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Metal Deliverance

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The one with some general predictions about future music access and formats.

Records, 8-tracks, reel-to-reels, tapes, CDs, mp3s, streaming – – how will we connect with and listen to our music in the years ahead? How will our Metal be delivered?

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  1. The Skull Beneath the Skin. You’ll be able to have cybernetic implants somewhere in your head; likely your ears or your jaw. They’ll be Bluetooth compatible, or whatever the future equivalent is, and you’ll stream your music directly into your noggin. Of course, you’ll still be able to play through old-fashioned speakers, but the source might come from chips in your head or your nephew’s. You’ll be able to connect this skullplayer to your Spotify playlists or a favorite radio station’s feed. Some acts will also find ways to factor this into live performances – – with the music still blasting through the PA system, but also connecting with individual concert-goers through their personal embedded connections. That’s some Cyberpunk utopian/dystopian shit right there. Perfect for you Queesryche, Rush, and Fear Factory fans. 

  1. Virtual XI. In the way that music videos have enhanced our musical interactions, forward-thinking, tech-savvy artists will use VR technology to make song-accessories that you can virtually step inside of, so you not only hear the song, but see it all around you in 3D. We don’t stop with the visual, oh no – – you’ll also be able to feel it on your body, smell it, and if you have the gear, to taste it. What would “Eruption” taste like? What would a King Diamond song smell like? Where on your body would a KISS song touch you? This will also find its way into live concert settings. That dude over there isn’t having an acid trip; he’s just Wi-Fi’ed into the feed. 

  1. Spin the Black Circle. Vinyl will persist, but will become more niche. Yes, yes, you love your collection. Mad respect for records, analog warmth, and the large, highly-visible album art and liner notes, but I just don’t see this becoming dominant. Again. Everyone born before 1980 is surprised and happy to witness its 21st-Century comeback. There’s a devoted sub-culture whose members will continue to revere records, long after this fad is done, but we won’t see the return of the days when there was a turntable in just about every home.*** CDs and cassettes? Only for specialized nostalgia, not for any practical purposes.

  1. Glittering prizes and endless compromises. I don’t foresee a world without corporate control of widely-accessible music. Sorry. Doesn’t mean you have to listen to that; you can continue to proudly crank your favorite Vintage Caravan albums. And yes, of course Indie artists will always ply their homegrown wares out of vans and tiny clubs – – Metal excels at this – – but look for the descendants of Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, Beyonce, Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, Usher, Pink, et al to continue to dominate pop culture. 

But we arrive now at the point: Heavy Metal has never been a part of that establishment. The trends and predilections of the Pop masses have never mattered to us. A couple of our favorites became household names, but even for those, few outside the Metal community have ever heard a note of Accept, Maiden, AC/DC, Slayer, or Judas Priest, except through our closed bedroom doors. The vast majority of our favorites were never on MTV, only played on niche radio stations, and often hard to find even in the big chain record stores. 

Metal was certainly not the only underground music scene of the past 60 years, but it may have been the most actively, passionately, devotedly, nerdily networked. We traded and bought shitty tapes, shitty basement printing press zines, shitty bootlegs, and shitty t-shirts via all kinds of shitty, low-grade, back-channel methods of connecting with our favorite lesser-known bands and discovering new ones. 

Whatever the future holds, Metal fans will always find each other – – and the studious will unearth the best Heavy artists of the past and present. We’ll accept whatever technological advances come to grant us more convenient access to our music. We definitely appreciate high-fidelity, but we don’t need it. Hell, many of our favorite albums sound like they were recorded inside a train station phone booth. So whether it’s through our satellite skull uplinks, the worn-thin tapes in our boombox, our vinyls, CDs, VHS tapes, primitive notation on clay tablets – – whatever. We’ll always find ways to get our Metal hunger fed. 

 

Jack Mangan is best known in the Metal world as lead author/project runner for the “Am I Evil?” graphic novel, as a journalist with MetalAsylum.net and the official Metal Hall of Fame. and also as co-host of the popular (sporadic these days) Metal Hall of Fame and MetalAsylum.net livestreams with Rich Catino. He’s made a few guest appearances as a panelist on The Metal Voice. 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.

*The article title is a nod to Opeth, Queensryche, and Corrosion of Conformity. No dueling banjos here.  

**Not gonna use AI art (again). 

***Yes, I know I’m setting myself up with this one. 

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