3 Reasons Why I Don't Like the Big 4 of Thrash Metal
Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth, and Pantera. These are some of the most-liked bands of metal music. They are literally everywhere, even going outside heavy metal circles. The bands that used to annoy and worry the older generation, parents, politicians, and religious figures are now on their playlists and car stereos, sometimes even on repeat. The Big 4 of thrash metal have undoubtedly attracted many to the genre, but is it for the right reasons or just to be "in" on the latest trends?
I used to be a fan of Metallica, having seen them live in Yas Island, UAE in the year 2011 and enjoyed myself. But that changed as I discovered more artists through online metal communities such as Forces Of Steel, a forum dedicated to all genres of metal. Most of the artists were from the classic period of heavy metal (the 1980s) and not only surpassed the Big 4 musically but actually brought new elements to the sound of metal. I have been a heavy metal fan since age 12 and have heard a lot of artists in this time; enough to justify my disdain for the Big 4 with an educated and experienced discourse rather than blind-fire insults.
Reason 1 - Watering Down, Overshadowing, Tediousness
The genre of metal has numerous sub-genres: death metal, black metal, and heavy metal, to name a few. Each has underrated material that could have gotten the exposure it deserves. Instead, the Big 4 are the only bands that attract any kind of following (for the most part) and tend to not only overshadow other (superior) artists but also water down an entire genre of music (that spans an ever-expanding universe of music since metal artists tend to experiment regularly) to just 4 generally-known bands purely for their popularity and not musical merit.
I can say that the genre of metal is about exploration and finding bands for yourself, playing outside the safe zone (i.e popular opinion/recommendations) and the Big 4 just takes that away. Instead of exploring thrash metal (their genre) further to find other great bands in need of recognition (excellent bands such as Razor) they just box themselves into a vacuum where only the likes of Metallica represent thrash metal. A great disservice to the genre.
Thrash metal started out as an extreme genre that had dark lyrical themes, aggressive guitar work, and a grittier, lo-fi production. These are things the Big 4 fails to do in the modern day since their output is just a watered-down version of what thrash metal was. Metallica especially, in my opinion, is the most generic rock band ever to exist. Try listening to Metallica and a classic thrash band like Sodom side-by-side and notice the difference.
Finally, the Big 4 watered down thrash metal into the repetitive, cliched by-numbers mediocrity we see from deathcore bands albeit with different lyrical themes repeated ad-nauseum. I heard Slayer's "best" albums and none of them impressed me at all. The "intensity" is non-existent and never appears; if anything gets mildly annoying hearing the same "I hate God" lyrics; if it wasn't bad enough with black metal bands beating that dead horse since 1982.
The likes of Pantera also contributed to metal having fewer standout moments within tracks; you know when the riffs just hit all the right nerves and transition to adrenaline-charged solos; replaced by almost endless chugging of a single cord under the pretense of "brutality" and "aggression;" like deathcore and low-tier NU metal. This has ruined metal by producing more bands that imitate Pantera for varied reasons and thus saturate the scene with lethargic chugging and faux-aggression (Pantera's earlier material was Glam metal) that much like black metal above, is the remains of a dead horse.
Better Bands - Razor - Evil Invaders
Better Bands - Sodom - Agent Orange
Reason 2 - No Effort
The Big 4, from what I saw have the most remasters of previous albums, more-so than any other band who only re-master if need-be; with new tracks and re-recordings with additional instruments and melodies. The Big 4, however, just keep re-re-re-re-releasing albums where there are 2 editions with nothing new; just improved sound quality which to me is meaningless because the songs themselves range from mediocre to bad. We all know about Lars Ulrich's tantrum about Napster. (even though Metallica got big from tape trading)
How many times can we hear the same songs for years on end; whether it's "Enter Sandman", "Symphony of Destruction" "Reign in Blood" or "Mouth of War?" Sure, the fans are at fault for being so complacent and the radio's fault for not branching out but how many good songs do the Big 4 really have? The ones that you can come back to and are always a good listen. Going back to Razor, their album "Evil Invaders" and "Violent Restitution" are albums that I come back to regularly because every track has standouts while something from Slayer always has 2-3 mediocre tracks with the rest being filler.
Pantera's later stuff, as much as many fans don't want to admit, was copied from Exhorder, a band from Phil Anselmo's hometown of New Orleans, Lousiana. The sound and the themes of Exhorder is how new Pantera got big minus the effort Exhorder put in. I enjoy Exhorder's music because it actually feels original and genuine unlike Pantera's forced attempts to appear aggressive and "mean."
Exhorder - Desecrator
Reason 3 - The Fans
From accepting and defending mediocre to bad albums tooth and nail to tearful, cringe-worthy tributes to people they don't know, to threatening people outright and to knee-jerk attacks on those who dare disagree with them; the Big 4 has fans that would really benefit from a reality check. The late Dimebag Darrell Abbot, guitarist of Pantera and his endless tributes on social media are very hard to escape; cheapening and reducing the legacy that Pantera may have had to a limp-wristed bandwagon of fake tears and regurgitated words alongside unjustified threats.
Pantera fans are especially bad in this regard when someone so much as disagrees about Pantera, they get defensive and start flinging insults and accusations (e.g. "you are a troll," "you are stupid,") which are unnecessary and much like the music itself, is just false aggression that won't get repeated had it been face to face; making it less about the actual music and more about the "tough guy" persona most of them put on.
The first paragraph also shows that metal has indeed gone soft and became the thing that most older fans dreaded; turn "emo." This means that like the genre of alternative music, the fans became teary-eyed, trend-following and complacent to the herd mentality found there as well. All the above qualities go against what made metal great; originality, toughness, individuality, and fearlessness.
Overall, I dislike the Big 4 not only because they overrated and overshadow other bands who are musically superior but less popular but also for their long-term impact on metal; turning it into a lethargic, commercialized monument to fan complacency and low standards of metalheads worldwide; wanting to hear chugging and faux aggression rather than quality music full of energy, creativity, and actual effort. Finally, overly protective and zealous fans are turning the metal community into false tears and war zones of empty, unjustified threats; making it about their fandom rather than the music itself.
Questions & Answers
How long have you been listening to metal?
Since I was 12 (I'm 27 now) starting from online music repositories such as realmusic.ru (Russian analog to bandcamp) and finding bands that interested me either by theme or sound. I didn't hang out in communities hence, didn't get recommendations and instead, found bands on my own.Helpful 8
Why do you think Pantera is one of "the Big Four" of metal?
The reason I thought that was because they are more hyped up and loved. Oddly enough, nobody that I knew online and offline talked about Anthrax that much in the context of thrash metal so this is why I figured Pantera was one of them.Helpful 8
If Razor were to make it big, would you consider them 'commercialized'?
No. There are many metal bands that made it big (Iron Maiden, Sodom, Exodus, Testament) that I enjoy listening to. P.S I wish Razor made it big.
© 2017 Jake Clawson