I have always been a fan of using genres to help me define music… To an extent. So here’s the good, the bad and the frankly ridiculousness that is genre labelling.
Let’s start with the positives, I’m in a good mood. Genre labelling is a great way to discover music. When I was a young ‘un, I discovered that I had been listening to post-hardcore a lot. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I didn’t know what genre it was at the time but it led me to look it up and discover the genres origins and eventually, hardcore. Now hardcore is one of my favourite genres to listen to. In this instance genre labelling helped me to find music and bands that I might not have found. Genres also help us to define a bands sound. Now I am not talking when people go stupidly in depth, but a nice arching branch helps a lot. Take metal. Metal can be anything. Bands that sound nothing alike can be defined simply as metal. Cannibal Corpse doesn’t sound like Black Sabbath, which sounds nothing like Mastodon, who sound completely different to Alestorm. Neat little sub genres are fantastic at finding a range of music to listen to, just encase your are very particular with your taste.
Of course there are negatives to labelling genres. The act of saying a certain band is a certain genre is a huge creative constraint. For example. Bring Me The Horizon have undergone several sound changes throughout their career. They have dabbled in deathcore, messed around with metalcore and adjusted to alternative. To this very day there are still people who claim that the band should have changed their name when releasing That’s The Spirit as it is completely different sound to their previous work. Now if the band did indeed stay within the confines of deathcore, Bring Me The Horizon would have never released Sempiternal, their best album to date in my eyes and grown into such a driving force in the modern musical spectrum. Confining a band to a certain genre and not allowing them to adapt or experiment is like putting shackles on their creativity. Yes, it may work or end in disaster and doesn’t exemplify them from criticism that comes from fans, but overall I see this as a good thing.
Another more recent example is of course, Suicide Silence. They have recently released some new material that isn’t in line with their previously heavy deathcore sound. Let’s just ignore your views on whether their new music is good or bad as we could be here for days with that train wreck of a discussion. Instead let’s focus just on the problems with the bands genre label. People have been calling them out for the difference in sound, some going as far as to say that Eddie Hermida has destroyed the band with this new path they have gone down. The claim that they shouldn’t release this material under the Suicide Silence name is just stupid. If this is the new sound the band want to follow then you just have to let them. The back lash has even led to a petition for their latest album to not be released at all, which is frankly disgust to even suggest. I mean I’m not a fan of the new sound but that is boycotting creativity something that I find very fascist and off putting.
I would like to add that after what Eddie said about Thy Art Is Murder, one of my favourite deathcore bands ever, releasing similar material to their previous work. You know the music people love and continue to praise them for is going to lead to the death of the genre, I have a lost a lot of sympathy for the band.
The moment we start constraining bands to set genres, is the moment we admit the heavy music community is just as shallow and by the books as pop culture and I would hate for this to be the case. I love it when bands experiment with their sound. When a band incorporates different styles into their music. It can produce some fantastic outcomes and yes some truly dreadful ones to, I have seen bands claw for fame so much that they would throw their fans under the bus just for a spot in the limelight. I also love it when bands stick to their sound. Producing music we know and love again and again isn’t a bad thing either. If that’s what a band truly wants to do, then we should let them do it.
Like I have said, I find the use of genres to be overall a good thing. A big thumbs up from me, but people can take it too far. There are arguments all over the internet between people and their definition of certain genres. I would never take it to these extremes of arguing over it. What one person thinks is post-hardcore another might label metalcore and don’t get me started on melodic-hardcore, people will be discussing that one till the end of days. I mean when do we draw the subgenre line? When you start saying a band is progressive blackened post-vegan grindcore you know the genre situation has gone too far… why do people shove progressive in front of every genre…?