The 11 Most Polarizing Bands Of The Last Decade
Few – if any – artists can be painted in one singular light. To claim someone’s music is either pure gold or utter trash is entirely subjective; an album that’s a cultural landmark to some might be totally unlistenable to others, or vice versa. Even those forms of music that were once reviled can sometimes return as having influenced underground listeners years later, a fact that everyone is currently experiencing with the revival of interest in nu-metal.
For bands, what’s most important is to not just lie somewhere in the middle. To be fine-but-not-great is a death sentence — either get people to love you or despise you, or, best of, both. To be a polarizing band about whom everyone has an opinion makes one a topic of conversation, representative of larger issues within a genre that are worth discussing. And over the last decade, as social media has made venomous back-and-forths and cultural grandstanding par for the course, plenty of artists have made their names on being figures with whom fans stand either for or against.
Here are the 11 bands who firmly divided audiences in the 2010s…
If any band left fans in the 2010s taking one side or another, it was Swedish satanic rockers Ghost. For many, the band’s theatricality and mega-European style was a refreshing injection of old-school charm into the metal scene. For others, the band was a gimmick without a sound, making King Diamond Lite with art and style that outweighed any talent. But whatever the case, the band has come out on top, and definitely made themselves a talked-about entity even if they weren’t universally loved.
For many black metal fans who loved the genre’s orthodox trappings, Deafheaven committed the ultimate sin: they made it pretty. The band’s monumental 2013 album Sunbather added sweeping beauty to black metal’s scathing core, enamoring legions of new fans and infuriating old-school heads. The album’s acceptance in the mainstream — its millennial-pink cover was featured in iPhone ads — only furthered the divide, making its success a broader statement on whether or not the genre belonged to the world or just its entrenched fanbase. The result was that everyone had an opinion about Deafheaven, making them household name even beyond metal circles.
Unlike some of the other bands on this list, BABYMETAL didn’t divide fans along obvious lines — for example, it wasn’t just heshers versus scene tourists. Instead, BABYMETAL attracted a diverse crowd of traditionalists and newcomers who loved their overdriven kawaii metal, including fans like Rob Halford and Rob Zombie — while simultaneously infuriating a diverse crew of fans who saw them as a shallow marketing project, and who often resorted to offensive commentary in their anger. Given how last year’s METAL GALAXY was received, it stands to reason that even with so many detractors, BABYMETAL are going strong.
Deathcore entered the 2010s as a curious experiment, with plenty of haters already folding their arms against it while many were curious to see how it evolved. At the genre’s forefront were Suicide Silence, who somehow brought a broad appeal to this seemingly unlistenable genre. But with the death of vocalist Mitch Lucker and the eventual inclusion of clean vocals into their sound, the band not only divided metal listeners, but their fans as well. While Suicide Silence’s most recent album Become The Hunter is regarded as a return to form, plenty of listeners have already established their opinion of the band, on one side or another.
Though their career was somewhat short-lived, Attack Attack! made a huge impact on the metal scene with their music and videos — if not always in a good way. By the release of 2010’s self-titled album, the Ohio metalcore act had unwittingly drawn a line in the sand, with the colorful youth of a growing scene on one side and the black-clad traditionalists of metal and hardcore on another. As such, Attack Attack! became a symbolic act, where any given fan’s opinion on them said a lot about how they regarded heavy music in general.
Overall, Nails might be the only band on this list for whom being polarizing was always their goal. The Cali power-violence band’s 2016 album was titled You Will Never Be One Of Us, about which vocalist Todd Jones repeatedly said that he wasn’t interested in being liked by all even as the Internet lampooned the record’s name with Mean Girls memes. But what truly put listeners on one side or the other was the band’s social media attacks on detractors and their dramatic responses to the press, which left viewers seeing them as either the no-nonsense future of hardcore or homophobic jocks trying to cyberbully people. With a new album seemingly in the works, 2020 might be the year where these guys break the tie.
Like Deafheaven, New York City’s Liturgy were hated on for trying to diversify black metal, a genre that prides itself on being true to its shadowy origins. More importantly, though, Liturgy frontman Hunter Hunt-Hendrix took an intellectual approach to the genre. While 2009’s Renihilation introduced the band’s brand of “transcendental black metal”, it was 2011’s Aesthetica that vaulted Liturgy to public acclaim and officially caused trad-metal fans and internet scholars to deem them enemies of the faith. That said, 2019’s H.A.Q.Q. was a surprise release, proving that the band were more focused on following their own musical muse than trying to please anyone.
As deathcore went from an ugly new-school haven for death metal’s sickest kids to a rally for tougher-than-thou hardcore dudes, Attila quickly became the genre’s most polarizing act. The band replaced the genre’s trappings of ultraviolence with those of gangster machismo, using its unapproachable vibe to illustrate just how little they gave a fuck. More importantly, their party-boy lyrics about sluts rolling blunts and the EDM beats peppered throughout their songs made them feel like a crew celebrating what rock culture was trying to move away from and offering solidarity to the worst kind of scene dudes. The result was that fans either loved them or absolutely despised them, to the point where Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman couldn’t get bands to join the festival because Attila were on it too.
Animals As Leaders
To be fair, Washington, D.C.‘s Animals As Leaders weren’t as polarizing as what they came to represent. The band soon became synonymous with the growing djent genre, which endeared new and less-brutal fans to metal while annoying the hell out of the metal orthodoxy. It didn’t help that guitarists Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes injected heavy doses of prog-metal’s more dulcet tones, aligning the genre with metal’s softening rather than its progression. Interestingly enough, the djent hatred that so occupied the decade’s first half seems to have blown over in its latter years, illustrating how sometimes a genre’s onus is more a trend than a deep-set mindset.
With 2015’s Litourgiya, Polish black metal act Batushka blew the minds of fans all over the world. Then, in 2018, everything went haywire — multi-instrumentalist Krzysztof “Derph” Drabikowski parted ways with Bartłomiej “Bart” Krysiuk in a flurry of social media posts. Each claimed the name, with Derph claiming he was the visionary behind the music and Bart asserting that he’d paid for everything. Each created a version of the band; Bart signed to Metal Blade and began marketing a version of Batushka who eventually sounded entirely different from Litourgiya, The division set the black metal Internet ablaze, with Bart’s version eventually obtaining the moniker ‘Faketushka’. Often, it is music’s most insular genres that create the biggest controversies.
As I Lay Dying
Metalcore act As I Lay Dying formed way before the 2010s and didn’t release any of their most groundbreaking records during that decade — but the actions of singer Tim Lambesis certainly made them one of the most discussed and polarizing acts of the last 10 years. In 2014, Tim got six years in prison for trying to hire someone to murder his wife while addicted to steroids. Even more incendiary to some was when the band took him back in 2016, after swearing that Tim was dead to them. The result is that even mentioning As I Lay Dying’s name will result in an outpouring of either cursing, or the defense of him as a story of redemption.
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