Pop music doesn't have to be metal's enemy

(Image credit: Getty Images/Katja Ogrin/Rich Fury)

We love Jamey Jasta here at Metal Hammer. Who doesn’t, and why wouldn’t you? For over a quarter of a century he and his band Hatebreed have been wonderful, positive, inspiring models of consistency, hard work and passion for all things heavy. They’ve made some killer music and have given endless metal and hardcore bands a much-needed leg up in our scene. Basically: he’s a dude.

A dude that, until last week, seemingly hadn’t heard of Scottish electro-pop band Chvrches. Although, much to his chagrin, he likely won’t forget them now. Last week Jamey expressed his disbelief that they were billed higher than Gojira at the upcoming Deftones-curated festival, Dia De Los Deftones in San Diego, California. “Who the fuck are Chvrches and why the fuck are they playing over Gojira get tha fuuuuuck outta here,” he tweeted. 

It resulted in a something of an online shitstorm, with many metal fans actually sticking up for the Scots, and sections of the mainstream press grabbing hold of the story and ignorantly painting Jamey and his band in a rather inaccurate light. 

Obviously, we admire Jamey, but it’s hard to agree with him in this instance. There are a few reasons Chvrches deserve their spot on that bill. Firstly, they are significantly more commercially successful than Gojira – a quick look at their streaming statistics will tell you that. Does this make them a better band? No, it does not, but if just being a ‘good’ band was the basis of how festival bills were booked, then we wouldn’t have seen The Killers headlining Glastonbury whilst Employed To Serve played on a tiny stage two days before. The online commentators can bitch and moan about their inclusion all they want, but at this year’s Download Festival, Die Antwoord played to a bigger crowd than Power Trip. That’s economics, folks. Festivals are businesses.

Plus, Chvrches were handpicked by Deftones, and you can understand why. Chino Moreno has long spoken about his love of subversive 80s heroes like Depeche Mode and The Cure; his band have covered The Smiths and Sade (as well as Jawbox and Helmet); and if you’ve heard his other projects, Team Sleep, Crosses or Palms, Moreno’s love of other genres is clear. Put simply, Deftones are not a traditional metal band in any way, so the likelihood of them picking a pure metal bill for a festival that is meant to showcase their own unique tastes is low. In this context, Chvrches make total sense. 

And, of course, there’s this: what exactly is the problem with metal integrating with the pop scene every now and again? Let’s be honest, that world has been pretty good to us over the last few years. Glastonbury has finally opened its arms to metal, with the response to the Earache-curated Scum stage almost universally positive. Lady Gaga, one of the world's biggest stars, was delighted to be sharing a stage with Metallica at The Grammys. The aesthetic of metal has been lovingly adopted by hip-hop artists the world over. Hell, even Justin Bieber likes Tool now! Maybe we could show the mainstream a little hospitality too?

Chvrches clearly respect and are aware of what they are getting into; they count Iain Cook, a former member of alternative rock band Aereogramme, in their ranks and vocalist Lauren Mayberry took time to tweet Jamey to tell him that she had seen both Deftones and Gojira over the years. And the truth is, there are enough dark, musically interesting, unique bands outside the parameters of metal that share the same similar levels of artistic integrity as the artists we hold dear. Getting the chance to bang your head to The Heaviest Matter In The Universe, then immersing yourself in some classy electro soundscapes before Deftones come on and blow your mind sounds like a pretty cool day out to us. 

And, crucially, there might be some fans of more mainstream music who arrive at Dia De Los Deftones solely due to Chvrches’ inclusion, those people may be totally unaware of the sheer visceral power of heavy metal due to a lack of exposure to it, and will potentially walk away with their mind blown and a thirst to delve deeply into a world they previously never even knew existed. 

As a long time campaigner for bringing heavy music to as many people as possible, we’re sure Jamey Jasta would see that as a positive.

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.