What is Djent?
Progressive metal has evolved rapidly over the last 20 years. Born from a combination of classic rock, jazz/fusion, and countless metal genres, this style of music comes at you with full force. With countless projects being born across the globe, this sub-genre has exploded recently and is here to stay. The rumor is that the genre's name originated from the sound of the muted, distorted guitar strums "djent . . . djent djent . . . . djent djent . . . djent!"
Many, but not all albums in this genre are bedroom projects with a single composer and internet collaborations for the tracks. Usually the drums are programmed (as are many of the other instruments). However, several great bands play the music live with a real drummer. Often, they record their albums with digital drums, but bring somebody on the road to enhance the live feel. The best example of this is the band Tesseract, with the drummer Jay Pastones.
Why Djent is Interesting to Drummers
There are several things which make this genre interesting to drummers. First of all, these shows attract crowds. I've been to several shows in Portland OR which were completely sold out, featuring bands like Tesseract and The Contortionist. Although this genre is somewhat fringe-ish, the following is big enough to support touring bands. Fans seem to be fully engaged, and the high energy performances make a great show.
This brings me to my second point. It's very rare for a genre which is so technically demanding to draw a crowd. Djent music is fast, the rhythms are tight and unforgiving, and the time signatures often stray away from 4/4. This makes it a perfect candidate for a drum nerd. Yet, strangely, it doesn't scare away a non-musically inclined audience. Jazz fusion on the other hand - while extremely fun to play and undoubtedly my favorite genre - has little community of support outside the musicians playing it. If you want to go on tour, you're probably going to be staying local or doing a combination of lessons, clinics, and shows to make it happen. In djent, the bands seem to appeal to the general metal heads, which brings a fan base which can sustain a tour, assuming you have the right reputation in the scene.
As I mentioned, djent is often recorded with digital drums. Before digging into this genre, I thought digital drums were around to replace tracks in hip hop, pop, and some really crappy metal recordings. It turns out, however, that with today's technology, anybody with a good ear and endless determination can sit down in ProTools and program complex, dynamic, and rhythmically advanced drum parts that sound amazing. While this might seem threatening, the truth is that the nature of the genre sort of demands it. There aren't very many drummers who can consistently play laser tight as these phrases demand. Furthermore, the composers will often write bass drum phrases which are physically too fast to play and/or record cleanly on a real drum set.
Examples of Djent
Djent is sort of like jazz/fusion in the sense that you see a lot of collaboration between different artists. Look for anything featuring Jakub Zytecki and you'll have a good place to start. This talented guitarist is one of the most famous in the genre and his playing is incredible.
Bands featuring recordings with real drummers include Animals as Leaders and Periphery.
Of all the countless programmed drum projects, those by David Maxim Micic tend to be my favorite.