Mainstream success: the golden ring which all rock and metal bands are secretly reaching for, or a seat at the table that any true metalheads will smash to pieces and burn in a trash can? The metal scene features more cries of “sell-out” than most others, with its hardcore fanbase decrying any artist’s exploration of melody, catchiness, or short hair. At the same time, metalheads are always bummed that their favorite bands aren’t getting enough recognition from the public at large. This raises an age-old question: is there a way to become a successful hard rock or metal band without “selling out?”
On this week’s episode of our metal talk show Last Words, hosts Doc Coyle (Bad Wolves/Ex Man Podcast) and Zeena Koda (Everything’s Political Podcast) discuss this quandary with vocalist Aaron Nordstrom of hard rockers Gemini Syndrome, whose music definitely straddles the thin line between metal and hard rock. Aaron and Doc go head to head on how to write a song that appeals to a widespread audience while simultaneously keeping one’s heavier fanbase satisfied.
“The hardest thing about writing a melody is making it unique,” says Doc. “Because everyone’s using the same, I’m going from G to C to D in every song, so how do you stand out? Especially when you come from a band like my old band, God Forbid, which is a lot heavier and has a lot more screaming, to writing with Bad Wolves where most of the songs are sung. Writing a vocal melody is like writing a new song on top of the song!”
“I couldn’t agree more, because let me tack onto that — music is composed of three things, rhythm, melody, and harmony,” says Aaron. “At its core, that’s what it is. So you’re especially right when it comes to screaming as it’s evolved. Corey Taylor, Chad Grey in Mudvayne and Hellyeah does a lot of fast, rap-y kind of stuff…Jens from Meshuggah is really just rhythmic instrument. But the cool thing about screaming and singing combined, or either one, is that the vocal is a means to convey a message or a story.”
Choose a side via the episode below:
And if that doesn’t have you declaring yourself a fan of mainstream rock despite the haters, check out the uncensored podcast version of the episode below:
Words by Chris Krovatin