modern metal band, released an EP that features soft-to-brutal vocals, catchy choruses, and ballad-like singing. Singer Courtney LaPlante’s muffled vocal effects on “Sew Me Up” and the atmospheric production on “Hysteria” bring these new songs into the rocktronic category, but these songs still stay true to metalcore with djent breakdowns, pick scrapes and drop F tuning.

Taken from the crowd, four band members on stage, a purple light shining down on them. (Left to right) Man playing guitar, man on drums, man singing in letterman jacket, another man on guitar.
Australian Metal Band Thornhill. By Sina Sabet
SinaSabet28, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Thornhill, a progressive metal quartet, are utilizing high-pitched belts, hazy ambient breaks, and synthesizer backup instrumentals to pander toward the mainstream, but in combination with pinch harmonics, speedy double kick drums, and layered heavy guitar riffs, they hold onto metalcore’s roots. The song “Views From The Sun” has technical off-beat rhythmic guitar combined with a hypnotic, reverberated backing track.

Four band members on stage at a skewed angle. (Left to Right) A guitarist, a bassist, a singer, and a guitar. Purple and pink stage lights shine down.
French Progressive Metal Band LANDMVRKS. By Stefan Bollmann, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons

LANDMVRKS, a French group crushing the genre-blending, incorporates hardcore elements with nasty breakdowns and feedback noise. On “Scars,” vocalist Florent Salfati’s strident screams are so fast; the rap influence is undoubtedly present. The song’s playful guitar lick is upbeat and energetic, adding pop to the ten genres that can be heard in this song. “Death” uses trap beats and rap-style vocals that heavily resemble nu-metal as well.

These bands are breaking the boundaries of what metal can be, a vital feat that could save metal from becoming irrelevant in the near future.

No matter what type of modern metal is being listened to, or if it’s just bands who have retired from this ever-changing whiplash of metal popularity, there is a subgenre of metal for everyone.

Featured Image by Andreas Lawen Foto: Andreas Lawen, Fotandi CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons 

Written by: Preethi Mangadu

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