I say this a lot, but I mean it – metal is in a truly interesting place right now. One of the things that makes it so fascinating is that more good metal is coming out right now than ever before. I know it's easy to come out and claim the scene is dying and that no good bands are debuting lately, but dude… if you believe that then you are not trying hard enough. A ridiculous amount of exciting stuff is happening literally every day in metal, and the best part is, with services like Last.FM and Bandcamp so readily available it's not hard to find all this good stuff. Of course, the journalist in me is curious as to why now we are seeing so much good metal, and if it ties into the notion that perhaps metal isn't really a counterculture movement anymore.
Now, it would be easy to attribute this to the fact that there are oodles of records coming out every week – an unprecedented amount in fact, and that by default means that more good metal is going to be coming out. This is obviously an important one. Perhaps a more important, and oft-overlooked, aspect is that metal has the potential to be so many more things now. For example, Alcest are going to have a new record coming out this year. Knowing the bands reputation, it will probably show up on the 'best of 2016' lists of at least a few of your favorite metal music writers. I can assure you though, very little about that Alcest record is going to sound typically 'metal'. In other words – the advent of the internet has allowed metalheads taste to really branch out and embrace more music as their own.
The other easily identifiable influence on their being more great metal than ever before is the rapid evolution not just of music production technology, but also of music producers themselves. We live in a world where folks like Eyal Levi share their vast knowledge with us mere mortals. There are more good producers out there than ever before. These combined factors are going to benefit the metal world as a whole. There are some downsides to this. For example, since more people can just pirate Pro Tools to make their record they are less likely to actually pay a producer who might have some valuable input in their music. What makes the work of people like Eyal Levi or Chris Fielding of Skyhammer Studios important is that they can help guide your recording process to make sure that you are performing to the best of your abilities, something that is often lost when a band chooses to save money and self-produce.
Both these preceding factors are tied into the most important one of all, the internet. As I mentioned at the top of this article, services like Last FM and Bandcamp can curate music for you, so not only is more good metal coming out, but you get the appearance that more good metal is coming out because the shitty stuff is getting rapidly thrown to the bottom. Admittedly, there's a whole lot of collateral damage, which is one of the fundamental issues of the music industry today, but the mere notion of automated music curation, free of corporate interest (Ahem: Apple Music) has led to a much more exciting landscape for fans. That's what really matters here. It would be impossible to quantify how good the average metal record is now, as opposed to twenty years ago, but I can guarantee the average metal record that's gets 1,000 plays today is far better than the average metal record that got 1,000 plays twenty years ago.
You might be protesting me with every bone in your body. “But Matt!” you exclaim, “What do we have to compete with 90's bands like Death and Sleep? Modern bands like Revocation and Pallbearer? Those bands are great but I don't know if they really meet that level of mastery!” Well dude – you're self-selecting your favorite bands from a period of years as opposed to a couple of bands that are hip right now. I'm not saying that any of those bands are bad, I hold a deep love for all of them. The issue with making direct comparisons to past bands is that you are always going to reference the groups that have been able to survive through the lashings of the sands of time, it's one of those unavoidable human nature things that inevitably makes arguments about how 'new music sucks' circle jerky. I mean – maybe new music does suck, but empirical evidence seems stacked against you.
I am fully prepared for the beatdown the comments section is about to give me. I want y'all to know I consider a day I don't get a death threat from a stranger on the internet an unproductive day. I feel like the trifecta of new influences, higher production values and ease of access leads me to think that new music is generally of higher quality.
Even if you don't happen to like the buzz band of the day, the internet has allowed for niche music on an unprecedented and frankly kind of absurd level. If you're not happy with the state of metal today, then you might never have been happy with it in the first place.