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The 25 Most Important People in Metal, #24: Robb Flynn

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As much as metal is a genre of music and a lifestyle, it is also a community. And like all communities, it has its leaders — men and women whose work, be it by design or circumstance, affects all lovers of extreme music on a regular basis.

Throughout November, MetalSucks will celebrate these industry leaders by counting down The 25 Most Important People in Metal one per day. To be clear, this is a list of the people we believe are most important to metal today, in 2016 — not necessarily the most important people overall in the entire history of the genre. Some of them are musicians. Many of them are not. Some of them are people you’ve heard of. Many of them work behind the scenes and do not routinely get to take a bow. But they all have one thing in common: more than just cogs in a machine, they are truly, undeniably irreplaceable. 

Machine Head are a fantastic band, but they’ve never been a revolutionary one. Neither Forbidden nor Vio-lence, frontman/guitarist Robb Flynn’s first two bands, were able to achieve the fame or influence of many of their ’80s thrash peers. While Machine Head have experienced plenty of success, they’ve never been mega-stars, and their nu-metal era continues to be a stain that gives Internet trolls never-ending fodder. Machine Head haven’t ever been “important,” as we define it here, so much as they’ve just been a really fucking good band for a damn long time.

Except, that is, in one category: the complete fearlessness of their frontman, main songwriter and band mastermind, Robb Flynn.

When Machine Head were at their lowest artistic point following 2001’s Supercharger, Flynn turned the band around with Through the Ashes of Empires, and eventually dug deep for The Blackening, which would arguably become one of the greatest metal albums ever written. That takes balls, charisma and hard work, and a lesser man would’ve crumpled under the pressure and allowed his band to fade into the nostalgia circuit.

If we can’t laugh at ourselves, what can we laugh at? These days Flynn just lets all the comments about his ’90s nu-metal look roll off his back. It was a mistake, we’ve all made them, and it takes true confidence to stare it right in the face and say, “Eh, fuck it, whatever.”

Flynn’s “General Journals” diary entries have become a staple of metal Internet culture, and he’s been writing them since LONG before it was common for artists to share everything about what goes on behind the scenes of their band — and in their personal lives — with the public.

Robb has been an ardent supporter of streaming services since long before it was accepted to do so, bucking against his fellow peers whose complaints reach no end and saying “fuck it” to any flack he’d take from his record labels for seemingly threatening their (and his) bottom line.

He’s fearlessly tackled complicated social issues head-on, despite knowing full well he’d alienate a large portion of his fanbase by taking sides. He’s even risked alienating his peers by doing the same. It was Flynn’s video rant against Phil Anselmo’s “white power” salute earlier this year that opened the floodgates for other musicians to express their opinions on the issue, too, following years — nay, DECADES — of silence.

And that is precisely why Robb Flynn is one of the most important people in metal today: he’s a true leader. Fearless, determined, gritty, honest and prepared to deal with the consequences of his actions no matter what. And aren’t all of those characteristics ones we closely ascribe to the metal ethos? The metal world needs more musicians who act like he does.

THE LIST SO FAR
#25: Mark Riddick

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