Everyone is selling out all the time. Henry Rollins once said, “do you have any idea what some of these bands went through to make that music? The fact that there might be some money for them all these years later is great. You think that paycheck is in anyway a slight to their integrity? Are you fucking kidding me? Pay them. Pay them double. Pay them now. It’s about fucking time.”
I agree completely with everything about that statement. That being said, it does not stop every single thing about the music made by these bands pursuing commercial success awful. It might appeal to the masses, but my God, does it suck.
The latest such set of bands to go down this road is the wave of metalcore bands who sprung up a few years ago. Past the point of metalcore being able to generate big bucks (see: the era of Killswitch Engage, which is long gone), they've hit upon a successful formula: power balladry. These guys are making metalcore that would make Coldplay proud.
The first step was taking out most or all of the screaming. The second was removing the breakdowns. After that, I have no idea how these bands could even be considered metalcore, but they are signed to metal labels and tour on that genre's bills, so let's ignore the obvious fact that these bands no longer have anything in common with their roots.
Who are the leading names? One of the most egregious examples is Asking Alexandria. These guys came out of the woodwork in 2009 with something at least closer to real metalcore. As the years went on, they completely abandoned that for radio-rock. Asking Alexandria would be welcome at Buzz Fest, except that their music isn't even heavy enough for that. This is Bon Jovi-core now. Seriously, check out their single “Moving On,” which takes every single cue from “Livin' on a Prayer.”
The latest to make the transition is Of Mice and Men, who just put out their new single, “Never Giving Up,” a few weeks ago. Notice the lyrical patterns at work here? It's all semi-inspirational garbage about recovering from the perils of lost love and the road, just like the '80s hair-metal bands these guys apparently aspire to be.
Of Mice and Men is notable for the fact that their screamer was the original vocalist of Attack Attack!, aka the band best known for inventing crabcore in their video for “Stick Stickly.” But Austin Carlile, who has a good voice despite his questionable past, is now reduced to little more than the Flavor Flav of the group; his screaming is no longer necessary. Bassist Aaron Pauley's whiny, clean vocals now define the group's half-hearted attempts at making the sort of thing that appeals to frat bros these days.
Carlile founded the damn band, but money talks. It's only a matter of time really before he can comfortably be phased out of the band in favor of this transition away from any elements which ever made the band heavy. Again, the issue though is not that Of Mice and Men are chasing the almighty dollar, but rather that they aren't good at it. This is awful. This is maybe the worst trend in rock music since post-grunge was dominating the airwaves. Okay, maybe just since Mumford and Sons. Either way, it's grating.
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The ones who have hit it biggest with this thus far are Bring Me the Horizon, who actually played Buzzfest this past weekend alongside such heavyweights as Papa Roach, Candlebox, P.O.D., and Panic! at the Disco featuring only one original member. Having hit No. 2 on the Billboard 200 with their latest album, That's the Spirit, Bring Me the Horizon have finally bucked all association with their past. This album contains no traces of the original elements this band was founded on. At one time, they were actually an excellent deathcore band, but now they could not have strayed further.
It's definitely worth it from a financial standpoint, yet the quality of their music is increasingly, tragically terrible. That's the Spirit's blend of radio-ready rock riffs with electronic influences is almost worse than if they were trying to match Of Mice and Men or Asking Alexandria's hair metal power balladry. Instead of drawing from Whitesnake, they're drawing from Linkin Park. Gag me.
As an aging metalhead who has watched this trend develop, I know I'm not winning any arguments with fans of it. But the travesty of it all is just how embarrassing it's all going to sound in five years. The artistic merit just isn't there. Welcome, teenagers of 2015, to your very own future guilty pleasures. Metalcore is mainstream now, and it is painful.