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On the Myth of Metal's Demise
by Noctir (Jan. 2011)

There are a lot of myths that can be found in the realm of metal. One of the more popular ones is this: “grunge came along and killed metal in the early 1990s, Pantera was the band that kept metal alive during the so-called dark ages, and then metal was finally reborn nearly a decade later.” This is all so utterly ridiculous and filled with errors that will be exposed and disproved. Here, I shall dispel the myth that metal ever “died”, as well as the associated nonsense that alternative rock had anything to do with it or that Pantera were the saviours of all that was metal. These things simply are not true.

Several metal bands managed to break through and achieve some measure of mainstream success, in the '70s and '80s, yet these were in the minority. For every band like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Metallica that attained some level of success, there were hundreds of others that were still toiling in relative obscurity. Metal has always, largely, been an underground movement. Anyone with any real knowledge understands that the best quality material will always be found in the underground, where it belongs. There is also a bit of confusion, when it comes to the mainstream, about what metal really is. The media always liked to mislabel bands, for one reason or another, leading to a general sense of confusion for those that were new to the music. At any rate, even those bands that were able to get videos on MTV and a little bit of radio play, that did not necessarily mean that they were a huge success, nor did losing that exposure kill the bands. Legitimate Metal bands did receive more exposure during a certain period, with thrash taking the lead for most of the '80s, but this movement went into a state of decline that I've covered in a previous article. The bottom line is that metal is not a product of the mainstream and does not live or die by the whims of the masses.

The next point to make, one that some are intelligent enough to realize, is that the supposed “victims” of alternative rock were not actually metal bands, but rather the glam rock posers that had long been associated with metal, for whatever reason. Bands like Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Guns 'n' Roses (and all of the many imitators) were the ones that really suffered. By the late '80s, there were hundreds of bands that all looked and sounded alike; i.e. they had gotten into their mother's make-up and then done their best to imitate what was popular at the time. Most of the more well-known rock bands had recorded fairly successful ballads, so there came a huge wave of bands that were trying to recreate that same success for themselves. However, the entire “movement” was incredibly diluted and it was obvious that these losers were all just hopping on the bandwagon to make money to be squandered on alcohol, drugs and hookers. The thing is that it had worn out its welcome and run its course, like any other trend, long before bands like Nirvana or Alice in Chains ever appeared. Mainstream popular music is a curious thing in that there are so few things that are considered classics; rather, things are cool for a while and then they become fodder for jokes. The fact that various forms of corporate rock were in a serious state of decline and that “grunge” was on the rise was more of a coincidence. It is rather simple to see that when people get bored with one thing, they look around for something else to amuse themselves. The term “alternative rock” denotes that they were doing something different than what one could find on an album from the likes of Poison, Warrant or Slaughter. As those useless bands were on their way out, others came to fill the vacuum. So alternative rock did not “kill” anything, least of all metal. It is quite disgusting that certain idiots could never differentiate between this garbage and actual metal.

While it is true that Thrash was in a state of decline by this point, the underground was thriving throughout this entire period. Classic death metal albums were being released from healthy scenes all over the U.S. And Europe. As that sub-genre became stagnant, the second wave of black metal exploded onto the scene and continued to carry on the old ways. Time and time again, ignorant people comment that “the '90s were a terrible time for metal”, which could not be further from the truth. And these same imbeciles will also talk about the “great and mighty Pantera” and how they “saved metal”. That is the propaganda that has been spewed by members of the band and those affiliated with them, such as Scott Ian of Anthrax. There are so many things wrong with this that it induces a migraine, just trying to comprehend the idiocy of such a statement.

Pantera were a group of posers, period. They jumped from one bandwagon to another, whenever it suited them. Through the '80s, they played a weak and limpwristed brand of cock rock that they later tried to play down or deny. Eventually, they were inspired by bands like Metallica and Slayer to play something heavier, but even their very best efforts were mediocre by comparison. Then, when metal was not considered cool anymore, in the mainstream, they followed the trends in both sound and image. They traded their leather and denim for flannel and shorts, while Phil Anselmo took on the appearance of a wannabe thug. His entire persona matched his new look, and he seemed obsessed with trying to come off as some sort of tough guy. Their lyrics went from traditional metal topics that they had previously covered to the same type of thing that was running rampant in the mainstream; lyrics included themes of drug addiction, child abuse, seeking attention and respect. This was same kind of angsty nonsense that was already dominating the radio around that time. They were not “waving the flag of true metal”, as they later liked to claim; they had jumped on yet another bandwagon and aimed their music at the same crowd that was listening to alternative rock and rap. Their catchy, groove-oriented riffs were designed to appeal to the masses and the simplistic song structures were meant for simple minds. If anything, they were detrimental to metal, inspiring countless “nu-metal” and “metal-core” bands that came later, further confusing people about what real metal was and forcing true metalheads to be lumped in with this poser scum. It is quite a joke that they dared write a song that had anything to do with the “underground in America”, as it is something that they had nothing to do with. By the time their popularity was waning, Phil decided to embrace it by cultivating a new persona, growing his hair out and wearing Venom and Darkthrone t-shirts. It was around this time that he started trying to associate himself with actual metal and began promoting the idea that Pantera had been keeping metal alive. It was a calculated lie that was meant to re-write history and help his transition to the next phase of his existence.

As for some of the bands that he began to champion, among them was Darkthrone. Now, looking at Darkthrone, one can see a band that truly has done a lot to keep the true spirit of metal alive and well. Actually, this is something that was really done by black metal, as a whole, during the '90s. As thrash and death metal took a nosedive in the early 90s, black metal kept the old feeling alive and carried it forward. What death metal ended up developing into is something hardly related to where it began. On the other hand, it is simple to see the clear development of black metal from Venom, Bathory and Hellhammer on through Darkthrone, Mayhem, and beyond. In turn, they influenced legions more. And one thing about black metal, that doesn't really exist as much in other forms of metal, is the reverence for those that came before and the adherence to tradition. Of course, many bands experiment with their sound, but there are tons of others that remain pure and refuse to go beyond certain established boundaries. These are the bands that kept metal alive, and continue to do so.

Getting back to Darkthrone, there is a band that jumped off of the death metal bandwagon and reached back to something older and darker. While Phil Anselmo was jumping around like a jungle ape and rapping half of his lyrics, Darkthrone was taking the sounds of Bathory and Hellhammer, mixed with their own brilliant vision, and creating something cold and dark; something so powerful that it inspired thousands all over the world. Even in recent years, as they developed their sound, they reached deeper into the past and began to incorporate more old school influences in their sound, keeping alive a style of real metal that is more often forgotten or ignored. They have always shunned the masses and done what they wanted to, regardless of the money that they could have made by giving in and doing what was expected of them. They are repaid with scorn and derision for not recording the same album 15 times over, while posers like Pantera get some level of respect for something that they neither did nor needed to be done.

Metal never died, period. Just because bands like Metallica and Megadeth wimped out, that meant nothing in the grand scheme of things. Even the glam posers did not fully die, since they still linger on in one form or another. Alternative rock did not “kill” anything, and ended up burning out even quicker than the previous trend, only to be replaced by another worthless form of popular music. As for the “rebirth of metal”, most of those bands are not metal to begin with, and whether or not a handful of watered-down garbage gets widespread recognition really means nothing for the movement as a whole. Finally, regarding the “great saviours and anti-trend warriors” Pantera, they saved nothing. They simply managed to jump from one trend to another in an effort to remain relevant and cash in as long as possible. Bands like Darkthrone have done more with one album to maintain the spirit of metal than Pantera ever accomplished in their entire career.

Copyright 2006-2021, Noctir