Written by Ken Bowden on February 23, 2016 for Bloodrock Media
Put up your horns ladies and gents, the metal world has caught Hollywood with their pants down yet again. Snagging the Grammy for Best Metal Performance this year was Ghost. Ghost is doing more of what we need (and let’s be honest want) to see at the glitzy and glamorous awards shows like the Grammy’s, the not so safe choice winning, and not simply to pacify naysers. If we are honest with ourselves, that’s historically what the Best Metal Performance category has been for the Grammy’s and similar shows, with the occasional nod to a winner who ISN’T already embraced by the mainstream.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not shitting in anyone’s cereal here, I don’t have one Grammy, let alone multiple, so what the fuck do I know? But I am extremely hard pressed to name an album as universally despised by fans as the audial terrorist attack that was Metallica’s “St. Anger”. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, GOOGLE IT, right now, don’t be shy. Seriously, pull out your phone, tablet, or boot up your computer and see for yourself what fans had to say across the expansive interwebz about the album. Not just “St. Anger” but other winners or even nominees, many of whom it was pretty much assumed upon announcement, would snag the honor by the mainstream media….I’m going to give you a second to finish your Google-fu, to ensure we are on the same page…..Believe me now? It is difficult to explain how the fuck Jethro Tull beat Metallica, just as it is inexplicable that Megadeth has had 9 nominations but has yet to take home an award.
Now back to the point of the story, Ghost, and how they are an excellent win for counter culture. The nominees this year were pretty damn impressive; Lamb of God, Sevendust, Slipknot, August Burns Red, and of course, Ghost. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this was the year for more authentic metal, even if some of the bands aren’t considered as anti-mainstream. Let’s review the nominees:
Lamb of God: Long recognized as being unapologetically brutal, Lamb of God is basically the Metallica of the 21st century. To be clear, they basically filled the spot that Metallica carved out in metal music, hardcore yet mainstream. So their popularity is neither a surprise nor their nomination this year.
Sevendust: Sevendust is a band that cares more about making dope tunes than causing controversy, they were a surprise nomination. A surprise because they are what some would consider outsiders amongst outsiders, not that black folks are unheard of in metal; it’s that they are not the norm. Not to mention, a black front man? That is almost unheard of. Personally, Sevendust would have been my choice for a winner. They have been consistently badass, kept their noses clean in a scene that is constantly under scrutiny for bad behavior, and they are different. And different is good.
Slipknot: It cannot be denied that Slipknot has paved the way for bigger audiences for American metal. Following in the footsteps of bands like Kiss, with bizarre theatrical costumes and sets, Slipknot has managed to maintain their metal image, while gaining mainstream popularity. So it isn’t too much of a surprise that they were nominated.
August Burns Red: Despite a faithful following, they haven’t really penetrated the mainstream metal scene, or made a splash outside of their already established fan base. I mean, Warped Tour is cool and all, but their style of metalcore is more alternative than traditional metal. So I didn’t really expect to see them win.
Ghost: I saved them for last, simply because I like to keep you on your toes. I’m going to breeze over a biography, because Wikipedia is a thing, of Ghost, but essentially they are a Swedish metal band that blends numerous musical genres to create infectious, dark, and catchy tunes with some of their songs being about Satan, orgies, hellfire, and other dark type subject matters. Their vocalist is more or less Satan’s own personal pope and the instrumentalists portray themselves as anonymous demonic minions, so if you didn’t know why I’m making a thing about Ghost being nominated, let alone winning, I hope it’s starting to become clear.
When interviewed, even A Nameless Ghoul[Ether], (the title all the instrumentalists use with only an alchemical symbol giving even a hint of separate identities), was legitimately confused that they had been nominated, believing instead that they were nominated for a “Grammis” which is the Swedish equivalent to a Grammy. When you pair that with the fact Ghost’s 3rd album, “Meliora” peaked at #8 on US charts and the Grammy winning single “Cirice” was #4 among the US’s mainstream rock radio stations, well Ghost is making a name in mainstream metal without compromise. So yeah, winning a Grammy for basically loving the dark side of the Force is pretty much a big deal and definitely not safe.