Dear Metal Bands, Be Yourself!
There are lots of things in music that piss me off as you’ve seen already or you’ll see soon. One of the biggest things that gets under my skin however is a band emulating another band in hopes of cashing in on the fan base of another band. Originality never killed anyone aside from maybe Jesus Christ. But if he were still around, the long hair and beard lead me to believe he’d be a Black Sabbath or at least a Zeppelin fan. But let’s just say that Jesus is a metalhead that loves Zeppelin for example. When he turns the radio on in his metal chariot, odds are that he wants to hear something bitchin’ off of Led Zeppelin II and not two hundred bands that are ‘influenced by’ them yet sound like B-sides off of Coda.
Stealing the sound of another band makes an otherwise talented band not so good and a not so good band downright shitty. If you want to sound like another band or show your devotion to a band, record a cover song or just be a flat out cover band. It’s kind of hard to have respect for a band that comes out and plainly admits they are plagiarizing everything that a pioneer has already established for them. When a band like Avenged Sevenfold gives themselves a label in the same sentence as Guns ‘N Roses and Pantera, I have a hard time trying to take them seriously or even give their music a chance. I have absolutely no problem with a band being fans of another band or even citing Dimebag as the inspiration for a certain riff or Dio for a certain chorus, but it needs to stop there. When I log onto MySpace I don’t want messages from bands telling me that if I love Sevendust or Carcass I need to check them out and I will love them. Sure, I would love them if it hadn’t already been done and perfected fifteen years ago and not recorded in a dumpy garage.
I’m not asking every band to sound completely different or anything because it’s pretty hard to reestablish entire genres this far into the game. In the 1960’s and 70’s, most bands that came out had no choice but to sound like themselves due to a lack of predecessors, and forty years later it’s almost all been done by now. All that I ask is for a line to be drawn between pulling inspiration and ideas from a band and flat out copying their key to success. Love them or hate them, bands like Type O Negative and System of a Down left permanent marks in the music industry even outside of the metal world because they created a sound that is undeniably theirs. Nobody turns on Bloody Kisses or Toxicity, respectively, and can’t figure out which of the fifty bands it could be. I understand how hard it is to try creating a riff that doesn’t sound like something I’ve already heard before. The sounds of the bands we love are embedded in our brains and it’s natural for a certain amount of that to trickle into the music. Inevitably your band is going to be compared to another band of your genre which is just a part of the game. Just make sure your band isn’t being accused of ripping off everything that’s already been done before. When you’re asked what your band sounds like, tell them it sounds like your band and not somebody else’s. Remember, if metalhead Jesus wants to hear South of Heaven he doesn’t want to hear your band, he wants to hear Slayer.