I will say in advance that I am not an avid fan of djent but I do have my favorites and go-to artists when I want to dive into it. During country and blues month in March, I tackled a few genres that I had almost no experience with playing-wise even though I was familiar with them overall so in May, I will give djent a rip for the good of being a complete and unbiased resource.
I don’t personally feel a lot of pressure to cover djent here at HASR because it seems more than 60-70% of amp sim demos feature it already. Us doing a lot of djent features would just be white noise especially since it’s not our forte and there are many out there doing a great job of it. None the less, djent is very heavy and we will pay tribute during Heavy Month.
My first experience with djent, like many others was the Meshuggah “Nothing” album. It’s contested fiercely but many people pinpoint this album as being the start of the genre and I wouldn’t disagree with those people. I had been listening to Meshuggah casually for a while prior to the release of “Nothing” but the material definitely changed gears when it came out. I remember thinking “Wow… what in the hell are they tuned in”. It was raw, punchy, impossibly low tuned and full of originality. I’d heard nothing like it before. Crazy powerful grooves, precision musicianship and just overall a very new approach to guitar.
After that album, everyone wanted to copy the sound much like everyone tried to copy Korn when they came on the scene. It captivated a lot of young musicians and bands the same way as well. A few bands in this era truly floored me with their own takes on the style. After The Burial, Periphery, Veil Of Maya, Tesseract, The Haarp Machine and several others blended in their own elements to remove a pinch of the dissonance and stir in some more melody. At this point, djent was poised to be the next big deal.
I love playing 8 string guitars and I really enjoy how low the lows go but for me, the problem with being tuned that low is that you remove the bass foundations of the sound because the bass cannot reinforce such a low tuning and still be audible to the listener so that really removed any interest I had in playing in a tuning lower than A flat. I will elaborate on this theory more later on in May.
Djent involves elements of prog, fusion, jazz and no band better embodies those characteristics than Animals as Leaders. I remember seeing Tosin Abasi’s YouTube videos long before AAL and it’s impossible to deny the man’s talent and vision even at that stage in the game. They hit the scene and raised the bar technically not only for djent bands/artists but for metal in general. In my opinion, even if you dislike AAL, you have to give Tosin and his band mates the respect they have earned. Those guys can all flat out play, no question and they took djent to another place.
Fast forward to the current state of djent and, well, I have to say, the movement/trend, like any other brought scores of soulless, unoriginal bands with names that pluralize otherwise singular words. These bands are easy to spot because they always look the part but you forget them faster than you heard them. This type of below average saturation usually kills off the trend but leaves the best and most respected bands in the genre preserved. Think of it like survival of the fittest.
Djent guitar tones are processed, compressed, packed full of boosted mids and extremely tight. The amount of gain depends on the player but with all the compression normally being used in a djent-worthy rig, hi-gain can just cause a lot of mess so the right amount of gain is key here.
For the most part, I see the majority of djent players using 8 string guitars though there are many that use a 7 string and those using 9 strings. Headless guitars also seem to be often associated with djent but that’s more of a fashion trend in modern guitar rather than something specifically meant for a single purpose or application.
As far as amps go, it’s not a secret that the djent world is fueled by the Fractal Axefx and Kemper Profiling amp units. They make complete sense given the need for so many effects on the lead side of things. On the other side, there’s still a large number of leading acts using hardware as well. Amps from EVH, Peavey, Fortin, Randall and several other companies will get the job done.
A gate is more than necessary for the percussive sound and a tube screamer / boost type pedal can normally be found out in front with the modern 0-10-10 type settings. The lead work in djent normally requires layers of delay, reverb, modulation to create the lush atmospheres that twist and turn their way through the wall of rhythm guitars.
We won’t be doing a djent tone tutorial this month. For advice on these tones, the gear required to create them and all other things extended range guitar department, please do check out the tons of YouTube channels, forums, Facebook and Instagram pages devoted to all things to do with djent and extended range guitars.
Love or hate djent, it’s loud, aggressive, guitar driven and thus, it’s heavy. I may not be a huge fan of it however I truly respect it because it’s really hard not to admire a genre with this kind of support. This style has some of the most loyal fans out there and any style of music that creates this level of passion in it’s fans is ok in my books.