Does Band Image Matter?

In the last week I’ve seen several blog posts arguing whether or not the image of a band affects how we perceive their music, so I thought I’d provide my two pennies worth.

When I was younger and first getting into the world of metal music, bands like Slipknot, Mudvayne and Marilyn Manson all appealed to me with their unusual and almost scary appearances. Slipknot’s use of masks helped to set them apart from their contemporaries, especially in a time when their genre was becoming saturated with all manner of nu metal acts, from the sublime to the shambolic copycats. I remember buying their self-titled debut purely because of the bizarre band image on the album cover, even though I hadn’t actually heard any of the tracks listed on the reverse.

Marilyn Manson has always attracted his fair share of attention, most of which stemming from his brand image. During the first and third parts of the triptych era, Manson was portrayed as the antichrist, converting many angst-ridden teenagers to his image of hate and anarchy. Not matter how he portrayed himself, from the androgynous Mechanic Animals era to the gothic look of Eat Me, Drink Me, Manson’s constant change in visual identity really appealed to me and definitely affected how I interpreted his music.

So far I have only given examples of positive band image, but what about when their images work against them? My Chemical Romance were always considered a ‘marmite’ band – their image of gloom present during their Black Parade years turned many fans away. Vocalist Gerard Way always denied their ’emo’ classification and in an attempt to shove the label, the band completely revolutionised their image for their fourth effort Danger Days. Gone were the black coats and eye-makeup, replaced instead by bright and vibrant outfits to coincide with the futuristic concept present on the record. The change wasn’t just visual, but musical too, with the band opting for a sound inspired greatly by chart pop music (just listen to Na Na Na), appealing to a much wider audience.

Metalcore is a rapidly expanding genre, but like nu metal and emo before it, the new wave of magazine-fronting bands brought with it a new image. Acts like Bring Me The Horizon and Asking Alexandria have become frontrunners of the scene, but at the same time have established a negative stereotype which has transcended the genre to an extent that most metalcore bands (and related subgenres) don’t deserve.

A strong visual brand is arguably equally as important as the band’s music itself, because when it’s done correctly it can add an extra dimension to the band and in such a fiercely competitive market, it might just provide the cutting edge needed to make the next step. On a more fan-orientated perspective, I have always been drawn to those bands who can provide me with something more than just songs, whether it’s clever concept records, collector editions or even a creative band image, when bands really make an effort it really pays dividends.

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