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Credit: Metallica: Anton Corbin

What will it take for more brutal bands to enter the mainstream?

I’ve been a fan of real heavy metal for years and am now seeing a huge revival of the genre as well as a decline in so-called “nu metal.” What will it take for more brutal bands like Lamb of God and Mastodon to enter the mainstream in the way Metallica did years ago? — Gabe Villiani

Simple answer: tunes and image. I’m also personally glad that nu metal (and rap-metal, its ugly cousin) have peaked; both of those offshoots reduced hard rock to harsh, ugly nihilism and backwards baseball caps. What Metallica always had — and which particularly came into focus at the end of the ?80s and early ?90s — were strong, distinctive personalities (except for a certain Napster-head, who didn’t like Lars?) and the ability to write songs that satisfied the faithful while luring in new, non-metalhead converts. (Call it the ”Enter Sandman” Effect.) The other two bands you mentioned haven’t been able to accomplish either of those things yet. Look at the CMJ ”Loud Rock” chart — it’s dominated by veteran acts like Sepultura, Cannibal Corpse, and Rammstein who are mostly spinning their wheels (and recycling their riffs). Metal needs to think big — really big — again; until that happens, we won’t see another James Hetfield for years to come.

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