Avant-Garde is definitely an acquired taste. If someone had shown me Gorguts four or five years ago I wouldn’t have dug it; I was still scratching my head at Tool’s change from 7/8 to 13/6. However, when I discovered iwrestledabearonce’s debut LP It’s All Happening, my ears were confused. I had never heard anything of the sort. They mixed bluegrass with metalcore, interspersed with symphonic black metal moments, and even some technical guitar work. It was truly mind-boggling, but it worked. And not only did it work, but people my age enjoyed it. I knew people who went to their shows not because they were on the same bill as Asking Alexandria, but because they wanted to see something different. So, with metal purists fuming at this point in the story, how does IWABO fit in with the “avant-garde” genre?
iwestledabearonce, for those not in the know, are a quintet out of Shreveport, Louisiana. They’ve been active since around 2006 as a full band, and released a self-titled EP in 2007. Their name is derived from a quote from Gary Busey, and the band is just a group of kids trapped in adults’ bodies who don’t take themselves anywhere near as serious as they take their music. They are, in essence, five trolls who make great music. After all, this is the same group of people that claimed they were going black metal and donned corpse paint to tease their record that came out last year, only to completely troll the entire world when they said “LOL jk, we’re kidding.” The band is notorious for hilarious interviews, webisodes, and band shirts that have slogans such as “Metal Just Got Gay” and “I Wrestled A Shemale Once”. However, one thing that this band has that classics such as Gorguts, Celtic Frost, Neurosis and Shining can’t do: they appeal to kids.
I’m talking about those kids you love to drop kick for saying Emmure is an amazing band and that Attack Attack are god’s gift to metalcore. Yeah, “scene kids”. However, IWABO have been able to make their music so accessible simply because it is truly rooted in metalcore and deathcore. For the most part, each song is riff and breakdown oriented, but where this band succeeds, however, is with their ability to intersperse it with elements from all across the board. They’ve literally incorporated everything from symphonic metal to bluegrass and jazz leads. This is very unlike both genres of metalcore and deathcore, where most songs are centered around a catchy chorus and the br00tal breakdown. IWABO have taken what is normally considered not acceptable in both worlds and harnessed it into a powerhouse of catchiness.
So how are they avant-garde, you ask? Well, the definition of the term, as defined my Merriam-Webster, is “an intelligentsia that develops new or experimental concepts, especially in the arts”. However, many don’t classify them as such because they are so deeply rooted in the –core movement, but people fail to realize what is going on. They switch from a breakdown to an electro-dance passage, then back to a technical riff with guttural vocals, and then go into some weird bluegrass section, then back to the riff, then a breakdown. This has sort of become their signature style, utilizing effects such as smaller, low quality amps, keyboards, and even ambient noises with trip-hop elements in order to create unique songs that capture your attention. IWABO understand that the conventions of one type of music can apply to another and be introduced if done properly and with regard to the greater good of the song. And, honestly, these sections are what make the band as great as they are. Because, let’s face it, if they were just a standard metalcore band, they wouldn’t be all that interesting.
IWABO really don’t get the respect they truly deserve. Yes, they are trolls. Yes, they play breakdowns. But that should not discredit the band. What they have done with the avant-garde movement is something many bands have struggled to even try to do. Where IWABO stand as a band right now is at the heart of the modern popular avant-garde movement, and I personally hope that they do not go anywhere, because if they are gone and bands like Attack Attack, Chelsea Grin and Emmure stay relevant, I think we all have way more to worry about than those trolls from the south. IWABO are the stepping stone to smarter and more progressive music, and should be appreciated.