A to Z of Making It, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Record Vault: Chimaira – The Dehumanizing Process

“And the minute you get a record deal, all the fun is stripped away. You start analyzing music in a different way. You don’t listen to it for the enjoyment of listening to it, you don’t play it for the enjoyment of playing it”.

“They (the record label reps) will call you up and say, “hey did you hear this new record, maybe you should write a song like it.”

That’s the way “The Dehumanizing Process” documentary starts off.

I was in a band between 1999 and 2005. The singer/guitarist of that band was into the whole Groove metal scene and he burned me the “The Impossibility Of Reason” album which is covered here in the documentary.

And it’s the only thing I own from Chimaira.

The DVD package has the excellent 90 minute documentary, a live concert, the band’s music videos (up to 2004) and a nine track CD, called “This Present Darkness” which is the bands 1999 independent album.

The band went on to sign with Roadrunner Records and released the “Pass out of Existence” album in 2001. It sold okay and they got another chance from Roadrunner Records to do another album.

All the band members were really unhappy with their last album “Pass Out Of Existence” as it was a Nu-Metal album they were pressured to make.

“The Impossibility of Reason” came out in 2003 and you get to see the ending of one journey and the start of a new one in the 90 minutes documentary. Even if you don’t like the band the documentary is worth watching and it’s detailed.

By sticking to their guns and telling the label to get stuffed, Chimaira delivered a career defining album.

The live show is from the tour, filmed in Holland. Watch it, just for the “Wall Of Death”.

The band would do one more Roadrunner album in 2005. Then they got dropped. Signing to different labels, they kept releasing albums up to 2013. And the line up was always evolving with vocalist Mark Hunter the only original member left at the time.

But in 2017, the original band members returned for a few reunion shows and at the moment they are looking at doing a few more.

In between, vocalist Mark Hunter became a journalist for various metal mags and his social media accounts are very active with his views on the music industry and other opinions.

Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Booms And Busts

I don’t mind dabbling in the share market. And like everything in life, the share market is one of boom and busts. If you look at the share market booms and busts you can casually make a comparison to the recording industry booms and busts.

There are billions/trillions of dollars in the share economy while the recording industry is a billion dollar industry and when you add the rest of the industry that forms the music industry you see that music is worth a lot of money.

In share market investing, the usual story is that if someone has a great idea and makes some dough from it, then others will eventually find out about the idea and they will start to put money in, to get money out. So use this analogy for the music business.

When one-act becomes a success, the recording labels would go about and sign hundreds/thousands of acts that sound the same. The labels would also get their current roster of acts to produce music that is similar sounding to the “HOT” act. Three periods in metal music stick out.

From 1980 to 1983 it was the Judas Priest era for clone like acts. From 1983 to 1986 it was the Motley Crue era for clone like acts. From 1986 to 1989 it was the Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and Guns N Roses era for clone like acts.

What about streaming. From only a few streaming players in 2008  we know have a crowded market place. The early success of Spotify and Pandora leads to a monster called envy. This monster than leads others to want to get in on whatever else is in vogue. The latest to join the line of streaming services is the star-studded Tidal. Remember the last star-studded product launch in Neil Young’s PONO. Tidal is no different and the same fate awaits it because both services are about protecting the incomes of the better off artists and they have nothing to do about what the music fan wants.

If Tidal and Pono want people to pay for music again then their business model of putting music behind a pay wall is not the answer. As soon as you do that, P2P will increase again. Newspapers tried to put their content behind pay walls and guess what happened. People just went to websites who offered the content for free.

How do you think the Huffington Post became a large game player?

But as sure as night follows day, all booms come to an end, with a thud. The recording industry is not immune to it. In the share market investors turn to safe companies which pay a secured dividend. In music we turn to the acts that we know off. So those few companies/acts benefit a lot from our patronage.

Then, interest in the share market is renewed through mergers and acquisitions. Remember all of the mergers and acquisitions that have happened to the plethora of record labels over the past 20 odd years. The majors are down to just three.

Throughout it all, musicians still create and get on with their lives. You have the mega rich artist trying to stifle a genuine music business saviour in Spotify while in the meantime said artist is making way more money than any artist has in the history of music. You have wannabes complaining about digital payments. You have a public that 90% of the time cares about the stars and the artists who break through.

And then you have the middle of the road artists who are stuck in a world where the whole history of music is available to the fan and the music fan doesn’t have enough time to gravitate to them.

Sort of like Shadows Fall, Chimaira or God Forbid. All three bands came into my head space when an early 2000 issue of Guitar World was delivered to my mailbox that spoke about a New American Movement in Heavy Metal. So of course I had to check them out.

And all three bands are good. Each band has a definitive song. Being caught up in a cultural movement helped them out a little bit more than other bands however with all cultural movements only a select few end up rising to the top while the rest either fade away, dissolve or continue as middle of the road acts.

So you have bands like Lamb Of God and Slipknot moving into the Institution league. Killswitch Engage and All That Remains are two bands that come to mind immediately that are middle of the road acts.

Then you have Shadows Fall, Chimaira and God Forbid who decided to call it a day and move on. As guitarist Jon Donais (who is in Anthrax at this point in time) said in a recent Loudwire interview;

“Brian (Shadow’s Fall vocalist) was the first one to say, ‘I can’t go on tour anymore because it doesn’t make sense for me. I got kids and a wife’”. He needed to do something more stable because Shadows was always a crap shoot. We never knew what we’d come back [from a tour] with. We never became a headlining band. We were always a support act. I got so lucky. Shadows Fall was coming to an end and this opportunity with Anthrax came up. There just weren’t that many opportunities out there for Shadows Fall. It kind of fizzled out. People stopped caring, so we were all like, ‘Alright, what’s the point?’ We got along great and we loved writing music, but financially it was impossible to go on the road and come back with enough money, especially for the guys who have families. Two of the guys have kids. When you’re single you can go, “Alright, it’s just me on the line,” but when you’ve got a family, you gotta provide for them which means coming back with enough money so they can survive. The fun and games stop once you become a real adult.”

The fate that befell Shadows Fall, God Forbid or Chimaira is no different to the fate of many bands throughout the history of music. It is a cycle that keeps on repeating regardless the propaganda of the recording industry and the RIAA. It is a cycle of boom and busts.

Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Songs Based On Inspiration Rather Than Logic

That is the difference between everlasting music and throwaway crap. You wanna know why Shinedown had a lot of success with “The Sound of Madness” in 2008. It’s because the songs were inspired and genuine. The audience loved the throwbacks to the classic rock of the Seventies. The fan base connected with the lyrical themes. Look at Spotify and YouTube and you will see that one of the most streamed/viewed songs from the album is “Call Me” and it wasn’t even a single.

You see, when fans get behind a band there are so many reasons why they do it. It could be a lifestyle choice. It could be a song connection. There is no exact formula, however the labels will still try to re-create those successes by signing many other bands in an attempt to emulate what Shinedown achieved with “The Sound Of Madness”.

Sort of like how Daughtry and James Durbin went off into the sunset to chase the pop trends of Coldplay, Casting Crowns and Train. Logic will tell you that if you write a song that is of similar calibre it will connect with an audience. But for both of those artists, it failed to pay off. “Baptism” and “Celebrate” both took a long time to complete and they more or less disappeared from the conversation within a week.

Why is “The End Of Heartache” from Killswitch Engage seen as an important album?

The reason why this album is seen as an important album and a classic is that it gave every guitar player hope for a future. The guitar playing on the album is phenomenal and it brought back metal to the masses in a major way. And with anything that is successful, people copy it and try to emulate that same success with other bands. The record labels saturated the market with copycat acts which more or less ensures that the metalcore movement suffers the same fate as the glam/rock movement. The media labelled it as metalcore. For Adam Dutkiewicz and crew, “The End Of Heartache” is basically a band that was refusing to dance to someone else’s tune.

“It’s almost like today’s songs are all written with the same formula – they have the same snare sound, the same bass sound and that generic heavy rock guitar tone.”
Jake E Lee said the above in an interview with Guitar World September 1991 issue.

Why do I mention it?

Because it is TRUTH.

Anyway remember the bands at the forefront of the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal. Bands like Bleeding Through, Shadows Fall and Chimaira. All gone. God Forbid is also gone. After 15 years plus in the game, they couldn’t work out how to stay relevant, how to find new fans, how to maintain existing fans and how to create new music that cuts through the noise.

On a personal level, I supported Chimaira and Shadows Fall. On their last couple of releases I was getting the feel that their songs started to focus on a more logical structure. Robb Flynn recently referred to this situation as “samey”.