Sunday, March 26, 2006

The death of metal

I have mentioned on previous occasions a few things that I think caused the fall of metal in the early 90's, but now I have finally decided it was well time to give this sad subject it's own entry. What we mainly know is that hard rock was fairly big throughout most of the 70's, but there was a brief decline in the late 70's. Yet by 1980 hard rock/heavy metal was on the rise. I think Van Halen brought the guitar hero back into prominence and the New Wave of British heavy metal was in full swing. On top of that bands like AC/DC, Rush, Judas Priest, Ozzy and Black Sabbath were either coming into their own or reinventing themselves. From there it took off and flourished throughout the 80's and even 1990 and 1991 were looking promising. Then most people believe that grunge bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains pushed metal out as they first came into style between late 91 and into 1992. By late 92 and into 93, metal bands were being dropped left and right by major labels. So what happened? Was it as simple as the emergence of grunge being a musical enlightenment to a bunch of young people? I think that scratches the surface, but the reasons goes a little deeper. Metal had a good long run and fans should be glad it lasted as long as it did because there was a time around 1988 when established bands like Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and AC/DC were seeing a drop in album sales and ticket sales. Yet bands like Metallica, G-n-R and Queensryche had albums and tours that helped keep metal going for a few more years. I think ultimately the death of metal came down to these two things and they all were happening between 89-91.

1)Mainstream metal became a bit too safe and predictable. Mainstream metal in say 84-86 at least initially had a rougher, edgier feel to it yet by 89-90 it was feeling, looking and sounding a bit stale.

2)Major labels were signing every band with long hair. Every label wanted the next G-n-R or the next Metallica or the next Poison. Unfortunately the majority of the labels didn't know what to do with these bands. They flooded the market with releases and these bands had their ads all over the metal magazines. However many of the bands looked the same and sounded the same and either had no personality of their own or weren't given the chance to show their personality. A lot of bands just got lost in the mix. Some good bands got lost in the flood and there were a lot of subpar bands ending up on major labels just because the labels thought they should sign a metal band.

So by 1991 metal was ready to be knocked off it's perch and it was. It was a sad day, but looking back it was probably predictable. At least metal had a good long run and it's more popular now then it was a decade ago so who knows, maybe it will make a comeback.

13 Comments:

Blogger Phantasmak said...

I think power metal had a bit of an new uptime in Europe in around 1996 with Stratovarius and again with Helloween, then in 1998 with Primal Fear.

4:03 AM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

I think metal's popularity has held up far better in Europe and Japan than it has in here in the states. At least over the last 15 years or so it has. Older American bands seem to love the European festivals as many bands who could only play small clubs here get to play in front of thousands at these festivals.

5:23 AM  
Blogger Bruce said...

Funny you should mention Japan; I saw a vid on Vh-1 classic last night by Loudness.
I don't see grunge as the culprit many people make it out to be, though. In fact, I look at it as an offshoot of metal. Music styles come and go, and often times, the record companies' greed for more ends up, if not killing, then seriously disabling a particular genre.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Ben Heller said...

You're right. Metal is still popular in Northern Europe, particularly Holland, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries. Thrash and Death metal are extremely popular in Norway and Sweden.

I think it needs just ONE outstanding band to get the ball rolling again.

9:21 AM  
Blogger Bruce said...

FYI...Rhino has an OM:II "listening party" here. You can listen to the whole cd before deeciding to buy it.

1:25 PM  
Blogger HMT said...

But the glory of it all is that even if yer hypothesis remains true - that metal died off in '91...

well, About that time Seance release "Saltrubbed eyes" and the birth of Swedish metal began in the midst of American's being retarded and clingin to "grunge"

So now it's as strong as ever - and quite perfect might I add. Every band I really want to see that is heavy as fuck plays venues of 1000 or less, allowing for me to get right up next to the bands whose music I adore..

heavy metal forever.

6:06 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

There has always been a metal underground and it was still around to some extent in the 90's. The mainstream metal was thestyle was severely killed off in the early 90's.

6:56 PM  
Blogger Bar Bar A said...

Very insightful.

7:12 PM  
Blogger FredCQ said...

I agree with your points about why metal died in the 90s. Record labels tend to kill genres with oversaturation of shitty bands. They did the same thing with grunge in the late 90s. They signed every band in a flannel TShirt and killed it off.

5:02 AM  
Blogger :P fuzzbox said...

Things come in cycles. Birth, Rise, Peak, Death, and Rebirth. It is time for a rebirth.

10:19 AM  
Blogger Sanctuary said...

What? Metal Dead. BAH!
Metal is still very much alive. The only thing is that in the USA we have this company called Clear Channel that controls the sound waves. Now if you were to say...venture into other sound mediums like satellite radio, it would only take you moments to discover that Heavy Metal still has a throbbing pulse of mercury in its molten veins! Sirius Satellit Radio for instance, hosts a program 24-7 called Hard Attack (channel 27)and identifies with the more aggressive brands of metal fans.

What truly dictates the ebb and flow of music popularity is its ability to be heard. Like a clever war tactic, if you cut off the supply lines the enemy dies. Clear Channel has successfully reduced the flow of metal to America by systematically removing the ability of program directors to play what the audience wants to hear. End result: Metal starvation. If you doubt what I am saying, call your local radio station and request "Coroner-Masked Jackyl -or- Megadeth- 502, or any other metal classic (apart from Living After Midnight), chances are that you will never hear your request.

All that to say, Metal is still very much alive, and it would do us all good to put together a compilation CD of metal classics and hand it to our kid brothers and their friends. Can you imagine what would happen?

2:19 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

Sanctuary- Of course metal is still around. It's always been around to some extent, but there was a huge prime in the 80's and mainstream, major label metal took a huge hit between 91-93. I know because I was a fan then and I saw the change in what was at the record stores, what was on the radio and was in the magazines.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Garvey said...

I think we all know that Metal never died and I personally believe that it never will, but I understand what "metalmark" is trying to say when he says "the death of metal". I've, so far, seen a recent trend of more metal in general, and like clock-work, it seems like more and more "underground/undergroundish" bands are joining the mainstream scene. Now, who knows what genre or "genre to come" will take the crown once mainstream hip-hop/rap has fallen. Rap has already shown the signs of the inevitable decline, it's just a matter of who will take the reigns. I believe that metal has a very good chance of coming back on top, recent signs: Metallica's step backwards (Death Magnetic), AC/DC's highly anticipated new album, and all the references to past metal is really apparent. Don't get wrong though, if metal does make a comeback, you should probably not expect familiar sounds. Rather you would probably hear one of metal's sub-genres. Young people are starting to notice metal for what it really is, and it's showing. Well i should know because one of them.

-Live and let rock

4:56 PM  

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