Has modern metal become too narrow-minded?

a group shot of ben weinman, eddie Hermida and Jami Morgan
(Image: © Jeremy Saffer)

The Dillinger Escape Plan are about to bow out after 20 years of breaking down genres and redefining what it means to be a heavy band. Suicide Silence, meanwhile, threw a grenade at their own fanbase by ripping up the deathcore rulebook and sticking a middle finger up at the scene with this year’s self-titled album. Finally, Code Orange ripped up a few formulas themselves with this year’s bold, brilliant and genre-spanning Forever. All three bands embody everything that’s great about the spirit of metal, but none have ever been truly embraced by certain corners of our scene. We gather Dillinger guitarist Ben Weinman, Suicide Silence frontman Eddie Hermida and Code Orange drummer/vocalist Jami Morgan to ask whether metal culture needs to broaden its horizons.

Is metal too conservative?

Ben: “What is metal, man? That’s the problem. I don’t know what the definition of metal is. Sometimes my band is considered metal, and then you go play a festival with traditional metal fans and they look at us like we don’t belong. So it’s a bit odd for me to speak on metal.”

Is that the problem, though? What counts and what doesn’t count as metal?!

Eddie: “It’s 100% on the crowd, you know what I mean? I’ll use the band Deafheaven as an example. They tell me all the time that when they play in front of ‘metal’ crowds, people don’t know what the fuck to do. When they play in front of indie crowds, people don’t know what to do either – but everyone loves them equally. So it’s all about what the crowd will give you.”

Jami: “I feel there’s definitely a fundamental problem with the whole thing. It’s the same bands headlining now that were headlining 20 years ago. It’s bullshit. You go look at a hip hop festival: the top of it ain’t Rakim and KRS-One; it’s full of people who are around now. There’s gonna have to be some fundamental shift, but there’s not a lot of bands doing much to stand out.”

(Image: © Jeremy Saffer)

That’s where bands like your bands come in. You’ve all done things to break the mould in our scene and take some risks – and none of you really look like a ‘typical’ metal band…

Ben: “I get what you’re saying – we’ve been able to try different things – but to me we’ve never taken a risk because I’ve never given a fuck what anyone thought. From day one, our band started when Limp Bizkit and Korn were the biggest things in the world. Hardcore kids were at hardcore shows, Slayer kids were at Slayer shows, there was no mixing. You didn’t see long hair at a hardcore show and you didn’t see short hair at a metal show. So we certainly weren’t trying to become a massive, marketable band, and we went way further than we should have!”

Eddie: “Yeah! You guys’ crowds were different from any other metal shows. But when it comes down to the scene and crowds, I feel like if you start pigeonholing yourself into a look or a sound… that’s what we’re feeling the effects of right now. We pigeonholed ourselves, we tried something different, and our fans have completely shut the door on us.”

Ben: “That’s it, though: the day that metal becomes rules, it’s not metal. It’s not risky, it’s not dangerous, your parents actually listen to it, some asshole in your class who knows nothing about the subculture or did the research is listening to it.”

Eddie: “You gotta look at guys like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, though: those guys are metal as fuck, but they still have a formula written. It’s just rock’n’roll music.”

Ben: “Well, yeah, they’re a bit more mainstream.”

Jami: “I’m not saying there aren’t formulas to bands that work for them, and every band has certain things they pull out, but when people start saying we’re ‘not metal’ because we don’t play double bass for the whole thing, or don’t look a certain way…”

Eddie: “That’s ridiculous. The reason I got into metal is because it has no rules. You could have a band like Judas Priest and you could have a band like fucking Suffocation, and to me that’s a huge deal. The fact that I was never really accepted in school or life, I turned to music, and metal happened to be the one place where I could walk into a room and not feel judged.”

(Image: © Jeremy Saffer)

Where’s it all going? It feels like the more the genre expands, the more different subgenres shut themselves in

Ben: “I think it’s starting to correct itself, and that’s what I see with these guys [motioning to Jami]. These guys obviously don’t consider the look, the formula, the things you’re ‘supposed’ to be. These guys don’t relate to that.”

Jami: “A lot of the [modern] bands suck. I watch them every single day, and they’re not good. They like to stick to a formula that’s more pathetic than ever, so when the right band comes along, we’ll see where it can go. But the format is extremely behind; everyone that’s in charge of all this shit has no fucking idea what they’re talking about, and they hire 10 friends that don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. So it’s a circle of shit, and when they’re all gone, we’ll see. But, people have to go out and rock the boat – and I’m gonna rock the fucking boat. There’s no ceiling on my shit.”

Eddie, after what you guys did on the last album, it seems like there’s no ceiling on your shit, either…

Eddie: “Well, we had to do it for ourselves. When I joined Suicide Silence, they had their thing. I came from another band that were doing things outside of the box, but still being death metal. When I joined Suicide Silence, they had their formula, they had their sound, and I wasn’t gonna do another record following another formula. I felt like we needed to do something, and I was lucky enough to join a band where the whole band felt the same way. They were like, ‘We need to do something out of the box. We need to do something that’s gonna make us happy, ’cause if we don’t, everyone’s gonna kill themselves.’”

Jami: “We’ve got back to a time where who you know, and what dickhead in a label thinks you have the right ‘formula’, is less relevant than bands just being in a basement somewhere. If a band is gonna rise to the top, it just will. You’ll hear about them.”

Ben: “You can’t be bullshitted now.”

(Image: © Jeremy Saffer)

So, basically, there is no formula to be a successful metal band in 2017

Eddie: “It’s really funny, because we’re going through something where all the people behind the scenes, the gatekeepers, have closed the doors on us right now. Our fanbase basically went on the internet and basically let everyone know they’re not about us any more. And we’re just doing what you’re talking about, which is doing what we want to do, which is what you’re supposed to do.”

Ben: “And you’ve got more balls, because you’re doing it now. A band like Slayer or Offspring have to make the same formulaic record over and over again, but you were like, ‘No.’ You guys are a fucking big band! Even when you joined the band Eddie, I was like, ‘He’s never gonna be able to replace Mitch’. We played a festival with you and kids were losing their fucking minds!”

Eddie: “Yeah, I guess you could say that. We do well at festivals, but I don’t consider myself big. You can’t be complacent. And I’ll never be complacent to the fact that we’re playing at 2pm in the sunshine on festivals again.”

Jami: “But bands like Dillinger, they’ve always done what they wanted, and they’ve set a path. If a band like them hadn’t come along, a band like us couldn’t have come along.”

Ben: “And I almost feel like we’re leaving at a time when it’s starting to reset itself. Everyone’s asking us, ‘Who are you passing the torch to?’ I’m like, ‘There’s no torch to pass!’ The person who’s gonna come into our position aren’t the ones who sound like us, because we sounded nothing like anything that came before. So to me, it’s not about opening doors through metal, it’s about somebody coming in and just creating their own thing. I don’t care what our music influence is, it’s just the idea that you can do this your own way and fucking succeed.”

The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Dissociation is out now via Party Smasher. Suicide Silence’s self-titled album is out now via Nuclear Blast. Code Orange’s Forever is out now via Roadrunner

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