Will metal ever return to the mainstream?

Every decade witnesses the revival of something from the past. Things that were discarded many years ago are dusted and re-introduced as something revolutionary or aesthetic. The very thing people hate currently can become massively popular in just a few years time. Though this is usually restricted to fashion, makeup and similar trends, various other industries have also been digging in their past for inspiration. 


The music today is no exception to this pattern and have been imitating the tunes and instruments of old disco songs and the synth from 80s music. These songs, created by famous artists, go on to top several charts around the world. Music has advanced in the 21st century alongside technological developments that fine-tune instruments, improve production quality and help with simultaneous global releases. 

As a metal fan, you must have wondered at some point or the other if the world would once again be singing alongside heavy metal songs that become iconic pieces in music history. Today, in the mainstream, heavy metal is more of a prop that invigorates action scenes and fights. When you play online casino games in Canada, you might put on your favourite metal tracks to get that added boost of energy. But, metal moved to the margins a few decades ago and is yet to resurface in the contemporary music scene as a prominent genre. 

The glorious past

The 60s is credited as the decade when heavy metal started separating itself from the popular genres of that time such as Hard Rock and Blues. For the fans and the artists, heavy referred to something that was deep and serious, a contrast to the subjects talked about in the popular music of that age. 

Alongside the distorted electric guitar chords, low-bass, and throaty vocals, the social commentary in the lyrics made heavy metal stand apart from the rest of the crowd. The topics they covered were vast and often controversial, but the artists considered their music a channel to talk about what’s going on and what is wrong with the world. Although heavy metal is said to have been introduced in the 60s, its origins can be traced back to the 50s when artists began experimenting with the sounds they created using their guitars. 

As the 70s came around, heavy metal music evolved considerably and disconnected itself with the blues music that it came from. Their tempo went up, and elements from punk could be found in the evolved versions. 

Soon, by the 1980s, metal too had several different sub-genres. Apart from glam metal and thrash metal, today fans enjoy other forms such as black metal and death metal. Those who did not support the pop and glam oriented transformations metal was undergoing, turned to make it even harsher and more distinguishable. 

The 1980s could be considered the decade when heavy metal peaked and was a music genre enjoyed by a massive number of fans around the world. During the mid-80s, metal bands in America were putting more emphasis on the spectacle presented onstage, especially with the big hairstyles that became prominent among metal artists. But at the same time, in the other parts of the US, thrash metal bands were engaged in a silent but loud competition to be faster, louder, and heavier. They emphasized on the rhythm and speed and not the spectacle.

But towards the late 80s, things began going a bit downhill for the heavy metal genre. The biggest bands continued to enjoy their widespread popularity, but metal fans were dividing amongst themselves, pulled by the different sub-genres and newer bands. In the early 90s, several bands also took the experimentation to extreme levels, and the world saw the rise of Black Metal, something that could not be enjoyed by the previous audience of metal-fans. The early 90s were also when Grunge emerged into the scene, and many ardent lovers of heavy metal turned to Grunge to make up for what they missed in the metal scene. 

Slowly metal left the mainstream and moved to obscure locations followed by fans who continued their incessant support. Away from the limelight and public scrutiny, metal artists were able to experiment more and move in directions that were unthinkable before. 

Will it ever return?

The billion-dollar music industry is currently dominated by pop music, a genre that came to be constituted from what the masses enjoyed. Occasionally, an artist that indulges in a different genre also pops up and gains popularity. But these artists do not stray that far from what is considered today as acceptable popular music. 

Fans of other genres encounter the old iconic heavy metal songs when they hear it played as the background track in a trailer, movie, TV show, etc. While they might remember the glory of heavy metal for a brief moment, these encounters do not prompt them to find new bands and re-engage with the music. 

Die-hard fans of heavy metal do not support the revival of this genre in the mainstream as they believe that heavy metal will have to change to become something that resembles pop music and can be enjoyed by a larger number of people. For them, heavy metal should thrive in obscure locations, away from the public and enjoyed by enthusiastic fans. 

Summing up

Heavy Metal was one of the major genres in the music industry of the late 20th century. It lost its popularity and mass appeal due to various reasons but has managed to stay intact in its uncontaminated form, far away from the mainstream. Like many things that we forgot in the past, metal might return and redefine what is considered popular music in the 21st century. 

Written by

As Editor-in-Chief of Gear Gods, I've been feeding your sick instrument fetishism and trying unsuccessfully to hide my own since 2013. I studied music on both coasts (Berklee and SSU) and now I'm just trying to put my degree to some use. That's a music degree, not an English one. I'm sure you noticed.