My recent Bent Out of Shape column, "Has Heavy Metal Become a Joke?," provoked some very interesting responses — positive and negative.
I was surprised by the amount of comments it received, many of which were very in-depth critiques of the column.
This is surprising because it took me only 15 minutes to write — and I was just thinking out loud, trying to convey my opinions in the clearest possible way.
I read all the comments and have tried to process everyone else's opinions on the subject. Due to the large response, I felt it was necessary to write a followup piece and re-evaluate what I initially wrote. I had hoped to develop an understanding of the people who had disagreed with me and see their point of view.
After a few weeks of thinking deeply on the subject, I have found, however, that my opinion is still exactly the same. I stand by everything I wrote in that article and probably feel even more strongly about the points I made. I must say (as I have done before) that I do not believe I am an authority on the subject.
I may be in a "signed" band, but we're at the bottom of the ladder. When we tour, I am the one loading the gear into the van every night. The most I've ever been paid for a single show is $200, so by no means do I think I am some huge rock star who knows everything just because he's signed. I do, however, think I have a point of view that is fairly unique within the "metal community" that clearly many people also agree with.
The longer I spend working with bands and touring, the more I see trends that, at first, used to annoy me but that I now find rather amusing. I've been to so many shows where the bands are one another embarrassing cliche after the next. I see so many new bands built on gimmicks rather than music. And, by the way, these are not local bands I'm referring to. These are signed bands touring nationally. I don't want to sound like a grumpy old man, but there's something really Spinal Tap about what I see from bands today.
Every time I go to a show or interact with other musicians, I am constantly reminded of the original points I made in my first blog. I always laugh when a guitarist will tell me Al Di Meola or Allan Holdsworth is one of his/her biggest influences — but they can't name five of their songs. That probably makes me sound like an arrogant "you know what," but I've encountered this scenario many times. It really comes back to my point about metal guitarists sounding the same.
To finish, I want to make an additional observation.
The concept of guitar tone is dead. I try to listen to as many new releases as possible, and one thing that always stands out is how the concept of guitar tone seems totally lost on most modern metal guitarists. Even bands that have big budgets never seem to give much consideration to tone.
Contrary to popular belief, even with a highly compressed mix, you can still have great-sounding guitars. I used to read interviews with guitarists where they would go into detail about how they would spend hours in the studio trying to get the perfect guitar tone. But I don't see that from metal guitarists today. Guitarists used to take more pride in the sound of their instrument. You can own the best equipment money can buy and practice eight hours a day — but neither will help you if don't use your ears. They're the most valuable asset for any musician.
Will Wallner is a guitarist from England who now lives in Los Angeles. He recently signed a solo deal with Polish record label Metal Mind Productions for the release of his debut album, which features influential musicians from hard rock and heavy metal. He also is the lead guitarist for White Wizzard (Earache Records) and toured Japan, the US and Canada in 2012. Follow Will on Facebook and Twitter.