Thursday, March 24, 2011

How Meshuggah invented Djent, and Periphery perfected Djent.

Question: What the heck is Djent, this new genre I've been reading about? Will Earache be signing any bands like that soon? cheers, Anthony


Answer: Djent is a new name that's been circulating around recently to basically describe a new breed of bands who merge Progressive or Experimental Metal stylings played with Meshuggah style guitar tone and instrumentation. Tech-wise this means 8-string guitars and lots of outboard gear to get that deep guitar tone. Musically its about the drummer creating mesmeric multiple-grooves by use of complex polyrhythms and the guitarist creating their own separate rhythm aswell.Together they can create an intoxicating vortex of sound. Repetition and 4/4 timing is anathema to Djent, the song must be ever-evolving and changing. Long progressive songs about space, time-warps or abstract subjects are the norm in the genre, sung with mostly melodic but also some growl-type vocals.

The name itself stems from an interview Meshuggah guitarist Marten Hagstrom gave when asked to describe in words their fantastically rich, deep, crushing, warped guitar tone- he replied, "it just goes like "Dj-ent Dj-ent Dj-ent".

Watch Meshuggah perform "Straws pulled at Random" for the Djent masterclass from the Swedish expermental metal innovators:

Meshuggah are indeed the sole inventors and forefathers of the entire scene and carved out a unique niche because for many years nobody except them played this style. What has caused the sudden boom is the stampede of younger American fans exiting the metalcore/ mathcore and to some extent deathcore scenes and opening their minds to the more complex playing involved in Djent. Seemingly from nowhere, there has been a sort of Meshuggah-isation among a whole generation of formerly pretty standard metal/mathcore/tech metal type acts.

Musicians who are fantastic on their instruments seemingly want to just play ever more expansive and progressive music. Influences from Tool, Dream Theater and even Mastodon's more proggy moments all seem to be evident aswell. My theory is that Djent offers new bands a sense of anything goes, of complete musical freedom- its more or less a reaction to the rigid constraints of the old mathcore/tech metal scene. The leaders of this new US breed are undoubtedly Periphery.


At the same time in UK and Europe bands like TesseracT seem to have their roots in the, dare I day it, more 'traditional' progressive kind of metal vibes, but its this freedom to play whatever they damn well like -as long as its not in the dreaded 4/4 timing and shows off their musician-ship - which unites the US and UK scenes.


I have talked about bands like TesseracT and Cloudkicker on this blog last February where I mentioned they were good enough to be signed, and sure enough Century Media inked a deal with TesseracT at the end of last year. Fair play to them for spotting their undoubted talent and giving them a chance.

The glare of the spotlight on the Djent scene has unexpectedly given a huge boost to all those Progressive and Experimental Metal bands who were toiling away for the past few years in the shadows. Bands playing progressive metal to a small but highly appreciative audience - albeit mostly via message boards and internet forums - can expect to see a huge rise in interest.



The Djent scene has also been a boon for all the solo guitar improv players. For these one man type of "bands", you could argue Joe Satriani is the godfather of Djent more so than Meshuggah. In some ways the scene has exploded because there are just so many of these solo bedroom improv guitarists out on the net, they finally have a genre to call their own. Here's a few of the best of them.


Chimp Spanner

Jakub ┼╗ytecki

Following Periphery in the USA are a chasing pack of bands- most notably Veil of Maya who started as a more straight up metalcore/deathcore act but now have way more Djent parts in their songs.

Veil of Maya

Marten Hagstrom explains the Djent quitar technique -"Muffled thing with powerchord" is what gives the Djent sound, unfortunately he has no outboard gear in this clip.

As for wether Earache would sign any Djent bands? Even though they are nothing to do with it, we'd sign Toubab Krewe first because the musicianship on display is just superlative in the extreme. Hey- maybe we could promote them as "Ethno-Djent" or "Medieval Djent". I'm joking of course. I just wanted to embed a clip from a great band here, hopefully my blog readers will get a kick out of them. Enjoy.

Toubab Krewe

Friday, March 04, 2011

When the underground meets the mainstream, bad things happen.

Question: Hi Dig,

My question is a bit of a weird one, I was wondering what your opinion on music 'breaking out of the underground' (so to speak is), and whether many underground genres don't really get a chance to properly flourish when they are pushed into the mainstream, which can lead them to 'die'

One of the things that led me to this question was reading some old posts on your blog from last year, you spoke of the big new rise of 'deathcore' and how you saw it being a big genre coming into the metal scene, and spoke about signing Oceano etc, but this conflicts with the views of many fans of the genre who would say true deathcore came around in about 2004-2005 and died only a few years later, with the scene now being 'stale' with carbon copies everywhere, and I think though not entirely true this is a very good point (a good example being bands such as bring me the horizon, though their EP and debut album could certainly be categorized as deathcore, their new material is very far from it!).

So in so many words I think I am trying to ask when it comes to signing bands of a certain up and coming scene or sub genre would you rather be looking for something BRAND new and really relevant to that time (deathcore in 2006 for example) or would you rather wait and catch the bands who arrive onto the scene a few years later when elitists (and many original fans of the genre) would claim it was dead and buried but more and more bands are appearing and audiences are getting bigger, younger and more mainstream (normally a sign of the end in any metal subgenre?)?

I think I may have overused deathcore as an example but it does seem to happen with more genres of music, IE it rises on the underground, gets really big, then a lot of the originals get disregarded leaving newer, less original bands with more mainstream appeal to carry the genre?

I've probably phrased it a bit weird but what is your answer if you understand the question!


Answer: I've been around long enough to witness quite a few brand new music scenes evolve and rise out of the underground, and I'm not just talking about the various metal sub-genres like Grunge, Grind, Death Metal, Goth Metal,Glam, Industrial Metal, Black Metal, Doom, Post-hardcore, Emo, Screamo, Metal-core, Nu metal, Folk-metal, Deathcore, and this years newie- Djent. I've seen more widespread and general innovations in music too, for example the rise of electronic music in the early 90s onwards - from Jungle, Techno, Drum n Bass, Hardcore Techno, Grime, to Dubstep etc.

Regarding original Deathcore circa 2006, Earache prides itself on signing bands early on in their career- so we were aware of Deathcore early on and actively tried to sign Suicide Silence, Job For a Cowboy & As Blood Runs Black (via Mediaskare) but with all the activity taking place in California, and we're based in Nottingham UK, we couldn't strike any deal unfortunately. Instead in 2007 we secured the rights to the debut album by UK band Bring Me The Horizon for sale Stateside. A couple of years later in 2009 we signed Oceano, mainly because they were the heaviest of the following pack of bands and we liked their style.

It's fascinating for me to watch scenes evolve over time -whatever scene you care to mention, there is a real distinction and time-lag- often a mere 4-6 months- between the early innovators (usually a handful of people) and the huge masses of the followers which can number in the thousands. Mostly the innovators take the plaudits of their peer-group but very often don't get the rewards.

In many cases its the second or third wave of bands who clean up financially because the innovators in any scene find the going extremely tough- playing something new means you take all the hard knocks and ridicule in the early days, because the status quo is highly resistance to any changes. It can knock the stuffing out of the best of bands. Also adapting to unexpected success can derail unwary bands- ask any of the early members of Napalm Death why they quit- you'll hear tales like "The joke was wearing thin" or "It seemed like a short lived fad" or "there was no way such extreme music could last beyond 6 months". Shane Embury was made of sterner stuff, though he was not an original member, he proved everyone wrong by keeping the band going for 20+ years.

In the 80s-90s, pre internet, big selling Underground bands would have to adopt a more mainstream persona - meaning try to score a major record deal and then adapt to becoming radio and TV fodder - in order to try and sell a serious amount of records. Nowadays, successful underground bands don't have to defect to the mainstream anymore, it seems they are just expanding the underground to previously unheard of levels.

As a music fan years before I even started the label, I'd always been seriously interested in whatever was the most contemporary, innovative and newest-sounding thing around. On one the earliest Earache releases Unseen Terror (Mosh 4) I paid homage to the Thrasher-led Skater scene and the Def Jam-led early Rap scene by using a Thrasher & Def-jam logo style for the Earache logos on the vinyl labels of Mosh 4. Those scenes had influenced my tastes a lot early on. To me they were both similar forms of street-music and were appealing for that reason.

One thing I learned from my 10+ years of avid listening to John Peel on BBC Radio was that not every band trying something new makes it big. Only a handful of the bands Peel showcased would go on to spawn hordes of imitators and make their permanent mark on the music scene. Most of the bands given sessions would fade back into obscurity just as quickly as they arrived, which was puzzling. Not many people realise that for every sub-genre of music that gains its own Wikipedia page, there are dozens more that never get off the launch pad.

Scenes are really all about a time and a place. The intensity of a shared experience by a small group of fans can cause a ripple effect that spreads further afield and resonates with an entire generation of similarly-minded fans far away who were,it seems, 'primed for it' anyway. In the blink of an eye, everyone that matters is dancing to the exact same beat, while everyone else is wondering "How the hell did that happen?".

Pre-internet, scenes took place in a physical location, examples would be Thrash in the Bay Area, Grunge in Seattle, Grind in Birmingham (much like the original Heavy Metal before it), Death Metal in Florida, Black Metal in Oslo.

Nowadays of course the shared experience is on the Social networks or YouTube and going 'viral' is the term for a video that is breaking out. Justin Bieber is the first global music star to break via YouTube and he won't be the last. I think it will probably be a long while before the Music Biz/ Grammys do actually give awards to Tom Anderson (Myspace founder) and the Google/Youtube folks for all their work in breaking bands, but they will definately deserve such recognition from the Biz, when it arrives.