An individual’s taste is a strange creature- eager to fervently praise and adore one thing, only to be repulsed or offended by something else at a fickle turn. This notion is perhaps best embodied in the preferences of a metal fan (look no further than the comments on any band’s Facebook page or YouTube channel)- where a band can receive almost religious devotion or some of the cruellest criticisms and insults. I’m sure that the majority of the time, we feel assured in our own personal likes and dislikes- but I know there’s definitely times when I know I should like a band. They may be seen as highly influential, superb musicians, or just simply good, and yet I can’t get into it- I just can’t comprehend the adulation that some fans share with certain artists or bands. In the spirit of this confusion, I’d like to share a selection of bands that I, unfortunately, don’t like.
Of any rock or metal band of the last 30 or so years, I’ve never seen quite the level of sheer respect and reverence that a band like Tool has received (except possibly stereotypical Slayer fans). They are quite a popular band in the rock/metal scene, and are well-known for their brooding and introspective brand of progressive rock. And yet I it just doesn’t click for me. A cursory listen to a selection of their songs does nothing for me- I don’t get excited or moved in a way that other bands have done for me. Their pared back approach to progressive music isn’t as immediately gripping and accessible for a music fan such as myself, who grew up on the instant hooks of bands like Slipknot, Bullet For My Valentine and Parkway Drive. Perhaps this could also be in part due to the fact that they aren’t overtly a ‘metal’ band. The grooving and crooning of hard rock acts always surpassed me in my adolescence, as my tastes developed very quickly from pop punk (i.e. a diet solely of Green Day) straight into metal, without that step in between that would make for a logical progression.
On the bright side though, I’ve spared myself the anguish of waiting the past 10 years for a new Tool album to come out.
Last year at the O2 Academy Brixton I saw Slayer, with support from the excellent Kvelertak and Anthrax. From the moment Anthrax literally bounded on stage, they delivered a high energy set that was rapturously received by fans. Fans of all ages moshed, head-banged, raised their horns, and sung in full voice throughout a solid set. In spite of all this, I just couldn’t bring myself to join in. Whilst I would definitely say that Anthrax weren’t bad, not by any stretch of the imagination, I just couldn’t share in the enthusiasm of the 5000 or so fans. The only reason I’ve really been able to find as to why this is rests mainly on vocalist Joey Belladonna. Although I’m in no position to criticize his vocal capabilities, I’ve always felt that his style (very much like that of Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden) has always been a bit too ‘old school’ for me. Those bands that took inspiration from NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) tend to use high-pitched, theatrical singing, which I’ve always thought was a little bit cheesy. Oh well.
Out of all the black metal bands from Norway, Emperor are one of the most widely praised acts, along with contemporaries such as Mayhem and Darkthrone. Cited as one of the pioneers of black metal with a distinctly symphonic sound, they blended coarse riffing with grandiose orchestration, to widespread approval. I even had the opportunity to see them headline at Bloodstock Open Air in 2014, but I turned it down for an early night (not very ‘metal’ at all, really). The reason? Although I do enjoy an occasional spot of black metal, my problem was the ‘symphonic’ aspect to the band’s music. I’ve never been a fan of bands that really heavily on this particular feature, as it tends to get a little tiresome or gimmicky very quickly. That isn’t to say that I think bands shouldn’t use it, on the contrary, when used sparingly and strategically it can really enhance a song- but on Emperor material, such as ‘Empty’ from Prometheus: The Discipline Of Fire And Demise, it tends to be overpowering and somewhat irritating.
When people think of progressive music and metal, the first band that normally springs to mind is Sweden’s Opeth. Their entire back catalogue seems to be universally praised, and they’ve garnered plenty of respect from fans, bands and the rock media. So why is it that I can’t get on board with it? To me, I’ve always felt that Opeth have lacked any form of hooks. Sure, their musicianship is immaculate, and they do include melodies, but it’s always been in such an unorthodox manner that it just seems to go way over my head. In my opinion, a problem with prog music in general is that it becomes a little too indulgent, and only of interest to the musicians themselves or just music snobs.
The Dillinger Escape Plan
Honestly, I don’t mind a sprinkling of ‘math’ in my metal. Bands that twist and distort the conventions and norms of music can bring something new and interesting to the table- bands such as these that I’ve really enjoyed include Blood Has Been Shed, Norma Jean and War From A Harlots Mouth. However, in the case of The Dillinger Escape Plan, they’re just too angular and awkward for me- even when they show restraint and focus on conventional melodic song writing I can’t bring myself to like it. It’s a shame because a few songs from 2013’s One Of Us Is The Killer has been growing on me, and I think frontman Greg Puciato did a killer job in supergroup Killer Be Killed.
What do you think? Am I all wrong about these bands? Are there bands that you find yourself struggling to like? Feel free to leave a comment telling me which bands.