A footnote in an article we ran last week sparked a lot of controversy among our very passionate friends who lurk the DMU comment sections. No, it wasn’t that we correctly identified SJW journalists as the nail in the coffin of metal as we know it; instead it was an observation of the last death of heavy metal:
In the early 1970s, heavy metal was an exciting new musical and cultural movement. So much so, that it surpassed even rock music (thought to be revolutionary just a few years before). But towards the end of the decade came a near-lethal blow: punk rock. Faster, louder, more abrasive and aggressive, punk had risen the bar and metal couldn’t compete. From 1977-1983, metal was almost completely obliterated. Many had declared the movement dead – a fleeting flavor of the week experiment that did not stand the test of time.
Many took issue with this: “metal wasn’t dead!” they cried. “Albums were released, things happened!” “You’re erasing history Brock, your articles ruined this site and my life!”
The intrigue and utter distraction of this phrase sparked the need to further elaborate: Did metal actually die, during this time period, or did I somehow just miss a few years of quality metal development?
I stand by my claim that metal, from 1977 through 1983, was virtually dead.
Yes, metal bands that were already popular still released albums – Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Black Sabbath survived the last death of metal and will also survive the current one (as record sales of the new Priest album clearly indicate). Well established bands and torchbearers always live past their genre’s time. Thrash… sorry, speed metal (for my purist friends out there) has been dead since the 90’s yet Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer still continue to sell records and did so as recent as last year. So no – we can’t count quality records by these bands as proof of metal NOT being dead.
It’s also true that many great bands were formed in this time period. They were trading demos, they were on random compilations, they were developing new and exciting ideas. But without something and bigger and better come, all of these things would have been lost in eternity.
When punk arrived, metal was completely outdone. For the first and only time ever, metal was not the loudest, fastest, most extreme music in the world. Therefore, the genre was nearly obliterated as punk decided to be it’s successor. Looking back, we now tend to classify punk as outside of the metal chronology but at the time, it appeared to be a replacement for metal. As we all know, punk rock peaked in 1977 and swiftly died off soon after, although various spin offs existed in the 80’s in the form of thrash and hardcore.
Metal was virtually nonexistent in the late 70’s. You had bands doing things in the shadows, some compilations, and some tape trading – but on the surface it appeared the genre was gone. But around 1980, some of the things happening in very closed circuits, in very remote places, unknown to global audiences, started to push their way towards a greater awakening. We had some good albums from 1980-1983, and some of the NWOBHM bands started seeing the light. Iron Maiden debuted in 1981, Venom in 1982. But it was 1983, the year metal revived, the year metal exploded into the world in the incarnation we now know it.
1983 gave us Metallica’s debut, Slayer’s debut, Dio’s Holy Diver, Saxon’s Power and Glory, Accept’s Balls to the Wall, Mercyful Fate’s Melissa. In the same year two of the biggest bands in metal history hit the airwaves, some of the most famed musicians from the previous age were dishing out their best work. Now people were digging up those obscure early 80’s albums, late 70’s compilations, etc. Without a year like 1983, and the albums 1983 gave us, metal may never have broken out into the way it did. Venom would have been buried in obscurity, the NWOBHM never would have gone stateside, and a destined Swedish label may not have sold many copies of their Scandinavian Metal Attack compilation the following year.
It took the success of 1983 and beyond for most people to find the classics that came before it. This doesn’t take anything away from those classics, it’s just how the world worked at the time. Promotion was slim, networking was hard, and we had no internet to rely on. Once a old comeback year was in play success would be built off of, in the underground and mainstream. Metal was back. And it hasn’t left until now.
The story of 1983 is more important than ever, as we witness the end of the age of metal that has been in play since that year. We know that metal must die for a true underground to form again. We know we must see the death of metal at the surface level for something new to grow underneath. One day the ruins of a once great genre will be found, and those of a new time will create something new by trying to replicate it through their worldview. Of when that day will come I do not know – but hopefully frequencies of the internet will allow this corner of existence they call DMU to be a blueprint for what’s next.