Complex and heavy at levels that defy typical understanding, djent is a brand of progressive metal that focuses on intricately syncopated rhythms that are based just as much around palm-muted guitars as they are drums.
While some bands embrace the title, others bristle at being associated with a subgenre whose name is the verbal mimicry of the sound of a guitar technique. The fact that the word “djent” was added to dictionary.com in April of 2018 adds another layer of validity and absurdity to the movement, depending on who you ask.
While bands like Periphery, Animals As Leaders and TesseracT have popularized the genre of the years, Swedish technical metal pioneers Meshuggah are undoubtedly credited as being the band that started it all.
In an interview with Rauta, guitarist Mårten Hagström was asked how it felt to be at the vanguard of the style:
“First of all, we’re very sorry for creating that genre; we didn’t intend to — our bad. No, but it’s actually… I think it’s a misconception, that djent thing. I think it’s kind of hilarious.
“It’s our lead guitar player, Fredrik [Thordendal], being drunk back in the day, talking to one of our old-school fans, trying to explain what type of guitar tone we were always trying to get, and he was desperately trying to say, ‘We want that ‘dj_,’ ‘dj_,’ ‘dj_,’ ‘dj_.’ And that guy was, like, ‘What’s he saying? Is that a Swedish word? Must be. Sounds like dj_, maybe ‘djent’? Maybe something like that.’ And that’s where it comes from. A drunk misunderstanding, as always with Meshuggah.”
While the band themselves don’t identify with the genre, they are happy to use other descriptors for their sound. Asked how he would classify Meshuggah, Marten responded:
“Heavy, experimental music… I don’t care if it’s progressive or not — it’s heavy. And that’s the most… But the thing is, trying to define things… Either it gets into that math-metal, djent subgenre type of thing, that’s for other people to decide. We play aggressive, experimental music, and that’s basically it.”