Seeing positive record reviews on bands like Mastodon, Isis, Killswitch Engage, Converge and Slipknot in publications that seemed to steer clear from this kind of music, there is something going on. I do wonder how this happened. I think a comment Slagel made in the article nails it on the head:
The hipster kids are writers -- the indie rock people -- they're no longer going, "Oh, metal. Behemoth, they're horrible! So now all of a sudden some of these really cool bands are really good and those people are getting into [them], but I think it's more a validation of the people, especially like the indie rock people the writers and stuff. They kind of validate it; "Well, it's part of hipster metal so that means it's going to be cool for us to listen to."
I will admit that I've listened to much more college rock, post-hardcore, emo and pop-punk in the last few years. Not that I've grown tired of that stuff, but metal/metalcore has reached a point where I can enjoy it a little more than I used to. I don't have to be pissed off to get into the detuned guitars, bellowing/screaming vocals and pounding drums. These days, I'm finding myself listening to records like Converge's You Fail Me and Killswitch Engage's The End of Heartache as much as I listen to Cursive's Happy Hollow and Blackpool Lights' This Town's Disaster. I ask myself, why and why now?
There was never a point where I disliked metal after I got into indie rock, but the chances of finding someone that was into both of those genres were very slim. Feeling like metal was perfect when I was pissed off, records like Master of Puppets and Vulgar Display of Power would get a spin. I was much more interested in records by the Get Up Kids, Jawbreaker and Hot Water Music in addition to Idlewild, Red House Painters and Sigur Ros. There just wasn't a desire to get into modern metal. Besides, in the late-'90s, anything remotely like popular metal was a joke. Nu-metal was plaguing suburban youths with its faux, white-boy pain. Korn and the Deftones put out some really impressive stuff during this time, but it was easily mixed in with all the watered-down junk floating around too.
At some point a few years later, bands like Shadows Fall, Converge and Killswitch Engage were getting some attention, but I didn't know why. The rap/rock hybrid in nu-metal was being overshadowed by screamo and that wasn't much better. Sure, Thursday and Thrice put out some good stuff, but just like with nu-metal, this was caught in a blurry mess of weaker stuff.
When David Fricke's four-star review of Slipknot's Iowa ran in Rolling Stone, I felt that modern metal had reached a certain kind of credibility. Not to think in a lemming sort of way, but a lot of rock critics would be quick to dismiss metal because it was metal. Fricke has always struck me as an open-minded music critic and a great writer and writing what he wrote about Iowa, I felt compelled to check it out. Though I found the record to be a great soundtrack for the Playstation 2 shoot-'em-up Red Faction, I didn't really find it that compelling to listen to more of it.
Two years ago, as I was going through KTCU's "crap" box, I came upon a copy of You Fail Me. Thinking this was going to be a funny little metal record, I took it home with me. Turns out that I was really blown away by it, especially the title track. I kept coming back to the record and was surprised that I didn't have to be at odds with my everyday life to enjoy it. This led into me really getting into other bands like Killswitch Engage and Dillinger Escape Plan.
Now, I'm seeing what's going in favor of a handful of modern bands: they're doing metal right. There's nothing contrived about Converge, Mastodon, Shadows Fall, All That Remains, Lamb of God or Killswitch Engage. These bands act like they've studied the history of metal closely, but have done something out of the box with it too. Plus, none of these bands just dropped out of the sky. These bands didn't start two years ago. They aren't prancing across music television channels as flimsy fads. They're being rewarded for a lot of hard work after being off many people's radar for years.
With now, I have a better understanding why we're seeing a few metal records get some nice props outside of the metal world. Sure, it may seem odd that these are considered kosher for the hipster crowd, but I seriously doubt that this stuff will have a full embrace by them.