Posted Aug 21st, 2015 (8:40 pm) by Jess Marsh

Metal music is back and stronger than ever. Is it time to turn up to 11?

While far from the first time, Lady Gaga made her love of metal known to the masses in her recent CR Fashion Book feature. Gaga wore her own personal Iron Maiden shirt in the shoot and made some interesting statements about the band and metal as a whole.

CR 7 'Eccentric' cover @bruce_weber @carineroitfeld @crfashionbook

A photo posted by The Countess (@ladygaga) on

"Iron Maiden are one of the greatest rock bands in history, in my opinion. Some people really don’t know the importance of metal and the scope of it. Those guys were filling stadiums, and they still are. And it’s because of the culture of the music, the poetry that’s so powerful, that whenever the fans come together, they unite in the essence of what Iron Maiden is all about. I always used to say to people, when they would say, ‘Oh, she’s the next Madonna.’ No, I’m the next Iron Maiden.”

Maybe Gaga is on to something. Metal has only breached the barrier of mainstream a handful of times in history. There are more than a few ways the often misunderstood genre could lend a hand to mainstream music. I drummed up a couple of those reasons, and in no particular order, here they are:

1) Celebrity Fashion Is Way Ahead Of The Music Industry

A mutually appreciated band tee is just short of a secret handshake in the metal community. A bond is immediately made by a reciprocated interest that you are passionate about. Like that scene about The Smiths in (500) Days of Summer but less eye-rollingly tragic. (Is that a spoiler?) When someone beyond the genre dons a metal band's merch, it's instant news within the community. Are they one of us? Recently, more and more celebrities have worked metal band tees into their wardrobe, which begs the question: Are they really fans, or did someone decide that boxy tees with large graphics would be easy to work around? But when Kendall Jenner is in a Slayer tee, and Kanye is seen in a Megadeth shirt, it's only a matter of time before the rest of the world tries to jump on the trend. Eventually, the music will follow.

2) Metal Is Very D.I.Y. Oriented

When almost daily we are hearing about artists beefing with one another over utilizing ghostwriters, or having to prove their exorbitant lifestyle is a ruse, it gets to be a bit much to keep up with. If listeners begin to crave something that is a bit more organic in its conception, metal is an excellent example of making music yourself, from beginning to end. Albums are written and composed, and occasionally recorded, mixed and mastered, by the bands themselves. The artists are hands-on from beginning to end. There's no room for excess when you're getting your hands dirty with your craft:

Drum tracking, day 1 at God City.

A photo posted by Every Time I Die (@everytimeidie) on

3) There Is A Growing Movement of Socially Conscious Material

It's probably safe to say that bands like Rage Against The Machine left very big shoes to fill when it comes to metal-influenced protest songs. In recent years, there has been a large upswing in bands using their music to speak out about social issues.

Stray From The Path tackle topics like police brutality, social inequality, and sexual assault. Bearing a bit of Rage Against the Machine reminiscence, the band has an undeniable groove coupled with an undeniable anger about the topic at hand:

Protest The Hero took victim blaming in cases of sexual assault head on, with this unapologetic track off their 2013 album Volition:

4) Artists Are Incredibly Accessible

There are very few metal artists that have attained celebrity status. Because of this, it is very likely at a metal show that you will see the bands at their own merch booth or even at the bar. Social media accounts are often full of funny, candid posts, rather than carefully crafted promotional stunts. The glitz and glam is lifted from the music. It is humbling and easier for fans to connect and relate to artists. Shows are often in small venues, with some bands, like The Dillinger Escape Plan, getting up close and personal with fans:

Another from Milan the other night. Berlin tonight. Photo: Matteo Chiarini

A photo posted by THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN (@dillingerescapeplan) on

5) There's A Type Of Metal For Everyone

There are many people who are under the impression that metal consists exclusively of shrill, screeching vocals and squealing guitars. While no one was looking, metal borrowed elements from a slew of genres and made a ton of new sub-genres out of it. While elitists may question the validity of how "metal" these bands are, they are expanding upon what metal already is and are turning it into something new and exciting.

Letlive and their self-proclaimed "soul-punx" sound is a combination of hiring a front man raised on Micheal Jackson, who also loves hip-hop, and of course, metal:

Progressive metal band The Contortionist add worldly ambiance, elements of jazz, and intervals of serene vocals to what began as a death metal project. The end result is a level of haunting beauty that takes you on a journey with each song:

Japan's Crossfaith tow the line between metal and EDM with such ease, it's a wonder that a metal/EDM hybrid is not already a musical sensation. I know more than a few people that were really into metal as teenagers who grew into various types of electronic music as they got older. Crossfaith makes it acceptable to do both:

6) It Is Only A Matter Of Time Before Collaborations Become Full-Fledged Projects

Aerosmith collaborated with Run DMC. Public Enemy and Anthrax did a song together. Nu Metal in the early 2000's had an awkward interaction with popular music. Remember that whole Linkin Park/Jay- Z EP? I still can't decide if that was genius or uncomfortable.

More recently Craig Owens, of Hot Topic-core band Chiodos, was featured on Dr. Dre's track "Jon Connor." RZA is working on an album with the bassist of System of A Down and Slipknot's Corey Taylor was featured on a track on Tech N9ne's new album:

It is only a matter of time before these side projects and features create, or inspire, a full time collaboration - bringing the music to a whole new audience.

7) There's A Big Opportunity For The Festivals

As of a few weeks ago, metal lost its biggest touring festival, leaving a hole for a large summer tour in its wake. There are already a handful of dedicated metal festivals spread out across the country, but when the bigger festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo ignore metal, it leaves the door open for a more inclusive summer festival to take place.

Mayhem Festival suffered from poor ticket sales, while headlining tours for Slipknot and Lamb of God sold out amphitheaters. Perhaps metal isn't the genre for large outdoor festival tours anymore. Perhaps it is time for metal to join the major festival circuit. That exposure may be essential in bringing metal forward as a respected genre.

Hartford, CT

A video posted by Slipknot (@slipknot) on

8) Metal Albums Are Flying Off The Shelves

At least ten metal bands have charted around the #25 spot on the Billboard Top 200 this year. The highest being Lamb of God's Sturm und Drang, ranking at #3. Other albums that performed well without the backing of a major label? Between The Buried and Me's Coma Ecliptic, Veil of Maya's Matriarch, and the Periphery's double concept album Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega.

These albums are selling for a reason, and seeing their names alongside the likes of Taylor Swift and Drake is bound to get someone's attention.

With releases from Deafheaven and The Black Dahlia Murder on the way, there will be plenty of opportunities for metal bands to chart high in album sales before the end of the year.

9) It's A Little Less Silly

When metal is mentioned in popular media, it is usually portrayed as a caricature. Either a man in a denim vest, long hair spinning like a windmill, or a someone decked out in black metal corpse paint and a KISS costume. "The Amazing World of Gumball" did a pretty good job of inserting metal into a cartoon without being completely ridiculous:

A lot of the gimmick and costuming has been replaced with a more casual approach. Again, elitists are kind of upset about this inevitable transition. In a way, it makes the scene a little more inviting to someone that might have been turned off by the spikes and leather of days past. Here we have Revocation being average guys playing metal:

Thank you Montreal! #heavymtl

A photo posted by revocation (@revocation) on

10) Metal Is Overdue For A Comeback

The '80s gave us the rise of Iron Maiden and Metallica, two of the biggest bands to ever exist. Once Nirvana and grunge took the spotlight in the '90s, metal found itself strangely intertwined with the mainstream when nu-metal carried us into the new millennium. There was a time in our world where this could happen:

While I am certainly not saying it should happen like THAT ever again, I think it would be really interesting to see even a small branch of the genre getting mainstream exposure. As much as the entire world laughs at what nu metal was, we did get Slipknot and Deftones out of that era. Both bands continue to be successful, as trends in metal have changed over time.

8.12.15 Atlanta, GA

A photo posted by deftonesband (@deftonesband) on

The re-emergence of metal is not so much an "if it happens," as it is "when it happens." Don't say I never told you so.

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