According to statistics published by Headphones Addict, Metal peaked in mainstream in 2003 – a year in which the genre landed almost 10% of songs on Billboard charts. Many metal fans would argue that the genre peaked even earlier, during the golden era of Metal of the 1980s. Either way, we can all agree that Metal isn’t typically seen as a popular genre today.
The scene faces a unique set of impediments to its popularity. These include specific issues like the hard stance that many Metal artists and fans take against mainstream music. But it also encompasses problems felt by genres throughout the industry, like the lack of financial support for musicians from institutions.
Yet despite these challenges, recent times have shown that it could be picking up in popularity. In this article, we’ll explore the factors that appear to be driving a resurgence in the Metal genre.
- Nu-Metal is undergoing a revival
Nu-Metal’s popularity has no doubt faded since it swaggered onto the scene in the early 2000’s. But its influence has been present in the music throughout the past decade.
Characterised by an eclectic mix of heavy guitars, hip hop, and electronics, its traces have been lingering under the surface of releases from popular artists as diverse as Grimes, Megan Thee Stallion, and Rina Sawayama.
Yet more recently, this special sub-genre has been experiencing more of a revival. In fact, Google trends data revealed by Twitter user ‘crazy ass moments in nu metal history’ shows that current interest in nu metal is the highest in the last two decades.
So, what’s behind the comeback? No doubt, pioneering Nu-Metal artists like Limp Bizkit and Mudvayne making grand comebacks are part of the puzzle. But this revival is also being fuelled by a new generation of Nu-Metal bands like Tallah, Tetrarch, and Vended that are reinventing and pushing the genre forward in new and exciting directions.
- There’s a new wave of British Death Metal
Death Metal is undergoing a similar resurgence, especially in the UK, thanks to a new generation of bands breaking out onto the scene.
The revival isn’t limited to just one part of the country either. It’s nationwide, with groups hailing from most of the major regions across the country – Sewer Fiend from Manchester, Cryptworm from Bristol, Vacuous from London, and Slimelord from Leeds, to name but a few.
This new wave of Death Metal has even been dubbed the ‘New Wave of British Death Metal’, in a salutary nod to the UK’s formative role in the history of the scene. It’s also symbolic of the new lease of life that these artists are ironically breathing into the sub-genre – combining all the best aspects from the original era of death metal and adding in their own new, gory flavours.
- Classic artists are returning to the mainstream
Metallica are a controversial band among metal-heads, with some saying that they’re overrated and others stressing the pivotal role their earlier albums played in defining the genre. But whether you love them or hate them, they’re undoubtedly one of Metal’s best-known names. And when you consider their 1991 Moscow performance in front of 1.6 million people, it’s hard to argue that their reputation isn’t due.
More recently, the classic Metal band has been thrust back into the limelight thanks to the Netflix series Stranger Things – and their music has seen an uptick in popularity as a result. The season finale saw character Eddie Munson perform ‘Master of Puppets’ to distract a swarm of demons amidst flashes of red lightning – introducing a new generation of fans to the classic. Shortly after, the song saw a whopping 400% increase in streams as a result.
What does the future hold for the Metal genre?
Altogether, Metal appears to be undergoing a resurgence. This seems to be mainly due to a combination of classic bands returning to the spotlight and new talent building on the foundations left by the old guard, taking the scene in fresh and exciting directions.
The social climate of the day could be another contributing factor. The past few years have brought countless difficulties for everyone – the pandemic’s long periods of social isolation, the frustrations of a cost-of-living crisis, or threats of nuclear war from the war in Ukraine, have been felt keenly and universally.
Often dark and intense in its sounds and lyrical themes, listening to Metal can be a cathartic and, therefore, emotionally uplifting experience. Perhaps amidst all this angst, people are turning to Metal as a form of sonic therapy. And maybe more and more people will continue to do so in the coming years – as countless have before.