I’ve never put myself in the soft rock genre of rock and roll. To me, soft rock always implied boring and outdated, like the musings of Christopher Cross or…I don’t know, Barry Manilow? That’s how much I thought of soft rock, I don’t even know who falls into that category! But now, after an evening of metalcore at The Boardwalk, what I would’ve called hard rock before feels like elevator music at my dentist’s office. And, like a game of dominoes, it has made me completely rethink my entire music catalogue.
I came out to The Boardwalk to shoot some photos and help a bud of mine review the Fresh Faces Tour from Fearless Records for his online music side LoudandHeavy.com. I didn’t know what to expect going into the evening, but I did know that I was like Donny, completely out of my element. I imagined that I would be in a sea of black attired, twenty-something males with lots of ink lined skulls, black lined lipstick and enough bottled up fury to fuel NASA. I venture to say that while I was about fifty percent accurate, the fifty I was wrong with made all the difference. Yes, there was a lot of bottled up fury, and there were a good number of, what appeared to be, twenty-somethings. However, most of the people that showed up that evening didn’t strike me as anything other than, well, normal. This shouldn’t have totally surprised me since Mark, my friend, doesn’t present himself as some hardcore villain (though, I’m sure he wishes he could). But if the venue had impossibly been set to mute, it could have easily been a much softer tune of music. Now, I’m not suggesting that if The Boardwalk had been set to the sounds of silence it would’ve felt like a Sara Bareilles joint, but definitely could’ve been something like Arcade Fire. But of course, it wasn’t a quiet show, and it definitely was not anything close to Arcade Fire, for better or worse.
Now, let’s imagine we’re playing a word association game. I will give you the names of all the bands playing off the Fearless label that evening, and you tell me the first words that come to mind: The White Noise, My Enemies & I, Wage War and Ice Nine Kills. If you’re like me, you’re definitely thinking pleasant thoughts of rainbows and sunshine. No, of course you’re not. Nor should you. These bands were not for the faint of heart. I will say that while none of them are likely to get in my regular iTunes rotation, meeting a few of them and hearing them objectively, I have a newfound respect for their music. Contrary to my prior ignorance, there is a lot of musicianship that goes into what they’re doing, even if it’s not quite my cup of tea. The lead singer of Ice Nine Kills, the headlining act, was citing a litany of inspirations to their new album and videos they’ve made, including parts of The Princess Bride and There’s Something About Mary. He, along with the lead singer and guitarist from My Enemies & I, struck me as cool guys that took their craft very seriously. These weren’t just some head banging dudes lifted from a garage, they were pros, and in the case of My Enemies & I, had the black contacts and matching outfits to prove it.
If you’re still not quite sure what metalcore is, my layman’s recipe would call for one part Metallica, circa their Black album, one part KISS, two parts The Ramones, two parts Exorcist, a shot of whiskey and one really, really deep, loud, singing sore throat. Calling it hardcore is an understatement, but calling it death metal feels a bit too morbid, though some dark stuff finds its way in many times. If you want to hear the softer, more pop side of metalcore, you can always start with Ice Nine Kills’ covers of Maroon 5’s Animals, or Adele’s Someone Like You (and no, I’m not kidding). Just be forewarned, if you’re like me and think you’re music is tough with Dave Grohl at the helm, you’re about to have your collection shot down a notch or two on the Richter scale.