Hey everyone, welcome to a new feature we’re gonna try out here at Heavy Blog. Now, we may all seem like total loner shut-ins based on the amount of new music we devour both collectively and individually on a weekly basis, but a good chunk of us are actually in committed relationships with wonderful significant others. Three of the other editors – Nick, Scott, and Eden – have partners who are, shall we say, not nearly as invested in heavier music as we tend to be, and so their knowledge of the sort of stuff we tend to cover at Heavy Blog is almost entirely secondary. To that end, Sarah, Lauren, and Ronnie – the significant others of Nick, Scott, and Eden respectively – have volunteered to be part of a new column we’re calling Genre Genesis, where I give them a song and they catalog their thoughts about said song and attempt to label it with a genre based on their working knowledge of heavy music.
There are a couple good reasons for doing this: first, because it’s fun. This is an enjoyable diversion from the constant overbearing, deep analysis of music we tend to traffic in, so it’s fun for the reader, and it’s also fun for all of us involved, as it serves as a way for everyone to connect around a single focal point. The second reason, though, is that it breaks away from the stuffy, dead air of metal journalism. Heavy music is such an insular community, riddled with unspoken rules for how and when to enjoy something, constantly plagued by apocrypha that needs to be learned but in exactly the right way, and just generally something that takes itself way too damn seriously. This column serves as a stepping-back from that head space, a sort of benign piss-take that lets us all remember that there’s a whole wonderful world outside of heavy music where none of the intra-community struggles really matter at all.
For the first song, I decided to choose a topical band: Converge. The announcement of a new Converge album that isn’t a remaster or live recording last month was a shot heard around the world: after four years without any new music, the metalcore goliaths dropped the singles “I Can Tell You About Pain” and “Eve,” before following up a little later with “Under Duress.” It’s this third track that made the cut for the first entry into Genre Genesis, mostly by virtue of being the most recent. Take a listen, prepare your own thoughts, and then see what Sarah, Lauren, and Ronnie have to say about it!
I’d like to think that this was written by someone who was kicked out of a militia in Oregon for admitting that he had read Atlas Shrugged and felt it was out of touch. He tried to split off to form his own militia that wore a little more black and red and a little less camo, but he’s having trouble finding recruits. “Under Duress” is a part of the PR push to bring folks in who are pro-gun but anti-authoritarian and anti-fascist and who want to yell in the forest about the dumpster fire that is this White House right now.
Though obviously influenced by the current political climate, “Under Duress” feels like a fat sharpie poised over a Walgreens poster board. Angry, lots of feelings, not ready to submit, not sure what to do about it. The screechy guitars that fuel the fire seek to agitate the listener and stir them to action, but we’re more of a loose mob and less of an organized protest at this point. I’m ready with a torch and I’ll have feelings here while Converge figures out a plan of attack.
Subgenre: Crusty protest metal and 2nd Amendment mobcore.
Before I dive in, I feel like I should preface my thoughts with the disclaimer that I dedicated ten years of my childhood to a professional girls’ choir. My conductor’s aim for every piece was to make it as flawless as possible: clear annunciation on all lyrics and perfect intonation on each note for the audience’s listening enjoyment. I never gave metal any thought until I met my boyfriend (Scott) late sophomore year of college. My ear had been trained to appreciate “easy” music, in the sense that all of what I listened to, more or less, could be immediately enjoyed with little to no effort on my part.
Converge was the first band that encouraged me to view metal music in a different light. I remember picking up their lyric booklet to All We Love We Leave Behind from Scott’s vast collection of CDs and reading through each of their songs, growing more upset as each one became more profound and beautiful. I asked him why they would mask such meaningful poetry behind indiscernible screams and heavy guitars, trying to argue that metal music could not possibly give justice to the talent behind those lyrics.
I still struggle with this question over two years later as I listen to “Under Duress,” reading along to comprehend the full artistry of the music. Despite the harshness of their sound, I found myself finally beginning to understand the appeal of using metal as a medium for their poetry. These lyrics, unlike the melancholy songs of All We Love We Leave Behind, are angry and formidable, and fit more with the screams and abrasive instrumentals. The stanzas are not melodic but considerably monotone, allowing the words to be accentuated rather than a distinctive refrain. Jacob Bannon’s vocals are slow and sure which gives the impression that his anger had been building over time and makes his words seem premeditated instead of frantic. There is a clear message of inner strength and clarity that he portrays through his lyrics that can only be classified as poetic and reflective.
I think I’ve come to realize that the unforgiving nature of metal music does not detract from its artistry, but rather instills a feeling in the listener that you cannot get from another genre. It is distinctive and ear-catching; it lets its presence be known. I can’t say that I’m any more of a fan of metal than I was three years ago, and I’d be lying if I said I played Scott’s Dying Fetus or Pig Destroyer albums of my own free will. But now I can admit that I am an advocate for metal as an underappreciated art form, and I have Converge to thank for that.
Subgenre: After careful consideration, three serious listens, and realizing I couldn’t possibly accurately identify the correct genre even if my life depended on it, I’ve decided that my subgenre for Converge would have to be “spoken (screamed) word metal.”
Let me start by apologizing in advance for the absolute catastrophe that is about to ensue. Though I’ve tried, I’ve never been able to differentiate between the different genres of metal, partially because I don’t actually have to – whenever I want to listen to some music, I just ask Eden to put something on, with specifications like “something upbeat” or “something calm”. I most certainly never ask for anything this advanced – by no fault of Eden’s, of course. Lord knows he’s tried.
Let’s start with what this track isn’t: it’s not very long, so I’m eliminating drone and stoner metal, which usually take between two hours to a fortnight per track. I’m also crossing out post/prog from the list as this is too heavy to fit either of those labels.
Moving on to what it is: heavy. Heavy enough to feel like torture when I’m sober, and be amazingly fun and badass when I’m drunk at a bar. I’d probably sway around a little to the rhythm and feel a lot cooler than I look. It also has high pitched growls, which I think are typical of black metal. The lyrics sound quite punk, with lines such as “I don’t need to learn to live in compromise” and “I will never kneel and kiss your ring”. I also know that in metal, the word for punk is metalcore, so I’m going to go with blackened metalcore.
Subgenre: Blackened metalcore.