"The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." - METAL“Metal is dead.” It’s a proclamation I still here from time to time. Nowadays from Indie Music-listening hipsters I run into from time to time, in between elitist sneers and pulls from their bottle of PBR. Because nothing says “elitist” more than wearing thrift store castoffs and drinking beer-flavored water, all while misunderstanding the concept of irony entirely. But I digress.

Proving my theory of “what goes around comes around,” there’s always going to be that point in time where metal and hard rock — the two main musical genres I proudly identify with, unabashedly — will be proclaimed “dead” by whatever musical pop phenominon happens to become the rage at the time. Marilyn Manson even had a hit with the song “Rock Is Dead” in the 1990s, though I suspect that was more tongue-in-cheek than a serious observation of the pop music landscape, as bleak as it was at the time.

Let’s take the most famously remembered period where everyone was certain that metal was, if not dead then at least in its death throes: the early 1990s.

Most who were either born after 1990, or were dyed-in-the-cardigan sweater alternative types anyway, usually look back on the ’90s as a period of musical reniassance. It’s all based on personal preferences, of course; for me and many of my kind, the majority of the 90s represented a dark, barren and scorched wasteland, with maybe a small oasis of refuge here and there.
(metal in the 90s looked like this...only less bright and sunny...)
(metal in the 90s looked like this…only less bright and sunny…)

Ask any long-time metal head what we thought of the ’90s, and we’ll just grumble, sneer with contempt, and depending on who you talk to, contemplate recreating a living rendition of Anthrax’s Fist Full Of Metal album cover with your face. Not that such antisocial thoughts ever popped in my brain, mind you…
(kinda like this)
(kinda like this)

Y’know, come to think of it, the ’90s were such a bleak and darkly oppressive time, that it could very well be that metal itself mutated into the industrial and shock rock of the time as a reflection of the overall period. But, I’m getting ahead of myself here. I tend to do that.

The first two or three years of the 1990s was a high-water mark period for metal and hard rock. Megadeth’s Rust In Peace; Anthrax’s Persistence Of Time, Poison’s Flesh & Blood; AC/DC’s The Razor’s Edge; Guns N’ Roses’ Use Your Illusions parts I and II; Alice Cooper’s Hey Stoopid; Slayer’s Seasons In The Abyss; Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood (okay, technically released in 1989, but let’s face it — it’s a 90s album); Skid Row’s Slave To The Grind; Bullet Boys’ Freak Show; Ozzy’s No More Tears. And who could forget Metallica’s “black album”? For a couple of years, you couldn’t get away from that album. Double-edged sword; while it still is a fantastic metal album, at the time people I went to high school with who normally never associated themselves with Metallica suddenly were wearing Metallica shirts and asking to borrow my collection so they could be more informed about their other songs when they went to the concert. Yeah, for a short time in my Senior year, I went from weird metal-head to being ahead of the pop curve. Weirder things have happened, really.

Then came Nirvana, and their first big label release Nevermind. I’ll admit that I did like a few of their songs on that album, and even owned it at one point or another. I just considered ’em another hard rock band in my collection, along with the Soundgarden and Alice In Chains albums I purchased previously that year. Both considered staples in the so-called Grunge / Alternative Rock movements of the 90s, but let’s face it — hard rock is hard rock, no matter how you dress it up. And Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger and Alice In Chains’ Facelift are great hard rock albums.
(pictured: Corporate Rock Whores)
(pictured: Corporate Rock Whores)

Obviously, with the new bands came a shift in the pop music landscape. Mostly, I believe, because of the smell of money; Nirvana sold oodles of their album, so other labels began pushing their “grunge” and alternative rock groups, and also clamored to sign more artists from this new, fresh genre cash cow, regardless of talent. Kind of like the hair metal of the late 1980s.

Did you catch that? I just compared the grunge movement (snicker) to the hair metal that is supposedly killed off. Would that be considered irony? I don’t know anymore — that word has been overused and misused so much, it ceased to have any meaning for me a while back. I’ll just say, “sure, why not?” and shrug. Ironically.

The way I see it, the so-called hair metal that was big in the late 1980s and the early 1990s wasn’t killed off by grunge. Hair metal (for lack of a better term) was a victim of its own excess; i. e. – hair metal killed itself.
(could have also been an open flame, reports at the time are still spotty)
(could have also been an open flame, reports at the time are still spotty)

Pop music was bored and was ready to move on. Nirvana and the whole grunge / alternative rock movements just happened to be at the right place at the right time, claiming the killing blow that they never made in the first place. It’s the equivalent of blaming Yoko for the breakup of the Beatles.
(pictured: Opportunist Wankers)
(pictured: Opportunist Wankers)

But what of metal? Did it die out? Does any form of pop music really die out? Will I ever understand that by answering a question with a question I sound rather conceited? Seriously, though- as with other music forms, metal never dies; it just goes into a deep, dark underground crevice somewhere and mutates like the monster it is.
mutates like the monster it is
Things like this comes in cycles. Even the so-called “indie” music the hipsters listen to were considered “alternative” back in the much-reviled 1980s, back before “alternative” became mainstream popular in the 1990s, and thus creating a paradox of massive perportions.

But, that’s another overblown and pointless blog post for another day.