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Metal through the Decades (A Metal Head’s Rant)

Metal has been with music in one form or another since the 60s. It took its derivatives from blues and psychedelic rock, and in the late 60s and early 70s bands were starting to emerge in the “new found” genre. Bands like Alice Cooper, Steppenwolf, Led Zeppelin and The Who started mixing blues/rock with crazy live performances. By the mid 70s, after the success of the above, bands like Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Nazareth, Angel, and Judas Priest started taking aim at the scene and hitting it dead on. Of course, without KISS, the 80’s metal movement probably would not be where it was either. KISS not only brought together heavy rock, but they brought together the true “persona” of metal of the 80s. This bigger than life stage presence is really what made the 80s what it was in metal.

The 80s are where this rant will begin. The 80s had its trends and would move metal truly into the spotlight. To say to someone you don’t know who Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera or Iron Maiden is just foolish, or you live in a complete shell (I know Iron Maiden formed in the 70s, but their rise to fame was in the 80s). Even some of the more obscure names to likes of a pop queen should be household names such as Dio, Anthrax and Saxon (yes, debut in 79 I know). The 80s had the trends (see hair metal) but it also had the substance to back it up. After all, for metal to succeed you needed to have talented musicians leading the way, which the 80s gave 100%. Sure there was cheese, but metal in the 80s was a true art form, still unproduced. The 80s also saw the start of black metal with the likes of Celtic Frost, Venom and Hellhammer. At the time it was more of a hybrid of thrash, but it definitely saw the light of day in the 80s.

We all know what happened to the 90s. Although metal saw its biggest success, it really became a pop sound with the likes of Korn, Limp Bizkit and so forth (nu-metal, rapcore). It’s almost scary how entering 1990 started the slide of thrash, heavy metal and a quick spawn of media friendly piss was taken to the scene. To most of us, this was not a scene, although to some it paved the way for the modern era. Although real metal took a backseat, the one thing bands like Korn did was progress metal further into the homes of everyone. Did everyone run out and buy the latest Dio album after picking up Korn’s ‘Follow the Leader’? Hopefully not, but it did help create the sound that is today’s metal scene. The 90s weren’t all bad, bands taking a back seat had some amazing albums (see At The Gates “Slaughter of the Soul” or Pantera’s “Cowboys from Hell”). But, while nu-metal and the like were growing leaps and bounds, the underground was growing strong. Black metal’s second wave was happening with all the depression it could take (bands like Mayhem, Burzum, Darkthrone, and Emperor to name a few). Metalcore and “new hardcore” also saw its roots with bands like Earth Crisis, Deadguy, Hatebreed, Snapcase and Integrity. However all of this took a back seat to Pop-Punk and Nu-Metal.

What the 80s created was a successful venture into making metal music. It let people know that maybe they could do this for a living; maybe this wasn’t just wishful garage band thoughts. This brought more and more bands to the front of the scene to, unfortunately, create the 90s. What I will say though is without a single band, Slipknot, I do not think metal and hardcore would be where it is today. Slipknot was mass production metal music. Once a million people picked up that first publicly released album, it started opening kids’ eyes to an underground scene that was just waiting for a break. Bands that only had been heard of by the remaining few 80s punk and metal kids were starting to gain focus. Poison The Well took off, From Autumn to Ashes took off. Hatebreed took over, bands like Children Of Bodom, Lamb Of God and Killswitch Engage started filling up MP3 players replacing the songs of yesterday, songs like “Freak On A Leash”. Of course, this is also when the outcry happened. All those fans of metal wanted nothing to do with the big scene. They were happy with what the 90s brought to metal. They were happy that metal music as a whole was taking a backburner approach and allowing them the true “underground” experience.

It’s funny today, to be able to write this after trashing some copy cat metal act a few minutes earlier. The shear fact that I can say a scene is over grown shows that the 00s are a metal world to be reckoned with. There was no “too many metalcore bands in 80s”, no “Metallica rip offs” (to the same volume) back then. Now it is overwhelmed with shit. Metal has, although slower, taken the course of pop-punk just a few years earlier. Will bands like Lamb of God ever be as large as Blink-182? Probably not, but the state of metal today is doing a lot better than the state of pop-punk. Hell, metal has about 3000 different sub-genres built under its empire now. Even black metal is starting to grow.

The popularity of metal will be its own doom, and sifting through albums for reviews it getting harder and harder. What was once 10-20 albums getting released a year that were solid, now is 5-10. The saturation is also making bands tweak their sound ever so slightly to gain a few more fans. Maybe this is good, maybe not, but it’s definitely noticed. I will end this little rant with a finding I never expected. Deathcore, why and how is this genre popular? Are there that many angry children in the world today? Seeing a new sold out crowd at the Welcome to Hell Tour (Whitechapel) was cool, but when the average age was 15, it was depressing. Maybe I am just getting to old (27). The next big thing will be crunk-core! Shoot me now.


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