Musicians use aggressive tones as a means of inspiration
“Dear Calgary, if you were the last I’d ever play then I would be content,” said the drummer for the Pennsylvania metalcore band.
While it’s not shocking to see a musician thank fans after a show, what might surprise some is the humble demeanor these band members possess.
Rather than fitting the angry label that is often attributed to hardcore bands, groups like August Burns Red, Emery and Killswitch Engage use aggressive sounds as an outlet to express ideas they are passionate about.
Photo courtesy of Emery/Bad Christian
This often leads to tracks about overcoming depression or finding strength through religious faith. While the bands vary in their degree of commitment, Emery maintains a primarily positive — and often Christian-focused — image beneath the rough exterior of distorted guitars and raspy vocals.
Matt Carter — guitarist and co-founder of Emery — says that although an aggressive sound is not something the band consciously decided on, it is a label that he proudly accepts.
“Aggressive doesn’t necessarily mean a negative or anything like that,” says Carter. “I love to use the term aggressive to describe our music. I like it better than heavy. Something can be aggressively heavy, or it could have a lot of attitude — or passion — in it.”
While heavy tones and attitude, as Carter says, are aggressive, they do not necessarily connote negativity.
While the band has continued to maintain positive values touring in a scene that is often riddled with drug abuse and alcoholism, band members understand they are not perfect.
Inspired by imperfection and the lessons they’ve learned in over a decade of touring, Carter, vocalist Toby Morrell and Pastor Joey Svendsen, created a record label and online community called BadChristian.
BadChristian, Great Saviour
After finishing its contract with Tooth and Nail Records in 2013, Carter and Morrell — along with longtime friend Svendsen — turned towards a new venture: BadChristian.
Screenshot by Quinton AmundsonBadChristian is the evolution of an online blog started by the trio called “Un-Learning” which acted as a platform to discuss various issues.
Carter describes BadChristian as the label that the band members identify with as people.
“We’re going to release music, we’re going to release our own music, we’ll do our podcast and anything we want to write and all the ways we want to communicate,” says Carter. “That’s the fun thing about music is interacting and communicating with people and fans.”
BadChristian allows the band Emery to branch out beyond music and explore every creative avenue in order to continue communicating their positive message. Not only that, but the label allows the group to help their fans find a new sense of identity with the band.
“It’s an easy way for us to identify who we are,” Carter says. “The name kind of says it all, that we love Jesus and think He is good, and we are not.”
Carter says they are not trying to be role models or teachers, but instead are aiming to be real people who are honest with their fans.
“Being an alternative type of community, we feel like there a lot of people that aren’t reached by the overly polished images of people and teachers and bands,” Carter says. “We want to be a little bit more honest.”
August Burns Red and HeartSupport
Emery isn’t the only group creating a network for its fans. After hearing countless tales while touring, Jacob Luhrs, front man for August Burns Red, launched HeartSupport.
HeartSupport is an online community dedicated to giving musicians, fans and anybody feeling troubled somewhere that they can belong.
In a 2013 interview on HeartSupport, Luhrs explained the motivation for launching HeartSupport was the fans of August Burns Red.
“I talked to a lot of our fans at the ‘merch’ table after the show,” Luhrs said in an interview. Hearing about their struggles with drugs and depression, and also how his lyrics helped them cope, inspired him to create a welcoming place online, Luhrs added.
While HeartSupport and BadChristian are not replacements for a traditional community or therapy, it does give heavy metal fans the opportunity to take that first step towards helping themselves.