People, we’re all witnesses to the birth of a new style in metal music. And I’m all for it. It is not defined like thrash or death or post-hardcore. But let’s be diplomatic (because enthusiasts of this genre can get quite touchy regarding its name) and call it modern progressive metal or modern prog. No? Well, I shall call it that.
Musicians who play this style of music are a different class of gentlemen altogether. They constantly push the boundaries of metal and continuously experiment. Internet bred, owners of extended range guitars, production discussing, utopian tone seeking and SoundCloud test clip guys are some of the phrases used to describe them. For the sake of brevity I will not touch upon the production and equipment side of things, although both are an integral part of this ‘movement’. I want to talk about what sets these musicians apart and the direction they’re headed in.
When it comes to writing music, they stay away from 4/4 but end up playing in that time signature anyway! “Syncopation, bro”. And I love the fact they don’t play a single riff 8 bloody times. Things are kept fresh throughout. Adherence to complex rhythms and grooves is a rule. So much so, that the absence of traditional riffs isn’t surprising. Absence of traditional riffs doesn’t mean 0-00-0-000. The video below puts it in a nutshell. ‘All they have is just…’
Now, this isn’t a classification per se but I’d like to think that bands in this scene fall into two major groups. The game changers and the sheep. Let’s get the latter over with.
The sheep are bands/musicians who got inspired by their idols and made that kind of music without putting in something of their own. These people make modern prog seem boring and like a fad. But it isn’t. Chugging really hard and bending on the 1 and the 13 doesn’t make you progressive! If you’re happy playing just that then more power to you but don’t call yourselves progressive. According to me, you are progressive when you play something that is outside of the conventional and something which comes from inside of you. But alas, the herd is huge. YouTube is crawling with bedroom projects and playthroughs and trippy space artwork and onomatopoeia guys. This has given rise to a new sub-culture altogether, known by many names, one of them being Aggressively palm-muting open strings. And boy do I enjoy it! From a satirical standpoint, of course. Don’t emulate what you heard two days ago without incorporating something original. We know what thrash metal in general sounds like, we know what death metal in general sounds like. But we know what you heavy bros exactly sound like! See what I’m trying to say? Don’t let the naysayers call you the next nu-metal. Step out of your preconceived notions about how a band should sound like, because there are no formulas. And because if you’re playing within fixed parameters, you are defeating the purpose of being progressive.
But who are herding the sheep?
Our heroes in Periphery, Tesseract, Monuments, Volumes, The Safety Fire, Scale The Summit, Vildhjarta, The Contortionist, Animals As Leaders and many more bands have revolutionized this new sound over these past few years and have influenced almost every musician now, thanks to the internet. They are modern progressive metal in the true sense of the phrase. Bands like such have one thing in common – they’re all unique. Sure, they kept to a sound which could be identified with collectively, but they innovated and pioneered and created a sound of their own. They took this tiny internet phenomenon to the big stage and established the sound as we know it. From the many test clips, the studio updates, the gear upgrades, the shimmery cleans, the successively reducing gain, the debut and sophomore releases and the damned conjoined songs, you could hear the evolution in their sound. And we lapped it all up. The whole scene is going wherever they take us. Yes, they are the ones who brought on this new wave but the real game changers are another class altogether.
Chimp Spanner, David Maxic Micic, Cloudkicker, Miroist, Plini and others are the real game changers. They are the ones who are taking modern prog to uncharted territories, not caring much for commercial success and constantly honing their craft. They are the guys we should be taking inspiration from. Having already made an impact on new prog musicians, these artists unquestionably have the potential to garner the attention of audiences who aren’t even into metal. I consider them to be the most radio-friendly fellows without ever having to compromise on the grit and honesty. However, radio-friendliness is neither the motive nor possible at this point, they’re just happy to be making the music with their drool-worthy equipment and recording set ups. And blowing our minds while they’re at it. They are doing what every conventional band does i.e. inspire us but doing it in a very weird way. It seems like they don’t want credit for touching our hearts.
So now, where exactly are we headed? We’ll just have to wait and see. I believe this is here to stay. The whole culture in itself is quite an interesting one to be in. The sudden surge of gear nerds, the disappearance of long hair, the rise in demand of custom guitars and boutique amps, Axe–Fxs selling like hot cakes, UK Tech Fest, Euroblast, etc. tell us that the scene is definitely not a trend. Bands are heavy while at the same time appealing to newer audiences. The scene does not know geographical limitations, it’s all global. When you go to a local gig you hear people talking about guitar tone, 7 and 8 stringers and their favorite band’s favorite amp models. The whole movement is all quite real.
Shout-out to all passionate progheads: You’re the new wave, prove the elitists and purists wrong. Go groove, be technical and put a bit of yourself into it. Because we’re all witnesses to the birth of a new style in metal music.