Tales from the Jugular

Predicting The Next Metal Trend

By: Eric Compton & Frank Hill
Published: Sunday, April 6, 2003
trend n: a general direction in which something tends to move; the popular taste at a given time.

Metal has seen its share of trends over the years. It's had the guitar stars of the 80's, the melodic death of the Gothenburg sound, the bass-heavy rap grooves...

There's no reason to believe that another trend won't happen, so how hard could it be for an Internet writer with no inside industry contacts to guess the next major trend in the American Heavy Metal scene? Let's look at some reasons for metal trends and give it a try, shall we. Mind you, none of these are established theories or if they are, they're probably named something different. It's just what I came up with.

Pendulum Theory - The record buyer will want the opposite of whatever trend is passing just like when we went from flashy, ego-driven hair bands to grunge. From what I read, Nu Metal is supposed to be in its dying days or already dead, so given its heady lyrical content, bass-driven riffs and lack of melody, there would be a return to more melodic playing. There's never a full return though, since new generations apply their own spin on the old trend just like the 80's hair bands adopted styles of 70's Glam, so don't worry about a Poison/Warrant/Winger takeover--Think commercial, stadium rock like Def Leppard. Possible trend setter--?

Follow the Leader Theory - What metal act is leading the charts and selling millions? Metallica and the garage-groove rock of St. Anger are, so you can expect to see bands try and duplicate the success with a similar sound. Doesn't matter that having the name Metallica is a sure seller out of the gate, greedy industry grass fuckers with anxious eyes will try to ride the coattails of Jaymz and the Boyz--Think indy rock with a great producer. Possible trend setter--Metallica

Socio-political Theory - The culture climate affects the way we think and how we choose to express our art. Black Sabbath used to be a Blues-based band named Earth until they helped create Heavy Metal and gave the hippie generation a big nihilistic slap in the face. What is our current Zeitgeist like: Terrorism and Sept 11 brought a surge in patriotism and American pride, but the aggressive foreign policies of the Bush administration and the tightening of civil liberties and rights by the Homeland Security are rubbing some people the wrong way. The conservative agenda reigns over the past liberal/moderate policies of Clinton.

Internet information overload...blogs...world community...everyone's connected...everyone's finding an electronic clique...everyone can find out where everyone is at every second...the pirates of file trading.

Comic characters and escapist fantasy are ruling the movies and media--Spiderman, X-Men, Daredevil, Hulk, Harry Potter, Finding Nemo, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Charlie's Angels...nothing to get worked up about.

Will Metalheads find an external foe to battle as opposed to an internal struggle. Think updated Reagan-era thrash metal. Possible trend setter--?

Instrumental Innovation Theory - Changes in the way instruments are played can help start new trends. Van Halen and Randy Rhodes brought in classical music lines to metal guitar and got us out of the shadow of Zeppelin's bombastic blues and influenced the alt-picking, guitar-god driven metal bands to come. Metallica and Pantera helped break us away from the guitar plinkers back to chunky down-picking. Grungers altered or killed melody. Many current bands brought a down-tuned bass sound to the forefront. What else and/or how else could we innovate the stuff we play? Possible trend setter--vocals

Exploitation Theory - What's a good underground, grass-roots movement that has yet to be gutted by the American record industry? Well, there's chick-lead gothic metal and black metal which has made a big splash oversees. It's only a matter of time before somebody like, say, Dani Filth or Alexi Laiho is approached by an industry rat with a truckful of cash and sells their soul to the corporate devil.--Think Black Metal with politically acceptable social commentary (if the terms can really be put together) and vox or commercialized Goth metal. Possible trend setter--Evanescence

Back to Basics Theory - Blues-based metal has been around since the late 60's, so it's pretty safe to assume it will return--Think GnR or Aerosmith. Possible trend setter--Velvet Revolver

Now, keep in mind that these theories aren't mutually exclusive. Sabbath's early music could also be seen as a Pendulum swing away from the San Francisco folk rock of bands like CSNY. You could do the same with others.

Frank Hill: If I had to play Nostrodumbass and make a prediction, I don't think the American scene is in much of a socio-political upheaval due to the lack of generational terms like "yuppie", the shortage of parables/allegories in the underground (great horror movies can reflect society in this manner) and the lack of any big suggestive, media icons, except for possibly Eminem.

I can't recall a recent time where some Black metal charted in the top 10 and sold in the millions, but Cradle of Filth has gotten a second-stage headlining gig with Ozfest and is the first black metal band to crack the Billboard Top 200. They also appeared at #3 on the New Artist (Heatseeker) Chart and #20 in the Hard Music Chart. Still, "Damnation and a Day" is a bit far from middle America. Children of Bodom is also making some waves, but has yet to impact America.

Headbanger's Ball may help spread metal once again through TV, but damn, it's on pretty late. An Mtv move to an 11:00 time slot would indicate good ratings and an upswing for metal. A new book called "Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal" will add to the gospel. The Ozzfest lineup isn't offering up any trends to me.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that some bands will copy the "affordable garage sound" (re: cheap) of Metallica and that nothing big will come about this summer. Metal/hard rock will continue to be dominated by those already here--Metallica, Korn, Manson, Godsmack, Disturbed, Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit and the other psuedo-metallers. By Winter, I think that companies will drive the next trend and the Exploitation Theory will prevail with a commercial, black metal trend, call it Gothic Romantism if you will. A band will come out of nowhere with a killer cover tune the way Van Halen did with "You Really Got Me".  The Instrumental Innovation Theory will also see male-dominated vocals be augmented by the females and 2004 may well be the Year of the Female in metal.

EC: Since the early 80s, plenty of bands have ripped off Metallica. Many bands formed across the US and even Europe to act and sound just like their "once mighty" Metallica heroes. With the release of the new record from Metallica, "St. Anger", many bands will be copying the groups "cut and paste" approach to metal.

With the "St. Anger" record, Metallica proved how easy it is to use Power Tools in the studio to cut and paste guitar riffs together. It is a cost efficient way for bands to "groove" through a song. On the new record there is absolutely no melody or leads involved whatsoever, with a majority of the album just being bits and pieces of guitar riffs. It comes across as a sort of "rough draft" of what the album was aiming at for their rythm guitar sections, but unfortunately the rough draft is the final work from Metallica, a so called masterpiece that puts the band back to their early days.

With so many bands placing Metallica on the top of their thank you list, the next few years will be dominated by garage bands throwing together a few heavy riffs and making entire albums based on 10-12 heavy guitar passages. Perhaps the rap-core will be thrown out for a more raw, stripped down punk sound. In no way will you see a polished record coming out on a major label. A gritty, downtuned, anti-melodic record is what the big execs will be looking for.

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