Backlash of The Heavy Metal Puritans: Why Metal Needs To Expand Its Boundaries

To call my most recent column, The 15 Metal Bands, Young and Old, You Should Be Listening To In 2015 , polarizing, would be a disservice to some of the vitriolic commentary on the piece, proclaiming that I had tragically missed the mark. I don’t think I fully understood the gravity of the reality that I was writing for VH1 now; that the reach and impact of my words carried vastly more weight than before. The main gripe was that the list was not truly “metal” enough. This, I cannot argue. The “metal” tag was added to the title after I turned in the piece. I made a list of upcoming and established heavy bands (as I was assigned) that moved me, and that I believed needed to be heard and/or would have a significant role in making big waves in 2015. In my view, all of this lives under the umbrella of heavy music, or as Jamey Jasta would say, ”Loud amps in the face”, and not sticking to some arbitrary guidelines of what meets the benchmark for being “metal”.

Even if I had started the column with the intention of making a list that was distinctly metal, I’m not totally sure what I would have come up with. A high degree of metal-ness does not exactly equate to a high level of creative innovation. Currently, I think the inverse might be actually true.

This got me to thinking about the place we’re at with the close-minded and obtuse mindset of the heavy metal elitist. As I’ve matured, my place has been to play counterpoint to convention wisdom in the metal world, such as my article on defending mainstream metal or my recurring segment, Rejecting the Sickness on the Metalsucks Podcast, where I argue with hosts and true metal nerds, Chuck and Godless, about the validity of bands hated on by the fanboy elite.

In reaction to my Top 15 list, commenter, Seth, perhaps explained this mindset to a T, “Metal—and by metal, I mean death, black, doom, thrash, ’traditional’ hm etc., NOT ’post metal’ or ’djent’ or ’mathnoisecore’—should not appeal to non-metal people.”

I genuinely appreciate Seth’s candor and ability to draw strict guidelines on what his version of metal is, but I am not going to play ball. I am not going to tell you what you want to hear. There are plenty of metal websites and blogs that cater to the tastes of the underground palette. Metalinjection.net, Metalsucks.net, Decibelmagazine.com. I could have put Behemoth on the list instead of Bring My The Horizon because they have credibility and it would have kept the hounds at bay. I could have put Black Crown Initiate on the list because, well, “they were on the other critic’s list.” I guess there is something there that I should glom on to. Behemoth and Black Crown Initiate are great, but I am just using them as examples of bands that might meet the metal scene’s “trueness” qualifications.

If I could construct a chart to measure which attributes qualify certain bands as “metal” enough or “true” enough, there would be certain attributes that carry much more weight than others.

1. Oldness

Judas Priest “Heading Out To The Highway” (Live in 2013)

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