Sweden, Century Media Records, Djeath Metal. (‘Djent’ + Death Metal)
Vildhjarta is a band I never made much of a fuss about. Up until the release of ‘Måsstaden’, I pegged them as a decent but forgettable outfit from a scene that got old as fast as it was ushered in. The general consensus about ‘djent’ in the metal community is ‘Cheap Meshuggah worship’. Seeing as how Meshuggah is my favorite band, I see nothing wrong with a little worship from time to time, but I say that as a fan with no musical ability of my own. When an entire scene emerges based on giving mediocre bands the time of day they wouldn’t otherwise get just because they like polyrhythms, that’s troubling. It punishes the innovative bands (Animals As Leaders, Uneven Structure, TesseracT) by associating them with derivative copycats.
In any case, ‘Måsstaden’ was incredibly hyped up, something I’m always very cautious about. Metalheads left and right were creaming their respective shorts in anticipation. I came into the music from a very skeptical perspective and as always, I was correct in doing so. I figured the band would personify every djent stereotype in the book, beating a dead horse even more but perhaps doing it in such a way as to take everyone’s mind off of the stench. Then I heard death growls.
Not hardcore barking, not crushing robotic growls ala Jens Kidman, not even the wimpy Linkin Park ‘singing’ that ruins Periphery. Death growls, punctuated by high pitched screaming. Aside from my jaw dropping in sheer disbelief, I can safely say that death growls were the last thing I expected from this band, especially considering the last time I bothered to check into them, they were taking their EP titles from Final Fantasy games. Long story short, it’s incredibly jarring, misplaced and doesn’t do the band any favors. If anything, it makes me more inclined to be cruel. The music may be a typical affair for anyone familiar with the ‘djent’ sound (heavily palm muted, distorted guitar chords, rhythmic complexity et. al.) but the vocals make even I, someone who was for quite sometime sympathetic to the development of djent, cringe. Quite frankly, I never realized how absolutely unnerving the music could be until listening to this album. The entire album celebrates exploiting stereotypes and throwing in completely unrelated aspects to taint. (Death Metal) At this rate, it shouldn’t be long before an up and coming conglomerate of eight string lovers get together and say,
“You know what the metal world needs? Periphery meets Gorgoroth. We’ll call this new style…bjent. BRILLIANT!”
Now don’t get me wrong, Vildhjarta are capable musicians. However, much like several other extremely hyped technically proficient metal bands they’re wasting themselves. The songwriting on ‘Måsstaden’ is very circular; it takes several elements that they exploit more than enough on the first two tracks and rearranges them throughout the album without changing the core components. There are softer portions that can be said to build atmosphere as one guitarist plucks a couple of strings, an extremely high pitched (hint: irritating) tone alternated with one much lower to form breakdowns, a tiny bit of one guitarist soloing in the high pitched tone and the duet of generic shrieks (think Black Dahlia Murder with several healthy helpings of mediocrity) and the aforementioned death growls. Along with the high pitched tone, the shrieks and growls are the most grating portions of this album. Normally I have no problem with bands that don’t hold back, but the difference between them and Vildhjarta is not quantity, but quality. Just because a band is relentless doesn’t mean what they inundate the listener with is something worthwhile.
Unlike Beneath The Massacre, the possibility of doing better is not my faintest praise. With Vildhjarta, there’s no excuse for turning in this kind of material. It’s unacceptable for critically thinking fans, for casual listeners, but most of all for the fad they’ve helped prop up. When the metal community at large has already crossed their fingers for the swift death of a scene that didn’t have much substance to begin with, this type of material isn’t going to help win over new listeners. Let’s say deathcore was being put on trial with it’s execution as the desired end for the prosecution. To plead for it’s continued existence, Born Of Osiris shows up. As a final slap in the face, they don’t even bother playing original material. Instead, they cover Annotations Of An Autopsy’s ‘Gore Gore Gadget’ on malfunctioning guitars. Long winded example aside, ‘Måsstaden’ is the same sort of slap in the face. Most djent lovers will eat this up with a spoon, (like always, not even bothering to think about what they’re gobbling up) but for everyone else, it’s just further proof that their beloved music is on its last legs involving a timeless genre like Death Metal. When Randy Blythe, a man who’s made a living creating the same music over and over again, effectively bitchslaped djent, I thought every musician involved in the scene would bring their A Game. Animals As Leaders, Uneven Structure and TesseracT certainly have and they will outlive this fad. For everyone else, including Vildhjarta, it’s time to shape up or die out. Meshuggah will be releasing their seventh full length album in a few months. I would advise every djenthead to sit down and take notes from the true masters of everything they’ve tugboated.