Gear Demigod Zeke posited in his post 5 Ways That Djent Has Ruined Metal that the genre will be on the decline in 2017, and that it has had a negative impact on metal as a whole.
Let’s look at the ways in which djent has given metal a much-needed kick in the pants.
1. It Raised The Bar For Interesting Rhythm Guitar
Metal is many wonderful things, but between the ol’ power metal power chord ring, death metal tremolo picking, and metalcore chugging, there needed to be a new kind of groove. Bands like Periphery and Animals as Leaders popularized big, jazzy chords and polyrhythmic syncopation over the stale riffing of traditional metal. I was ready to fucking jump ship to jazz for good if I had to hear another trite double-picked thrash riff.
Where’s the one?
2. It Made It Okay To Not Dress Like A Hobo
Now doesn’t this just look like a group of nice young men?
Metalheads are fashion whores. Not as bad as punk rockers or hip-hop fans, but they are still one of the most fashion-conscious groups of music fans I know. Go to any metal festival and it’s the same looks – black t-shirts, long hair, ripped jeans, battle vests, pentagram tattoos, poor hygiene. I once took my girlfriend in high school to a Helloween concert, and she looked around and whispered to me “Why do all these people look homeless?”. I didn’t have a good answer. But the Derelicte fad didn’t look like it was going to subside anytime soon until this wave of bands came along with a more subdued and tasteful look. Modern prog metal bands play for crowds that don’t look like they’re going to ask you for spare change, which means that girls come to the shows.
3. Increased Focus On Production Means Better Sounding Metal
Okay, so nothing, and I mean nothing but nothing beats a finely crafted song. A great song with shitty production is still a great song, and some of my favorite music was recorded on 4 track machines. Good production will not make a shitty song good. But a great song with great production is untouchable, and for all the annoying “wat pickups r u using those toanz r dank” “can I have your superior presets” Sevenstring.org posts, the djent crowd brought production to the forefront of our consciousness, and better sounding production benefits everyone. Meshuggah albums sound better than most things you will experience in your life, and that’s because they put in the time to make them sound magical. They gave a shit about what kind of pickups they were using, and tried different kinds of amps until they found the sound they were looking for. This contrasts starkly with the “If it ain’t broke, don’t play something other than a B.C. Rich into a Marshall” attitude of traditional metal.
Zeke cited a lack of good bass players due to the emphasis on low tunings, but djent has some of the best bass tones I’ve heard ever (I cite this Nolly playthrough as evidence). And every good producer worth a damn knows that the bass is the most important element in a mix.
To be clear – it doesn’t matter if you like djent production or not. Even if you hate it (maybe especially if you hate it) it brought the topic to the attention of the metal community, and that’s good. In our first episode of the Gear Gods Excessive Nerd Shit Podcast, we talked to Stratovarius guitarist and producer Matias Kupianen, who cited djent guitar tone as an inspiration for some of his layers of sound. If power metal guys dig it, then there must be at least something to it.
4. They Elevated Meshuggah To Their Rightful Place As Gods
Meshuggah are, of course, the godfathers of djent as we know it. Bands like Vildhjarta, Periphery, Tesseract, and Northlane all start with a basis of Meshuggah worship and add their own elements. They are right to worship Meshuggah; They fucking rule. They even recorded their most recent album live in the studio, with real tube amps, and it sounds fantastic, and they’re easily one of metal’s best live acts. But they have been increasing in popularity recently, with each successive album achieving their highest first-week sales ever – due, in no small part, to the wave of bands carrying the banner that bears their sigil.
5. It Encourages Musical Exploration
For all the complaints that djent all sounds the same, the bands that have championed it are the ones I see most strongly embracing sounds and stylistic elements from outside metal. Many of them have taken these influences greatly to heart, with bands such as Polyphia and Intervals evolving into something completely different. I follow a lot of these dudes on social media, and the music they talk about the most is pretty rarely metal, and those diverse influences make their music a great deal more interesting to listen to. Jake Bowen of Periphery has an EDM side project, Javier Reyes of Animals As Leaders plays classical guitar, and I discovered Dirty Loops from an Aaron Marshall Instagram video.
Metal has long been about tradition and staying trøø, and other dumb things that don’t allow for growth or exploration. This kind of shitty attitude leads to extreme burnout and boredom and drifting audiences. Including outside influences in your music might not be kult, but it keeps things fresh.
Feel free to disagree, but like it or not, the face of metal in 2017 has djent in its DNA.