(Time to get some discussion going. Tell us about bands you used to adore but hd to break up with. Andy Synn starts things off with a break-up story of his own.)
Now, to assuage your fears, I’m not leaving either Beyond Grace or Twilight’s Embrace. Like a persistent rash that you can’t quite explain… I’m sticking with both bands for a long time.
No, this is about what happens when a band you love, a band you’ve followed and supported for years and years, decides to make a change and, in doing so, changes the way you feel about them.
What do you do?
The one thing you don’t do is fly completely off the handle, insult and troll the band online, and basically make yourself look like a jackass. Like any break-up, it’s better for everyone if you handle things with dignity.
Remember what happened when Peter Dolving rejoined The Haunted? The outcry that prompted was both utterly disproportionate and thoroughly amusing at the same time. I remember clearly one commenter threatening to “go and take all [the band’s] cds from the store and burn them”. Now not only would this be very much against the law, but what does it really solve?
But we’re not talking about The Haunted here. No, unfortunately what prompted this little bout of verbal incontinence was the new album by Darkest Hour.
Now DH have been one of my favourites since… I don’t know when. I know I’ve been a huge fan of the band since at least Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation (possibly even So Sedated, So Secure… although my memory is a little fuzzy these days. I blame the alcohol and head trauma), and followed their steady evolution over the years with vibrant interest and absolute dedication. I thought it was an unconditional love.
But I heard the first few songs off their new, self-titled, album… and I didn’t really like what I was hearing.
Then I read a couple of interviews where the band spoke about “finally getting their due” and making changes to their sound (and record label) in order to maximize their chance at reaching the “next level”. And all that, understandably, had me a little worried.
There was a growing feeling that the band had grown tired with seeing their friends and peers hit a certain level of success and acclaim… grown tired of always being passed over in favour of lesser bands with a more generic and “marketable” sound… grown tired of being a bridesmaid and never the bride…
Then we received the promo here at NCS and, in a rather upsetting manner, I realized I simply didn’t like it.
I’m not going to use the word “sell-out” – that’s a difficult word to use correctly, and it’s thrown around far too easily for my liking any time a band makes any sort of change – but it does feel like a very calculated record. One designed very much for wider appeal to a bigger demographic. It feels like the band have spotted a gap in the market (a very As I Lay Dying-shaped gap, no less) and purposefully tweaked their sound to fill it.
And it appears they’ve done it pretty damn well, as the new album is so far the most successful of their career, as shown by this recent statement:
The Washington, DC-based band’s first for new label Sumerian Records debuted at #94 on the Billboard Top 200 charts today. It showcases each individual pushing themselves outside of their comfort zone implementing more clean vocals with expanded dynamic melodies rooted firmly in thrash metal with bombastic shredding guitar solos.
However I don’t necessarily agree that the new album is the sound of them pushing outside of their comfort zone though, or expanding their melodic range… as a lot of this album sounds exactly like stuff we’ve all heard before. Successful stuff, certainly, but very familiar stuff still.
John Henry’s shift towards more clean singing isn’t itself a bad thing – despite what the site name says – as DH have utilised bits and pieces of it here and there in the past to great effect. It’s the way that it’s used… the melodies are all very safe and familiar… the structures are predictable… although well-executed, for a self-titled album it’s all rather generic and standardised. The songs don’t really hit any major heights, or push the band any further (despite claims to the contrary). Instead they adopt styles and traits already popularised by other, more successful bands. For an album that’s supposed to define a new era, there’s nothing really definitive about any of the songs.
It’s not a complete shift towards C-Grade metalcore though… much of the familiar Darkest Hour sound still remains, popping up here and there in a killer riff or blast of pure melodic aggression, but even a lot of this also seems somehow… overly familiar. There’s definitely some songs on here I could see myself growing to love (and yes, I like the “ballad” too!), but too much of it just seems like well-intentioned filler.
I actually agree to a certain extent with a lot of comments I’ve seen – both for and against the new album – that it was time for Darkest Hour to make a change to their sound. As much as I loved The Human Romance, it felt like the last chapter of the particular story that began with Undoing Ruin. A change was certainly necessary, we can all agree there. I just don’t think it’s a good change.
In fact, after so many years of being criticised and mislabelled as just another “metalcore” act by people with an ill-informed grudge, it’s slightly galling to see the band adopt the most generic and populist elements of some of the most radio-friendly and easily accessible proponents of the style and call it “progress”.
But here’s the kicker… I WANT the band to succeed. I always have. I always will do. I want them to carry on making music, to carry on pleasing crowds. I want them to be bigger and more successful. I’m just a little saddened that the sound I loved, which I had watched grow and develop over the years, wasn’t the sound which got the band the success they’ve so long deserved.
So that’s it, I think we’re breaking up… I’ll always treasure the time we had together, and I’ll continue to relive those memories and those albums with a smile on my face and manly tear in my eye.
If the band ever read this… I love you guys… I do… but I think it’s over.
But remember, it’s not you, it’s me…
Ok… maybe it’s a little you.
So there it is, my unfortunate confession. My version of a “Dear John” letter.
Now it’s your turn.
Tell us all about your hardest band break-ups. Tell us how it felt. Tell us how you dealt with it.
Maybe don’t tell us about that time you stalked them for three weeks asking them to take you back though…
Where do the bitter Opeth break-ups go? I laughed my ass off when my friend came up to me and, with the most depressed look on his face, told me that Opeth had gone prog-rock. Fortunately, I liked Heritage, but I sense many a spurned metalhead didn’t and left Akerfeldt behind.
It’s not that they went prog-rock… it’s that they went rather boring prog rock. Lol.
Still, I kind of think of Opeth as that ex who got into a weird obsession… like LARPing or some such… and although they clearly enjoy it, it puts an undue pressure on the relationship.
I spent a few moments trying to guess what LARPing is, before being sensible and looking it up. It isn’t as dirty as my guesses. And now my mental imagery of the Opeth members engaging in it is also very different.
This is both hilarious and an absolutely perfect comparison.
I could have handled Opeth ditching the death metal vocals. However, they lost all of their heaviness, which is why I’ve put them in my rear view mirror. I bought Heritage, didn’t like it, and the songs I’ve heard from the new album seem like the same type of thing. So Opeth, it’s over.
I’m also estranged from Morbid Angel. I guess I shouldn’t say that we’ve broken up, but in all likelihood, even if they do put out another album it will probably be lousy. It’s not like Vincent is going to suddenly ditch the leather shirts or that Trey is going to climb out of the deep end and pen some good death metal again.
Pale Communion might be worth a listen. It’s not exactly ‘heavy’ but it reminds me instrumentally of Ghost Reveries.
The album is now streaming online, so I gave it shot. I suppose the atmosphere has a similar feel to Ghost Reveries at times, but on the whole this album just isn’t working for me. I don’t mean to claim it’s offensively bad or anything, but it’s sadly not my cup of tea.
Unfortunately for me it’s Dark Tranquillity. Although it’s not as much a break-up as it is me staying in an abusive relationship. Their last two records have been an embarrassment, and while I know they will never return to form I nevertheless will still buy everything they put out.
Considering I’ve only been a dedicated metalhead for a few years, in most cases I haven’t had enough time to develop the years-long bond with a band that makes a break-up harder (Opeth almost did it with Heritage, but Pale Communion is awesome, so they’ve saved themselves from the brink). However, there’s one very glaring exception to that, one forced not by changes in sound, but by acts of atrocity.
Beyond an accidental listen to Hammer Smashed Face that left me terrified at the time, the very first extreme metal band I listened to – the one that allowed me to make the leap from Nirvana and Black Album-era Metallica to Killswitch, and then into death metal (and the eventual realization that ’80s Metallica blows the Black Album right out of the water) – was As I Lay Dying. They were truly a perfect transition band, as I came to them right around the time they were celebrating the success of An Ocean Between Us, and releasing the stupendous follow-up record The Powerless Rise, a band very much indebted to Maiden melodies, while adding just a touch more heaviness via their connection to metalcore. To boot, the band are from the same part of San Diego as I am – my closest record shop is in the same building as the tattoo parlor some members of the band frequented. It was with AILD that I first truly became obsessed with a band, making sure to have every single thing they had ever released on CD (didn’t have a record player yet), not to mention shirts, sweaters, live DVDs, the whole nine yards (or as much of it as a 15-year-old can afford). Eventually I transitioned out of my complete fixation on them, as I discovered death metal, and thus truly began my journey into metal’s vast underbelly, but I never lost my sense of devotion to the band, never missed an opportunity to catch them live, and still listened to the music semi-regularly, if not obsessively anymore.
The events of last year completely changed that. Lambesis’s actions left me feeling the death of the band, and the death of his morality. It quite honestly was a feeling I can only describe as a mixture of the nostalgic sense of loss many felt when they heard Robin Williams had died, and a sense of disgust for the deplorable actions of Lambesis. This left me with a pretty rough break-up, one that was not exactly allowed to be as smooth as the your breakup with DH. Interestingly, this death of a hugely nostalgic entity for me (occurring at such a time that it could be described as a huge transition point for me as I slowly adjust to adulthood), only left some things tarnished. My memories of the live shows I attended are altogether intact, while slowly the majority of their recorded output has slowly lost its toxicity, the exception being Awakened, which I had loved up until that point, but haven’t listened to since before the arrest.
This has also been eased by the emergence of Wovenwar, who have almost become a new guilty pleasure for me – I saw their San Diego record release show about a week ago, and I’ve rarely been able to put down their debut record down since. Maybe it’s nostalgia, but at this point not even the ugly end to the AILD story can poison HIpa/Sgrosso licks for me.
Sorry for the length and verbosity of this tirade, but I’ve been meaning to write about this somewhere for months. Feels nice to get it out somewhere.
No problem. That’s a good example in its own way!
You bring up an interesting take: when a band’s (or band member’s) actions sour the band, as opposed to a new musical direction. I’m not sure which is worse.
Well band members have a direct impact on a band, what they do in their own lives or how they act have a direct consequence on the perception of their band. Which is worse, that depends on the band and what’s been done
For me there’s been a few bands that this has happened with, In Flames, Marilyn Manson and somewhat Cradle of Filth (there are a few others but there’s no point in mentioning them).
In Flames, I think I had a good 4-5 years with them until I heard “soundtrack to your escape”, which for me was starting the death of the band (need to check album names at this moment), and finished off with Come Clarity. While the experimentation was there already, for me they too it a little too far with stye, and it sounded dead and dull, while CC was overall better, once you heard it 3 times that was it, I didn’t need to hear it again.
Marilyn Manson, that started with Twiggy leaving (getting kicked out) the band. They seam to become a shadow of their former selves. Their albums became watered down and lacked any punch. When Twiggy did return I got that album from the library just to see if they had come back on form, unfortunately they didn’t. They were one of the first bands that got me into metal, along with CoF.
CoF, I’ve followed these guys for years, through the good (Cruelty), the bad (thornography) and the indifferent (Manticore). I’m a die hard early days fan with them, everything up to and including Cruelty is GOLD, from there they became hit and miss (more miss then hit). Each album (or release) after that, was at best hap hazard, starting with From the Cradle to the Grave and onwards, each release producing a cleaner sound, but lacked in writing, atmosphere or something else. Hell they even tried to repeat the opening for Midian for the next few albums, and always fucking it up. I understood the change that was coming and at times it was worthwhile, they did get it right on Godspeed, but it seams like they messed up everywhere else. Darkly Darkly just passed me by, I couldn’t say that it’s either good or bad, and was totally indifferent to Manticore. With the recent lineup changes there might be a new direction for the band to take, so lets see, but so far I’m not keeping my hopes up. Lets see.
When I was younger, I used to be more musically monogamous–i.e., if I really liked a band, I’d track down and buy everything they put out, regardless of format. Nowadays though, I think I’m more of a, uh, music slut. I buy a lot of records, but, with a few notable exceptions, seldom buy multiple releases from the same band. I try to get a record that is representative of what a given band does best and, when I want to hear that sound, that’s the one I play. I’m really not sure when or why I started doing this, but I imagine it has something to do with me realizing that there is way more good music than I could every possibly listen to, and that I want to hear as many different things as I can. Or maybe it’s because a lot of current bands just don’t connect with me in the same way that, at various points in my life, Iron Maiden, Melvins, and Darkthrone did. Anyway, why suffer the heartbreak of falling out of love with a band–which, in my experience, can happen because said band changes too much (like the Darkest Hour example in the OP) or, in some cases, because a band changes too little, rendering any new material essentially redundant–when you can listen promiscuously? NOTE: I do not do this in my personal life, nor am I advocating it.
Short answer, more relevant to the question posed in the post: Stop texting me, In Flames.
For me, the hardest band break-up was and is always Metallica. As a teen in the mid-late 80’s I worshipped 4 bands, Metallica, Slayer, Maiden and Dark Angel. Metallica was a way of life for me and my friends. Posters, singles, weird bootlegs, we had them all. Also as metalhead in high-school, Metallica was ours…no else got to have them. We alone knew how great they were and that was both the joy of them and the frustration of being a metal fan. You want people to see how awesome this music is, but you also really dont. So, the cracks began with the ONE video. Now, one is a great song. AJFA is a great album, but this when Metallica started seeing other people, and other peoples money. I will never forget the day in 10th grade, I am walking down the hall in high school, torn jeans, denim jacket, long hair, Damage Inc. shirt almost worn through and reeking of Camels and some cheerleaders are coming along and i hear one of them say Oh My God, did you see that Metallica video? They are so cool…It was like a kick to the balls man. Metallica was NOT theirs…not them..the people who could name like ONE Metallica song. After that it was all down hill..and with the Black Album, well Metallica and me just werent part of the same tribe anymore. It was hard but I got over it. Sort of…25 later and that shit still stings a bit. Cheers.
I wore out a cassette of Justice, love MOP as much as anyone, and even bought the black album at Sam Goody in the mall the day it came out, but my relationship with new Metallica music ended a long time ago. Does “dating” someone in middle school (and then hooking up a few times in high school just for the hell of it) even count?
This article is great, mainly in the sense that I read the title to it and thought, “man, this is how is how I feel about the new DH album.” Then, I open the article and IT IS about the new DH album….glad I’m not alone on this one.
for me it’s converge and it’s about to be mastodon. i haven’t liked anything post jane doe with converge, even though i give axe to fall, no heroes, and you fail me a handful of listens every year (just in case i’m missing something! trying to approach it fresh ears). i loved petitioning the empty sky and when forever comes crashing, and they seem to ignore that part of their catalog now. i saw them maybe 8/9 years ago, and they played nothing off of those albums, and i was pretty pissed at the time. i keep giving them chances and they keep letting me down. i know i’m on an island with this too… i can’t find anyone that agrees with me.
as far as mastodon, i didn’t like the hunter, and didn’t like what i heard from the new one. i’m just not interested anymore, but i love their catalog up to that point.
I am old. I have been listening to metal for 35 years. Without a doubt, the greatest metal sell-out of all time is Scorpions. In the seventies, they were MY band. Nobody was doing what they were doing. Lonesome Crow, Fly to the Rainbow, In Trance, Virgin Killer, Taken By Force—each album opened my eyes to something different, yet wondrous. When I picked up Tokyo Tapes in late 1978, I thought I had found God.
And then, it happened. Within six months, they went from trippy, emotional, and crushingly heavy speed demons to bland, hair-metal jokes. In February of 1979, they released Lovedrive. My idol Ulrich Roth (having been forced to play lead guitar on “He’s a Woman, She’s a Man” and understandably jumping ship) was replaced with the serviceable yet incredibly boring Matthias Jabs. The amazing creativity of songs like Dark Lady, Hell Cat, and Sails of Charon had been forsaken for the pedestrian, cliched likes of Another Piece of Meat, Hold Me Tight, and Tease Me Please Me.
In their defense, they had been plugging away for years with nothing to show for it but a small cult following and they are now most likely making a descent living. However, to a pale, scrawny, long-haired budding metalhead in suburban Washington, DC, it was a crushing disappointment.