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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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....."
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.
- Website for Metal Vortex
www.slamtv.us - discussion
forum for SLAMtv
Ogg The Barbarian - May 2005