Pop music is in a tricky place, trying to find the fine line between vague outrage and not pissing off the sponsors. Rihanna has been the chief culprit of trying to shock (but ultimately, being rather tiresome) but curtailing it just enough so that her financiers don’t get the hump. Likewise, a variety of rappers have been edging away from Thug Life toward Smug Life, promoting business ventures and raising kids, all air-conditioned and sensible.
There’s only one thing that can save us and that’s metal. Hard rawk has been dancing with the devil and playing the role of pantomime villain since it began, impressively unwilling to ever become fashionable. Say the word ‘trend’ to a metal band, and they’ll look at you like a gormless Labrador. And this weekend, they all went to Metal Mecca, or Download – possibly the most exciting music festival on the planet.
And you know this world of metal pretty much looks the same as it ever did. That’s because it’s safe in the knowledge that, as fashions come and go, it’ll eventually be in vogue again by sheer chance. Metal doesn’t have to do anything. People come round to it, rather than it searching for them.
And that’s why this writer – an avowed metal denier of many years – is finally giving in to the dark side. Lately I’ve found myself listening to Upon A Burning Body, Trivium, Rolo Tomassi, To The Bones, DevilDriver and more… all loud, snotty and everything that’s great and gloriously dumb about rock‘n’roll.
Connoisseurs of crafted pop may wonder why you’d go to all that trouble of learning of your instrument, just to beat it to death. We need metal because music has got too comfortable. Everything is sanitised and vacuum packed, leaving the door wide open for some cackling villain to come and defecate over this cowed, reverential wimpery. Rock has wandered into Bob Harris territory where everything is a twee craft. Pop music, ruler of the roost for years, is bloated. Hip-hop is nauseatingly aspirational. All the while, metal is unashamedly doing what it’s always done.
And while everything gets adopted by TV producers and marketeers, metal is still an outlaw, obliviously scratching its arse – which is why it is just the thing to save us. How fun was it to have Slipknot ghouling up the place? Marilyn Manson’s erudite shock circus was a tonic after Britpop limped into the New Acoustic Movement which gave us Coldplay and Turin Brakes (which eventually gave us the appalling Ed Sheeran). Now, more than ever, we need a thunderously dumb form of anti-establishment posturing to come slap us about. Rock‘n’roll has always been a charade, and only metal remembers.
With the flotsam and jetsam of Mumford & Sons, Lawson and Emile Sande, we need trouble. Sure, they all end up like Bruce Dickinson flying planes, or being Rent-A-Rocker like Lemmy, but even when metal sells-out, it still retains the committed preposterousness that makes it so loveable. If there was ever a window for metal to kick in, it’s now. Music’s safe haven needs to be breached by marauding Vikings, nostrils flared, pants soiled, divisive, brash and unapologetic.
Metal, if you’re listening, we need you! Put a little blackness back into our souls. Rita Ora sure as hell isn’t going to do it.