Monday, March 5, 2012

Initiating (D)evolution?

I recently found myself pondering a question about music. A band or musician who starts something new is generally seen in a positive light, and they get called things like "innovative", "revolutionary", "pioneers", and other similarly positive labels. On the other hand, bands that do the same things we've all heard a thousand times are typically not so well regarded. The question is, how should we feel about a band that is revolutionary, but in a way that produces a variation we dislike?

Just to clear things up, the band I have in mind when I say this is Overcast. Most "serious" metalheads agree that metalcore is an abomination. Personally, I think its value as a gateway musical form is generally overlooked, but it's easy to understand why metalcore has joined nu-metal as the most hotly disputed area of the metal world. After all, it essentially serves as the buffer between the metal world and the rest of the world. Most non-metal listeners encounter nu-metal or metalcore bands like Slipknot or As I Lay Dying, and they find it off putting because it seems like the most crazy and extreme music in the world to them. They assume you'd have to be a nut or a weirdo to be a fan. Metalheads, on the other hand, often look at it as not even being real metal. These fans are annoyed precisely because the rest of the world thinks that these bands are the most extreme of the extreme. Then of course there is the actual fan-base of these bands, who think of themselves as metal fans, but who find their favorite music under attack by those with a more elitist mentality as well as those more fully in the mainstream. The entire thing becomes far more messy than it really needs to be. And what does all this have to do with Overcast? Well, if you're not familiar with them and you were unable to guess based on the context, Overcast are often credited as the first metalcore band.

The group released their first EP in 1992. Their debut album Expectational Dilution came out in 1994, a scant 3 months before Korn released their pioneering nu-metal debut. So why did it take metalcore so much longer to gain traction than nu-metal? Well, that's actually pretty simple. The guys in Overcast did become commercial successes, but not with their original band. While Korn plowed onward and gained popularity, Overcast broke up in 1998. Bassist Mike Di'Antonio would form Killswitch Engage, guitarist Pete Cortese would record with both KSE and Seemless, and vocalist Brian Fair took over from Phil Labonte as the vocalist for Shadows Fall. Thus, unlike Korn, the members of Overcast actually played a direct role in developing the bands that followed them. So the question that arises is: are these men innovators who took a different path and made it successful, or are they hacks who commercialized and bastardized metal?

Opening track "Faceless" from Bleed Into One, their 1992 EP.

1 comment:

  1. I guess they can go either way. But the problem I see is that the innovators (e.g., Korn, Pantera, At the Gates) are often maligned simply because of the bands they influenced, rather than on their own merits. Also, I don't think we need to rag on gateway bands. Like I've said before, we don't get into metal because we heard Bathory.