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Metal Is Dead? A Perspective from Across the Pond

Compiled and editorialized by Ogg the Barbarian, May 2005

I found these comments in an internet discussion about the state of Metal music in America, and thought that they were more eloquent than anything I could come up with on my own, so I saved them and integrated them into this piece. Interestingly enough, this is from a discussion that includes the thoughts of two local grassroots broadcasters: Chris Frost, who produces a metal video show in Seattle called Metal Vortex and Stephen Austin, longtime friend of yours truly, who was the creator of SLAMtv, and now produces a program called Plutonium:U.H.A. which broadcasts in Olympia,WA, sixty miles south of Seattle. The opinions of both men differ from subject to subject, but I believe that they share a common vision of Metal and al things metallic at the core. At any rate, this discussion yields a unique American perspective on the state of Metal that I thought I'd share with my European readership.

Chris Frost :
ere are some thoughts that I saved from a couple of years ago, after the Metal Gods tour was cancelled. I was planning on delivering this on the Metal Vortex show, but decided against it.

In the US, Metal is going the way of Jazz and Classical music. It will remain alive and well in hearts, minds and ears of the faithful, but it's days of mass appeal are over. That loud bang you heard when the Metal Gods tour was cancelled? That was the last door slamming behind the ass of Metal as it was walking out the door. When the best bands in every genre of metal, as a package mind you...not as individuals....collectively can't sell enough tickets outside major metro areas to tour? That's it....toast. No pulse. Call coroner. No autopsy needed. Call the groundskeeper at Potters Field and have them dig a hole. Call the funeral home and get a plain pine box ready. The commercial viability of underground metal is done.

o where does that leave us? Well, think of it sort of like the earth after a nuclear war....scattered pockets of humanity wandering around looking for a way to survive. Mutations that are able to adapt will grow and maybe even thrive....like hardcore shit...that might have a chance to reach a certain level of prosperity nationally. But the rest of it...death metal, black metal, thrash...even the much hated gay ass hobbit metal....small groups around major population centers are all that really will remain.

Think Mad Max. The most appropriately named metal club in the world is the Thunderdome in Baltimore because that is what that place is....one area around a population center where the metalheads have survived. Traveling circuses of metal bands willing to eat dirt and just survive can drift from town to town playing for the diehards that were strong enough to survive the blast in outlying areas, but the days of The Big Top coming to town are done.

The internet can give the scattered remnants of metal humanity a place to gather and communicate so we don't feel so alone. When a really great band that stands above the others comes along (like Opeth is now) people may be willing to travel from remote sections of the bombed out landscape to see them, but even large national festivals like Milwaukee are going to collapse leaving smaller regional festivals to pick up the slack. We are already seeing that now.

he biggest misconception in metal right now is that metalheads aren't supporting the scene. That somehow, there are tons of metalheads out there and that things will be like they were if they would only get off their asses and support live shows and buy records. Face the fucking facts people. The metalheads ARE supporting the scene. There just aren't that many of us. There aren't hundreds or thousands of metalheads living in caves that no has ever seen and will come out of hiding if we call out loud enough or send out search parties. They don't exist. They are a myth...a legend passed on down from the generation that was alive before MTV put The Final Solution in place. Metalheads right now are like those idiot fucking Beatlemaniacs were in the late 70s, thinking if they wrote enough letters to John Lennon that the Beatles would get back together again. IT AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN!!

As I said earlier, what we are faced with for the future of metal is the same situation as Jazz or Classical music. Those that are fans will remain fans and they will help keep it alive. Small numbers of enlightened younger people will hear the music and become fanatical about it and keep it alive for the next generation. Younger musicians will join up with their idols and older musicians to help keep the music alive. Philanthropists and non-profit organizations will preserve the legacy. Small clubs in larger metro areas will be able to showcase bands and give the opportunity to hear the music in a live setting. If they are smart with how they handle it, they can actually keep their clubs alive doing metal exclusively.

ut I am telling you people....the current state of affairs is such that we are going to see less and less venues willing to take a risk on putting tours in the clubs. They are only going to take a royal fucking beating for so long before their money dries up and they realize there is no commercial benefit to doing the shows. The record labels already realize there is no point in putting money behind bands and pay to have them tour. Soon the clubs will realize it too....if they haven't already. There is no comeback on the horizon.

For metal to survive we are going to have to consolidate and start playing our cards smart. We are going to have to use our limited resources wisely or perish completely. We have to think outside the box. We have to accept the reality and drop all this starry-eyed "build it and they will come" horseshit and use the model that has been successful for other genres of music that no longer have popular appeal. We need a vision and for the powers that be, especially those with cash to spend, to spend it wisely.

etal is at a crossroads. It is time to organize things on a grassroots level and work within the confines and limitations that we have and work together to preserve what is left. No one is going to get rich and probably no one will even be able to earn a living off the music. It can and will survive, but how we go forward from this point on will determine whether our future is Mad Max-esque chaos or if will build an infrastructure to ensure a decent survival."


Stephen Austin:
ctually, I can remember Horizon magazine pronouncing the death of heavy metal in 1975-- and at the time the only reference the public had to it was Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. Everything old is new again-- that is a true statement. Don't sign the death certificate yet, there's still a faint pulse.. Here is my take-- First, rock music has an effective life of say 53 years, depending on whose interpretation you subscribe to regarding it's origins-- Bill Haley or Chuck Berry??? etc.-- it started around 1952 as a musical form separate from its roots i.e., blues and jazz. Metal has an effective life of 36 years-- date it from about 1969-1970 if you accept Black Sabbath as being the first mainstream metal record in the form we know it-- never mind that Led Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly and Vanilla Fudge were first considered metal, but that definition no longer holds up historically.

If you want to you can add a couple years to that if you credit Deep Purple's "Book of Taliesyn"- I want to say 1964, but that's maybe a little early-- haven't heard that record or owned a copy in over 20 years and I'm too lazy to look it up. Anyway, make it safe to say that metal has been around for at least 40 of the 53 years, evolving and morphing with each decade for two generations out of just two and 3/4 generations (53 years). For a sub genre, that's a better shelf life than could possibly have been imagined-- consider other subgenres, notably disco, new wave and grunge which didn't last more than about 10 years before being pronounced "over" and rap, which has only 25 years of commercial life. Of those subgenres, only metal and rap have something new to offer each month of each passing year-- the other ones I mentioned are dead art forms and nothing more than nostalgia. So metal is far from dead.

econdly, in the small town I grew up in, prior to the invention of the internet, we were without benefit of a proper record store until about 1986. Any connection we had to anything metal was made at kind of a grassroots level by word-of-mouth. My first copy of Black Sabbath Vol. IV I found buried in a record bin at a supermarket. "Kill 'Em All" had been out for nearly a year before anyone had heard about it and even then NO ONE I knew had a copy. Outside of what was forcefed us by Columbia House and KMart, we had to learn and discover this stuff on our own. I didn't really expand my listening spectrum until I went to college, so metal has always had a personal, special resonance with me because it was kind of something I had to introduce myself to . Imagine turning on to Grim Reaper and Anthrax and Slayer during a time when Springsteen (Born In the USA) was considered The Shit, and white kids at dorm parties would get shitfaced and sing to the Purple Rain soundtrack.

t is what it is. Statistically, what we loved and listened to in our teens and twenties will survive with us and through us into our 70s and 80s-- yeah, I'll be in a rocker on the porch screeching "turn that shit down! That ain't music! Now SLAYER-- that's real music....."

o here we sit, across the pond with our hats in our hands, begging for something good. The United States suffers from a shrinking "scene" that is sorely divided along genre lines and dominated by Hip Hop, Nu-Metal, and lately Metalcore. Major commercial tours outside of Ozzfest are scarce, and you must wade through the likes of Mudvayne, Metallica, Slipknot and Linkin Park to get to something good. Count your blessings, brethren, for Wacken Open Air and the other hosts of summer festivals you have access to on an annual basis, and know that we on this foreign shore envy you.
But always keep the faith, and know that we keep it with you.

Related links:
www.metalvortex.net - Website for Metal Vortex
www.slamtv.us - discussion forum for SLAMtv

Ogg The Barbarian - May 2005