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Is Heavy Metal a Dead Genre?

Updated on April 14, 2020
jmcgin1453 profile image

I am a new online writer and a major fan of the metal genre. I'm always on the lookout for talented and obscure bands.

Discovered this on Quora, not sure if original source.
Discovered this on Quora, not sure if original source. | Source

Now I know this is a topic that has been discussed for a number of years now and everyone that has taken part in its discussion has opinions that range across the whole spectrum, and that is what I am going to discuss in this article. Did heavy metal take a wrong turn? Did the record companies destroy it? Does society simply not care? Or is heavy metal better than ever and we, as the fans, just do not recognize that? All these accusations will be discussed today and we will delve deep into the topic of whether metal is waking up dead or not.

One point I think most of us can agree upon is that heavy metal is past its golden years. Once metal started breaking out of the underground in the late 70s and early 80s, a lot of great albums and songs were being released that are still reminiscent nearly 40 years later as of the time of this article. Absolutely great metal bands and songs have been released since the turn of the century, but I think for most of us, when we think of metal, bands like Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Metallica come to mind first versus Nightwish, Sabaton, Iced Earth. When metal started getting recognized, it was something the world had never seen before, everything about it was new, cool, and rebellious. Sure, bands like Black Sabbath and Judas Priest were around a decade before most of the 80s bands, but even they didn't receive quite as much recognition until the 80s.

Another point I think that has been hurting the genre in recent years is that newer bands are too concerned about being the most evil or most scary aesthetically. Sure, the earlier metal bands were considered scary, but most of that fear came more from their music versus trying to look the part. If you have ever heard of the Livewire YouTube channel, their is a video called "Top 10 Up and Coming Metal Bands", and not only was it painful for me to watch, I have the feeling that most of these bands are not truly comfortable with who they are as musicians. They have an identity crisis, so they try to go for the biggest shock value possible. When watching concerts or interviews of bands like Iron Maiden, Saxon, Motley Crue, they are totally comfortable with who they are as a band and nothing can stop them. Sure, they have all touched on the shock factor, but the music was more important to these bands, and the aesthetic was the icing on the cake. It seems to me that, like I mentioned, bands are more worried about trying to be more repulsive and scary rather than writing songs with lyrics, guitar riffs, or drum beats that people find awe-inspiring and timeless.


Building off my previous point, another reason metal doesn't seem as relevant now is it has lost the shock value and edge that young people look for. Young people are a big factor in what drives the music business, and if young people are not into a particular genre, its going to be much tougher to make it big. So the question is why? Metal used to be associated with a few things. Good quality music, beautiful girls in music videos, and overall being rebellious. Metal seems to have lost that edge to it or its not as transparent. Since the grunge era, metal went to being more darker as a genre. Now, I do not mean darker as in satanic or showing pentagrams and having brutal stage shows, rather darker as in more about depression or struggle or anything in-between. I know what you are thinking, Metallica had "Fade to Black" in the 80s, but their was also a large pool of songs to draw upon to mask that approach. Plus, my understanding is that the song was controversial somewhat to metal fans at the time. The days of metal bands looking cool, showing cool things, and writing songs that really turn people on seem to have disappeared from the spotlight. That doesn't mean their are not bands that have this approach these days, but either they are not making as big of an impact or they are deliberately being ignored by the record companies, who do not seem to want to invest money into good music anyway.

One of the stigmas that made metal so enticing was how it was traded around. What I mean by this was cassettes and vinyl's with enthralling artwork to pass around and create this trade empire for metal, popular and obscure bands alike. It was a currency assort and created this interest in the genre that people found irresistible. Along with this, the sound quality gave metal its own unique style. The cracks and static in the sound gave it a certain amount of authenticity that people look for. All this leads me to this point, metal unfortunately was a product of the times, not meaning metal is old-fashioned or dated, but lost what attracted people to it. Cassettes and vinyl's are not used in the capacity they used to be, sound quality has been altered by computers, and because of mp3 sites and the age of internet, trading the music is not as important to people and the artwork doesn't gain as much attention because it is mostly digital now. Basically, the aspects that helped metal stay interesting have all disappeared, doesn't mean it is old fashioned, it simply means the modern market doesn't support what made the genre.

Top Metal Bands in the Modern Day

Lastly, when looking at the top selling metal bands around the world, who are they? Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica, Megadeth, Black Sabbath. According to aminoapps, many of these bands are included, along with Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Van Halen, and Guns N Roses (aminoapps). Below, you will find the link to the article I am referring to.

So, how many bands in the last few years, as in 10 to 15 have you heard of really breaking through, and I mean breaking through large? None, really. Doesn't mean none are successful, but next to none are gaining the attention that many of these bands from the 80s had even in their early years. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that many newer bands are not household names like a lot of the older bands. Now, you might say, well it takes years to get that status, but within a few years, all of these bands listed above had already made legendary names for themselves. Bands in the last decade and a half, not so much. It is a shame to see I think. Doesn't mean their are no good, revolutionary bands, they simply do not have the support from the companies, and not as large of a fanbase.

Cult Following

One way I think metal has evolved is it now more of a cult following instead of a more widespread appeal. Of course, many would support this direction for metal because it creates a family and a more dedicated group for those within the metal community. Their is some merit to this, but unfortunately metal does not typically have the support from advertisements and from a financial standpoint that it did in the 80s. Of course, since around the mid 90s, metal had lost the newness and shock value it once did, so only the most dedicated fans would continue to support the genre, which does not seem to translate well to creating major popularity today.


So what do you think? Is metal dead or not? I think it is dead in the sense it is past the golden years and mainstream society simply does not appreciate quality music, but their are still plenty of great bands out their that simply do not have the support. Granted creative freedom is better now more than ever, but unless record companies start signing more metal bands and promoting them, the genre is simply not going to thrive unless you are one of the brand names. Yes, many of the classic bands are more of a brand these days, they have no more to really prove. Its a tough journey, and I pray for every band aspiring to make it big or are starting out that they reach the heights because someone has to try.

© 2019 Jason


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