That's Fine, I Know 'Em All Pretty Well
Everytime I get ready to talk about metalcore I chicken out; so much to say, no good place to start. Somebody needs to write a definitive history of the stuff, but it won't be me, because 1) we don't get paid for this and 2) it's as near as you'll ever get to a sure thing that the Definitive History of Metalcore is gonna suck balls, because it will surely miss the whole point of everything and come off looking asinine in the process.
But somebody ought to say something about what seems like a frighteningly close cultural analogue to Mercyful Fate circa 1986. Why Mercyful Fate and not Slayer, or Metallica, who still ruled in '86? Because: Metallica got famous, and Slayer carved out a comfort nook for themselves in the mainstream's hip-bone. But the Dillinger Escape Plan, should they jump to a major label (and I'm predicting that they won't), will have a terrifically short shelf-life. Converge is going to continue winning over new fans, but they won't take the country by storm. Slipknot, the best-known band to employ a few metalcore tropes, has probably begun coming down the other side of the mountain. Which puts all of these bands, and their lesser-known contemporaries, in the exact same boat as Mercyful Fate after they broke up: standing on a cliff, with a huge crowd of kids standing right there with 'em, their toes dangling over the abyss of cultural relevance.
To me this is the exact point where bands become interesting, of course. Proper popular culture is interesting too, but what of the things that matter only to a passionate few? Or to a passionate not-so-few whose voices never seem to enter the general discourse — or which enter the general discourse only after undergoing cosmetic modification? To put it another way: isn't the appeal of the one-hit wonder just this, that her voice seemed to matter so much, but that it then disappeared, snatching with its exit the very relevance she seemed to bring? Shrink the one-hit wonder down to subcultural size, and you have what draws me to Mercyful Fate's earliest supporters, trading tapes through the mail from the dark safety of their rooms in adolescent psychiatric wards; or you have the storied world of white-label 12"s, too arcane even for me; or noise music as it stood circa 1983, one step shy of secret handshakes; and metalcore as it is now, trying to break out, looking ready to do so, and already in eclipse.
In eclipse? Just now? When some of its brightest moments are yet current? Well, yes. You have to keep your eye on these things. The unholy screaming, so much more up-front and out-there than black metal's torture-fetish yowls, has made more than a few inroads. The general volume-level of the stuff is more culturally current than not: listen to the farfisa patch in Lloyd Banks's "On Fire" and you'll hear the brash blasting headspace invasion that metalcore insists on, recontextualized for radio but no different in spirit. (Note: I am not talking about "influence" or precedence here, so everybody calm down.) And let's not forget that some of these metalcore records are actually managing to sell a few copies here and there. It's never more than a year or two between big sales benchmarks for a genre and said genre's total absorption by popular culture.
Which won't do for metalcore, I'd guess. Like punk rock before it, it craves marginalization. It won't die without it; it will probably mutate into a poppier version of itself (this has already started happening, not without some happy results: vide the horn sounds on Miss Machine, which I fuckin' love, by the way). What will happen, though, is that bands like Textures will probably seek out different areas in which to ply their trade; the grade-school kids who might have practiced metalcore won't feel the urge to do so, and will instead play — what? Organic dancehall-jazz fusion? The cumbia? Crunk for solo oboe? Only the future can say.
Which is why you oughta pay attention to Textures now. I saw them reviewed in Metal Maniacs last month or the month before, and then I found their CD Polars in the bins at Schoolkids yesterday, and now I'm here to tell you: Metal Maniacs wasn't kidding about these guys. They're like a metalcore Rush (circa Hemispheres, not Moving Pictures); they're from Holland, and their singer uses a really cool microphone as the receptacle for his nodule-causing screams, and their guitarist is on fire up in here, and it's burning hot, he's on fire. Their songs are complex, and get longer & more complex as the album develops. This kinda thing used to turn me off, but it's part of what's charming about metalcore: the stuff is so unabashedly prog in its leanings, yet so lacking in prog's auteurist bias, that it manages to flex fifteen-minute songs (there are two of them on Polars...one right after the other) and yet still seem brash & young & unpretentious about it. OK, OK: less pretentious than you'd reckon. Still.
It's a moment. It's hard to describe. There's something happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear. By the time Buffalo Springfield said so, the thing they were talking about had entered general cultural parlance. Metalcore may have had its real moment of explosion more than a year ago, but as Jeffrey Lewis puts it, it's the ones who've cracked that the light shines through. Textures is an unbelievably good band. They represent the nearly invisible foam on the crest of a huge wave that breaks in the middle of the night, when no-one's looking. I recommend them to you without reservation, and to history without regret.
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