The Slipknot/Lamb of God/Shadows Fall outing is one of two tours currently capitalizing on the success of MTV's new Headbanger's Ball, taking modern metal from big theaters to arenas. Unlike the emo-damaged Used/Killswitch Engage/Taste of Chaos bill, this lineup is capital-M Metal, but it has one disturbing similarity. Blinded by success, headbangers of all stripes don't realize they've been infiltrated by a corrupting influence as insidious as any threat metal has ever faced: The big, swelling modern-rock chorus is to post-millennial thrash what the keyboard was to '80s metal -- an unnecessary melodic flourish that's like a big pink bow lovingly tied around a sledgehammer. And there is no pink in metal.
The singsong thing traces to the mid-'90s, when Fear Factory started looking for a way to sound a little less industrial. As nü metal started to fade, Slipknot demonstrated that a singer could sing while still wielding balls of steel.
But now the loud-soft dynamic is everywhere, even in "What Drives the Weak," the current single from Shadows Fall, a band hyped as bearing the standard of old-school thrash. Duality is nice, and we get the whole yin-yang thing, but it seems self-defeating to interrupt a mosh suite with a 15-second sample from the Nickelback songbook, especially if it's a bid for radio play. They should take a cue from tourmates Lamb of God, whose latest, Ashes of the Wake, proves that mass-market metal doesn't need to compromise.