In the late 90’s, the state of heavy metal was one of concern. The airwaves were entrammelled with bland nu-metal, a subgenre that did away with the best elements metal had to offer. Leads were absent, too much emphasis was placed on fashion, and of course, every new band just had to squeeze in a touch of hip-hop. This wasn’t metal. But suddenly, “old school” ideologies began to upspring. Guitar solos made a comeback, metalheads began to grow their hair out, and all traces of rap had been eradicated. Okay, great. We get a bolstered version of Bay Area thrash that retains the intrinsic qualities of bands like Metallica, Exodus, and Kreator, only it’s infused with “new school” endowments that keep it from sounding stale. Perfect! What could possibly go wrong?
Like all intriguing trends, this fresh style (dubbed “metalcore” by label nerds) eventually grew redundant. All metalcore acts began to sound the same. But wait! There’s more! This group of cute, totally edgy guys calling themselves Avenged Sevenfold are utilizing more clean vocals and are even older school. Avenged Sevenfold (or A7X, as they’re adherents call them) appeal to teenagers who want desperately to rebel against the mainstream. Since A7X is unfortunately the heaviest thing on MTV, adolescent rejects latched onto them. Extended leads are “in.” Singing, as opposed to screaming, is “in.” Eyeliner is also “in,” but that’s a rant for another day.
Fine. I can tolerate one or two bands trying to sound like they recorded their material in 1986. Ah, but there’s a catch. A new trend is upon us. New bands want to sound exactly like old bands. Take Trivium, for instance. They started out as a harmless metalcore band that neither amazed nor appalled. Up to this point, lead singer/guitarist Matt Heafy embraced the all-too-common howl/croon method. On Trivium’s upcoming third album, however, he is opting to transfigure his vocal attack. He has decided to sing over everything, and coincidentally enough, he sounds eerily similar to Metallica’s James Hetfield circa 1988. Trivium’s music is also more Metallica-esque. Here again, we have a band seemingly under the impression that if you sound exactly like a metal pioneer did in their heyday, you are automatically “cool.”
Now for my opinion. Bands like Avenged Sevenfold and Trivium are missing the point. Do you know why Metallica and Megadeth are exalted by metalheads the world over? Because Master of Puppets and Peace SellsÃ¢Â?Â¦But Who’s Buying? were original and exciting for that time period. In 2006, a new thrash band sounds likeÃ¢Â?Â¦another thrash band. It’s not original or exciting anymore. If budding guitar virtuosos want to pay homage to their idols, they should do something new. I’m not suggesting that young players need to reinvent the wheel (or steel, if you prefer), but regurgitating tried formulas is a no-no. And lose the godforsaken eyeliner.