The question of metal music and its future is a subject that gets brandished around every year around Award time. As thousands of screaming fans gush over the likes of Kanye and Ga-Ga, it’s a challenge to find a Pantera shirt in the crowd. This has nothing to do with the popularity of heavy metal as there are millions of fans all around the world, but rather a testament to how its continued popularity is dependent on its need to stay well below the mainstream radar.
Sure, our favorite bands are recognized here and there but not nearly as often as our pop-star counter parts are. All you have to do is take a look at the MTV Music Awards history with heavy metal to see how mainstream media tries to destroy the heavy metal genre.
The category, first introduced in 1989, was originally titled the “Best Heavy Metal Video” and given to Guns N’ Roses for “Sweet Child o’ Mine” despite being up against Metallica’s masterful “One” video. While a decent band in their own right, Axl and crew are not singing what most would consider heavy metal. My mom has that song on her iphone, but ask her about “One” and I get a blank stare.
Thankfully it is now just called “Best Rock Video” with no special category set aside for metal heads.
This doesn’t concern heavy metal fans, nor the bands they worship.
As pop music fans jump from Madonna to Britney to Beyonce, metal fans still rock their heads to British Steel. They have more respect for the genres heritage, and use that to keep creating music that is both new and exciting but with that amplified distortion that defines it.
In many ways, some metal bands have been the masters of their own demise by trying to go deeper and darker than even the likes of Black Sabbath. This stray into music that is barely discernible from subway noise turns people off to metal before they can ever be turned on.
The lack of mainstream heavy metal in America actually says very little about its future, for the next 10 years and even beyond. The United States has had a long, unfriendly and sordid history with metal bands and their fans, causing its popularity to remain underground.
Look around the world though and you see a much different story. Rock in Rio is the perfect example of a worldwide acceptance and adoration of all things heavy metal. With Metallica as a frequent headliner at the various concerts held around the world, it will be curious to see what the line up will be like once the city of rock lands in Las Vegas.
Metal will survive the next 10 years in the same way it has survived the last 45. By staying out of the mainstream and continuing to break new ground, test its limits and then fall back on the classic riffs and drumbeats that has made it such a success.