In the media world it is a healthy habit around the turn of the year to reminisce without end about all that happened the past year, and if that ain’t enough everybody and his mum also feels the need to share his or her views about the new year as well. Comments, previews, conclusions, predictions, it goes on and on. And guess what? Here at Lords Of Metal we gladly join the herd, though only about things that are really interesting of course, because a lot has happened on planet metal, and a lot is to come. So we grabbed a rearview mirror and the good old crystal ball to come back with the story below. And yes, we’re also quite curious which of our predictions will come true in 2018…
Retrospective 2017 and preview 2018
Last year once again underlined that there is a big difference between quantity and quality. Although the number of album releases in the rock and metal genre was overwhelming, the albums that people will talk about ten years from now were far and few between. For people who became a fan of the genre in the eighties, the output was pretty disappointing. Except for a few extreme subgenres, the heavy music genre seems to have stopped developing and turned into a repetition game. In a way, the hardrock genre has parallels with Hollywood that mainly produces sequels, prequels and re-makes. The tsunami of releases from American bands was disappointing with so many bands adopt-ing a compressed sound and singers with the vocal style and vocabulary of Tarzan. The younger generation obviously thinks differently and hears new, exciting music regularly. At Lords of Metal we also notice this trend; the highest ratings are mainly given by younger editors while the older editors can’t comprehend these high scores because the production can be better, the arrangements are too repetitious, the vocals could be better etc. This observation (no criticism) indicates that we have editors that look backwards and those who look forward. The number of concerts and festivals was staggering. Only if bought Bitcoins three years ago you would have been able to attend all the inter-esting concerts and festivals.
As the history of the genre is getting longer, the end for bands and artists who made the genre popu-lar is approaching rapidly. In previous years we already said goodbye to Rush, Motörhead and Möt-ley Crüe. In 2017 the careers of Black Sabbath and Twisted Sister ended and Deep Purple, Manowar and Aerosmith started their farewell tours. Another consequence of this increasingly long history is that the list of deceased musicians is getting longer every year. The most notable death was that of Malcolm Young, the founder and rhythm guitar player of AC/DC. In December we were shocked by the sudden death of Warrel Dane (Sanctuary and Nevermore) who was busy laying down vocals for his second solo album. Other famous musicians who died were Paul O 'Neill (Savatage, TSO), Chuck Mosely (Faith No More), Gregg Allman (Allman Brothers Band) and Martin Ain (Celtic Frost) as a result of drugs (2x), liver cancer and a heart attack. With Chuck Berry and Alan Holdsworth, the music world lost two icons that inspired many hard rock musicians to pick up a guitar. Even more tragic were the suicides of Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) and Chester Bennington (Linkin Park). To replace those iconic bands and artists, a bunch of new talent is waiting in the wings. One of the front runners is Gojira who last year headlined the Dynamo Metalfest.
Last year you could visit anything from obscure artists to the world’s most popular band. The pace at which Metallica and Guns N 'Roses sold out stadiums and large venues worldwide was outright bi-zarre. In the Netherlands, more than 60,000 tickets for Guns N 'Roses were sold within an hour. Axl, Slash and co. grossed almost half a billion dollars in ticket sales with their reunion tour. We cannot name a single band that started in the 21st century, who at some point in time will be able to pull that off. Although many expected them to play, Ted Nugent and Kid Rock did not perform at the inaugura-tion of Trump. Apparently the republicans were not too happy with a prestigious performance by the red neck duo, although both artists did turn up in the white house for a photo session with the Ameri-can president. Ronnie James Dio was someone we did not expect on stage anymore, but just like Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson before him, he returned as a hologram. Opinions on this technol-ogy vary widely, but if it becomes a success you can bet that other dead icons like Jimi Hendrix, Phil Lynott, Lemmy and Bon Scott will return. Heavy metal in your local cinema is becoming more and more popular. Last year you could visit Rammstein and Black Sabbath on the big screen. A lot less fun was the cancellation of the Rammstein gig on Rock Am Ring due to a terror threat. After a bomb attack at a Ariana Grande concert and shootings in Bataclan and at a country festival in Las Vegas, the question is: when will extremists target metal heads? At some point there will be an attack, the question is when and where.
2017 was a great year for Arjan Lucassen because his latest Ayreon album reached the top of the Dutch album charts. A first for our compatriot. Later in the year, his project sold out 013 for a series of unique Ayreon shows. The debut of Vuur reached the second place in the charts and also Foo Fighters (1), Mastodon (16) and Arch Enemy (11) managed to achieve successes. Good albums from Kreator, Satyricon, Enslaved, Epica, Black Country Communion, Deep Purple, Steven Wilson and Vandenberg Moonkings were only briefly successful. The trend that albums peak shortly after release and then disappear from the charts continued. The Netherlands is no exception, the volatility of music is a worldwide phenomenon. The extent to which this volatility is a consequence of the switch from physical discs to streaming services is difficult to determine. In our preview of 2018 we will examine a study on this subject. A survey by our colleagues from metalfan.nl showed that one third of metal heads use services like Spotify and Apple Music, 10% downloads music , 6% uses YouTube and 45% prefers to listen to CDs (39%) or LPs (7%).
The slow death of the electric guitar
The future of the heavy genre is hard to predict, but the Washington Post published an article that may be a sign on the wall. The article was titled "The slow death of electric guitar" and reported that the sale of electric guitars has been show-ing a downward trend for years. Famous brands such as Fender and Gibson have been writing red numbers for years and report that the youth no longer has idols. There is an urgent need for a new Edward van Halen or Randy Rhoads because someone like Bonamassa lacks charisma and is not a source of inspiration for potential string pickers. The story of the manufacturers is supported by Gus G. (Firewind, Ozzy). He designed a Signature ESP guitar, but sold not enough copies to cover the development costs. Smaller guitar brands such as Ibanez, Schechter and Yamaha on the other hand, seem to be doing better by implementing a smart artist policy and listening carefully to the wishes of the customer. A relatively new phenomenon are attic chamber guitar heroes; they appear in YouTube videos and show off their talent. Unfortunately, there are also people who point out their mistakes, naturally without any proof that they can do a better job themselves. A few of these YouTube heroes even scored endorsement deals. The trend, however, is that less kids learn to play guitar because they are engaged in gaming, social media or other matters. In 2017, artists like Rob Luft and Olli Hirvonen proved that nowadays there’s more guitar talent in jazz than in metal.
And there they are again...
A band that pops up every year in our retrospective is Kiss. In 2017 Gene Simmons managed to score headlines again and again. First of all with the ridiculous idea of patenting a hand gesture. Two weeks and a shitload of criticism later, he withdrew the patent application. In the fall, he launched his Vault box with 10 CDs that he will deliver to your home for the sweet sum of USD 50,000. Luckily Joseph Goebbels is dead because he would surely exploit such a move. Perhaps even more crazy is the sale of Kiss Strings for Air Guitar. For four dollars you buy an empty (!) plastic bag. That’s it? No, to underline their patriotic feelings, the band asks all visitors at their concerts in the United States to swear allegiance to the flag, otherwise they refuse to play an encore. Luckily Simmons was not born in America, otherwise he would probably run for president. Money and pussy grabbers with-out scruples can go a long way.
The fact that many people in the music industry are corrupt is no secret. The leaked salaries of Spotify staff will leave many musicians gnawing teeth assuming they still have teeth after all those years. In the Netherlands it is no different as the self-enriching scenes at BUMA Stemra prove. In the past there have been various initiatives to remove all kinds of layers between musician and fan, but we still have to see the first profitable business model.
Looking back at the news of 2017, a few things stand out such as the Five Finger Death Punch con-cert that ended in a mess after just 50 minutes. The Americans were booed off stage, feared perma-nent damage to their reputation and played a free concert one week later. Marilyn Manson also showed blatant disinterest in his audience. During his show Eindhoven and under the influence of certain substances, he gave a shitty performance and was gone within the hour. Adrenaline Mob’s tour bus was hit on the highway and various band and crew members lost their lives in a tragic way. An incident that brought back sad memories of Metallica's bassist Cliff Burton who was remembered so beautifully by his former band members on the Worldwired tour. Guitarist George Lynch had an-other productive year and delivered good albums with KXM, Lynch Mob and Sweet & Lynch. A lot less productive were the sloths of Tool and System Of A Down who have not produced anything for more than a decade. We also had a few musical iconoclasts such as the elusive Igorrr and Amenra wih the latter releasing the soundtrack for many a suicide. What we missed this year were releases by Dark Angel, John Sykes, the Phil Lynott box set, the John5 / Roth project and Frank Marino's DVD. What is holding those releases back?
Normally we end our forecast with a few predictions. We will do that this year too, but this time we will start with one too. In fact, we start with our boldest prediction to date: 2018 will be the best rock and metal year since the turn of the century! Our rather daring prediction is based on the list of bands that will release new albums and go on tour. We have high expectations for Amorphis, Gojira and Behemoth because their previous albums were highlights in their subgenre and ended high in many year lists. Until three weeks ago, Sanctuary was also on that list, but their new album will unfortunately never see the light of day due to Warrel Dane’s death. Drummer Danny Carey an-nounced that Tool will finally release their fifth studio album in 2018. Hearing is believing… In the thrash genre Exodus, Machine Head and Megadeth will deliver new material. New albums from Dimmu Borgir, Watain, Sodom and Pestilence will please fans of more extreme music. Fans of clas-sical hard rock and metal can look forward to new material by Judas Priest, Saxon, Hollywood Vam-pires, Ratt, Queensrÿche, Rival Sons, Loudness and Whitesnake. Ghost, Halestorm and DeWolff have become quite popular in recent years and will be determined to come up with strong albums. Noteworthy is the return of A Perfect Circle from which we can conclude that Tool won’t start their tour until after the summer. Other familiar names on the release list are Alice In Chains, Rammstein, Monster Magnet, Corrosion of Conformity, Five Finger Death Punch, Ministry, Metal Church, Kame-lot, Therion, Dead Daisies, Black Label Society, At The Gates, Rob Zombie and new solo records from veterans Joe Satriani, Ace Frehley and Joe Perry. In short, both young and old have something to look forward to.
The largest Dutch metal festival Fortarock returns with an interesting bill, although the competition from Graspop, Wacken and Hellfest is increasing every year. Headliner at many festivals is Ozzy Osbourne who announced last year that he will quit after this tour. Luckily, guitarist Zakk Wylde is back in the fold. Currently it is unclear whether Ozzy will release another studio album. Hopefully he does because his last ('Scream') was far too bad to enter the history books as his swan song. The large festivals across the border show a lot of overlap and have again attracted big names as head-liners. Many smaller festivals, including the Dynamo Metal Fest, don’t have big names on the bill. The Eindhoven festival will take place on the final day of the World Cup and unintentionally under-lines that Dutch football is in a deep crisis.
After having earned a shitload of money in 2016 and 2017, Guns N 'Roses will be back in 2018. The band headlines numerous festivals and will return for a show in Nijmegen. Will the band ever record a new album is anyone‘s guess. Many expect that there will be no new album and Slash will continue his solo career with Myles Kennedy. Although, in 2018, Myles Kennedy will release his own solo debut . What Axl will do once he finished counting his money is unclear. He is said to be good friends with Angus Young and maybe those two will record an album together. Young has to find a new band because there is little left of AC/DC. Guns N 'Roses is not the only band that will return to pick up some more money. Kiss, Scorpions and Iron Maiden apparently want to supplement their savings as well, because they all planned European tours. The congestion on the concert market will be unprecedented this spring and summer.
The influence of streaming services on music.
A trio of scientists at the University of Tilburg researched the effects of streaming on the music in-dustry. They gathered a lot of data about the listening behavior of consumers on digital music plat-forms and examined the effects. It yielded a bulky document with some obvious but also surprising conclusions. The report is called Changing Their Tune: How Consumers' Adoption of Online Stream-ing Affects Music Consumption and Discovery and can be downloaded here.
1. Consumption replaces possession: services like iTunes and CD manufacturers lose reve-nues to streaming services. People rather consume than own music. 2. More time spend listening: People who have switched to a streaming service listen to more music (49 percent increase) as before. The number of artists that they listen to after that period has increased by 32 percent. 3. Opportunities for unknown talent: people who use streaming services are increasingly listening to lesser-known artists. They become acquainted with unknown artists more quickly and may be more inclined to attend their concerts. Especially with CD’s and iTunes, there is less exper-imentation with new music, because of the price to be paid per album or song. 4. Greater satisfaction: streaming services lead to higher consumer satisfaction because they can now listen to a wider range of music.
Another study showed that the first thirty seconds determine whether a listener continues to listen to a song or not. Another song is just a click away. We would not be surprised if this means the end of long intros because they are killing for the interest on streaming services. However, let us not judge too early because there is also a shadow side to streaming. The major labels and even multination-als decide which songs make the increasingly popular play lists. There is a big push to 'migrate' music lovers from albums to single tracks. You can read it here. Naturally you can always rely on Lords Of Metal for independent listening advice.
Traditionally we close our preview with a look into our crystal ball. What will and will not happen in the year 2018? From the misty clouds that whirled through our sphere, we learned:
- The name Manowar will pop up in the #MeToo scandal.
- Klaus Meine will volunteer for an innovative biogenetic experiment and return to Scorpions in au-tumn as an energetic 25-year-old young man. With hair where it counts.
- Sammy Hagar will actually be abducted by 71 aliens on his 71st birthday. Red arthropod creatures claim to see an ally in the Red Rocker.
- Gene Simmons announces that Kiss will start touring again in the original line-up from 2020 ... as holograms. In an interview he is asked about the opinion of the other band members to which he answers: “Which other band members?”
- One day before their concert in Manila The Black Veil Brides are mistaken for junkies and killed by a brigade of Duterte supporters.
- Marilyn Manson is convicted for a serious offense involving a stolen tennis racket and a bowling ball and ends up in the cell that was occupied by Charles Manson until November 2017.
- Phil Anselmo becomes the American curling champion and goes with the American Olympic team to PyeongChang where he actually wins a bronze medal. During the medal ceremony he brings shame to his country for burping the winning Swedish national anthem.
- A selfie of a naked Doro Pesch between Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel goes viral.
- Lars Ulrich once again suffers from psychological problems and decides to make a radical change. On the next Metallica tour a certain Lara Ulrich is sitting behind the drum kit and she also seems to be unable to keep rhythm.
- On behalf of the entire editorial staff of Lords of Metal, I wish all readers a prosperous, healthy and musically exciting 2018!