It’s been over 25 years since Metallica released their seminal album ‘Master of Puppets’ and metal’s popularity arguably reached its peak. But in 2012, is it really still relevant, and does it still retain the power and fan-base it once had?
Ask metal fans who they think the biggest artists in metal are today, and it’s likely they’ll reel off any number of names such as Machine Head, Mastodon and Trivium – the list goes on and on. However, it is not just these old gods of the industry who are keeping the genre going; a wave of new bands inspired by the original titans are now flying the flag high for metal.
Across Europe every year, thousands flock to festivals such as Sonisphere, Wacken, and Hellfest, all of which cater to fans of heavy and extreme music. The UK’s biggest metal festival, Download, attracted 70,000 fans in 2011 – almost as many as Leeds Festival. These festivals are home to the biggest names in the business, but they also promote smaller acts on the road to glory. Rise to Remain, for example, played the tiny Gibson stage at Download 2008. By 2010, they were playing alongside names such as Bullet for My Valentine and The Dillinger Escape Plan on the second stage.
If you look hard enough, it’s possible to spot metal in the mainstream media as well. Radio One’s daytime playlist champions a track by trance metallers Enter Shikari. In America, talk show host Conan O’Brien regularly features live performances by bands like Megadeth and Lamb of God alongside Eminem and Lady Gaga. Arguably the most prominent exposure metal has had in recent years was in 2009, when, as a biting retort against the domination of the charts by X Factor singers, Rage Against the Machine achieved the Christmas Number One spot with ‘Killing in the Name’.
By its very nature, metal will never be as popular as other genres and you probably won’t be seeing bands like Suicide Silence in the top 40 any time soon. However, metal’s cult following is part of its appeal for its die-hard fans, who are much of the reason it has been able to grow up to the present day. To the outsider looking in, metal may seem to be an aggressive or even primitive type of music, but for those who revel in it, it is a way of life. Yes, metal is still very much an underground genre, but just because it can’t always be heard across the airwaves, that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed.
Early metal (1969-1980)
- Led Zeppelin – ‘Led Zeppelin II’ (1969)
- Black Sabbath – ‘Paranoid’ (1970)
- Kiss – ‘Destroyer’ (1975)
Founders of Metal
- Motörhead- ‘Overkill’ (1979)
- Iron Maiden – ‘The Number of the Beast’ (1982)
Thrash metal (1981-1990)
- Metallica – ‘Master of Puppets’ (1986)
- Slayer – ‘Reign in Blood’ (1986)
- Megadeth – ‘Rust in Peace’ (1990)
Glam metal (1983-1990)
- Mötley Crüe – ‘Dr Feelgood’ (1986)
- Bon Jovi – ‘Slippery When Wet’ (1986)
- Skid Row – ‘Skid Row’ (1989)
- Slipknot – ‘Slipknot’ (1999)
- Limp Bizkit – ‘Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavoured Water’ (2000)
- System of a Down – ‘Toxicity’ (2001)
Groove metal (1990-present)
- Pantera – ‘Cowboys from Hell’ (1990)
- Lamb of God – ‘Sacrament’ (2006)
- Machine Head – ‘Unto the Locust’ (2011)
- Avenged Sevenfold – ‘City of Evil’ (2005)
- Bullet for My Valentine – ‘The Poison’ (2005)
- Rise to Remain – ‘City of Vultures’ (2011)
William Gulseven and Josh Levy