Lars Ulrich of Metallica recently shared his perspective on the current position of hard rock in mainstream culture. Even as Metallica enjoys one of its most prosperous times in terms of concert ticket sales and general popularity, the genre seems to have shifted to the sidelines.
For the past year, Metallica has been at the forefront of the music scene, fueled by the buzz from the “Stranger Things” phenomenon and the release of “72 Seasons”. Their collaboration with the revitalized Pantera further magnified the band’s prominence.
However, the heavy metal genre finds itself at a crossroads. While some anticipate a massive revival, its presence in the mainstream, albeit improved due to social media and industry giants’ support, isn’t as dominant as in past eras.
In a recent Rolling Stone interview, when asked about the mainstream’s understanding of hard rock compared to when Metallica lost their first Grammy nomination to Jethro Tull, Lars said:
“In our 42-year journey, we’ve probably had our most significant summer in terms of ticket sales for our European and American tours. Yet, hard rock feels more niche and less a part of the mainstream. If we look back at the ’80s era of MTV and magazines like Rolling Stone and Kerrang!, hard rock was more central to mainstream conversations. Despite the impressive numbers we and other bands like Guns N’ Roses and Slipknot are pulling, it feels like hard rock has returned to its roots as a subculture.”
“Though I might not be as in touch with current trends as I was decades ago, it seems that while hard rock resonates with many, it isn’t as deeply embedded in mainstream culture as before.”
Alice Cooper, a pioneer in the rock genre, offered a different take. He opined that it’s advantageous for rock to be an outlier:
“Gene Simmons claims rock is dead. But in my view, rock is exactly where it should be. Previously, rock stood at the summit. Now, emerging bands are outsiders. While hip-hop and pop acts get the limelight, true rockers are rebels, which is an ideal position for upcoming bands. It’s better to be the rebellious kid than the class pet.”