Heavy metal has long been in a state of upheaval. Sometimes people feel frustrated and quit the scene claiming “It's not as good as it used to be,” while others find themselves wondering where all the money went or why they've lost their fanbase. And it's true – heavy metal is a pretty weird and fickle thing – nobody should deny that. But that being said – I think that things are moving ahead – and better than they ever have before. The simple fact of the matter is that regardless of wanton criticism metal is in a very exciting place right now, and the entire scene is profiting from it.
A few years ago Metal Injection did a video piece on the on the subgenrefication of metal music. While some people might say that that's a bad thing, I've always felt contrary. Even though some take advantage to only listen to hyper-specific niches, I find that for the majority of fans it's led to greater diversity in their music tastes and has helped them to have a more enjoyable listening experience. People have been taking advantage of the wealth of bands that we've been lucky enough to see come up in recent years and using their influence to create even more unique music. And though yes – the amount of great art coming out can be suffocating – I like to think that, as a culture, we get to check out more great art on a more regular basis than ever before.
4. Greater Access To Music
I think that a big part of what fuels this newfound sense of diversity is that we have a greater access to music due to streaming services like Spotify (And – obviously – torrenting plays a factor) Of course, having great access to music comes with great responsibility. Not only do we need to be more careful than ever before to make sure that great art doesn't pass us by, but also that the wrong things don't start to receive praise. We have all involuntarily become curators of the scene. In this internet era everyone is a critic and the webs influence is developing nicely, for the music scene at least and it seems that we are all benefiting. Everyone deserves to have more music in their lives and the internet has given us just that – and it ends up driving the entire thing forward.
3. People are more active in the scene than ever
Thanks to films like Almost Famous, alongside a general romanticization of rock and roll music, more people than ever want a chance to get involved with the music they love. Perhaps this is just my perspective as a metal guy who attends three to five shows a week – but I find that in the modern era, not only are metalheads contributing more to the scene, but we also have many more opportunities to contribute. If it weren't for the internet and the advent of digital technology we would have far less coverage of the scene that we all love so much. After all – if Iron Maiden, Deafheaven, Bring Me The Horizon and Five Finger Death Punch can all be in the Billboard Top 20 at the same time we must be doing something right!
2. Metal is hitting the mainstream
Some folks might not be as into this as I am – but I think it's an incredible thing that metal is finally starting to have its day in the sun. Be it Ghost on Colbert, Lamb of God on Kimmel, or Mastodon on the Late Show, surprisingly occult and heavy bands are getting the chance to play increasingly important venues. Metal is once again finding its way into the mainstream consciousness, and this time instead of being viewed as boorish and over the top, it's profiting from a new image as intelligent, multilayered and strangely beautiful – in other words, it's the kind of thing that NPR would talk about.
1. The underground spirit is stronger than ever.
Despite the mainstreaming of metal in general, we're seeing the underground spirit burning hotter than ever. As the popularity of metal only continues to grow and shine it's becomes harder to deny that more great underground stuff is coming out than ever before – simply because more people are involved. And yes it's a struggle. It's always a struggle. That's part of what we love about it. It's us against the world and nobody is coming to bail us out and if you can't handle it, leave the fucking hall. Heavy metals' underground remains epic in scale, and modern era tape traders are exchanging better and better records. We are at an exciting time in the history of metal – and really the history of music as a whole. If you're not enjoying it now, then you may never will.