Music trends are cyclical. The wheels spins like this: a genre or sound starts off, and it’s novel, interesting, and experimental. After underground fans catch on, it eventually spreads to mainstream listeners who love the earnest appreciation of those underground fans. Once it gets too big, though, the underground fans decide it’s the mainstream, and therefore uncool (and plenty of times that’s true — often when a music scene blows up, the artists behind it tone down their sound or get lazy, and the quality of the music declines). Then, about ten years later, the young fans who discovered music via that genre decide that you know what, fuck you all, they loved this stuff, even if it’s uncool. At this point, the genre returns to the forefront, influencing a new legion of bands, and there is much rejoicing and/or despair.
We all have it: a subgenre of rock or metal that we loved, only to have it suddenly hated by everyone around us. But beauty comes with patience, when we can wait out the hipsters and eye-rollers and get to that point where our guilty pleasure becomes everyone’s favorite music. There’s a distinct pleasure to watching the know-it-alls who called your chosen sound ‘stupid poser bullshit’ suddenly writing laudatory anniversary posts about albums you always knew were the fucking shit.
Here are 10 genres that everyone loathed, until they didn’t…
These days, countless bands like to talk about how Korn, Linkin Park, and Static-X influenced their music. But travel back in time to 2004 and these guys would get laughed out of the room. Because of how bloated, shallow, and derivative it had become by the end of its reign, nu-metal was genre non grata for years after it collapsed in on itself, a scene of talentless tough guys doing their best to prove they’d listened to a rap album at one time. Today, the scene’s pop sensibilities and risks are acknowledged for their worth, but man, for a while there nu-metal couldn’t get arrested in this town.
During nu-metal’s initial explosion, thrash officially fell off the map, its stark speed and old-school fashion deemed goofy as fuck by fans in the late ’90s. The Big Four were officially trying out groovier, less interesting sounds, while modern legends like Exodus, Testament, Overkill and Kreator could play tiny clubs if anywhere at all. Thankfully, artists like Municipal Waste, Toxic Holocaust, and Gama Bomb brought the sound and its former champions back, but for a while, your average thrasher lived deep underground.
It’s interesting to watch an entire decade go in and out of vogue. Synth music was vital to the early ‘80s’ sci-fi vibe and sound, but as the organic ‘90s eclipsed it, the music became synonymous with cheesy malls, awful pastels, and everything plastic and lame. Now, with synthwave, artists like Carpenter Brut, Espectrostatic, and Meteor are relishing in the sound and imagery of the 1980s’ neofuturisim, paying homage to everyone from John Carpenter to Patrick Nagel with their elaborate electronic sounds. Trends come and go, but lasers never die.
A movie like The Dirt reminds fans the world over why hair metal was such a phenomenon. But hair metal was also hard rock’s first great rise and fall in the public eye. The genre’s early hunger made it interesting and dangerous, but mainstream pressure and substance abuse turned it into the safest, most superficial genre ever known to man. When thrash, grunge, and groove metal finally kicked this scene off of its gold-plated toilet, the world was happy to see it go. So enjoy the genre’s legendary excess and put on some of the more metal AF hair bands — just never forget that this one died hard, and for good reason.
When horrorcore first emerged, many listeners scratched their heads. Gangsta rap was at its core about real terrors — racism, economic disparity, the inevitability of gang life — which meant that rhymes about murder most foul and the paranormal felt kind of ridiculous. Today, though, things have changed, and countless musicians from straight rap artists like Tyler, The Creator to goth-oriented rappers like Ghostemane enjoy slipping references to vampires, slashers, and morbidity into their rhymes. It’s not exactly Gravediggaz, but it certainly bridges the gap between the worlds of rap and horror — a gap over which the previous bridge was blown up while everyone pretended they’d never noticed it in the first place.
Inherently tied to the nu-metal scene by artists like Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, and Coal Chamber, goth had its definition slowly changed from morbid, romantic punk to angry suburban kid who writes bad poetry by the turn of the millennium. Even worse was when goth became indivisible from punk, resulting in the emo boom of the mid- to late-2000s in the form of bands like My Chemical Romance and Alkaline Trio. But today, goth is a title used to describe anyone with a wide-brimmed hat and a distaste for going outside, embracing its former stigma and, in doing so, outgrowing it. Hey, it’s all black and skulls to us.
It’s fascinating to watch a genre fizzle out the minute it really blows up. Melodic death metal became the genre to beat in the early 2000s, as American metalcore bands adopted the sound and a new wave of Swedish acts like In Flames, Soilwork, and Darkane took the genre to new heights of catchiness and experimentation. Except pretty soon, melodeath was just too…mellow. The genre had become pretty and typical, a far cry from the vicious speed and fury of Entombed and Dismember. Bit by bit, the scene has found its footing once more as acts like LIK and Transcendence take it in interesting directions, but never forget that this music ruled until it sucked, and boy, for a hot second there, did it suck.
The deathcore scene existed seemingly to push things to ugly, unbeatable extremes — which is why it’s so weird that so many of those bands have become alternative rock acts. But while Bring Me The Horizon and Of Mice & Men may have formed smacking of Hatebreed and Darkest Hour, they now sound like Weezer. Somehow, the gentle smoothing out of the genre’s wrinkles has brought back the alt-rock of the mid-’90s, albeit with a slight bit more synth pop and DJ influence. Send amo back in time to an Eve 6 fan from 1997 and they’d love it.
Theatrical black metal
When black metal finally became a widespread phenomenon, it was inevitable that the prettier bands within the scene would be lambasted as poser lameasses. Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir were accepted byeveryday metal fans, but they immediately became the bands that ‘serious’ black metal lovers scoffed and snorted over. But somewhere in the past five years — perhaps due to the widespread love shown to Cradle’s classic albums by everyone from pop stars like Billie Eilish to death metal icons like The Black Dahlia Murder’s Trevor Strnad — theatrical, synth-heavy black metal has been acknowledged for how much its grandiosity helped change a genre born in smell Scandinavian basements. Go big or go home can only go so far with a lot of stark guitars and references to tanks.
Could it be? Maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves by declaring this genre to be ‘back,’ but there definitely seems to be evidence that the latter-day metalcore with Christian leanings that was dubbed ‘crabcore’ is back in favor. When we reported on Attack Attack!’s apparent comeback last month, we expected a lot of laughter in the comments — and instead saw fans gasping with excitement at the prospect of these swoop-haired runners-in-place returning to the world. It would be a fitting way to end 2020, that’s for sure.
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Words by Chris Krovatin