For me, I like bands that don't try to be the heaviest or the sickest. I'm still a fan of Metallica, Slayer, Judas Priest and Pantera especially because their riffs really "sing." I think there are still some merits with nu-metal bands like Korn and Deftones, but can you really sing their riffs? No, because with the further use of detuning a guitar, riffs have lost their melodic bite for me. Add in the constant usage of making dissonant and "skronk" chords, this has made metal too atonal and muddy for me.
That said, I've really gotten into bands like the Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge in the last few years. Yes, these bands play incredibly technical, detuned metal but they come from a background of hardcore punk/metal. This means that sections of songs only last a really short time and traditional song structures are thrown out the window. There is a sort of novelty factor with Dillinger's blast of beats, guitars and screaming, so I was glad they started branching out of that with their last record, Miss Machine. Now in the case of Converge, here's a band that has put out some fantastic records in the last few years: Jane Doe and You Fail Me. Instead of trying to be heavy, they are just incredibly heavy by nature. Sure, some songs of their's make me wonder how the hell they could write stuff that's so technical and wild, but they are not trying to impress me with their technical prowess either. But what about younger bands that are doing something as good? If you ask me, you've really got to look for them.
A few weeks ago, I read an interview in Punk Planet that my editor Dave did with Modern Life is War. In his introduction, Dave really caught my attention:
Hardcore needs help, people. Just pretending that bands like Atreyu don't exist won't make them go away. We need to support bands that are making music that's worth getting excited for, and stop making small talk with dudes in shitty bands at venues by telling them that their new record is "awesome." Negative reinforcement can be a beautiful thing!
With that, I proceeded to read one of the most hopeful write-ups I've read about hardcore in a long time.
Modern Life is War comes from Marshalltown, Iowa. Reading about how they came from a nowhere town and made their own scene is a nice little reminder that DIY is still an underground, self-motivated thing. Despite the term becoming synonymous with something like uploading a song onto the Internet that you recorded last week with your two-week-old band, DIY started underground and the roots are still underground. The band released an independent 7" a few years ago and have since made two records, My Love. My Way and Witness. Deathwish Inc. (owned by Converge's Jake Bannon) released Witness in '05 and plan to reissue My Love. My Way later this year with bonus tracks.
These couple of releases alone make me really really happy and proud to see a band like this around. Why? Because they write songs that aren't filled with goofball imagery, shredding riffs or guttural, atonal garbage. Rich melodies are a part of Modern Life is War's sound, but they neither sugar-coat them or mask them with noise. They aren't going for the sub-atomic, guttural jugular either.
In the grander scheme of things, I see this band as bringing some great importance to the overall genre of hardcore. There was a time when a poppy-punk band like the Get Up Kids could play with the brutal metal/hardcore of Coalesce to the same crowd. Instead of being factioned off by sound or image, these bands came from a community that supported them no matter what. Now I don't know who all Modern Life is War has played shows with, but I think they could play with a wide variety of different-sounding bands. Not just metal or punk, these guys have a real kind of appeal to metal fans and non-metal fans alike. They don't have a mass-marketed appeal that will make them the laughing stock of younger fans in years to come.
I have no clue if people will really "get" what I'm talking about with metal. Just like talking about the musical merits of post-hardcore or pop-punk with a number of people, they don't get what's the big deal. For me, metalish-sounding music can be really awesome, but when I feel like there's more of a gimmick than substance, I pass. Yet when there are no boundaries of who a band is "for," I have to applaud them, especially when they did this by being themselves.