digbyIf I’d known about the Ask Earache blog — in which Earache founder Digby Pearson offers “GET STRAIGHT ANSWERS ON ANY EARACHE-RELATED TOPIC WITHOUT THE BULLSHIT” — I’d surely have been reading it by now (thanks, Ian, for sending in the link). It should go without saying that any president, CEO or even employee of any company has to realize that it’s impossible to give truly straight answers about something you’re so involved with and invested in. It’d be like if I proclaimed myself an authority on straight answers for all things Axl Rosenberg-related, you’d all cry bullshit (and rightly so) since not only is he my business partner and friend but I’ve known the guy since we were 5 years old and I’d defend him to the nines. Still, you could at least expect well thought out and cohesive articles, and I gotta give Dig credit here doing a good job with Ask Earache and at least offering some level of transparency with regards to a record label’s operations.

But you’re reading this article because you wanna know how he defends the gobs of new wave thrash bands he’s signed. Earache, perhaps more than any metal label, has been at the forefront of the thrash revival with bands such as Municipal Waste, Evile, Gama Bomb and Bonded by Blood. So, what are Dig’s thoughts on the movement, the bands, and how re-thrash fits into the ever-evolving pantheon of modern metal?

Here’s the original question, submitted to Digby by a reader/fan:

Dig, speaking about the future of metal, and extreme music. Do you SEE one? Earache is focusing on the thrash revival movement, a conservative throwback that is very fundamentalist in its approach to composition and music, it brings back the radicalism, narrow-mindedness and intolerance of the 80s with a vengeance (and sees that narrow mindedness as something to be confused with “pride” for the music and a kind of “trueness” and loyalty to the music) and pretty much only allows for music to be made in the way it was made during roughly 7, 8 years, from 1982 to 1990. Any growth, experimentation or evolution that took place after this very specific tiny period is seriously frowned upon by the conservative, reactionary thrashers. I think this scene is now as set and marked in stone as other revivals, mainly like rockabilly and we will see the aging thrashers and their followers doing and playing exactly the same type of music over and over again, with the same riffs, themes, clothes, album covers, etc, in the decades to come. Is Earache prepared to be the label for that movement?

And if intense music is to grow, do you see or can you predict WHERE it can go after all these years of experimentation with punk, hip hop, electronic, faster, slower, stonier, more bass, colder, etc types of metal and hardcore have already been done?

Would you sign, nowadays, a band like Shining (not the black metal, the Norway one) which is apparently attempting to take heavy sounds to new places?

And here’s Digby’s response, which I’ll naturally interject with my own commentary and thoughts:

Maybe you missed this particular memo dude, but the future of ‘Extreme Metal’ is already being written into history by a generation of young bands playing whats loosely an amalgam of Death Metal brutality & hardcore style knuckle-dragging chug chug breakdowns, its called ‘Deathcore’. It was never predicted by any journalist or blogger but was created by teenagers seeking to make the most extreme music imaginable. The scene built its success due to those bands early adoption and fanatical use of the power of the then newly-launched social networking site MySpace. From 2004 onwards, they were all over it, networking with, and building a fanbase 24/7. Curtis who is a member of Sheffield, UK band Bring Me The Horizon was so quick off the mark, he nabbed the Myspace pages of both At The Gates and The Haunted for his own private use.

The success of Deathcore bands like Job For A Cowboy, Suicide Silence and newer names like Whitechapel is proven by their high USA Billboard chart placings.They have genuine fans who still -gasp – actually buy CDs, and they are changing the landscape of extreme metal, in fact they have done so for a few years now. If there is one flaw in this theory, then its the bands’ relative lack of success in the heavy metal strongholds of Europe. Deathcore bands are huge in USA but make barely a blip on the radar in say Sweden or Germany. Their success story seems to echo that of Myspace itself.

Digby’s certainly not wrong that deathcore has made a huge impact on modern metal, and he’s definitely got an understanding of why. He also seems to recognize that deathcore is a way bigger cash cow than re-thrash. But “The future”? Deathcore has already crested, and in the end I think most of us agree it’ll be the next passing fad. Somewhat more scandalously, dig Digby actually just call Earache bands Oceano and And Hell Followed With “hardcore style knuckle-dragging chug chug”? Why yes, he kinda did.

Back to your point about the Thrash bands being retro- I disgree, because I think the bands are merely using Thrash and NWOBHM as a reference point to start over again. Basically to many of the young bands we deal with, Destruction is just cooler than say Cradle of Filth. Bringing Thrash & 80s Heavy Metal elements back into the metal picture is just as valid and probably more contemporary than the abominations we have had to endure over the years- Hip Hop, Goth, Electronica and even bloody Opera have all been added to the metallic palette with short-term success, but I’m sorry, for me, Jazz becoming a big thing in metal will be the final nail in the coffin.

Thrash as a jumping off point? Uh, are we listening to the same records? The main reason I haven’t been able to get behind the thrash revival with full gusto is precisely because so many of these bands brings so little that’s new to the table. At least with deathcore you’ve got a kinda new sound, even if it’s been assembled from old parts, as opposed to re-thrash which is just… well, old parts. Also, with one simple statement, Digby just single-handedly swiped several decades’ worth of innovative metal that incorporated elements of other genres under the rug. Are you meaning to suggest that NO good metal can come about when you mix other genres (hip hop, goth, electronica, and opera amongst them) into the picture? That the only metal worth a damn is pure, unadulterated metal of one specific kind? Hogwash. Tell that to Mikael Akerfeldt’s face. Or Ben Weinman’s. Or Chino Moreno’s. Or, like, anyone’s.

With regards to jazz working its way into metal, I think Digby misinterpreted the reader’s question. I don’t believe the reader suggested that jazz metal would be the next big thing, just that Shining are pushing the envelope by trying something new unlike these re-thrash bands, most of whom don’t try anything new aside from the pre-worn-in Exodus shirts they got on eBay. Shining aren’t the next big thing, but they’ve taken an artistic leap by letting their jazz roots seep into their music, and by doing so guarantee themselves at least a shot of having a lasting career instead of being part of a passing fad.

Its all about demolishing the ensconsed. Last week NME magazine- not known for having a finger on the pulse of metal trends- actually recognised that ENFORCER were pushing the metallic envelope and named them as among the Top 50 risk-takers in music. They were right to compare ENFORCER to Bjork, Jack White or Lady Gaga, because in 21 year old Olof Wikstrand the band boast a True Heavy Metal singer who wants to be, first and foremost a showman, and put on a show for his fans.

Fenriz from Darkthrone agrees. He knows a thing or two about decent music- he’s just reviewed ENFORCER ‘Diamonds’ with a 9.5/10 mark in Rock Hard magazine:

[review excerpt]

You said it yourself… NME certainly doesn’t have a finger on the pulse of metal trends, and this example is no different. Enforcer are a perfectly fine band — I somewhat enjoyed Diamonds — though by no means under ANY stretch of the imagination are they “pushing the metallic envelope.” They’re a trad-metal revival band influenced heavily by Maiden and Priest, ala another Earache signee White Wizzard. I don’t give a fuck what Fenriz thinks; everything on this record has already been done before. Pushing the metallic envelope?? Really??? Again, they’re a decent enough band, but come on. Call a spade a spade!

I’ll leave it to the blog readers to make their own mind up.Which do you prefer- a new NWOTHM band with a Heavy Metal singer or an instrumental jazz-metal skronk outfit? Leave your comments.

Digby, I’ll take the instrumental jazz-metal skronk outfit, every single day of the week (Shining aren’t instrumental, by the way). I’ll take a band that turns heads, takes risks and tries to do something that hasn’t been before over one that simply re-hashes their heroes, any damned day. Be it jazz, opera, electronica or polk influence mixed into metal — or, shit, just trying something new within the confines of pure metal, like Portal are doing — I don’t give a fuck… after 40 years of this genre, simply repeating the status quo is not enough. Those bands that simply repeat the status quo are bound to be forgotten by history, much like 95% of the new wave of thrash bands will be in five years time.


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