February 13, 1970 – the day metal was “born.” The event was the release of Black Sabbath’s first release, Black Sabbath. Metal is now forty-years-young. It sure has been a wild ride where trends have come and gone. We’ve seen some metal legends starting to hang it up. If you look closer, metal seems to be entering “midlife crisis mode.”
In every person’s life, there are phases. There are a lot of parallels between phases exerienced by a person and the phases of a musical genre (in this case, metal). Remember back in high school, when lots of kids were trying to be rebellious and look cool? Metal tried that. The result was thrash metal and crossover punk (think of this as metal’s “teen years”). After metal matured a bit, the genre got serious with the advent of death metal. The roots for death metal started when metal was nary a teen, but really took hold in the late ’80s when metal reached full maturity.
In the ’90s, metal got married! To hip hop. The relationship that was doomed from the beginning. Metal and hip hop had dated casually in the ’80s (see Anthrax and Public Enemies’ “Bring the Noise”) but finally tied the knot when bands such as Rage Against the Machine gained the spotlight (alongside metal’s mortal enemy: grunge). As the new millenium approached, metal’s marriage to hip hop became very strained, eventually leading to a divorce in the early 2000s when most people stopped caring about Nu Metal.
Since the divorce, metal has been trying to figure itself out. Metal’s dating history has produced some hardcore music (thus metalcore and deathcore was created) and it’s now trying to relive it’s glorious teen years (thus the resurgence of thrash metal I always mention). Every sub-genre of metal is having its time to shine. This includes, but is not limited to: thrash metal, death metal, power metal, grindcore, black metal, prog metal, metalcore, melodic death metal, etc.
I wonder what is next for metal. A motorcycle or a sports car? A new pop star girlfriend? Regardless, Happy Belated Birthday, Metal! You’ve made it four decades and you’re still going strong.