We here at Heavy Blog like to ponder the big questions: Who are we? Why are we here? What even is a polyrhythm? You know, the big stuff. In order to better address such pressing matters, we bring you Heavy Issues: a bi-weekly column by which we plan to get to the bottom of things. But we can’t just do it on our own, we want to know what you think as well. Read our responses below and weigh in with your own opinions in the comments.
This week’s question is: Which band have you come around on that you used to dislike?
One of the things that most influences my taste in music and how it differs from some other members of Heavy Blog is that, before 2014 when I joined the blog, I was mostly external to the scene from which it sprang. Living in Israel, I basically made my own way through metal, using my local record stores and what little money I had to buy an album here and there, to slowly discover what I liked and disliked. When 2014 rolled around, I was suddenly bombarded by a huge amount of music and a lot of it I just never got to; I wasn’t around for djent’s first flowering, I didn’t experience the rise and fall of deathcore, and by the time I reached atmospheric black metal, a lot of “the classics” were already released.
As a result, some bands that are mainstays of the genres we usually cover at Heavy Blog simply arrived too late for me. Fallujah is a good example of that; by the time I first heard their music, especially their mid-era releases – an era which might have just ended with their forthcoming album Undying Light – I had already tasted atmospheric death metal and atmospheric music in general. That’s why The Flesh Prevails (2014) and Dreamless (2016) didn’t leave a mark on me when they were originally released. The latter, especially, I actively disliked – finding little of value in its melodies and weird approaches to sound that others found so endearing.
But over the past year or so, I find myself going back to both those albums more and more and really liking what I’m hearing. Perhaps because I’ve been diving deeper into the realms of atonal and blackened death metal, I find myself hungering for cleaner, brighter, and more chromatic takes on the genre. Dreamless especially has plenty of that; with its unique approach to guitar tone, electronics, clean vocals, and interludes. The end result is a very bright and “shimmering” album that scratches this particular itch of mine very well. It, naturally, led me to dig deeper into their catalog and reconnect with the kind of chunky, groovy, and “large” death metal that first garnered them the attention of our scene.
This new appreciation also bleeds into their upcoming album, which is growing on me pretty fast. It’s a “simpler” release – more metalcore than death metal, but one that does what it does very well. When I’m in the mood for that kind of music, either of Fallujah’s last three releases is now one of my go-to options. I guess it just goes to show you how much mood, context, and setting really are important to music and how music journalism that doesn’t take those into account does a disservice to itself and to its readers. Revisit things; try to see them differently than you have before. Who knows? You might discover your new favorite band and – even if you don’t – you might just win another musical outlet or direction for yourself.
I’ve had an on again/off again relationship with Deftones. When I first heard them, I loved the sound. I got Around the Fur (1997) when I was in middle school and thought it was cool. It was sort of like the then-modern sound of nu metal, but it was clearly quite different. White Pony (2000) took that to the next level. It’s very contemplative music, I think. It tends to drone on good grooves that can mysteriously make your head bob.
Then we had an unfortunate falling out. The problem isn’t necessarily Deftones’ sound: It’s the company they keep. When the band was really big in the early ’00s, they tended to be sold in package deals with other nu metal groups. If we’re talking System of a Down, I’m in but, at the time, I was super not into bands like Slipknot. The crowds at those shows really threw me off and intimidated me. I also grew up in a pretty conservative environment, so it was really taboo at the time to engage in something like a nu metal concert. I also didn’t have the knowledge of anything kicking around in the underground. I had MTV and that was pretty much it. So it was really all I knew about.
But when I had my falling out with them, I was also getting really into playing guitar. I listened to music I felt was a bit more complex. In my mind, music was about showing off your technical ability and musical knowledge. I was really into guitar players and a lot of classic rock and 80s metal, and Stephen Carpenter didn’t necessarily represent that to me. Deftones as a whole didn’t represent that to me, either. I very foolishly equated guitar solos with musical talents and artistic creativity, but those things aren’t the same. Any idiot can noodle on guitar scales for 10 minutes, just like any dumb-dumb can just turn up their amp’s distortion channel and blast barre chords.
That’s what I discovered when I thought last summer about going through the band’s discography. I genuinely loved it. Deftones taps into something primal. It reminds me of a lot of Afro-rock bands. They find a good groove and play it. People seem to have an innate ability to just sway to a good beat. It takes over your brain, you can’t even help it. Deftones are masters of that. Like any band, they have their hits and misses. There’s probably some tracks on their first record, Adrenaline (1995), they’d like a second stab at. But Around the Fur and White Pony are modern metal classics, and there are a lot of deep cut diamonds in their catalog. I’d say they were definitely worth the extra look.
There was a time when Psycroptic were the bane of my musical existence. This dark period took place somewhere around 2008–2010. The Tasmanian tech-death legends had just dropped their fourth full-length, Ob(Servant) (2008), which I understand was rather a landmark record for them. It also meant that, for the few years following its release, they were virtually inescapable on the live front – being billed as either main support to every major extreme metal tour to hit Victoria, or else added at the last minute as special (often sub-headlining) guests. Nothing would bring me greater pleasure right now. Over the last few years I’ve gone out of my way to catch the band live at least 2–3 times a year, often at their own headlined shows, and in all but one instance they’ve been utterly phenomenal. …But these were different times.
I jumped on board with Psycroptic following their 2015 self-titled album. That album contained much more riff-driven, and even thrash-leaning approach that I found instantly relatable to artists like The Haunted and other more extreme thrash acts that I already held in high regard. Another major difference was the drum sound. Even now, in my post-appreciation phase I struggle with the “clicky” drum sound of Ob(Servant). This was at a time when Dave Haley would play with digital kick pads rather than physical bass drums. I’ve never really had a problem with processed drum sounds elsewhere, but there’s something about the overly-toppy, extra-loud and unrelenting kick drum sound on that record that I just cannot abide. This was also before Jason Peppiatt had really developed into the powerful and more versatile vocalist he is today, and his often hoarse vocal style only provided a further boundary to my enjoyment.
The same problems plagued me during the touring cycle for The Inherited Repression (2012). Yet, while I still struggle with its predecessor, The Inherited Repression has become one of my favourite albums. It’s one that I throw on at least once a month, and it now sits neck-and-neck with the self-titled as being my favourite Psycroptic release – with last year’s phenomenal As the Kingdom Drowns trailing them by the slightest of margins. I’m yet to have the same breakthrough with Psycroptic’s earlier albums, which lack the thrashier elements that eventually won me over, but they’re growing on me. I can also now be spotted adoring a Psycroptic t-shirt fairly regularly, and I’m sure to catch the band live any chance I get. How times have changed.
Further Considerations: 2017 saw me come around on two bands that I had long loathed, in Trivium and Thy Art Is Murder. Both bands put out two of my favourite albums of that year, and while I’m yet to have the opportunity to test the newwer Trivium material in the live setting – my one previous experience with the band as a live act having literally put me to sleep – Thy Art have received similar treatment as Psycroptic. I now own a shirt of theirs and try to catch them live whenever I can, which – as with Psycroptic – I’m lucky to be able to do fairly regularly. Each of these cases has relied on the band in question finally “getting good” in my estimate (or at least putting out an album that’s more to my tastes) more than they have with me going back on their earlier material. However, I’m some slow progress. The appeal of Hate (2012) and Ascendancy (2005) remain lost to me, outside of a few tracks, but I’m developing a soft spot for Holy War (2015) and In Waves (2011). So give me a few more years and we’ll see how we go.
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That’s it for us, but we want to know: which didn’t you like that you came around on? Let us know in the comments, and if you have any questions or topics you’d like the Heavy Blog crew to cover, suggest away and we may use it in a future installment!