Wrote this back in January, decided I'd put it here. Enjoy.
Like everything else in our culture, music moves in cycles. What was once the height of popularity becomes passé, until the inevitable retro-kitsch revival comes along and breathes ironic life back into it. Heavy metal is not immune to these phases, but it does suffer from a bit of identity crisis. Here in America, the general populace thinks of metal in terms of its Eighties heyday; most think metal self-destructed with Guns ‘n Roses and was delivered a death blow by Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Watch any VH-1 special, and you’ll hear the lamentation of washed-up glam-rock imbeciles, crying over the decline of the good old days. Fuck that.
Below this façade of musical ignorance lies two groups; music people that know metal never went away (and don’t care), and die-hard metal fans. Fans of actual metal. People that know Venom and Celtic Frost and Possessed led to Slayer and Death and Mayhem, which led to Pantera and Sepultura and…well, you get my drift. But now, whispers of the end-times drift through even these inner metal circles. Some point to the rash of classic bands reuniting over the last five years (At The Gates, Carcass, Heaven & Hell, etc.) and see it as a cash grab before this decade’s metal “boom” subsides. Others observe the dozens of sub-sub-genres splintering under the heavy metal banner as some kind of musical apocalypse, akin to fundamentalists bemoaning the EU as the first sign of the end of the world. Still others cry foul (or in some cases “untrue”) at the popularity of so-called “hipster metal” bands: The Sword, Saviours, even Mastodon.
What’s confusing to me is that these people should know better. Actually, they should go one step further and shut the fuck up already. Haven’t we seen and heard this before? If heavy metal has one defining characteristic, it’s survival. The bands and fans have been dragged through the mud, accused of everything from sexual deviancy to first-degree murder. Unfortunately, some of those accusations have proven true, especially in Norway. But think about that; there is a metal genre that is best known to the world as a group of musicians who kill each other and burn down churches…and it’s still going, stronger than ever.
Are there changes on the horizon? Of course. The cyclical nature of music and culture still applies here. The real question is, will it be for better or for worse? 2008 produced a large amount of incredible albums and exciting new bands in extreme music. 2009 has an even sunnier outlook. Well, as sunny as heavy metal can be. The Debbie Downers that have sprung up recently would do well to check out the recent releases from Nachtmystium, Withered, Javelina, Wetnurse and Soilent Green (among many others), and see that not only is metal doing just fine, but some of its best bands are coming from our own soil. So get out your extra-black vintage Dissection long-sleeve and throw some horns; this shit is here to stay.