It's Time for Djent to Djie
Metal's dopiest offshoot needs pack up its eight-string guitars and call it a day.
Somehow, I miss the days of metal elitism past. The prototypical metal nerd was the type of person who wanted to push the boundaries of how crazy-fast they could play a song. These days, it seems so quaint, seeing that lanky pony-tailed dude in Guitar Center pull off overwrought arpeggios, telling everyone around about his new band. He was the archetypical punisher; if you mistakenly took the time to compliment him, he would somehow loop you into a 15-minute conversation ending with his critique of Devin Townsend’s latest output, and the production conceits found within the record. While it was a world I never spent too much time trying to explore, there was a comfort knowing that it was all out there if one ever wanted to engage in it.
While that track of metal went by, metalcore chugged along, capturing the hearts and minds of impressionable teens throughout the world. Also something easily ignorable, that scene relied on comparing dope 808 bass drop-drenched breakdowns threaded under dudes with really nice hair screaming at you in some dingy club in Orangevale, CA. Also, a scene of people you really never need to engage with unless you want to. But something terrible has happened. The streams have crossed, and a revolting freak of a genre has been unleashed onto the world. Instead of some compound word that takes two genres and fits them together like a puzzle, instead it takes form in the dumbest subgenre name to ever rear its head: djent.
Djent is what happens after years of trolls tell metalcore kids in YouTube comment sections they should listen to “real metal.” Instead of staying in their own lane and doing their own thing, metalcore bros have had their feelings hurt to the point that they feel they must prove to “real metalheads” that they can also be edgy. Seemingly all at once in 2010, these bands started to bubble up and cluster together. In metalcore’s never-ending search for making breakdowns heavier and heavier, the genre has decided the best way of doing so would be to buy eight-string guitars and play breakdowns off of that. “Heaviness” no longer means a combination of different elements creating a certain weight, whether it be socially or in some cases emotionally, that has a resonance on the listener and makes them want to throw down. Instead, the name of the game is simply “how low can you go.”
We can all probably blame Meshuggah for all of this. If you’re an idiot, what you would probably take away from Meshuggah is the fact that they use eight strings and play off-time. But more than that, their music is able to create a sort of frenetic mood that makes them one of the leading artists in prog-metal. Which is a shitshow of a genre to begin with. Meshuggah was able to play in that genre while not just buckling down on doofy guitar solos. Instead, they played a shit ton of different song types, all circling back into their original formula. Really, anyone who’s into metal can probably find a track of the band’s to enjoy.
That’s why the idea of djent is such a fucking bummer. Even when Meshuggah had that one album that was literally one song extended to fit a full-length, they were able to employ subtleties in order to make a cohesive unit of an extended piece of work. But each band that plays the same down-tuned, lameass songs do so with very little care as to delicacy of a song, or even differentiating oneself from the rest of the pack. The groups would love to be in the same conversation as other technical metal titans, yet the highest accolade they could achieve would be a spot in the Fleshlight stage at Warped Tour. In short, the genre is trite as hell, and it’s time for this shit to stop.
I retract my earlier statement of Meshuggah being to blame for all of this. Really, the fault lies squarely on the shoulders of Periphery. As soon as these dudes came out of the gate, every two-bit guitar player started copying the hell out of them. Upon first listen, you may think to yourself, “Wait a minute, what’s with that rhythm of boring, hum drum chug riffs? I thought I was listening to a technical band, not Emmure!” See, that’s the funniest part about this whole scene. If you remove the off-time guitar parts and the boring noodly bits, the track is reduced to your standard fare of Hot Topic-core scene metal. Breakdowns, lame-o scream-sing tradeoffs, and not much else make this band sound like Saosin covering Meshuggah at a high school talent show. At least the new singer is pretty good when he’s singing? Too bad when he’s not fronting this shit-heap, he’s the new frontman of reunited old school emocore band From First to Last. A great feather to add to the cap of shit genres.
Another quick thing to note about this genre, in addition to nearly identical sounds, the band names also become pretty identical. Most of the time they’re either just a noun, but maybe if you’re lucky, it’s a plural noun! Maybe they’re trying to imply something, who knows. Most of the time, it comes across as a feeble attempt to sound smart or deep. Anyways, Volumes is probably the Limp Bizkit of the pack, though the LB at least has an aspect of satire to themselves. On the other hand, Volumes really is some kind of self-parody of the entire scene. Totally self-involved bullshit lyrics, chuggy chords, and overall just piss-poor songwriting. Bros playing off-time guitars and rapping.
One of the real boons of the genre is it lets terrible long-forgotten bands to come back to cash in on the trend. Sikth (or SikTh if we’re being technical) has always been Meshuggah’s annoying-ass little brother. Take the shittiest elements of Deftones (and somehow not the 8-string guitar they employ)and a little bit of grindiness a la Daughters, and you have Sikth. A true grandfather of the genre; being an inspiration for all other hacks to come together and have a fair shake at glory.
In the band’s last breath, Attack Attack! attempted to also cash in on the subgenre, but fucked up royally. The kings of crabcore probably wanted to show the world that they weren’t some joke of a band, and were capable of doing what all the other metalcore bands have moved onto. So, they released an album where every song title started with the word “the” and the album cover kinda looked like two penises if you squinted hard enough. About a year after the album was released, their singer started nu-metalicious Beartooth (who we covered here), and after a few lineup changes, one of scenecore’s most influential bands was laid to rest because they tried to trend-hop too hard.
Attack Attack!’s fate should be a cautionary tale to all “djent” bands: this shit isn’t going to last. Jocking a band’s style so hard to the point where it creates a new genre, really isn’t anything new. We saw it in the early 2000s when tons of metalcore bands started using At The Gates riffs in their songs, and ten years later, people have moved onto a new band to copy. Really, djent looks to be on its last legs. There really isn’t anywhere else for the genre to move. So we ask of you, please just hang up the guitar and go back to the drawing table.
Jjohn Hjill is on Twjitter - @johnxhill