And what of the future? What is to be?
I was there at the first Metal Hall of Fame awards gala in 2017, when it was still called the “Hall of Heavy Metal History.” I stood with the other journalists and photographers across from the Last Supper-like long table, awestruck at the pantheon of Metal gods before us at the press conference. Rudy Sarzo. Wendy Dio, Ross “The Boss” Friedman, Craig Goldy, Vinny and Carmine Appice, Frankie Banali, Tim “Ripper” Owens, Don Airey – – to name a few. Eddie Trunk, our illustrious host, gave a little speech, then opened the floor to the press. After a moment of collective hesitation, I took a deep breath, stepped forward and asked the first question: “What’s the future for our genre?”
I could see the “oh shit” looks on many of their faces. I assume they’d been expecting softballs like, “How does it feel to be inducted?” but there I was, making them work.
Mikkey Dee (Motorhead, Scorpions, King Diamond) spoke up first: “There’s a lot of young bands out there to carry this on, for sure, but a lot of the older guys are quitting. I think it’s gonna continue. It’s never gonna really die, you know. I see a lot of young bands that are untalented, I just hope they can last. That’s the problem. There’s a lot of shit out there, but I give them the benefit of the doubt.”
Eddie Trunk added: “I think what’s really encouraging is, if you look at festivals here in America, for years, we heard, ‘There’s no rock festivals in America that are any good.’ Now there’s about 30, and more every year. . . I host some of them. You go out there and you see young people, people my age bringing kids, whatever. So I think that bodes very well for this music going on to newer generations. . . Rock cruises. . . There’s a lot of different ways people are being exposed to this music. Unfortunately, it’s not reflected in people buying music.”
It’s an endlessly fascinating question. I’m not asking if heavy music will endure. Metal is forever; this stuff satisfies emotional and intellectual needs that no other music can. There will always be Prog Rock dudes with eyeglasses and guitars trying to jam 37 notes into a 13/8 measure. There will always be men and women soaring into dragon battle, scored by the strains of epic power. Always facepainted groups in forests growling about Satan. There will always be opportunists aiming loud, faux-sincere butt rock at commercial radio for the angriest guys at the frat party. And so on. It’s never gonna die, never gonna die. The real question is: what will be the state of the Metal Union in the decades to come?
All musical genres exist in constant evolution; nothing static will survive. Rock n’ Roll today has gotten pretty far from the look and sound of Chuck Berry – – or Bill Haley or Elvis or the Beatles. Rap musicians in the 21st century are almost nothing like the Sugar Hill Gang or The Furious Five. Heavy Metal is interesting because it’s always driven forward at breakneck speed,* but always with an eye on the rearview mirror. In some Metal circles, the highest compliments for new bands are often comparisons to artists or movements of yesteryear.
There’s sometimes a very narrow, historical-based acceptance criteria from the Metal faithful, which is a little strange, considering how broad-minded the earliest Heavies were. This genre was born in diversity. Now entering its sixth decade, Heavy Metal has changed and branched out into countless different sub-genres, prominent and obscure, which makes its future difficult to divine. Nü-Metal and Glam Metal seem inevitable now, in retrospect, but who could have predicted either’s rise to prominence? (No, you didn’t).
I’ve asked a handful of people who are way more knowledgeable than me to weigh in on this topic. Their brilliant and varied replies are listed below. I’m grateful to each and every one of them for playing this game with me.
Oh, but what do I think the future holds? I thought you’d never ask. . .
The bands that mattered then and now – – veteran or early career – – the ones whose music will still be in the discussion decades hence, are the ones that take the best of what’s old and apply a new spin. This goes for music as well as image. It’s just gotta be catchy, quirky, innovative, memorable, connectable with audiences, or some combination of the above. I think the future will favor the modern and upcoming bands who can hit those marks, while the Elder Gods retire and depart. As a GenXer,** I’m partial to songwriters who blend styles in exciting ways, who deliver stuff via that feels new and fresh. I believe these practices will continue to be crucial in the future. But even if my tea leaves are skewed and the future is all about derivatives, there’s no doubt that the next Metal generations will be much more diverse, more global, and much less confined to the places of its European and American origins. Metal is no longer the sole dominion of Western culture and its favored scales and instruments. That’s a good thing.
Whatever comes to pass, the future of Metal is sure to be exciting and full of power and wonder. Yes, of course there will always be “a lot of shit out there;” when hasn’t that been the case? Ignore the bad stuff and feast on the rest. Our future life will be glorious.
Now, on to thoughts from people smarter than me:
Hal C. F. Astell, Apocalypse Later Music
I think the future is incredibly bright, even if the limited state of mainstream American metal may not suggest it. Rock and metal have become truly international genres and the disease continues to spread. I’m finding new favourite bands in places like Tunisia and Vietnam and Belarus. I constantly look forward to what’s coming out of scenes in Greece and Peru and Mongolia. As a critic, I’m living in Google Translate nowadays and I couldn’t be happier. Also, the lines between genres are continuing to blur. Bands don’t have to be black or power or death any more, with the boundaries between each rigidly enforced. They can be all three at once nowadays and then choose to throw some saxophone and a soprano and a set of bagpipes in there for good measure. Folk metal is finding new traditional sounds every other week and trawling them in. In fact, not only is the future incredibly bright, it’s brighter with every year that passes.
Rich Catino, Writer, contributor at:
- Metal Asylum http://www.metalasylum.net/index.php
- Bravewords https://bravewords.com/
- Metal Hall of Fame You’re here!
- Sea of Tranquility https://www.seaoftranquility.org/
What Does The Future Look Like For Hard Rock and Heavy Metal?
As always, like its foundation in the 70s, the golden era in the 80s, to the many new branches to the family tree in the 90s and 2000s, its begins and ends with the fans, the die-hards. No, not mainstream listeners who jump on bandwagons or trend that passes through every few years. The people who like the bands who they like regardless of what is on the radio or trending, or what some pop star thinks is cool this week. Not just the household names everyone knows, or the concert headliners, but everyone else in the underground and between. And remember the key to success, longevity is great songs, not just talent. Writing music that incorporates melody, solos with purpose, harmonies, a great singer, and a hook that sticks in your head. But, and this is important, don’t just support the bands from the past, equally support the new generation from today and tomorrow. That is who is going to keep our music alive for decades to come. The present is as important as the past.
Jimmy Kay, The Metal Voice
A lot of people say “Rock is dead” or “Metal is dead,” but the truth is the metal community will decide their own fate. The survival of any generes is dependent on creative and authentic ways to keep the scene alive. Give the fans professional bands, with stunning songs, the right package bills and Metal will live on and grow. Case in point The Bay Strikes Back Tour. Offer inferior pay to play band packages, with generic mediocre songs, the genre will die. The future is in our hands.
Camden Cruz, Seven Kingdoms
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I think the future of Heavy Metal is actually pretty good. Today we as the Artist have more tools at our disposal to get our product into the hands and ears of people compared to say the 80s. The model has totally changed but nothing great has ever come without challenges. There is a very rich and busy scene here in the USA post-Covid and I really just think that Heavy Metal will just continue its infiltration of the mainstream. Things like having Metallica on Stranger Things really only helps and I think that kinda thing happens more than it ever has before, since the 80s.
dUg Pinnick, King’s X
I don’t know where it’s going, but I know that. . . kids are pulling in information from everywhere they can that touches them, moves them, and wants them to create it, and there’s crazy stuff coming out. And I encourage it. My only problem is: learn to write a great song. Then you win.
My thanks again to Hal C. F. Astell, Rich Catino, Jimmy Kay, Camden Cruz, and dUg Pinnick for their responses. They’re all brilliant and awesome, but hey! So are you. If you have a (brief!) commentary on the future of Heavy music, then send it to me and I’ll feature it in a section of the “Part 2” of this column. Yes, there will be a part 2.
- Keep it brief. Three short sentences. Four, if you must. I’m gonna cut it off after that. Keep it succinct.
- Mentions of political topics or figures of any stripe will either be discarded, deleted, or edited in hilarious ways.
- Facebook or email. Gmail: mjackmangan
- Please stick to this topic. Don’t spam or shill.
Jack Mangan is best known in the Metal world as the co-host of the popular (sporadic these days) Metal Hall of Fame and MetalAsylum.net livestreams with Rich Catino. He’s also the lead author/project runner for the “Am I Evil?” graphic novel and a journalist with MetalAsylum.net and the official Metal Hall of Fame. In an adjacent life, he was a podcast pioneer, with numerous appearances on Technorama, Dragon Page, Escape Pod/Pseudopod, and many others, including his own productions: Jack Mangan’s Deadpan, and the Podcast novel, “Spherical Tomi.” Friend him on Facebook if you can find him, but be warned: he’s not great about checking Facebook Messenger.
*With victory on high.
** If any generation owns the mashup, it’s GenX.