Genre Bending: Jazz Metal
by Phil AherneMetal in its original ‘70s form ran its course through the ‘80s and was overtaken by grunge in the major consumer market. Then that progressed into Post-Hardcore. After the boundaries had been stretched to breaking point, some clever chap had the inspired idea to fuse it with jazz. Thus, JAZZ-METAL was born. A blessing to all, as I’m sure you agree.One of the first pioneers of jazz-metal was band called The Dillinger Escape Plan. Critics also termed their style ‘math metal’ due to the precision and skill required to combine these two diametric styles. Second album Miss Machine came out five years after their debut, and is an impressive collection of songs, ranging from the incoherent ‘Panasonic Youth’ to the elegantly refined ‘Unretrofied’. The music is layered and dense, and yields to many re-plays. Unfortunately, that does not essentially make it catchy. It is very much an acquired taste – incorporating jazz-chords in grinding thrash is a majestic form of dissonance.One of the beauties of jazz-metal is its uncompromising nature, and its need to forever express itself in new ways. Thus on DEP’s new album Ire Works, which has just been released, the single ‘Black Bubblegum’ displays the catchy and commercial edge to the style, whilst also pushing it into a more electric/industrial edge. And just to prove that they can still grind and shred, ‘Fix Your Face’ and ‘Horse Hunter’ assert the brutality that characterised the genre.As their guitarist Ben Weinman asserted on Radio 1, their approach to the new album was to have an ‘empty pallete and empty canvas, just to create.’ Free from constraints and restrictions, jazz-metal is its own monster.It is a sentiment echoed by Ephel Duath’s 2003 album The Painter’s Pallete. As the band has it: ‘Ephel Duath is the mountain range that defends the kingdom of evil in Tolkien’s masterpiece. The band’s sound is a mixtures of jazz colours, rock-metal thorns and experimental landscapes.’ Ephel Duath are long serving pioneers of the genre, but their lack of widespread success is indicative of the genre’s inaccessibility. The lack of commercial popularity however, does not detract from its achievement, nor the accomplished skill necessary to create such complex music. Greg Puciato lyrically asserts that ‘the paragraph has never been so empty’. Thank goodness that’s not true.