Metal is a lot like religion... and we don't just mean the bits about massacre and the end of the world. Adherents to the genre will explain to you, often at great lengths and whether you want them to or not, exactly what is proper metal and what is not really metal.
Like all major religions, there are schisms and subsets, and they rarely get along save to unite against things that are unequivocally not metal.
So Rocks Off could not be surprised when our longtime songwriting partner Bill Curtner sent us a link to a Decibel article by Shane Mehling slamming the incredible piano metal being put out by the German band In Legend. Now, we're not here to blast a fellow journalist, much less argue with a Decibel writer about metal, but as an outsider we just have to say that same video for their song "Pandemonium" that Mehling says "fucking sucks," we say, "stomps colons inside out."
We can understand the complaint here. In Legend has axed guitars in favor of hand-hammered piano craft, and what is metal without guitars? Well, we never thought we'd enjoy violins and accordions in metal either, but that hasn't stopped Turisas from being one of the most awesome things we've ever heard.
Simply put, no genre can continue to exist without some experimentation, and metal has a long history of mixing its energy with the grandiose execution of symphonic and classical elements. You may wince at the comparatively soft lead melodies laid down by Bastian Emig as he growls through songs of madness, but the strength of the musicality is undeniable.
It's not that different from the kind of things Apocalyptica does, and if you can't get behind that, we don't really want to talk to you. Piano metal is awesome, and we sincerely hope to hear more of it.
Rocks Off asked Emig, via email, a little about In Legend, piano metal, and the Decibel article.
Rocks Off: Are you a classically trained pianist?
Bastian Emig: No, absolutely not. I like classical piano music very much but never learned to play the piano in a traditional way. I preferred to listen to the radio and play along with the songs I liked most.
RO: Who are your influences as a pianist?
BE: I don't consider myself as a pianist who wants to emulate others. I like pianists like Esbjörn Svensson. He was brilliant. Or Alfred Brendel in a different way - but In Legend is not about a pianist playing metal. It is about self-realization and my own way to express myself with songs being performed on a piano.
RO: What made you want to link acoustic piano playing with the metal style?
BE: I used to write songs for my former bands. By doing so, I tried to perform the parts I wanted the guitarists to play as true to the sound of a guitar as possible - of course it would never sound like a guitar, but by stressing the main features of the riff in a way a guitar would do, I eventually came to the point that I wrote stuff that I liked more being played on the piano but the guitar.
I had never the intention to realize a concrete concept - I kept writing songs, just changed the tools.
RO: How many pianos have you smashed and how much has that cost you?
BE: Unfortunately, my experience in smashing pianos is a rather poor one. Can you imagine, piano owners don't stand in line to offer me any more opportunities! It makes it even more difficult for getting a full piano endorsement. Coming to think about it, the pandemonium video was not the best application in that way... well - but actually I love those instruments - and I prefer playing, not destroying them.
RO: Any chance we'll see you in America anytime soon?
BE: Hopefully! We love touring and it would be great to cause sheer pandemonium in the U.S. That would be awesome!"
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RO: Decibel Magazine had some very harsh words about you. Any response?
BE: Another poor soul wasting precious energy in things he doesn't like. But thanks for the free promo by being talked of.