Friday, February 19, 2010

Decade of Metal: 2000-2009

On Dec 31, 1999, no planes came crashing out of the sky, nuclear bombs went off or microwave ovens tried to eat anyone. However, times were about to change and in the metal scene change was already well underway. Let us take a stroll through the decade in metal that was.

Many of the 90s big names like Emperor and Pantera prepared to give their last venomous scream dying off in the wake of ever diminishing interest in the metal scene that had plagued the 90s. In the year 2000 a band named “Limp Bizkit” came out with an album called "Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavoured Water" and in a storm nu-metal took over the public perception of heavy music, changing the face of metal irreparably. Although nu-metal had already been pioneered by Korn, bands like Deftones, Disturbed, Mudvayne and Linkin Park all had breakout releases in 2000.

However, underneath this movement was a small American snowball that with help from such prototypical bands like Unearth was to become metalcore. You see, 2000 also saw the release of albums by bands such as Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God - emerging names that would dominate zine covers and awards for the rest of the decade. Combining the melodic death metal of the Swedes, hardcore punk, breakdowns and musicianship absent from their nu-metal brothers, so great was the trend in these new metalcore (and diversity, with bands such as Lamb of God moving firmly into metal territory) that it birthed its own tag - the New Wave of American Heavy Metal, or NWOAHM, to match the NWOBHM, which rose to prominence in the early 80s.

The early 00s were also a time for a select few special bands to rise out of the coming scene stagnation that happens to any popular scene. Mastodon, with its sludge and technical death metal background seemed an unlikely candidate for metal super-stardom. But the clash created a progressive groove thrash monster that sucker punched fans in 2004 with the release "Leviathan," bringing attention to a band that would be highly praised for future releases.

In fact, when the staff of Metal Underground were polled on the best album and newcomer of the decade, Mastodon's three latest releases and the band itself both dominated the votes. Unfortunately, getting people to agree on the best of a whole decade (a decidedly long time) was like herding cats. Everyone from Norther to Ihsahn to Anaal Nathrakh got a vote for best newcomer with Trivium eventually topping the points - even so with only three coinciding votes.

In terms of meteoric rises however, after a successful sophomore effort called "Sonic Firestorm," a novelty guitar game called Guitar Hero launched a power metal band called DragonForce into the world’s spotlight. With lightning speed output it became clear that in the 00s, solos were back in style. On the other end of the spectrum an oddball wall of sound called Sunn O))) was making an unbearable bass heavy racket to neighbors across the globe. While forms of drone music had existed previously, the amalgamation of doom metal with ambient experimentation caused a bubbling and brewing that lurched out of nowhere in the early to mid 00s bringing with it plenty of interesting drone infused sludge bands. In fact, a huge number of doom/sludge/ambient bands merged with elements of drone as the once separate fields experimented with freakish fusions.

Back on the main track, as nu-metal fell out of favor as an out of date trend (bar Slipknot and a select other few), the NWOAHM rose in prominence reaching a peak in the mid 00s. Trivium's "Ascendancy" album probably serves as a flagstaff for the scene, which by this time was burgeoning with bands trying to join the crowd. However, 2005 also saw the birth of a new scene taking its cues from those revolutionaries of the metalcore scene. With the buzz surrounding Job For A Cowboy's "Doom" EP came deathcore, a mixture of metalcore and death grind given a new vocal twist (soon to be named pig-squeal or bree vocals) and heavy on breakdowns. Since that release, deathcore and metalcore has dominated the last 5 years of emerging bands with even metal stalwarts like Cryptopsy trying their hands (to decidedly dismal response).

There is no doubt however that the emerging trends of metalcore and deathcore have driven a spike into the metal community. On one side the so called elitists who have been defending holy territory like rabid dogs since the 90s, and on the other a new generation of people genuinely influenced by beloved metal legends but who stray from the roots of metal into mainstream waters or new trends. But despite differences we trudge on together, perhaps most noticeably against the defining music trend and much maligned of the decade; Emo. Like a Trojan horse wearing girls jeans, attempting to infiltrate the walls of metal with such acts as Bullet For My Valentine and Atreyu, metalheads have largely decided to open fire as oppose to open gates.

Black metal seemed to be increasingly split into two camps as the 00s went on. On one hand, the constant source of Norwegian bands keeping true with Immortal influenced blast beat demolitions came slow and steady. On the other hand, the Americans were stewing their own concoction of misery and melancholy. Depressive black metal as it became known taking cues from Burzum emerged from the early 00s USBM (United States Black Metal) bands like Xasthur, Leviathan, Draguar, Weakling and more. This unholy offshoot also made waves by creating unheard of mixtures with funeral doom metal and sludge.

Aside from new fusions, the deciding feeling in the metal scene of the last decade was one of retroactive longing. The 80s were the heyday when metal kicked ass and took names with limits of speed and aggression constantly being expanded. So what became of this resurgence in the interest of old metal bands? The thrash revival of course! While admittedly worshiping and sometimes dubiously recreating the original sound of mid 80s thrash bands, bands like Evile, Warbringer, Bonded By Blood and more were warmly welcomed into the metal community, as deep down most metalheads hold within a deep desire to return to the glory days of the 80s.

And as it turned out, so did the 80s bands. Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax all made serious attempts at blotting out the 90s with vicious new releases, and at the drop of a hat fallen heroes such as Atheist, Pestilence, Forbidden, At The Gates, Exhorder and many more reformed to enjoy the belated legacy they had created. Along with the return to 80s metal ethic, was a return to the complexity of thrash bands in belated reaction to the simplistic groove and nu-metal music that had clouded the late 90s/early 00s.

Folk and heathen metal had a considerable boost in popularity compared to the 90s, with bands like Primordial, Eluveitie, Finntroll and more making their traditional infused mark. Doom stayed noticeably away from all of this experimentation, choosing instead returning to its basement to concentrate on honing in on the traditional elements of the genre. Likewise, other than the Nintendo metal of DragonForce, power metal stayed the true metal course.

Other mini trends? Pirate bands, inhuman super clicky drums, relentlessly copying At The Gates riffs, increased interest in trolls and Vikings, Ozzy Osbourne becoming known as less of a rock god and more of a shaky Tourettes sufferer, ambient black metal (read: one guy in his bedroom), ninja and gorillas invading pits, the rise of kvlt and tr00 and br00tal, the Grammys still sucking, Devin Townsend losing hair and the proportional increase in the "skullet" as a fashionable haircut, masked bands, increasing tightening of pants from the Limp Bizkit era, and Lemmy refusing to stop rocking. Good on ya Lemmy.

We’re already well into 2010 now, we wait with bated breath to see what you have in store.

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