Metal for the masses?
Pop Rocks
By Steven Uhles| Columnist
Thursday, November 19, 2009

Music from the fringes rarely migrates to the mainstream. With few exceptions, the heaviest metal and the angriest punk, the most discordant or dour or most original will never see the success of populist acts.

This is evident with big-business bands. Few acts, such as Metallica and, more recently, Mastodon, find ways of cashing in on extremity. For the most part, fringe music will always remain a niche product, attracting fans who are faithful, but not necessarily numerous.

The trend is as evident in the microcosm that is Augusta music as in the charts, graphs and statistical models employed by a record industry perpetually hunting the next big thing.

I've noticed a lot of Augusta's heavier acts breaking from the venues and fan base that have nourished them. Instead of playing the all-ages shows that have been mainstays for metal, they have begun branching out, playing bars in Augusta and farther afield. Every act wants to expand its audience. I would never discourage such a move, but I would like to issue a warning:

History tells us this will all end in tears.

Here's the thing about extreme music: It is, typically, the sonic bastion of the young. It's the music latched on to by a generation wanting to establish an identity. It's been that way for years.

As those fans grow older and more experienced, they inevitably discover that there's more out there and that musical rebellion for its own sake pays few dividends.

Right now, we're seeing the musicians and fans raised on the fast, hard and aggressive sounds of extreme metal begin to graduate from the all-ages scene -- but the music won't follow.

These fans will discover they don't have quite as much to be angry about as they once did, and bands will face the disappointment of rooms filled with more musical maturity and not nearly as much youthful angst.

We're smack dab in the middle of this transition. Over the past few months, a slew of heavier acts have begun to gig more heavily in the 21 clubs around town. Initially, newly legal fans fresh from the all-ages community followed, but we're already seeing diminishing returns. The hard and heavy bills aren't pulling them in the way they were just a few months ago.

It's possible that audiences feel these acts have been overplayed. It's possible the economy is keeping some of that disposable income at home. It's possible that less promotional muscle is being applied in the cool, crisp fall than in the dog days of summer. It's possible that is just part of the natural cycle of things.

I know that the screech of extreme metal will always have an audience, but I believe it will trend toward the small and nostalgic, true connoisseurs of crash and bang. That is just the way things work.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.

MORE POP ROCKS

Read more of Steven Uhles' blog about entertainment in Augusta at augustachronicle.com/applause and blogs.augusta.com .

From the Thursday, November 19, 2009 edition of the Augusta Chronicle
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