Sunday, June 26, 2011
You don't hate hardcore, hardcore hates you
Ugh, now that Jungle Rot's been signed to Victory, they have all these obnoxious hardcore influences. Jungle Rot's always been a great, traditional oldschool death metal band, so to hear them add a ton of -core to their sound is massively disappointing. Guess they've decided to jump on the sellout bandwagon big time. I mean, it's not like they've ever sounded like this befo-
Lately I've been hearing a lot of people preemptively mourning Jungle Rot because they had the sheer audacity to sign to Victory Records. Comments range from a lack of understanding as to why they would sign to such a label (because it couldn't be that Victory is an enormous label who will pay them more than Napalm,) how they could betray the metal scene in such a way (failing to understand that musicians see musical communities in an entirely different way from mere fans,) and how they may inevitably start incorporating hardcore influences into their music, which to many metalheads is an evil just short of intentionally infecting children with HIV. Of course, as you can hear from the above couple songs, Jungle Rot has had hardcore influences in their music for a long time- as long, actually, as the band has been around. The NYHC present in Jungle Rot's music has always been one of their defining musical characteristics, but it was never a problem (or even mentioned, really) until Victory picked them up. So let's talk about why this is.
The people who intrinsically complain about hardcore are complete ciphers and not even worth talking about. Anyone not completely ignorant in the history of metal knows that hardcore has a been a sister to the metal throughout the existence of both the genres, from Black Flag's hardcore punk to Hatebreed's modern hardcore to Converge's metalcore to, yes, Envy's screamo. Every dimension of hardcore has had influence on metal whether one appreciates it or not, and the existence of hardcore is directly responsible for the expansion of heavy metal beyond anything more extreme than Judas Priest. What's more interesting are the people who are more situationally annoyed by hardcore- who constantly rephrase what they mean by 'not liking hardcore' to make their untenable point more salient.
One of the biggest defenses is that there's an intrinsic difference between early hardcore punk and modern hardcore; well, yes, there is. They do sound different. However, to suggest that modern hardcore is some completely different breed of music which rose from absolutely nothing is a ludicrous proposition. The development of the modern "toughguy" hardcore sound is one that took many progressive steps originating in hardcore punk; some of the late '80s/early '90s bands of the hardcore scene express this very clearly. Artists like Madball or Ringworm firmly straddle the lines of both oldschool and modern hardcore- in essence, there is no appreciable reason to dismiss one and not the other. You can say that you like one and not the other, you can insist that one is a more artistically relevant style, but you can't say that one is "real" hardcore and the other isn't.
Of course, this evades the whole reality of the situation, which is that modern hardcore (especially NY and Boston) is massively influential to some of the most lauded artists of the metal scene. Jungle Rot has always been a band clearly influenced by hardcore. Suffocation in particular owes a great deal of their early sound to NYHC, including their use of the "breakdown" technique (which deserves another post entirely) which was taken from hardcore and repurposed for the burgeoning style of brutal death metal. But even beyond simple, obvious examples like those, look at modern power metal's infatuation with perpetual chug riffs, which are simply evidence of hardcore by way of thrash- or more likely, just by way of hardcore itself as more and more metal musicians become significantly influenced by modern hardcore. The scenes are attached at the hip whether one wants to admit it or not.
But none of this explains why Jungle Rot getting signed to Victory tweaks people out so badly. A lot of it has to do with a legitimate (if still inexcusable) lack of understanding as to what hardcore is and just how broad a spectrum of music it contains; hardcore, of course, is just as varied as metal, managing to combine artists as disparate as Liferuiner, Heaven in Her Arms, and The Locust under its general umbrella. Victory for many years was essentially positioned as THE mainstream hardcore label, releasing music ranging anywhere from Bayside to Bury Your Dead, but it seems that they're only remembered in the metal scene for the legion of First Blood clones that at one point populated their roster. Hardcore, like emo, is a term that has been co-opted and so massively generalized by the metal scene that it ceases to have meaning. Those complaining of "hardcore influences" in their metal are really just talking about a very, very narrow range of musical techniques and concepts which make up only a tiny part of hardcore at large.
Which brings me to the final point, and the reason why people are angry that Jungle Rot has signed to Victory: image. With "hardcore" turned into this monolithic, one-note style in the minds of metalheads, all hardcore is the same, and all hardcore is necessarily bad as a result. Ignoring the breadth of the scene, the closeness of the two genres, and the entire history of hardcore influence in metal in favor of a reductionist approach has allowed what seems like a massive group of people to immediately dismiss Jungle Rot for daring to become a closer part of a scene they had always at the very least had one foot in. You don't hate hardcore, you see: you hate a certain hairstyle, the way certain notes are arranged, certain conventions in band names and album titles. You don't hate hardcore because you actually don't know what hardcore is. You don't hate hardcore; you hate the bizarre, incorrect image of hardcore you've somehow managed to cook up in your mind from years of incestuous interaction with people as ignorant to the genre as you.
In short: you don't hate hardcore, hardcore hates you.