I’ve been thinking lately about the difference between bands that I respect versus bands that I simply like. That’s not to say that I don’t like any of the bands that I respect; but at the same time I don’t like all of them, or at least everything that they do. In fact, that’s the key difference that I’m looking at with this blog post. One of the main reasons that I respect any artist is the variety of their work. This signifies to me that he or she is willing to experiment in expressing himself or herself.
I also can respect somebody’s technical ability as well, however for the sake of this blog post I’m referring only to respecting somebody’s artistic merit, not playing ability. This post could also apply to writers, painters and so on, but I’m going to focus on musicians. For one thing, I’m such a music lover that I have some idea of what I’m talking about. For another, the commercial influence on musicians demands that those in certain situations produce albums on a fairly regular basis, which makes my job here easier. The metal world really exemplifies this, so I’ll specifically look at metal bands this time.
Let’s start with two bands, Darkthrone and Amon Amarth. Darkthrone is considered one of the classic Norwegian black metal bands, putting out several records since the early nineties that sometimes stray from their roots but never too far. Yet some albums are better than others. I especially don’t care for the latest album, The Underground Resistance, which pays several homages to the band’s influences. Yet just because I don’t like listening to it doesn’t mean I don’t respect it, as it is what the band wanted to do. I’m glad that they’re in a position to release such a project.
I like what Amon Amarth does. They’re a fun band to listen to as they tap into a powerful sort of energy that matches the viking-themed lyrics while keeping a strong melodic sense throughout. Unfortunately, it feels like they put out the same damn album every time. That’s not to say that I can’t tell the difference between specific songs but they’re so close in style that if you like one, you’ll like them all. The band is quite popular, which suggests that they figured out what sells well and stuck with it.
Therefore, while I like Amon Amarth more consistently than Darkthrone, I respect Darkthrone more than Amon Amarth. That’s not to say that I dislike either band, just that I regard them differently.
Let’s look at a band that I consider one of my favorites, Emperor. I know it goes against popular opinion but I don’t like the releases before their first full-length album In the Nightside Eclipse. I love the next two albums. The last album, Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire and Demise has some excellent songs but for the most part it feels stale. (Although I tend to consider Prometheus more as Ihsahn’s first solo album than as Emperor’s last album, anyway.) Yet even though I don’t really like the first two releases, one can hear the progression towards the first album (including some songs that were re-recorded and in some cases, re-written). That combined with the quality of the first three studio albums makes them one of my favorite bands: a band that I both like and respect.
Other bands that I would throw under that category would include Moonspell, Celtic Frost and Behemoth. Musicians that I would include that aren’t part of the metal world: David Byrne, Frank Zappa and King Crimson (all incarnations).
What about writers? The sad truth is that because there’s so much out there, I try to read as much as I can by different authors. This results in me only reading one or two books by each. I’m catching up but it’s too soon to tell. I get the feeling that I would throw Cormac McCarthy in this category, as well as Karl Ove Knausgård.
Of course, I hope to add myself to that list.