Many times when Im shooting the shit with my metalhead friends, we often discuss what bands are up to these days. A segment of the conversation often revolves around older metal bands who continue to release new albums, and how much they suck. It used to be easy for me to condemn them so quickly. I didn’t really think twice about why I was saying such harsh words about these bands I was raised on from an early age. The core of my argument was simple, I love their older albums, and the new ones don’t sound like that, so I hate it. Fair enough, right? It wasn’t until I recently started breaking down this argument in my head when it dawned on me that my judgement could potentially be too arrogant and harsh.
I could use Metallica for example sake, but since my musical career has been more influenced by underground bands, I’ll use the Swedish melodic masters, In Flames. Their first few albums were astounding to me at a young age, as Id heard nothing like them at the time. The Jester Race was my first introduction, and I was absolutely hooked right from the very first note. The band inspired everything I did with my own music, from how I screamed into a microphone to how I tuned my guitar. As the years passed by, I released more albums that sounded less like In Flames and more like myself. I was becoming my own artist. At the same time, In Flames was releasing more albums, and coincidentally they too sounded less like In Flames. Strange, isn’t it?
Zoning out in my room during my youth, I didn’t just listen to these early In Flames albums, I absorbed every molecule of them like a sponge. I studied and obsessed over the technique, the production, the lyrics, and everything in between. So needless to say, I was a good representative of their fan base. However, when they moved on from that original sound and started to explore progression as any artist naturally does, I took it personally. I was selfish, and claimed their sound as my own, as if it belonged to me. I was angry that they dared to change what originally inspired me as a musician. As I mentioned earlier, my friends and I would constantly sit around dissing the band for their new approach to heavy metal. Looking back on this time makes me some what ashamed now, as it was such a selfish way to act towards a band I owed so much gratitude towards.
Writing is very therapeutic to me, so as I sit here typing this article Im trying to piece together why I acted like this towards one of my favorite bands. The idea stemmed from a Twitter post I saw earlier today where In Flames released a new song. Upon listening, I was instinctually triggered to respond like I used to in the past, but I stopped myself. I took a step back and decided to reflect on why I was so quick to judge. After jotting down the majority of this article I went back and listened again, and…well, it still sucked. I just couldn’t get into it. However, I did not feel the same enraged jealousy that I did in the past. Perhaps its because Im a fellow musician, and can relate to their motivation towards less repetition and more innovation. Whatever the reason, I can no longer knock these guys for doing what they do.
In Flames have achieved massive success in the metal community, and their legacy will forever be imprinted on other bands and artists for as long as distorted guitars crack through our speakers. They transformed the way we hear heavy music, and inspired countless musicians to create new and exciting records that in turn will inspire people the same way In Flames inspired them. Just because I don’t like their new material or the direction the band is headed in does not in any way shape or form negate their contributions and achievements. If I continued with such a stubborn attitude, how would that reflect on my own musical career? How would I respond if fans started saying I sucked because my new album doesn’t sound like my old one? Thanks to this article, and the ability to vent my thoughts here, I have a new understanding of how to embrace such a divisive topic.
Music, like any form of art, is highly subjective. You’re always going to find people who love what you hate, and hate what you love. There are still going to be hordes of old Metallica fans saying the band sold out with the black album. Just like there are still going to be hordes of new Metallica fans saying they love Death Magnetic more than Master of Puppets. Whether you love it or hate it, the music is going to outlive us all. I used to side with the idea of spreading such vitriol towards these bands in the hopes of stopping them dead in their tracks. The only thing such stubbornness ever stopped, was my ability to recognize the true magnitude behind the bands I have so much respect for.