Three Decades

Morbid Angel to Archspire is an interesting shift – from morbid dissonance to morbid like precision in about 30 years. There are numerous incremental steps between them, but this systematic dial up in technical intensity is a broader pattern evident across all metal genres. But, whether this is a progression or regression is a matter of perspective. Definitely there is no absolute hierarchy for benchmarks, they are always personal and often idiosyncratic.

These broader genre shifts are eventually propelled by all aspects of the music industry — listeners, artists, labels — everyone plays their own structural role. Within the economic constraints of the real world, music evolves only when all the involved factors reinforce each other. In other words, independent of our personal opinion, aggregate benchmarks are constantly emerging. It’s sort of a dispersed process with its own layered feedback loops. Artistic shifts experiencing positive feedback simply thrive. And in turn also become a factor propelling broader genre trajectories – just like any other interconnected ecosystem.

Image Attribution
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By invisibleoranges (IMG_1643) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Progression

Might sound like a cliché, but progression is the only constant in life, and this is especially true in music. In fact, incessant change is the norm in prog. For instance, Dream Theater used to define progressive metal. But it’s safe to say that benchmark is now comfortably buried — under layers of odd time signatures, robotic precision and polyrhythms.

But change is also an obvious broader pattern, manifesting over time and at numerous levels.

Both artists and their listeners tend to evolve, often in different trajectories. We are all simply wired differently and more importantly — we constantly learn. At least most of us do. In that sense, it’s also impossible to listen to the same song twice – because each iteration would be perceived through a slightly different neural filter.

Nothing illustrates this more than going back and listening to our decade old favorites. This will inevitably reveal a new facet to the very same sound, something which was never obvious before. Essentially, artistic experiences tend to forge new sets of mental connections, and this way we progressively develop our own individual palate.

A fellow metal-head and a Progarchy reader had recently managed to summarize her own progression, and that also in just about six artists. This sort of prompted me to jot down and share my own seven song list. Needless to say, Powerslave to Funeral Fog took a few years.