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Death Metal bands that succumbed to The Norming

Death Metal bands that succumbed to The Norming
December 09, 2008, 12:00:06 PM
The Norming: when you tire of explaining yourself, and start making a variation on what others do, because it is what they expect and therefore, you will become popular and thus succeed financially and become more widely-distributed as a meme. This is the process by which metal is re-assimilated by rock music.

We know metal is generally different because it follows a narrative composition pattern; this is what punk (excepting the Cro-Mags and thrash/crossover bands) does not have, nor does rock.

Here are some bands that threw up their hands, stuck a fork in themselves, and conformed so that they could succeed, and yet never got called on it

  • Carcass - Heartwork: My god, if you listen critically to this one, it is Pantera. Who re-incarnated these bad 1970s riffs played by a tenth-rate Metallica clone, with the cheesy guitar licks to make it "technical"? This album is worse than shit. It reverses everything metal wanted to be.
  • Pestilence - Testimony of the Ancients: Same review as above. How do these guys get off on calling this album technical? Oh... it uses marginal amounts of advanced harmony and offtime rhythms. Yawn. Someone got to them by calling them untalented, so they made the same shit everyone else does so they can prove "me too." Idiots.
  • Morbid Angel - Domination: Three great albums and then you step right off the pier into an ocean of shit. This is directly influenced by Pantera and all the cool/smart/abstract riffs are now replaced by offtime chugging and riff-chorus strict song patterns. It's like hearing later REM played on power chords.
  • Ulver - Nattens Madrigal: I think this album was designed to prove just how stupid metalheads are, and it has been a smashing success. Take Transilvanian Hunger and remove all of its brilliance, replacing it with candy-rock melodies and indie rock minor key transitions. Voila! From 140 IQ to 115 IQ in ten quick seconds. If you like this album, you are a stupid monkey.
I'm sure there are more.

Resist The Norming.

Ignoring Morbid Angel which I find to be a worthy album, this was a particular feature of the bands that date to the end of the 80's / turn of the decade. Sentenced, Amorphis, Paradise Lost, At the Gates... you name it. A ton of dark, doomy, powerful death metal bands in demos/EP's/first albums transformed in two years to sterile rock/heavy experiments.

The grind/death generation was composed of school friends / neighbours who banged out some extreme shit on the side of other hobbies and were not living their life with the intent to become icons of metal / heavy metal heroes, which is what the previous generation wanted to be. 80's metal was "bigger than life", a total show. But these guys dressed in normal clothes and never pretended to be macho warriors, they did not hide that they were totally normal kids with some morbid inspirations. Plus it was more normal to be "open minded" and listen to jazz, rock, pop et cetera on the side and by the time they learnt to play their instruments (2nd album) these influences start to clearly show.

The next generation of bands (Burzum, Ildjarn, Beherit) had learnt from these sell-outs to orient bands toward a spiritual concept from the beginning and thus progressed more sensibly from black metal to another form of complex avantgarde music. Also note that the examples are one man bands, it's because bands are no longer neighbours who just wished to jam together to brutal sound but people united as much by the way they think about the world.

Also note that the examples are one man bands, it's because bands are no longer neighbours who just wished to jam together to brutal sound but people united as much by the way they think about the world.
Interesting thought.

In general, I think the amount of bands who succumb to making dumb / bad / derivative / redundant music war outnumber the ones who call it quits when they've no longer got anything left to say.

I suspect what we're mostly looking at is a fairly predictable pyschosocial dynamic.  To wit, what keeps "outsider artists" like metal musicians in the game is likely to be very different from what drew (or perhaps drove) them to their art in the first place. 

Imagine you're an intelligent, creative, alienated kid (which could essentially describe most metal artists of consequence when they developed their key works) who looks out at a world full of hopeless, stupid mediocrities shuffling through life and cowering in fear of death.  You're bright enough to realize that it doesn't have to be this way, that there's more to the good life than a dreary cubicle job, shopping malls and enough money for the matching mother-daughter boob job/botox package, but the morons around you marginalize you (ostensibly because you're "weird" or "antisocial," but actually because there's nothing the herd hates more than someone who reminds its members of their own insignificance and cowardice). 

You carry that heroic dissonance with you, and it infuses and informs your creative endeavors, giving them a power and vitality that no one from the crowd can match (or understand).  Initially, your creative momentum carries you on through a sort of manic phase of artistic productivity, and you're swept along with the cresting tide of your own ideas.

But what happens when those ideas begin to peter out, and your creative momentum slows or even begins to ebb?  If you have, by some minor miracle, developed a stable, sane sense of self that extends beyond your artistic persona, you might have the wisdom to simply hang it up (Ildjarn), or at least hunker down and take some time off to discipline yourself and adapt your creative vision to a new language of sorts (Luc Lemay).

But, if you're like most, you'll probably find yourself adrift without much to anchor you.  If you've been good at what you do, somewhere along the way you found that you could make a living - maybe not a king's ransom, but at least enough to get by - without having to work in a goddamn cubicle.  More importantly, along the way, you gained recognition.  Maybe not "fame" as the real celebrities enjoy, but a certain notoriety.  A substantial group of people, all over the world, who appreciate what you do.  Who validate your art, and, by extension, your existence.  Maybe even a reasonably disease free girl or two who wants to suck your dick just because you're in the band.  Heady stuff indeed, for an outcast.  Intoxicating, actually.

And subtly, your motivations start to shift.  It's no longer so much about saying something.  It's not really about the art.  It's about the craft.  The calculation.  But really, it's about staying in the game so you can get your fix.  You've sold out, and you don't even know it yet.

I am a stupid monkey. i liked Nattens and Testimony.

i think you should direct your flak at Spheres. what an incredible waste of time that was.

The Norming. i can see it now: sort of like the Blob, but instead of being a blob, it is a large rolling mass  which plays Kalmah, Skinless, and Britney Spears, contains a Hollister store inside of it, and all you can hear are the faux screams of deathcore bands as it draws near.

FEAAAARRRR THE NORMING!

Ignoring Morbid Angel which I find to be a worthy album, this was a particular feature of the bands that date to the end of the 80's / turn of the decade.

Yet the pattern keeps repeating. Black metal is now fully Normed.

I agree with the statment on Carcass' Heartwork. It was the downfall of a once great band. They went from being the inovators of gore/grind along with Repulsion to being the inovators of gothenfag melo-death upon the release of Heartwork.

I wouldn't call Testimony... an album conforming to the norm. I wouldn't call it technical nor is it as good as the Pestilence albums that came before it, but I wouldn't say it's a terrible album that only a stupid monkey would like. Testimony had it's moments. Now, Spheres is what I would call a technical-death album with the jazz fusion, of course.

I've already discussed my though on MA's Domination on the "Morbid Angel question" thread.

Natten Madrigal was a strange album, but I wouldn't say it's candy-rock BM. Definetly better any of Ulver's electronic psuedo-ambient releases.

A better example of death metal succuming to norm would be Sepultura's Chaos A.D. which pretty much inspired nu-metal. Another one would be Morgoth's Feel Sorry For The Fanatic. What's sad is both bands were at one point nothing short of godly.

To be fair, one riff of track 6 of "Nattens Madrigal" was good.

The rest...

"Meh", as they say.

Cryptopsy, had quite a styling during "None So Vile", and I admit, could play their instruments in a way that kept me from getting bored.

Their new album is absolutely blasphemous.

This band once held the proud title of a "Death Metal Band". Now they have taken the BR00TAL stance which is slowly infecting the Death Metal genre.
The Norming is a result of old artists running out of steam.
The Norming is the reason why practically VERY FEW bands are even attempting to stab the mainstream. (Deeds of Flesh tried, but even they are norming out new album = metalcore stylings).

Even Worse there's Amorphis, after The Karelian Isthmus... Well... That's in the past now.

Any Cryptopsy album after None So Vile is atrocious.

Now they have taken the BR00TAL stance which is slowly infecting the Death Metal genre.

I think that battle was lost a long time ago, bro..

Now they have taken the BR00TAL stance which is slowly infecting the Death Metal genre.

I think that battle was lost a long time ago, bro..

Eh, regardless, it still sucks.

What do you make of Immolation incorporating nu metal techniques into their lexicon on Harnessing Ruin? Grasping for artistic diversity perhaps, though it stinks of 'the norming'. Interesting that they appear to have reduced (or perhaps intelligently integrated) these elements on Shadows in the Light.

What do you make of Immolation incorporating nu metal techniques into their lexicon on Harnessing Ruin? Grasping for artistic diversity perhaps, though it stinks of 'the norming'. Interesting that they appear to have reduced (or perhaps intelligently integrated) these elements on Shadows in the Light.

Listed to what Ross Dolan has to say about it. The band don't see it that way at all. To them, they're just distilling the music to its essence and simplifying it in the process. Though I am not sure I can agree that, as Ross suggests, much of Herein After and Failures for Gods was made up of unnecessary riffs.

What do you make of Immolation incorporating nu metal techniques into their lexicon on Harnessing Ruin? Grasping for artistic diversity perhaps, though it stinks of 'the norming'. Interesting that they appear to have reduced (or perhaps intelligently integrated) these elements on Shadows in the Light.

Listed to what Ross Dolan has to say about it. The band don't see it that way at all. To them, they're just distilling the music to its essence and simplifying it in the process. Though I am not sure I can agree that, as Ross suggests, much of Herein After and Failures for Gods was made up of unnecessary riffs.

The only problem I have with his justification for simplifying the music is that a lot of ambience was lost in the transition. Songs like Despondent Souls, The Devil I Know, Unsaved, or Nailed to Gold sound more like Onward to Golgotha or Det Som Engang Var; whereas Harnessing Ruin or Shadows in the Light, though more distinctive and perhaps refined, in the hands of lesser composers would sound like later Behemoth.