We live in a society where we attach labels to everything.
Some labels are essential, such as those you might see on the bottle of Windex, cautioning all consumers not to attempt to drink the delicious-looking blue liquid. Others, however, especially those in the music community, are rather arbitrary and do nothing but cause more damage than they’re worth.
Take Illyrian, for example. They were featured last week in The Morning Star, and it was vaguely mentioned that they’re often referred to as thrash metal. When head-bangers hear the word thrash metal, images and sounds of the big four, Metallica, Megadeath, Anthrax, and Slayer, come to mind. Though comparing the sound of Illyrian to that of Metallica is like comparing a wet sock to a wet blanket — they serve the same purpose, in one case to rock the audience’s mind and the other to provide an uncomfortable experience — but saying that they’re the same is plain silly, and anyone who knows how to count to four can tell you they’re different. To believe the contrary is foolish.
To combat this conundrum, bands have taken to creating highly-specific sub-genres. You may be thinking, “Oh those smart cookies. Now everyone will be happy.” I too thought that, and oh how wrong I was.
What originally seemed like a good idea spiralled into a world where sub-genres are a joke and mean even less than the base-genres we once trusted.
There is no need in this world for the shaman punk sub-genre. As far as my research shows, it really only correlates to one band that was just a wee-bit different from the other punk rockers, Galloping Coroners. Don’t ask what shaman punk is, because, well, who really knows or cares.
Heavy metal music is one of the worst culprits of overusing the subgenre tool. There’s funk metal, nu metal, rap metal, Norwegian blackened death metal, Norwegian black metal, unblack metal, doom metal, etcetera. I could go on until I’m blue in the face, but why bother. You get the point.
Even the more “family friendly” genres fall into this trap. Take Christmas music for example. There’s Christmas rock, Christmas comedy, Christmas classic, Christmas jazz, Christmas modern and many, many more. But that doesn’t make any of them palatable — it’s still Christmas music, after all.
Now, please feel free to attack me in a fit of rage here, because I’m an enormous hypocrite. I too called Illyrian a thrash metal band, and that’s really the nexus of this pickle we find ourselves in.
To say that they’re thrash metal isn’t technically incorrect, because of the vague boundaries we find in the world of music sub-genres. Nevertheless, if I didn’t put any indication to what type of music a band plays in any of my articles, then how would you, the reader, have even the foggiest clue regarding what I’m spewing? You wouldn’t. And then my articles would all be massive failures, and I would be sad.
As you may have guessed, I, like most, prefer to be jubilant. So to achieve my ear-to-ear grin I add genres to my articles. Then you, the readers, have at least a vague idea about the words I madly write.
The point is, there’s just no winning. Labels are equal parts sweet and acidic.
So I will just do what I want.