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Analysis: What the 50 Most Popular Metal Bands List Tells Us About the Future of the Genre

  • Axl Rosenberg

As you may/hopefully have seen already, yesterday we released a list of The 50 Most Popular Metal Bands Right Now, According to the Internet. The list was compiled by reviewing the last five years of traffic on MetalSucks and seeing which bands and musicians generated the most pageviews. There are definitely some caveats, as outlined in the introduction to the list, but even with those asterisks, the rankings gives us a pretty decent sense of which metal bands are currently in high demand.

This being the case, we can glean a few things about where the future of extreme music may lie.

Let’s discuss, shall we?

Eight of these artists, unfortunately, have no future — they are (Pantera, Black Sabbath) or are about to become (Slayer, Ozzy) inactive. And while a couple of those groups could potentially reunite in some form or another in the future (As I Lay Dying, Linkin Park), others most certainly will not (Dio, Motörhead). Several, like Guns N’ Roses, Tool, and System of a Down, haven’t released new music in years, and may or may not actually intend to change that in the near future. And plenty more aren’t exactly spring chickens; like it or not, their end is probably in sight (you’d be sad, but not shocked, if Maiden or Priest or any of the other Big Four bands announced farewell tours tomorrow).

This would seem to suggest that metal fans are hopelessly stuck in the past. But there are plenty of bands that probably have years left ahead of them. And while we already knew that there will never be another metal band as big as Metallica, there will, by all appearances, be more bands that are as big as Slayer and Megadeth and Anthrax. And that’s not nothing! For all the industry talk over the past decade about how the sky is falling, the reality is much more like a hole in the ceiling. Which is survivable.

It’s interesting to note, however, how few of these young (or at least younger) bands fit any sort of ‘traditional’ metal mold. Bands like Ghost and The Black Dahlia Murder, who color squarely (if skillfully) within the lines, are the exception, while genre-benders like Avenged Sevenfold and Periphery are the rule. The heirs apparent to Cannibal Corpse and Behemoth’s death metal thrones are outfits like Suicide Silence and Thy Art is Murder. Not a single re-thrash, hardcore, black metal, grindcore, or stoner metal band made the cut. That’s not to say that traditional genres will die — underground bands will always keep that shit alive — but for better or worse, nu-metal, metalcore, deathcore, and djent were clearly not the flash-in-the-pan trends many predicted them to be.

In fact, the list bolsters our long-held theory that not only is metal a still-evolving genre, but each movement within the scene has a cumulative snowball effect on future bands. Put another way: every subgenre is eventually folded into its successor. Old curmudgeons like me may hate Emmure and Attila, but their blend of tropes from hardcore, death metal, nu-metal, and even hip-hop clearly register with fans. The mere fact that Machine Head and Meshuggah and Dream Theater all exist means that metal would inevitably produce a Killswitch Engage and a Veil of Maya.

So, in summation, what is the future of metal? Everyone liking the shit that got them into it and not liking the shit that comes after, and kids pulling from all of it and really giving zero fucks what the old men yelling at clouds think.

That seems about right.

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