The Fine Brothers reveal a few other Metallica songs to the kids, including “Master of Puppets” and “Enter Sandman” which, not too surprisingly, all of them relatively agree that it’s “scary but cool”. At the video’s end there’s a consensus: they may not be familiar with metal or even enjoy listening to it, but the fact that Metallica is still making music is “really cool”. We couldn’t agree more. And while at the video’s beginning, their emotions range from confusion, disgruntlement, and even misery, with one eight-year-old flattening his forehead to the table, questioning when it will end, there is hope, yet – with a number of them banging their heads along with the songs.
While none of them knew who Metallica was, besides seeing their logo on one of Kylie Jenner’s t-shirts, the video isn’t necessarily shedding light on anything we wouldn’t expect – after all, a nine-year-old whose favorite band is Metallica and not One Direction would be more than surprising – but it does encourage us to ask a certain question: Does Metal have a future? We certainly like to think so. What should be further inquired, however, is: Can a genre be sustained if it has no place on the radio?
One child featured in the video that is openly turned off by the Metallica songs, later admits that the music is “different”, and he can see the value in that because nothing like it is on the radio. And, thus, the issue is confronted.
Metal’s Decline The sub-rock-genre has been on a slow decline, arguably, since the 1990’s, with the introduction of grunge. Although there have been a number of successful contemporary metal bands, such as System of a Down, Mastodon, and Opeth, as well as the continued touring and record releases of the less contemporary: Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Metallica. There’s no argument that this genre is still breathing and its musicians are still talented and valued by their audiences, but at what point does the lack of recognition from mainstream community lead to finality? At the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards, there was a 5 to 12 ratio of rock and metal bands performing. This year’s VMA’s? None. The awards show was dominated by hip-hop and pop performers, giving little diversity.
This life cycle of genres performs its pattern as smoothly as the changing seasons, but it’s never without notice. Many metal musicians are acknowledging the morphing atmosphere, claiming difficulties in maintaining record sales and booking tour dates. This is perhaps due to the monopolization of the music industry – an industry more motivated by profit than ever before. Metal isn’t selling the way other genres are and the record companies know it. Metal within the music festival franchise is hurting, as well. The music festival, OzzFest, meant to be an annual occurrence, has experienced more than one hiatus, leaving us to wonder if the fan base of metalheads is dwindling due to lack of appreciation or lack of promotion of the genre (are the two mutually exclusive?).
The lack of promotion and merit given to metal may stem from its theatrics. And while not all metal bands participate in the blood guzzling, fire blasting, mask wearing stagecraft, a number of them do, instigating an unfavorable opinion of the musicians within the genre – painting them as a joke, not to be taken seriously. In truth, there couldn’t be a more serious genre in the industry today, with artists emphasizing technicality. The supposed focus on skill rather than the joy of the music (an occurrence some metal fans take issue with) could also be a cause of metal’s decline.
The Natural Pattern of Non-Pop Genres
If the music community is the high school cafeteria, then the metal genre is the underrepresented, weird kid sitting at a table by himself. This isn’t anything new, however, metal has always been on the outskirts of the mainstream where it thrives on the disgust and shock of others. At one point in history, this was the place of blues, and of jazz, and of rock (Elvis with his swaying hips). It seems there’s a competition among the non-pop genres to replace each other as the most shocking or the one wielding the biggest middle finger in the face of conformity or oppression. It’s a form of the game, king of the hill, only one can stand at its peak. Right now, Metal is in an uphill struggle. It has two options to combat its extinction and reach the top: influence the upcoming generation or evolve.