I was sitting around the other day trying to think of things to write about for this here blog. The problem with running a website with original content is that sometimes the well just runs a little dry and I find myself just kind pacing in my mind. When this happens I usually just put on the old iTunes, sort by category “Metal” and just hit shuffle. Today I did this and I sat on my couch in my office and just took in some tunes. Holy Grail was the first band up with “Chase the Wind.” Following Holy Grail was Bonded by Blood’s “Shepherds of Rot”, and then Gypsyhawk’s “Red Wedding” followed. In my mind I thought to myself, “This is funny to hear three of my favorite modern metal/hard rock bands back to back like this but I like it.” As soon as the Gypsyhawk song faded out on came Accept’s “London Leatherboys.”
Ah, classic Accept. Accept is a classic, timeless metal band that is still cooking it up strong these days and making great music. They are doing so along the likes of bands like Iron Maiden, KISS, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath to name a few. Matter of fact, as I sounded off that short list, I realized that with the exception of Iron Maiden, these older bands are, in my opinion, nearing their expiration date. Paul Stanley’s voice is just not what it used to be, Rob Halford and Priest have been putting out subpar material for the past 10 years or so, and Black Sabbath have pretty much just become a nostalgic shadow of the greatness that they once were. Ronnie James Dio has passed away and even more recent classic bands such as Slayer, Megadeth, and Testament (while still putting out quality material and live shows) are getting up there in age. This thought had me feeling a little nervous and wondering what would become of metal when we no long have these legendary, iconic metal bands to rely on to bring that caliber of music or that caliber of a live performance. Who will carry the torch for these bands and keep heavy metal alive? I suddenly I remembered a conversation I had with Accept’s legendary guitarist Wolf Hoffman.
I had a great interview (read it here) with Wolf just after their 2011 comeback album Blood of the Nations was released. In that interview I asked Wolf if he thought that this new wave of metal bands would be the ones to carry the torch for them after their time had come to an end. He told me, “I hope they will but so far I just don’t see it happening. I think there is always going to be bands that will make music and be very enthusiastic about it but to be a professional touring act that does nothing but make records and tour around the world is at a whole other caliber. There are just very few bands that are doing that in the metal world.” This is a pretty heavy comment and an even heavier thought and of course my thought was, “He’s wrong. Of course there are bands doing this.” Holy Grail, Gypsyhawk, White Wizzard (at the time), Bonded by Blood, were all up and coming, hungry bands hitting the road hard and spreading their message the old school way via relentless touring, DIY merchandising, and grassroots communication and campaigning. I thought for sure that these bands would prove Wolf wrong and prove to be the ones that can be relied upon to carry the torch for these bands long after their gone. Nearly four years after this very interview I find myself wondering if this indeed will ever happen.
It’s been four years since these up and coming young defenders of the faith made their way into the world yet in those four years there seems to be no signs of these bands achieve that status that so many of those classic bands had achieved at this point. Four years after the release of Iron Maiden’s debut they released Powerslave and took over the world. Four years after the release of their debut, Judas Priest released Killing Machine and was nearly kings of the genre and four years after the release of their self-titled debut Accept released Balls to the Wall and became a force to be reckoned with. While these three bands all had varying degrees of success in their careers, regardless they became iconic legends know to be the best at what they do all over the world. Why isn’t this case with these new names in metal?
Things just aren’t the way they used to be. Back in the day you didn’t have the umpteen million sub genres, the 3,000 record labels, etc to fight thorough. You were either major label or you weren’t. It was easier to stand out, easier to make a name for yourself, and you didn’t have to sift through so much shitty music just to find one good band. These days everyone with a garage and a computer can make an album and/or start a label and suddenly the metal world is oversaturated. It’s sad for me to know that there are whole generations of metal fans that won’t get to experience the excitement of seeing their favorite bands get huge. They won’t get to see Holy Grail, 3 Inches of Blood, Gypsyhawk, or even bands like Graveyard and Kadavar play arenas with massive stage productions. Maybe these bands are all ok with that but even if they are; it really makes me nervous as to just how long these bands can hang on at the status that they are at right now. If these bands can’t hang on, who will carry the torch? Matter of fact, maybe it’s not so much about carrying the grand torch but keeping the fire burning. Kind of like that movie Quest for Fire. Maybe these bands just need to keep that fire protected so that it never goes out. As long as it burns, it will always be alive and in many ways, that’s more important than anything.