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On Expectations in Metal
by Noctir (Oct. 2011)

Why are metal fans so hopelessly optimistic when it comes to their favourite bands? Time and time again, listeners are disappointed when a band's claim to be returning to a preferred style proves to be nothing more than wishful thinking, or when the return of a long-lost band member is hyped as the missing ingredient that was needed for a band to reclaim their former glory. Regardless of how many times a band burns its fans, far too many of them remain loyal and optimistic, only to be let down yet again. The recent Morbid Angel release is a good example of this.

In recent months, there had been a lot of talk regarding Illud Divinum Insanus, their first record since 2003 and the first to include David Vincent since 1995's Domination. The album was met with a great amount of backlash, and one has to wonder why. Of course, the album is pure trash, but what were people expecting? It would appear that a large section of their fanbase were holding their breath, waiting for a return to the glory days of Altars of Madness and Blessed are the Sick. This demonstrates a high level of unrealistic hopefulness on the part of the listeners. The high hopes were even less realistic as the band had already begun to churn out sub-par material before Vincent's initial departure. Domination was a far cry from the brilliance displayed only six years earlier, on the full-length debut. And, truth be told, the members of Morbid Angel seem to have, long ago, lost the fire and passion for creating anything worthwhile. Bands with such longevity rarely retain the same spirit that once possessed them in their earliest days.

It is the same, in many cases, and one need look no further than Metallica to witness a classic example of this. Whenever they release a new collection of aural atrocities. Anyone with the tiniest bit of common sense realizes that Hetfield and Co. are decades past their prime and there is not a single shred of realism to the expectation that they would, somehow, return to form and release another Kill 'Em All or Ride the Lightning. It does not take a genius to realize that those records were created by completely different people, and that has nothing to do with the line-up changes but everything to do with who they were at the time, versus who they became. "Metal Militia" and "Fight Fire With Fire" were written by musicians that had that fire in their eyes and a burning hunger to dominate the world through their music. By the time those same guys gave birth to such songs as "Enter Sandman" and "Until it Sleeps", it was absolutely clear that it had become a matter of money and was no longer art. There was also a sense of knowing that, no matter what kind of excrement they offered, there would be millions of people to eat it up. By the time they acknowledged that they had strayed from their roots and tried to reclaim their former glory, they were so out of touch that it came off as extremely weak and forced. The end result was more of a parody of their past, rather than reconnecting with it.

Metal fans often go against all common sense in the hopes that a band can regain their former magic and rise from the depths of mediocrity. While there have been a few cases of this, they remain among the minority. Once a band has proven to be no longer capable of delivering as they once had, it would be best to lower one's expectations or simply move on to something else. That is not to say that one should give up on a band for a single bad album, as anyone can make a mistake, but once a certain band displays a total lack of creativity and, consistently, tarnishes their name with one terrible release after another, the chance of them ever turning back are slim. Even if they attempt to reconnect with whatever musical movement that they were once a part of, it is more likely that they will show influences from its modern counterpart, rather than actually sounding like they did in the beginning. Always remember: expectations are planned disappointments. This is as true in the realm of metal as with other areas of life.

Copyright 2006-2021, Noctir