For years, “the big four” (Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer) have dominated the Best Metal Performance category of the Grammys. Other legendary bands that repeatedly make the nominees list include Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Slipknot. Even for the upcoming 2018 Grammys, Mastodon has been chosen, yet again, for the category. Every year, metal nominations are typically reserved for the veterans, many of whom have been in the music industry since the ‘80s. While no one can doubt the importance of these metal powerhouses, almost no attention has been paid to the myriad of modern metal and hardcore acts that have arisen since.
At least, that’s how it was until 2016.
Then, contemporary metal acts such as August Burns Red, Ghost and Lamb Of God were finally among the nominees for Best Metal Performance. In 2017, Gojira and Periphery were nominated for the category. Now, August Burns Red, Body Count, Code Orange and Meshuggah are all up for a Grammy in 2018, and it seems as if the voting board has begun to acknowledge the strides these genres have taken since the dawn of the 21st century.
With the event’s most historically stagnant category recognizing artists from our scene more and more each year, dedicated and talented hardcore and metal musicians are finally getting the credit they deserve on the national stage.
Fuck me! The Grammy's have actually decided to acknowledge that metal made after 1989 exists! Massive for congrats to Mastodon, Body Count and Meshuggah. BUT… you all know who I want to win. It's who should win. It's @codeorangekids. Forever forever.
— Stephen Hill (@StephenHillBOI) November 28, 2017
for HC �� https://t.co/R1KmDgSeR4
— Code Orange (@codeorangekids) November 28, 2017
— ICE T (@FINALLEVEL) November 28, 2017
The bands who are getting Grammy attention this year are also a different breed than metal bands of years past. Code Orange, for example, is one of the heaviest hardcore/metal bands in the industry right now. It’s hard to conceive that their extremely brutal “Forever” has garnered the admiration and respect of a voting committee that tends to air on the conservative or traditional side of metal. Amidst all of the disbelief over this, one thing is certain: Times are changing.
So for a scene that has thrived in the underground for many years, what does it mean to be brought into the limelight? What happens when bands from genres that are so accustomed to going against the mainstream get noticed by the biggest mainstream music awards show there is? When the hardened, do-it-yourself mentality is met with glitz and glam, there is an irony that can’t be ignored. While earning a Grammy nomination is widely viewed as a victory for the scene, there is the question of how much that institution really matters to those who generally don’t acknowledge its validity. All of a sudden, the Grammys are starting to mean something because the bands we like are becoming involved.
Without a doubt, this is a big paradigm shift. And as with all paradigm shifts, we have to contemplate what it means for the underground to surface. We want our beloved bands to be applauded for their hard work and creativity. But it also may be like when we hear our favorite band’s song on the radio; we’re proud of them when they make it, but we don’t want them moving too far out of our reach.
Will future Grammy nominations — if this trend keeps up — change the ultimate goals for metal and hardcore bands? Motivation for success might then be the desire to win the shiny trophy at the end of the race. In short, will the ethics and values of these genres change? Or will the bands we love hold true to what the hardcore vets in Terror call “the code”? (“Live by the code/The music and our culture/Live by the code/The roots and the ethics they have taught us.”)
Despite mainstream success, humility and loyalty remain the real measures of a truly great band.
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