The Writer in Musician’s Skin: A Commentary on the Local Metal Scene

I’m really not conceited enough to think that the breakup of Arcane Malevolence should take up an entire music column on this excellent e-zine. I originally decided to fit it in as a supplement to a bigger issue. Over the last few days however, I’ve come to realize that the breakup of my band IS a big deal to a number of people; more of a big deal than the band members themselves make it out to be. Being the vocalist of this band, I’m surprised that we really meant that much to people, and I suppose our breakup deserves a more thorough explanation. It’s not my place to explain the case of my band mates and their reasons to move on, but I can certainly speak for myself. So here we go…

The author performing with Arcane in 2009 -- photo by Chris Rivera.

First of all, I am honored to say that this band was a part of my life for the last three years. Because of a last minute decision, I took a leap of faith and joined in on something that truly felt special. It wasn’t just the music that turned me on, but more importantly, it was the people. For the first time in the eight-or-so years of being involved with bands, I was grouped with three people I had no musical history with – it was immediately refreshing. What I didn’t know at the time was that these three people were to easily become three of the best people I’ve ever been in a band with. In the entire three years that we were together, there was never any drama, jealousy, complication or unnecessary confrontation. They are and will remain very good friends of mine, and in no way do I regret joining in with them. On top of that, this band also introduced me to a shit-ton of other great people that I probably wouldn’t have ever met had I not gotten involved. There are too many names to mention, and you all know who you are anyway.

 There are three personal reasons for me parting ways with this band. Firstly, I’ve never thought of myself as a strong singer or musician in general. I’ve always felt like a writer trying to fit into a performer’s costume and it never really fit right to me. Up to this point, I’ve gotten away with it. I have my strengths I suppose; I can scream and growl with the best of them. However, I’m not that great of a singer, nor do I know anything about how to play or compose music. I feel that these inabilities would soon become a handicap and would deter this band or any other metal band’s agenda of pushing the boundaries and pushing the music forward to another level. In short, I’m not good enough to travel outside my comfort zone.

Secondly, there’s the matter of performing. When I first joined the band, my live presence was based on some estranged method of releasing a lot of pent up anger and aggression. I wasn’t a happy camper I guess, and to deal with this I decided to become a ranting, comedic and dancing maniac on the stage. This (for some reason) became immensely popular to my band mates and our “fans” and became a staple of our live act. At first it was fun, and therapeutic! Over the last year or so however, I’ve become a much happier person. The result of this is that the madman that I turned into when performing became less and less of a part of who I was, and more of a character; a character that’s become increasingly taxing to portray accurately. I no longer have a desire to go on a stage and be a crazy person for people, and acting like one for the sake of tradition has become stale and silly. I still have my anger issues, but they’re dealt with now in a calm and streamlined fashion. I feel I can express a whole lot more with paper and pen then some joke-cracking insult-machine with shitty dance moves ever could. (Editor’s Note: See video below…)

Finally – and this leads me into another issue – I’m disillusioned with metal music in general and the local metal scene in particular. My musical tastes have changed a lot throughout the last few years and I no longer have the connection to heavy metal that I used to have. I still do appreciate a small amount of it, and there’ll always be a part of me that finds it powerful and awe-inspiring when done right. Yet, I have no intention to base a chunk of my life around it any longer. As I’ve said, part of this is due to changes in taste, but it’s also due in large part to my disconnection with the local metal scene and my own weakness in being a vocalist/musician. With that being said, I feel I should explain this last point in further detail, to give this article a wider range of appeal…or criticism.

Of course, this is only my opinion, and my opinion is based on only what I’ve directly experienced. I’m sure there’s many who’ll disagree with the following statements, and have given more of themselves to this lifestyle then I’ve ever attempted. Therefore, let me base my criticisms from a bystander’s point-of-view rather than someone from the inside. I feel that despite the good intentions, loyalty, perseverance and wide-scope of the local metal scene, there remains many flaws that keep it from growing into something much greater, much more innovative and powerful. All the ingredients are there, and there’s enough of a scene to cause a serious stir — but the mentality is way off.

My criticism of the local metal scene can be confined into two definite statements:

  • Quite simply, there are too many bands. More precisely, there are too many mediocre bands. I admit that my tastes might be a bit unfair in this point, but even after giving the benefit of the doubt of differing taste, I feel that at least 75 percent of the local metal scene really needs to go back and practice on their musicianship, songwriting, and identity. I’ve been in bands since I was sixteen, and only in the last two years have I felt I was part of something that was at least trying to portray something interesting. Of course you’re not going to hit on something completely innovative and awe-inspiring off the bat; the important aspect is the ATTEMPT. Build on your influences instead of drawing on them to define you. Work on your craft and get it to the point where you aren’t limited in what you want to express. Taking the time to practice, carefully compose and tap into your imaginative powers can result in a sound that is truly your own and way more impressive. If all aspiring metal musicians and bands followed this guideline, I can guarantee that shows would be ten times more successful and the lineups would be a lot more consistent. Instead of seeing a showcase of four mediocre bands and two great bands, wouldn’t you as a music fan rather see six really great bands back-to-back? Wouldn’t you be more inclined to support a scene that offered talent, innovation, creativity and heart above all else? It might sound cruel, but the best thing this scene could do is not to weed out the weak necessarily, but to put all focus on the strong. That way, either the weak are going to give up and free the scene of mediocrity, or they’re going to go back to the drawing board and work even harder to become the strong. It’s all about supporting each other, I agree. But support isn’t only just going to shows — it’s also about proper guidance.
  • Death Metal Dave: "I hate it when bands try to sound different!"

    There seems to be much more of a focus on keeping the music fixed to a set of standards, rather than progressing on from those standards and breaking boundaries. We all know what thrash metal is, and what death metal, black metal, grindcore, and hardcore encompasses. There are plenty of established bands that have adopted these styles and play them convincingly. To me, simply continuing to rehash these styles for the sake of keeping to standards is counterproductive to what makes a metal scene successful. The Gothenburg sound and the Florida death metal scene are perfect examples of this; they took a sound and molded it into something that was completely new at the time. Now granted, there are many fine metal bands in this area that pride themselves on playing a certain established sub-genre and they do a damn good job of it. In fact, if the goal of this metal scene consists of simply playing metal and playing it well, then I’d say it’s a shining success. However, if the musicians in this scene want to build it towards greater recognition, then thinking outside the box is the only way to get attention, especially in a genre of music that is seriously overcrowded as it is. I know the talent is there, and the attitude is right. The brotherly aspect of networking between bands is alive and well. Now what really should follow is for metal bands to work on making the average audience member stand up and state, “Holy shit, I’ve never heard metal like this before! I’ve never known it to go in this direction and be this compelling. I want to be a supporter and a part of this!” The result being a growing audience of fans beyond an immediate circle of friends. The result also being a network of musicians, promoters, and metalheads striving towards something that could seriously make this little scene into something that has a lot to say – each word and note being worthy of mass attention, and difficult to ignore.

After all that I’ve said, and despite some negative comments, I do appreciate being a part of this band and this scene. There are a lot of great people involved with it, and I’m happy to have been introduced to them. I’m walking away from active involvement with it perhaps, but not without appreciation, great memories and a few really great friends. I’m sure I’ll be keeping in contact with most of you crazy people in one way or another. My retreat from metal music means I’ll be spending a lot more time on my true labor of love: writing. Soo…there’ll be plenty more of my big open mouth to go around. And now that I’m definitely a bystander in the musical world, I believe that I’ll have a lot more energy to come around to shows. It’s just that it’s time to let somebody else handle the dick jokes and the bad improvisation. A big thank you to everyone who supported the band, and I’ll see y’all around! BLLAAARRGGG!!

5 Comments

  1. pixie

    Well, while I sure I am in a mediocre band by every means, you influenced me a LOT and gave my self-doubting, insecure person an inspiration to be better on stage and helped me develop an odd, inconsistent, self confidence that I honestly don’t think I would ever have had if I didn’t drunkenly stumble into your show in June 2010 and have a “holy shit, this is one of the most amazing bands I have ever seen” moments. For what that’s worth in the scheme of things that made an impact on people. Now I will shut up before I become too gay for my own good.

  2. baldwin

    Punk is a different beast altogether Pixie. I’m just speaking for the metal scene really. The whole attitude and aesthetic that punk runs on seems to be the opposite of what metal, to me, should encompass. Thank you for the nice comment though 😀

  3. pixie

    Everyone forgets that just because I am in a punk band (and the only one in this area) that I prefer metal music by FAR and that’s one of my little dilemmas. Trying to figure out how the hell Fairfield County seems to only have one punk band, and NO punk attitude…. that’s an article in and of itself that would probably get me death threats, dude. xx

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