30/09/2012

I’ve been listening to a lot of Eternal Lord as of late – mostly the last record they put out; they very full sounded, heavy-impacting 10 track album, and to me, only decent, worthwhile release, Blessed be this Nightmare. A crushing ball, not crashing bore (heh). I say ‘worthwhile’, as they finally strayed from that underground noise that all bands started off producing; filling up local venues. The sudden change for them, possibly the first of the likes, worked well in their favour; to switch from a deathcore heavy sound to a melodic, more mature, experienced, and enjoyable, cleverly crafted metalcore sound.

Nonetheless listening to Blessed be this Nightmare made me think, and reminisce. My several different thoughts are as follows:

I: I think back to when this style was bigger, or rather, more popular with the youth and scene, where all these musical careers started (In the mid-2000s, metalcore emerged as a commercial force) – the MySpace days. Music charts weren’t really much of a concern as they are now with the likes of Deaf Havana, While She Sleeps, Don Broco and the likes. Mainstream festival slots were not on the horizon, let alone the map. It seemed more about getting out ‘there’ and doing ‘it’, largely for yourself to look cool in front of girls. As a result, looking back, everything felt more down to earth, and even attainable; much easier to relate to.

Then suddenly, after the rush of metalcore, which soon was taken over by hardcore (a prediction I remember my friend making one night back in 2006 at a house party – “Hardcore is the next big thing man, I swear, it’ll take off”, he cried in his the Legacy shirt) they just quit, dropping like flies. This was constant of bands in the deathcore, metalcore scene. Even the likes of Eternal Lord had the opportunities to tour America but it was still never enough – it’s only those committed like Lower than Atlantis that have been able to stick it out through the bad, modify and enhance (and alter) their sound, remain persistent with self-promotion and dead-end shows… They never had anything handed to them.

It’s as if the only ones who have truly survived, especially via. the UK surge, are Bring Me the Horizon (and Architects following close behind), as they were even playing the Warped Tour whilst the scene was still building and growing – which was probably what influenced so many more kids to have a pop. I mean survived, in the sense that they do get into the charts, tour worldwide and have that critical acclaim, and acceptance. Now, with both bands, their sound has completely changed. Other bands also, such as The Eyes of a Traitor and Evita, have also altered and upped their game to suite the needs and demands of their fans, the modern music twist (granted, they sound all sound a lot better), or just too simply keep going as there are only so many open chord chugs a band can produce. They evolve, much like the before mentioned Lower than Atlantis. Fitting to end this thought is one of my favourite quotes from Robert C. Gallagher: “Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine”.

II: I bet all those bands that spend hundreds of pounds to deadbeat graphic designers on layouts for their MySpace pages are kicking themselves now.

III: “A thousand times I’ve tread this ground, just to see my own reflection” (‘I, the Deceiver’, Blessed be this Nightmare, 2006) bellows Ed Butcher, as do I, looking in the mirror with my TV remote in hand, clutching my chest and turning my fist into a claw, searching for the beauty in his words, the imagery, and the meaning. After listening to this song for the first time ever, years before, I remember being (and still feel) annoyed, as I wrote a line so similar myself, along the lines of searching for ‘you’ in the crowd, but only seeing my own reflection – yeah, I can be poetic too.

But nonetheless, the line is so easy to write yet so good, open to such interpretation and ideas; but you wonder if that’s just lazy writing. You reflect back to the words Butcher wrote during his short stint in I Killed the Prom Queen: “These city lights will never be as beautiful as your eyes” (‘Sleepless Nights and City Lights’, Music for the Recently Deceased, 2006), and, it’s hard to take him one hundred percent seriously, as it’s shoved (I use that word as it could be quickly created; forced) into a blender with music aggressive riffs and the vocal stylings; talk about juxtaposition: Hitler on a first date, Rihanna singing about purity rings, Geldof kicking a sandcastle over, punting a child’s phone into the River Themes or giving his mum a Chelsea smile. It’s hard to picture girls swooning the same way they did to Elvis, and thus, they lose their impact, meaning and potentially appeal all together. And again: “Let’s waste some time; laying hand in hand” (‘I, the Deceiver’, Blessed be this Nightmare, 2006).

I, in turn, decided to have a jab back at Butcher, and mimicked ‘I, the Deceiver’, writing:
Am I the chosen one?
Do I have it in me to be the man
That I’ve always wanted to be
Or something equally as embarrassing.

And don’t worry, my writing has gotten better since.

Lyrically however, metalcore showcased some of the worst around, so Butcher’s penmanship wasn’t all bad. Depicting gruesome horror scenes and fantasies, poorly executed, or just tales of hating women; embedded with misogynistic phrases and seeping with insults to former friends and lovers, or sticking the middle finger up to conformity and religion: “So clap your hands to the sound of every first born dying now, watch the rivers flow with blood, death will stand where life once stood” (Bring Me the Horizon – ‘Pray for Plagues’, Count Your Blessings, 2006) – I chose this one, rather some of the vile stuff actually said about women; me, I love women.

The lyrics, sadly, seemed to solidify and, even more sadly, influence our scene in the wrong, sordid light.

IV: The names! The fantastic, exuberant, ballsy band names! Like Clone the Fragile, From the Carnival of Horrors, Penknifelovelife, The Hunt for the Ida Wave, Make Me a Muskateer (local-ish band, featuring a (now ex) member of Deaf Havana. I just always loved the name), And their Eyes Were Bloodshot, Postmortem Promises, and Annotations of an Autopsy. Didn’t you just love the creativity in such names; how drunk they must’ve been to invent such an idea or word process (words in a bowler hat and pick out several different scraps of paper).

Just as insane were the witty, macabre song titles: Break the Sky came up with ‘I Work the Graveshift; Doesn't Mean I Stopped Caring’ and ‘Dementia is What the Old Folks Call Cabin Fever’, Penknifelovelife produced ‘It's 2am and I Saw Her Body Cavort the Lake Bed’ and ‘Touch Me Again and I'll Stab a Screwdriver Into Your Face’, The Hunt for the Ida Wave released ‘A Graphic Way to Show Nobody Cares is to Take to the Lake and Rapidly Descend, For My Mother is Asleep and So Should You Be’, ‘Jacob Denver Said It's Not Alright, My Friends Can't Breathe Under Water Like I Can. If I Stay on Shore Much Longer I'm Gonna’ Stitch His Insides to a Tree’ and also ‘The First Time She Touched Me I Became an Invention Called Zero, Baby the City Lights Will Always Be More Beautiful than Your Eyes’ (obviously, here, Butchers first crack at that phrase), Her Words Kill named songs ‘Nobody Here is Leaving Priscilla Brooke Alive’ and ‘Jennifer, Hit the Lights, We're Taking Over this Joint’, From the Carnival of Horrors had ‘Her Organs Were Found Across the Moors’, and The Nothing, ‘And the Dogs Hang Themselves with Scissors’ and ‘What Do You Expect Us to Do, Rob a Graveyard?’.

These are just some of the crazy concoctions that have stuck with me all of these years that I remember off the top of my head. One of my sorry excuses of penned song was oddly entitled ‘Why Do These Nightmares Always Involve You and Not the Thug Behind Morrisons?’. Recently, Lower than Atlantis paid tribute to this, imitating and mocking what once was, naming a song ‘I'm Not Bulimic (I Just Wanted to See How Far I Could Stick My Fingers Down My Throat)’. No one complained as this was hilarious and a nice touch.

V: Deaf Havana aptly naming a song ‘Isn't it Funny How People in Bands Lose Their First Names?'.

VI: Black (seldom white) youth medium band t-shirts. Showcasing designs with babies spewing out of heads of skulls with daggers and slime everywhere, a couple of boobs thrown in for good measure, accompanied by an illegible logo; has that all died out? Now replaced with hardcore, which even now seems on it’s way out, progressing to an Odd Future era, with the snapbacks, XL shirts, and Aztec prints – fashion became essential and vital; obviously depicted through that £200 purchase of a Brutality Will Prevail ‘Cheryl Cole x Chanel’ t-shirt on eBay (and subsequently the band trying to make even more money off of it by selling a poorly made (and designed) ‘eBay gold’ design). It soon became all about the merchandise, rather than the live experience, the name rather than the music.

I just remember venues once cluttered with these old band t-shirts (kids standing around with their arms crossed, obviously); before Oli Sykes made it essential to roll up your sleeves. Everyone had at least one to accompany your black Vans slip-ons and skin-tight jeans, or camo shorts come summer.

I remember getting my first… My mum bought it for me! I was drunk from a night-out with my friends, half-asleep (which felt like I was dreaming the whole thing) my mother shook me and from the end of the bed help up this glorious black, red and white t-shirt, youth medium in size (even though I was a small) and smiled graciously at me. When I came too an hour or so later, I sat up, and there in front of me, lay a From Grace (London metal, yuhh!) t-shirt. I was ecstatic. Tipsy and ecstatic. (It didn’t fit, but I didn’t give a s***. I lived in it). Due to the delays, my mother even contacted the band, and they sent me their album for free as an apology – this was better than Christmas (I hadn’t had sex yet). I would later speak to Alex (their frontman) several times in person at gigs, and on our first encounter, I brought this up with him. He said it was as a result of their poorly run record label taking ownership of the merchandise website, and essentially messing everything up, and that my mother was wise to contact the band directly. What a babe.

I ended up with a mass collection of band t-shirts, almost to the extent of deeming it a collection (better than stamps, but it still didn’t help the whole virginity issue). I even had a Penknifelovelife design in two different colours… All of which I ultimately ended up selling for 99p a pop on eBay (one of which ended up being bought by a Front Alt girl – wearing the bloody thing in her photo shoot; she told me she was buying it for her boyfriend), normally not making anymore than the starting bid price. The scene is dead.

VII: There was this one riff everyone used.

The Place to Be Promotions: I grew a vast knowledge and love for this scene as a result of myself being part of a local promotion team, getting thoroughly involved with the production of shows and brining in talent into our suddenly city’s lively music scene (with the help of two other promotion rivals – we’re now great friends!); spending nights research bands, scrolling through genre lists on MySpace and scanning friend lists; listening to track after track to discover gems and remarkable genius.

Shortly before joining, I played a gig for them, having made friend with the owner/creator, Jack, over the past few months as we shared the same bus to college. Whilst I made him listen to various local bands, he tried to get me into Iced Earth and the like, but to no avail... Naturally. Just before Christmas 2006, he hosted an acoustic night for charity in Stamford. And thought it’d be funny to put me and my band on. We had just formed, and were an acoustic three-piece: two guitars, one drum-kit, to be accompanied by my prepubescent pip-squeak voice. Despite the songs we wrote, and in my opinion, they were somewhat lovely and well composed and a thoroughly good listen, it was a disaster waiting to happen.

The day music changed.
I suppose, in hindsight, our name didn’t really help proceedings: Fistdance. Its birth was an odd process, and if I remember correctly, it originated from Taking Back Sunday’s ‘Slowdance on the Inside’. I liked the word ‘Slowdance’, and after a quick MySpace search, realised it was already taken by a marginally successful band, so opted for ‘Fastdance’. But, discussing this, I made a typo, creating ‘Fistdance’. We worked with this on the basis that ‘fist’ would represent the hard hitting side of our music, and ‘dance’ to blend in with the melodies and tender side – and we just ran with it.

This whole idea back-fired a fair bit, most notably when I was at a friend’s family party, a grand shindig, I was speaking to my friend’s aunt; she was a fun individual, and pretty drunk by the time we were introduced. I informed her of my upcoming debut, to which she asked what name we went by. After a few seconds of silence, whilst she registered the name, she balled her hand into a fist, put her other hand around her wrist loosely, and said, “Like, is that some slangy nickname for fisting?”, gliding her hand up and down her forearm.

The gig, anyway, was one dreadful affair. With the aid of one million stomach-butterflies and an incredibly unprofessional soundman, my rock n’ roll career was very much over. But that’s another story. Essentially, it was ever since them (perhaps a bad experience too far) that I got on the other side, so to speak, and assisted Jack ever since in the promotion and production of his shows, to if anything, further my love and experience. This, in turn, sparked a hundred more stories. The pride and honour I felt walking around the venue with a staff badge, and eventually staff t-shirt, doing various jobs, even getting chances to just enjoy the bands, rally the crowd and join in with two-stepping and the mic grabs, was one of ecstasy.

I fell in love with this scene: the passion and energy, its people, the atmosphere of live shows, the thundering annoy-mum music, the incessant ballache that is drums in sound check, the buzz and atmosphere before the doors open, the emotional lyrics, not quite its fashion, its sense of community and quirky nicknames. Band stickers, now plagued with black dirt, clinging on to the base of my Fred Perry canvas shoes along with shards of glass from a broken bottle or smashed tumbler glass. I breathed in the sweat as my feet stuck to the beer-drenched sticky floor, ears ringing. The dirt under my nails; the ink stained on my hands after handing out flyers. It was a good time!

And yet, it’s weird; after months, if not years, of not listening to certain songs, for them to crop up on iTunes shuffle, I enjoy listening and still know the words, I chant along. I feel as if my love and respect for it will never fully die, no matter what breeds from it now, I can reflect back and remember how much I enjoyed my youth; that was our generation’s scene; that was us.

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