Thursday, October 30, 2014

Who'd a Thought it: Looks Can be Misleading

Prime example of a metal album cover, isn't it?
Don't let their appearance fool you: Destrose is as heavy metal as can be and perhaps even more true to their roots than bands known for shouting their "metalness" from the rooftops. These days, metal artists emerging from Japan--Destrose's home country--are admittedly funny creatures and better described as anomalies when placed within a worldwide context. Many are comprised entirely of women who look nothing like what their chosen style of music suggests and are downright feminine in presentation, which is a bit misleading with a roster of songs titled "Headless Goddess," "Sword of Avenger," and "Skykiller."

Consider, though, the widespread influence Japanese pop has had on popular culture. The adorable, bouncy aesthetic that goes along with the music has created crossover between genres and traveled as far as metal, just as Destrose, Aldious, Cyntia, and others demonstrate on a daily basis. Consider, too, that metal is recognized as a style of music where looks are largely irrelevant. Why, then, are sub-genres like black metal first and foremost known for corpse paint and traditional heavy metal for leather jackets and motorcycles?

The point is, looks matter more than most care to admit and play a significant role in forming a first opinion. Going back to their 2006 effort, Slave to the Machine, in promotional photos, Lynam gave the impression of a pop-punk band--not unlike Blink 182--with dyed hair and trendy clothing. In reality, however, their music stood at the opposite end of the spectrum, sharing only the same types of instruments and a vocalist. Piercing, distorted guitar, simplistic, though fitting, drumming, and wailing solos were what separated the men from the boys, but at the same time, Lynam's looks didn't mesh well with their music. To this day, the band has struggled to gain any sort of foothold within the hard rock community, and it only takes a reasonably placed hypothesis to figure out why.

Looks do matter for many listeners.

In his review covering Destrose's debut album (Read it here, and remember to check out his blog, Lair of the Bastard.), BastardHead pokes fun at Destrose as "the cutest fucking thing he's ever seen," while simultaneously going on a spiel about manly objects and activities. And rightly so, because metal is supposedly a testosterone-filled genre of music fit for cave men and iron-clad warriors. That's what the stereotype has one think, anyway; that or war, Satan, killing, and buckets of blood.

Lynam circa 2006.
Destrose, along with others, are here to change that perspective, intentionally or not. One can just as easily slip on a tight, sequin-lined dress as they can a leather jacket and a pair of tattered jeans, so focusing on clothing, makeup, or any other aesthetic modifier is trivial at best. What listeners must do--myself included, because you saw the disgust in my Aldious review--is skip the music videos and promotional photos. Instead, listen to an album or song first (Sorry. You can't skip album art most of the time, so if the band is on the cover, you're shit out of luck.) and, following that, seek out the sweet bonuses that make fandom a fun experience.

Of course, society is largely driven by looks, so looks will always play a role in most types of media. But we can give bands that we would otherwise turn our noses up at a fair chance by listening to their music before we take a gander at who they are--though, if we're being honest, looks--again--shouldn't matter. But not everything goes as planned, which is why Lynam and Destrose and their former vocalist, Marina, deserve a little well-earned recognition for being proper rock bands and not what their looks suggest.


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