Which Metal Band Should Your Metal Band Rip-Off, and HOW Should You Rip Them Off? A Helpful Guide

  • Axl Rosenberg

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Be honest: you never get to parties at some random time. Selecting when to arrive at a party is a process; get there too early, and things could be mega-awkward, but get there too late, and you’ll miss all the fun. You have to figure out the perfect middle ground of when to arrive so that you seem neither unsettlingly over-eager nor irritatingly unaware.

This skill of social grace occurred to me to the other day as,at the behest of someone whose behest I have to take seriously, I listened to a promo from the 79,000,000,000,000,000,000th band to ape Meshuggah. And the album was… fine. It was clear that the band knew how to write a djcent djent song, which might sound like a djig, but I don’t mean it that way: plenty of bands can’t write a good song to save their lives! It’s a skill set which is not to be taken for granted.

And, yes, being the 79,000,000,000,000,000,000th band to ape Meshuggah is probably a smarter career move than taking the time to do something original. For, as the great Sergeant D. once put it:

“[I]t is cool to be original if you are OK with being a poor artist, but sometimes I think it’s stupid to be ‘original.’ I think it is smarter to wait until someone else invents something, then after they make it popular, copy them (only do it a little better so you get more popular than the band who invented it).”

But still: this band weren’t doing themselves any favors, because they’re ostensibly arriving at a party that ended three hours ago. Maybe they can still capitalize on younger fans who have thus far completely missed out on this trend, but that didn’t work out very well for previous Johnny-Come-Latelys such as Mutiny Within, Adema, and Ugly Kid Joe.

Okay, so, being original (too early to the party) will condemn your band to a fate of making even less money than the very-little-money popular bands make and hoping that in ten to fifteen years your music is deemed “underappreciated” and “ahead of its time”… but following the latest trend could make people feel like they’ve been there and done that (too late to the party).

So what’s a young metal band to do???

Simple: copy what another band did, but don’t copy the band that everyone else is currently copying. That means you have to delete the following bands’ sounds from your musical vocabulary… you can still be a fan, but you absolutely cannot and must not sound just like:

  • Black Sabbath
  • Metallica
  • Slayer
  • Pantera
  • Death
  • Carcass
  • At the Gates, old In Flames, pretty much all Swedish melodeath
  • Meshuggah
  • Korn

And I’m sure there are other examples I’m blanking on right now. But you get my point: if you’re aware of a band that has already been copied 79,000,000,000,000,000,000 times, do not let that band’s music influence you.

So which band SHOULD your band be aping? This, again, is a more complicated question than it seems. You don’t want to choose a band that everyone else is already copying for the reasons stated above… but you also don’t want to copy a band that no one else is copying, because that’s a little to close to being original or “ahead of your time.” Darkest Hour infamously started borrowing from At the Gates before anyone else did, but Killswitch Engage got all the record sales; A Life Once Lost sounded like Meshuggah before anyone had ever heard of Born of Osiris, yet BOO are still going strong and ALOL are but a memory; almost none of you know who the fuck At All Cost were, but they used a vocoder when vocoders were still considered the domain solely of pop and hip-hop. Sometimes, having your own “take” on an original band’s material can help sidestep this issue (e.g., Gojira riffs sound like Morbid Angel riffs, but Joe Duplantier’s vocals sound nothing like Evil D. or Steve Tucker, the lyrics are about hippy-dippy environmental stuff instead of excremental planets and the abodes of runny viscous substances, etc.). But that’s a tricky balancing act, one which takes you right back to the whole issue of being original/on food stamps.

Clearly, the easiest trick to selecting a band to whom your band will “pay homage” is to find an underground, respected-but-not-massively-popular band and copy the band they’re copying. Advantages to this strategy include the fact that you don’t have to do too much homework vis-à-vis rediscovering under-appreciated gems of yore, and that you can learn from the first band’s mistakes and make your music all the more palatable to the metal masses (usually by adding clean vocals and poppier hooks — again, see Darkest Hour v. Killswitch Engage, A Life Once Lost v. Periphery, etc.).

“Great, advice, thanks, Axl!” you say. “But do you have recommendations for a band that’s ripping off another band, but but who haven’t taken off yet in such a way that will prohibit my band from ripping them off?” Well, yeah, I mean I do, but I’m not gonna share ’em. You guys need to do at least some of the work on your own — success isn’t as sweet when it’s just handed to you after all.

I will, however, point you in the right direction… and that direction is grindcore. How nobody at Rise Records has yet thought to sign a band that sounds like Napalm Death only with pretty choruses is beyond me!

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