Music

The Polishing of Metal
Part 6 - The Present & Future

By Derek McDonald

The Sleeping Giant: The Changing Of The Millennium

Metal diversified during the '80's and '90's and along the way made new friends and enemies. Punk and Metal, one time rivals of each other are now on speaking terms. Metal has experimented and attempted to assimilate Rap, Reggae, Pop, Classic '60's style Rock, Punk, Country and Classical Music as well as a multitude of other genres both successfully and not so successfully. Even Pat Boone, better known for his '50's pop hits and now making his money from the Adult Contemporary genre, will try Metal with his upcoming album "Pat Boone: In a Metal Mood", a cover album of Megadeth, Alice Cooper, Van Halen, Guns 'N' Roses and other groups.

We had 25 years of solid rock!

Somewhere in the abyss between 1991 and 1992, however, Metal, once again, began to slip into the underground. It almost disappeared from the radio and it was no longer the pride and joy of MTV. Warner Bros. and Columbia both phased out their Heavy Metal departments with other companies considering to follow suit. Radio stations preferred the politically correct term "Aggressive Rock" and avoided "Metal" like an infectious disease. Even though the word "Metal" really no longer described the full extent of the music, it is the name that stuck and a few executives saw fit to try to change it, but the fans refused to bite that bone!

By 1995 it got worse. Even big rockers and constant sellers like Iron Maiden, Motorhead or Saigon Kick were given the boot from the US distributors. In a recent Spin magazine article a record company representative admitted that they have an agenda to phase out Metal. Metal was only one victim; other genres and whole recording formats were ready for the chop or, as the industry executives code name it, "house cleaning." This trend is, for the most part, contained only in the US but has been seen elsewhere.

After a decade of pumping out assembly line music (Re: Glam) the music industry had the nerve to wonder why Metal was changing before their eyes. Perhaps their ties were too tight!

It seems that the music industry, at least in the USA, was destroying any credibility it had gained during the '80's. And what were these great masterminds of music replacing it with? "Alternative?" Partly, but Alternative doesn't seem to have the steam to be long term enough to pay the rent at the CD factory, according to most industry associates. No, the long term answer is: nothing except admitting they are wrong and trying to re-release Metal bands but not under the Metal banner name.

Unfortunately for the US major distributors the indies, however, are selling Metal by the truck load without resorting to renaming it. And if the US record labels won't sell it then their international competitors will. CMC, Combat, EMI, RoadRunner, RoadRacer, HM Records just to name one hand full. Record companies, T-shirt vendors, magazine publishers, book authors, clothes manufacturers, jewelry makers, etc. also seem to stand by their Metal masters. Heavy Metal fans are a group who want their music regardless of the latest trends and, as history has shown, they get it and if the local record shop can't supply it then they go to the competitor, even if it's out of the country. It is the one industry that has true and fair free enterprise. It seems that the land of mamma and apple pie have forgotten about the one thing they perfected to an art, free enterprise. Record companies forgot that the most important part of any corporation is the customer! But elsewhere it thrives.

Take Europe, for example. Metal has never fallen out of fashion there. A recent Donnington Monsters of Rock festival, for example, exceeded 70,000 whereas the Reading Festival (by 1995, an "Alternative" festival) booked only 45,000.

Or Canada, where major cities like Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal still pump out bands by the car load; many don't make it big but those who do (Rush, Anvil, Razor, Headstones, Annihilator, Voivod, etc.) sell millions. Canada's Much Music, a cable and satellite music TV video network not unlike America's MTV, at least once a week has a top notch show dedicated to Heavy Metal.

Even in the land of doubt and controversy, the USA, Metal even though eagerly declared dead by the press (like in the UK in 1980) sells out at concerts still and a thriving Heavy Metal press and merchandising industry continues.

It is a slip, not necessarily bad, but nonetheless still occurring even after the arrival of Metallica and Guns ‘N Roses who helped keep it in the spotlight during the closing of the 1980s. Once again it is being returned to the fans, but unlike in the 1970's it is now stronger and has become an accepted musical genre, in most of the world, waiting for the opportunity to throw the might of its stud, spike and leather clad body onto the masses again. A sleeping giant. Well, sleeping maybe but it snores very loudly and each snore throws out a multitude of hit songs! As we speak it is stirring. It will be a short hibernation as long as the fans continue to support it and proudly say the words "Heavy Metal" at every possible opportunity; and they will.

Heavy Metal, it seems, is waiting for another Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden or Guns ‘N Roses to awaken it again.

If bands like Obituary, Gwar and Guns ‘N Roses represent the outer reaches of music then what, in the musical universe, has yet to be explored?

Lots!

Metal will continue to exist in the future as long as there is people who will listen. By its very nature it absorbs all that comes into its path. Utilizing the best of music, technology, fashion and people. Thus it keeps evolving to draw people to see and hear its show. Metal likes an audience.

Experts agree that all generations, like those before this generation, will continue to demand their music until they die. The devotion is so strong that the first thing they will ask St. Peter as they pass through the pearly gates is, "Show me to your stereo, I want Metal."

No, Metal is not dead. It is simply changing with the trends of the time. Although all will agree that it is quickly passing out of its youthful golden years, it will continue to survive as an accepted musical art form. Heavy Metal has grown up out of its infant and adolescent stages into a young adult that wants to be seen and heard.

In 1998 Metal will celebrate its 30th anniversary, what will it sound like? What any middle aged person sounds like. Well, one year doesn't make much of a difference so lets ask what will it sound like 10 years from now? Who knows, but rest assured it will exist.

On January 1st, 2000 at 12am the first child of the new millennium will be born. He will not be of the 'X'-Generation, the group of people who were in the direct path of Metal’s influence. Will the spiked collar and the holiest of metal symbols, the electric guitar, be passed down to him when he comes of age? It may be some form of offspring, but it will be passed along.

It would be a loss to the world indeed, not just to music but to the personal liberties that we, in the western industrialized nations, take for granted if the special interest zealots are allowed to get their way. It would be a great loss as well if nay sayers, record executives and critics destroy something that flows and evolves naturally and freely as time passes and try to make it something commercial and artificial.

Yes, Metal will continue to shock harder and get louder. There is no limits. It is said that the universe extends forever. If this is true then surely the musical universe is equally as big and if so, in an effort to explore it all, Metal will exist forever.