New-ish Genre Alert: This Genre Needs A Name
And we shall determine it in bloody combat!
Over the past year or two, I’ve noticed more and more bands that play a mix of styles which tickles my fancy in a manner it has not been tickled before. I’ve since tried to unite them all under an umbrella term because a) compartmentalizing is a human thing to do and b) as a fan of underground music, I need to be able to shout, “This isn’t even true [genre name]!” when I come across bands I find lacking in some regard (which is, like, 90% of bands). We shall fill that placeholder today, and I’ll start by setting the perimeter that these bands (most of which you’ve admittedly already heard of ’round these parts) fall into.
A while ago, Bandcamp Daily ran a piece on something called “Dark Punk“, which was described as “a style of darkwave-, post-punk- and anarcho-influenced punk that’s grown out of the hardcore scene.” Post-Punk and hardcore punk do indeed make up a good deal of the backbone of the mysterious genre we’re trying to determine. Zorn and Bleach Birth in particular have undergone a development from more straightforward (if never thoroughbred) hardcore punk to something that brandishes a much darker, more goth- and post-punk-oriented atmosphere without losing those punk roots, and the influence is similarly palpable in newcomers like Devil Master and Majestic Mass who don’t have as many releases under their belt.
That goth aspect of the sound brings the music a tad closer to what Richter – himself going off of former research in the field – has determined to be Loud Guitar Goth; a tightly interwoven mix of a wee bit of metal and a lot of post punk aesthetic, yet still refusing to really fit the term death rock. Indeed, he went so far as to lump in Devil Master with that branch of music, but I’m not so sure that that works, because they already fall into the territory of bands that dial up that “wee bit of metal” to “a whole lot of metal.” Namely, black metal. Sure, you won’t hear tremolo riffs and blast beats, but the lo-fi aesthetic and vocal approach do a big part in pushing the music in that direction.
From all this jibber jabber, we can derive the core tenants of the genre in question and put them in a simple equation: goth/deathrock + punk + black metal = x, but instead of solving for x with boring-ass math, let’s assign points to our contestants
arbitrarily based on their individual strengths. Winner gets to be the namesake of the genre. Deal? Deal. Let’s go.
+1 point for “up-and-coming” status – Bandcamp Daily ran a feature on them, Joe played them on the podcast and gave them a shout out on his year-end list – in underground terms, these dudes are skyrocketing.
+1 point for gnarliest vocals – I love that shriek on the neweset release.
+1 for being sexy hunks – those pig tails, that stache, those pants… yum.
Total: 3 points
+1 point for song titles – “Unpopular Pop Song,” the “Lawfare”/”Warfare” suite, “Beguiled or Begone”
+1 point for punk rock zero-fucks attitude – playing it loose, keeping it simple.
+1 point for strange synths – see e.g. “Convertible Man”
+1 for consistent use of skulls – all three releases have them, as it should be.
-1 point for clean vocals – they’re far from horrible, but I’m not a fan.
Total: 3 points
+1 point for satanic shtick – they’re called Devil Master, and their upcoming debut is called Satan Spits on Children of Light. Gotta appreciate the evilness.
+1 point for being spooky – Manifestations (i.e. their first two EPs) had moments of ambience and weird noise that felt genuinely unsettling.
+1 point for punk rock speed – they play pretty fast a lot of the time.
-1 point for losing underground cred* – they’re on Relapse now, and it looks like the debut will lose a lot of that lo-fi charm. The underground nerd’s biggest fear is thusly woken: normies might start to like this. Ugh.
Total: 3 points
+1 point for album art – I mean, come on. This rules.
+1 point for mascot – taking the skullet to the literal level and consistently featured on all releases.
+2 points for d-beats – they are the way to a Hans’ heart.
Total: 4 points
+1 point for strongest black metal aesthetic – in the vocals and the overall sound.
+1 for using an organ – check “Sanguine Dreams of Lust” for a catchy-as-hell synth line
+1 point for variety – almost every song feels different while the album maintainins cohesion
Total: 3 points
Welp, they cut it close, but as you can see, by a totally unbiased, scientific method that was in no way rigged towards an outcome I find satisfactory, Warthog emerged victorious, and I hereby christen the mysterious genre
But I’d be willing to reconsider the result in exchange for more bands of this ilk. Contact me discreetly in the comments.
*I’m fully aware of the contrast to the “up-and-coming” point awarded to Zorn, but as you know from experience, there is a fine (read: completely arbitrary) line between being happy for a band’s success and accusing them of being sellouts.