Themed Thursday-An Introduction to Djent

About a month ago I finally decided to take a look into this strange word that has been popping up all over the place on various metal blogs and sites.  That odd word is “Djent”.  Is it a genre?  Is it a style?  Is it a sound?  Well after a bit of good ol’ online research I have found that is a combination of those 3 questions.  It is an umbrella genre that is used to classify a style of music that uses specific techniques to create distinct sounds.  The music within this “Djent” genre is very diverse going from very graceful to very aggressive often being a mix of the two. While all the music within this new-found genre are often quite different from each other they share 2 main things in common: a focus on percussive sounds and a love for the technical side of things(before the genre term was coined you could say that much of the music contained within would be considered progressive or math metal).

A Brief Technical Explanation

I’m sure that you are all familiar with the “chug, chug, chug” sound heard very often in metal. That sound is achieved by doing something called a palm mute on a guitar.  For those that aren’t familiar with guitar playing, a palm mute is when the picking hand rests the edge of the hand(not the palm) on the strings of the guitar between the bridge(where the strings end) and the pickup(the rectangular things that sense the vibrations and send them to the amplifier).  A palm mute can be used in a couple different ways, the first to abruptly end a sustained note or chord without having to re-strike the strings to start another note.  The other, is to strike the strings with the palm mute in place to make a percussive “chug” sound. A big use of the palm muting is to help create texture in a song.

By playing around with the firmness of the palm mute and different amounts of gain(distortion) and tones you can achieve different sounds in the “chug”.  With “Djent” the music uses a heavy palm mute mixed with a mid amount of gain to get a sound that sounds like the word “Djent”, hence the onamonapia.  Different tones, styles of distortion, and techniques are used by bands to give their guitars a different feel and tone to allow for lots of experimentation and sounds, but more one that another day.

Another thing that is commonly heard in Djent bands is the use of poly-rhythms.  A poly rhythm is when two or more different rhythms or beats sound simultaneously. For example you can have a 3:4 rhythm playing simultaneously with a 2:4 rhythm and in the end you will achieve a much more interesting rhythm or beat.  It’s not as difficult as it sounds and poly-rhythms have been used in music for many centuries.  In metal you will also often hear poly-rhythms in prog-metal with bands such as Dream Theater and Tool utilizing them very often, actually, almost all genres of metal us them, but in Djent they take more of a forefront.

The Originators

So, now you know the 2 big things that make up the characteristics of the Djent genre.  With those 2 in place, bands build around it adding many other styles of playing such as riffing, soloing, adding ambient sound, melody, etc. all the other stuff we love in music.  And knowledge of the previous isn’t necessary in the slightest to enjoy Djent, I just though you all might be interested, so I hope you are still reading and I haven’t bored you to tears yet 🙂  So, let’s get into the good stuff, the bands and music.

The Djent style was pioneered by a Swedish band that I’m sure many of you are familiar with or at least heard of.  That band would be Meshuggah.  At the time of them hitting the scene no one had a sound and style quite like them and drummer Tomas Haake, an integral part of Meshuggah‘s sound, would go on to be considered one of the best metal drummers in the world.

Another band often credited with being an originator of the Djent genre is a U.K. band called SikTh.  Like Meshuggah they made use of the Djent properties but had a rawer and more melodic style contrary to Meshuggah‘s clean and machine-like sound.  They incorporated odder song structures as well as various vocal styles including clean singing, which is often used in Djent nowadays along with the extreme vocal styles.

The “Big 4” of Djent

Over time fans of those bands started forming bands of their own, and naturally, their favorite bands music seeped its way into their own sound.  Now we have a huge influx of bands popping up in the genre with some really great bands standing out along with some not so great.  Here I will tell you a little about the “Big 4” of Djent, or better put, who is the best, most popular, most accessible, and good for someone to take their first steps into Djent with(this is all based on a bit of internet research along with, mainly, my opinion).

The first band up will be Periphery.  Of all the Djent bands, these guys seem to be the most well-known and are gaining popularity nailing gigs with metal greats such as Dream Theater, a band where they take a bit of inspiration from also.  The band was founded by guitarist Misha Mansoor in 2005 and after tweaking their line-up some the band released their self-titled debut album in 2010 with a follow-up expected mid 2012.  While still maintaining a brutal percussive assault with heavy guitars and harsh vocals, they also have a more melodic edge with flowing guitar solos, and clean singing vocals that makes them stand out.

Next up is TesseracT.  This U.K. bands name come from the geometrical shape of the same name and the name fits them well as they have a very technical edge to them.  While there is still much melody to be heard, their music has a more rigid mathematical feel to it when compared to Periphery.  They also have more “outer-space” and darker feel to them and feel deeper rooted in the styling of prog metal.  They released their debut album, One, this year(2011) and it was received with positive press and fan reactions.

Animals As Leaders is a fully instrumental band from Washington, D.C. with an abundance of technical prowess.  Within all the technical 8-string guitar shredding and prog metal going on in their songs they also bring a lot of heart and personality into the mix.  They have a futuristic mood to their music that sounds as if it would make a great soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey or the game Portal 2(mind-blowing game btw).  Animals As Leaders have 2 albums available with their latest being 2011’s Weightless.

Being the most melodic of the “Big 4” of Djent, Dutch band Textures I find to be the most accessible.  They have a style that could fit any listener.  The technical aspects and moments of abrasiveness are there, so one looking for that will be satisfied.  They are less in-your-face compared to their contemporaries and there is a deeper focus on melody with the vocals more often sung instead of growled, screamed, there is also a place for the casual listener.  They have 4 albums available with the first couple being much more extreme than their 2011 release Dualism(which would be the one I recommend looking into).

Deeper Cuts

Throughout my research on this post France’s Uneven Structure hit the biggest chord with me(you know you want to read my review of their debut album 😉 ).  They mix in ambient music with the heavy stuff and it makes for a very original and unique music.

A bit to get a grip on them so far due to the fact their first full length album isn’t due to hit until later this month(Nov. 28, 2011) I can’t make a good call on Vildhjarta.  However after listening to their E.P. Omnislash they have a very heavy, harrowing, textured sound, and going by their latest video and different sound-bites their upcoming album is going to embrace that in full force, Måsstaden sounds like it is shaping up to be an excellent debut, I’ll keep you posted.

Veil of Maya take a route seeded more in the “insert metal sub-genre here”-core areas of metal.  While being rather chaotic, these guys are quite an interesting listen.

Multi-instrumentalist Paul Ortiz helped kick off the Djent scene with his solo instrumental project Chimp Spanner.  The music has a very ambient and progressive metal feel to it and it’s quite kick ass.

Gojira is awesome.  Listen to them.  That is all.

Well, this was a fun post and I hope you all enjoyed.  If any Djent fans are reading and would like to add more let us know down in the comments.  If you would like to delve deeper into the sound is a good portal site for up to date news on the latest things happening in the scene.  I also found this poster very useful in this post (thanks to Ainsley of The D Word for the link!!!).  Until next time ladies and djentlemen. Peace Love and Metal!!!!


About RiffRaff

Just takin' it easy for all you sinners.

Posted on November 10, 2011, in Exploring New Things, Theme Thursday and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I never could get into Meshuggah. I bought one of their albums and gave it a couple spins and that was it for me. A couple of others have peaked my interest such as Periphery and Tesseract. They like to play Tesseract videos here in the UK, so I have managed to catch a couple here and there. I think they just got a new singer within the last couple months. When I hear these bands it does take a few listens to get into. It’s not love at first listen, but I am interested.

    I am listening to the Uneven Structure clip and now and like it so far. This style of music is complex and definitely takes time to actually sit and listen to.

    This is a great post and explanation of a genre. As long as I have been a fan of metal and anything that pretty much resembles metal, I still get confused on what classifies a band to a certain genre. It was great to actually read about apsects of djent that give it its unique niche in metal.

  2. Of all the bands I talked about here, Uneven Structure is the one that stuck with me the most and gets repeat listens. Glad you enjoyed.

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