POLL: IS THERE A PLACE FOR MELODY IN METAL????
I pride myself on being open minded, so it is very important to me that I consider both sides of an issue before I decide what I think about something! For example, I have always thought that “melodic metal” was a very confusing idea. To me, melody and metal are like oil and water: no common ground. In fact, I have always thought of them as polar opposites — it was always my basic rule that if a song is melodic, then it is by definition not metal.
That said, I know that not everybody feels the same about this as I do, so I thought that I should look into this issue a little more. I don’t like to make snap judgments, so in the interest of intellectual honestly I intend to take a FAIR AND BALANCED LOOK at MELODY IN METAL! In this post, I will share a few examples of both successful and unsuccessful uses of melody and let YOU be the judge — WE REPORT, YOU DECIDE!
You tell me: is there a place for melody in metal????
PART 1: SOME NON-SUCKY MELODIC METAL
I won’t lie, melody is not all bad! There are actually some bands who get better when they add melodic elements to their music, believe it or not. Yeah, it’s a short list, but I think it’s important to recognize that melody can sometimes be a good thing! I just don’t want anybody to be like “MELODY SUCKS ONLY BRUTAL PITT RIFFMENT IS WHATS UP!!” bc that is just ignorant. To that point, here are some examples of how melody can actually help a metal band!
Although music is a form of art, it is also how these guys make their living. With that in mind, I think it is OK that A7X uses as much melody as they do, because their business model is highly dependent on appealing to female consumers. All artists must make compromises if they are interested in monetizing their artistic endeavors, so I totally understand why these guys write so many melodic songs.
OK so at first when you hear this song you are like “Ugh why is there a ballad on this tape, I am fast forwarding to ‘Rise’!!!” I totally understand that because I did the same thing. I won’t lie, the main riff is kind of puss and the song basically sucks at first, but when the breakdown comes in at 1:15 all is forgiven! Obviously I would prefer it if they just did all breakdowns/heavy shit in all of their songs, but the point is that if you have a breakdown that’s heavy enough it can make up for a lot of melody elsewhere in the song!!
A lot of people will probably not think of these guys as “melodic metal,” but to me they are, if you use the process of elimination. Let me explain! There are basically only two kinds of metal: melodic and brutal, and Sunn 0))) is definitely not brutal, which means that they must be melodic. Makes sense when you think about it that way, right??
I love listening to these guys when I just want some background noise and I’m sick of my “Sounds Of The Rainforest” or “Tranquil Waves” CDs. In the case of Sunn 0))) “melody” is more about just having soothing, ambient textures of that wash over you and make you think of chill things like being one with nature.
Say what you want about Manowar, but these guys know how to write an anthem! Basically this is pop punk for metal dorks, only instead of writing about how the girl at the mall doesn’t like you (ala Blink-182), they write soaring, uplifting songs about lulzy stuff like being a warrior, going to Valhalla and riding motorcycles. The subject matter and costumes are different, but basically it’s all about having a good time with your friends like all good melodic/pop music.
These guys went from just another run-of-the-mill, retro thrash band who didn’t really stand out from the crowd, to one of the world’s best hard rock bands in just one album. The secret formula? The knob-twiddling of producer Bob Rock and a little dose of the mystery ingredient: MELODY. Ppl who are in bands should pay close attention– there is a reason this album sold over 50,000 copies!!
PART 2: SOME MELODIC METAL THAT IS CRAPPY
It was kinda hard to come up with some example of melody in metal that didn’t suck, but I did not have any trouble finding examples of melody that is lame!! I think anyone who has listened to metal for as long as I have (since late 2004/early 2005) will agree with me: there is nothing worse than when you think a band is going to be good, but then you listen to them and you are like “FUCK… they’re melodic!!!” :( A few examples:
Obviously these guys are like mega-influential but I never really got into them. When I was in high school the only people who were into Maiden were the groce burnouts and stoners who flunked/dropped out of regular high school and took welding classes at the vocational school instead (which was ironically named “Aim High“). With that in mind, I avoided Maiden for obvious reasons, and when I finally listened to them I was like “WTF this sounds like Wings or Yes but with stupid lyrics about crossbows, statues and ships.” *14 year-old self puts on Sepultura “Arise” again*
The tragic story of this band is eclipsed only by that incredibly shitty Onion TV show when it comes to things that should have been great but ended up a steaming pile of manure. DB’s first album is a mindblowing masterpiece of technical brutality (eg “Shroud of Impurity“), and IMO they should have quit while they were ahead. Their other albums are ruined by melody: track after track of noodly, self-indulgent nonsense full of Death riffs (at 45 rpm). Very sad, they could have been great if they stuck with what was working for them :/
At The Gates
From what I understand, ATG is the band that got everybody to play NWOBHM riffs but call them death metal. IDK, to me “melodic death metal” makes no sense, am I the only one?? How could death metal be melodic?!? To me that is an oxymoron, like “brutal indiepop,” “industrial bluegrass,” or “symphonic goregrind.”
I think what it comes down to is this: ATG and all the bands like them (Entombed, In Flames, Black Dahlia Murder, etc) are “death metal for ppl who don’t actually like death metal.” Yes they are screaming and playing fast but it’s basically just crappy versions of Iron Maiden riffs, only tuned down a few steps to trick you into thinking it’s heavy– pretty much the same thing as when all the hair metal bands tried to “go grunge” in the early 90s.
The Red Chord
It’s not so much that there is anything wrong with these guys: they are middle-of-the-road deathcore with lots of melody, breakdowns, wanky parts, and all the other stuff that kids jizz over these days. The issue with bands like TRC is that they are trying to do too many things at once. Are you brutal, or are you melodic?? You don’t want to be one of those bands like The Faceless or Between The Buried And Me who try to have one foot in both worlds and just end up sounding like a big jumbled mess. Pick a genre guys, you can’t be both!!!
Also, I’m not entirely sure why the “legit metal” crowd decided this is some kind of “seminal band” because I don’t see what makes them any different from the 9 zillion other bands like this. I can only assume it’s because TRC is less popular than say Suicide Silence or Winds Of Plague, and metal nerds always hate on bands who are popular.
Perfect example of what happens when you take old school NYDM and add melody: one of the most painfully dull, excruciatingly boring albums of the 20th century. Why didn’t they just follow the proven Pyrexia/Suffocation/Internal Bleeding formula??? Protip: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!!!
Anyone who liked Anthrax when they were still semi-good has thought the following a zillion times: “Man these guys would be so rad without that pussy singer!! Why don’t they have Scott Ian sing?!” It would just be like SOD, only hopefully without all those shameful novelty-metal albums they did in the 90s. Same story as all the thrash bands like Forbidden, Nuclear Assault, Violence, Overkill, Toxik, and countless others who I filed under “if only they had a different singer,” except it was even more disappointing since Anthrax were like a zillion times better than any of those bands and you couldn’t help but think of how much potential was there!!
PART 3: CONCLUSIONS
All in all, I think it’s hard to make any blanket statements about whether melody in metal is a good thing or not. Obviously in the vast majority of examples, melodic metal is sucky, but there are enough counter-examples that I think you have to take it on a case by case basis. Although as a rule of thumb you can say that melody and metal don’t mix, it is not always that simple.
Is the band using melody as a crutch, relying on it when they are too lazy to write something brutal (At The Gates)?? Did they start playing melodic stuff because, like Decrepit Birth, they got older, wimped out and ran out of ideas for death metal songs? Or was it a calculated move ala A7X to attract more girls and mainstream fans who don’t like heavier music? If it’s the latter then I think you have to respect their decision, but the point is that there are a lot of factors involved and I think you have to look at all of them before jumping to any conclusions! What do you guys think???
Is there a place for melody in metal?? Is it possible to play melodic metal that’s not sucky??? Are there any bands who should be more melodic, or is it only a marketing tool to appeal to simpletons, women, and other easily-fooled consumers?????
– Sergeant D