As I’m sure many of you do, I like to keep up with my metal news. In the past week or so, I came across two inflammatory headlines that really bothered me from a couple of my favorite metal websites.
The first screenshot is a post from Metalsucks.net. Clearly, it shows an unhappy face, and insinuates that you too, should be unhappy about this occurrence. I got into a Facebook debate with an old buddy, where I’m sure this opinion dissemination on Metalsucks played a huge part.
The second post is from Metalinjection.net, and displays Bring Me The Horizon’s Oli Sykes appearing to give Tom Araya the finger (although he actually isn’t).
Perhaps you think my description of these headlines as “inflammatory” is hyperbole, but the intention of these headlines was to inflame the purist and traditionalist sensibilities of the old-school, “real” metal head. I’m sure this type of divisive angling gets more clicks, shares, and buzz than just reporting the raw numbers. I’m sure both sites get way more traffic than I do, so clearly this style of news works, but I have to draw attention to how this is bad for the health of our music scene. I am a fan of both sites —I love all of the guys who run them— and got my start blogging with Metalsucks, but I have to call it as I see it.
1. The Corruption of Competition
I don’t think any of these bands had any inkling that they were competing with each other. They are competing against the market as a whole, and more than likely themselves; with each album release, you want to sell more and chart higher than your previous album. The truth is that Five Finger Death Punch and Bring Me The Horizon each sold the most actual albums in their respective release weeks, and each had their eye on nabbing a #1 Billboard record in the US, which is an historic achievement for ANY band. It was only because of the way the Billboard weights single sales and streams that both bands didn’t have the overall #1 records. It’s the metal community pitting them against each other without their knowledge like some sketchy dogfight.
If you only measure your achievements in life by comparing to others, you will exist in a state of perpetual inadequacy. It’s sad, insecure, and somewhat pathetic. No matter what you have, someone will always have more money, a bigger house, a better looking spouse, and more public notoriety. This is a spiritually bankrupt and corrosive way of thinking, and it should not be propagated.
2. It’s Disrespectful and Inaccurate to Iron Maiden and Slayer’s Achievements
Iron Maiden’s The Book of Souls matched their highest Billboard position ever (#4), and highest first week sales tally in the band’s 40 year career with 74,000 copies. All of this in an era of steadily falling album sales. The album also opened #1 in 24 different countries.
Although Slayer’s Repentless wasn’t their highest selling first week ever in the US, it was their highest charting album ever at #4, and landed in the top 10 in 13 other countries. All of this was achieved in spite of losing two founding band members.
We should be applauding how incredibly well these legendary bands are doing deep into the latter years of their careers. These headlines focus on a fictional negative instead of the non-fictional positive.
3. It’s Just Typical Internet Hating
Who gives a shit if a band you don’t like sold a bunch of records? Newsflash: there are countless products out there that are doing very well, that you personally don’t consume. And it’s ok. I have never seen or cared about any of the Twilight films, but I don’t sit around and brood over their general existence or that someone else may be experiencing enjoyment from them.
I also get that the theme of these websites is often to provoke, and play the character of a trollish bee hive poker. It’s not all serious, but purposely meant to rile up dumb f-cks like me to write self-important, pious posts like this. I understand that, but this trend leads to a type of thinking that manifests in the real world. Acknowledging the ultimate effect of degrading the mindfulness on how we judge and perceive art is important. It’s my job to speak to these trends.
4. Is This a Surprise?
I would expect Five Finger Death Punch and Bring Me The Horizon to outsell Iron Maiden and Slayer. They are all over the radio. They are very current, and speaking to a much younger and active demographic. Anyone who was surprised are probably befuddled when a Fast and Furious sequel outgrosses the latest Coen Brothers film.
5. It Muddles The Overall Positive Narrative About Metal
The real story that we should be telling right now is that heavy music fans are coming out in droves to support the biggest bands during the first week of album sales. Overall album sales are in steady decline, but rock music isn’t declining as quickly as other genres. Along with the four bands mentioned in this article securing top five positions, Lamb of God just hit #3 on the charts, and Disturbed secured their fifth #1 album in a row. The trends are showing that the longer bands stick it out and keeps writing great music, their fanbase will keep growing and become more dedicated, at least with regard to album sales. Slipknot had their second #1 album in a row with 2014’s .5 The Gray Chapter. Testament had their highest charting ever at #12 with 2012’s Dark Roots of Earth. Anthrax scored their highest debut since 1993 with 2011’s Worship Music. Meshuggah had their best chart position and first week sales with 2012’s Koloss. This is what we should be talking about.
The scarier truth is how difficult it is to build up new bands, so that they can enjoy some of the success that these established acts are having. That is a much more arduous proposition. The masses will always like hooks, melody, groove, catchy lyrics, and good looking people. Sorry if your favorite murky doom-grind band isn’t blowing up the charts.
Let’s be realistic, and do our best to focus on the positive, and include new bands as they rise up the ranks. I may sound like a broken record, but I won’t stop trying to get you miserable f-cks to look on the bright side.