Headbangers’ Brawl is a weekly column where Metal Insider’s contributors take a moment to debate and analyze two opposing sides of a topical issue occurring in the world of metal and/or the music industry.
Yup, it’s that time again when we reflect on the flaws of the Grammy’s “Metal” nominations. However, something unusual has occurred: the nominees for the 56th Annual Grammy’s “Best Metal Performance” are actually decent picks. Is it perfect? Of course not (as much as we love Anthrax, should they really be nominated for a cover?). But this year finds Black Sabbath, Dream Theater, Killswitch Engage and Volbeat (for a track featuring King Diamond) along with Anthrax’s AC/DC cover competing for the mini-gold record player. For a typically flawed system, this isn’t bad at all.
So now that we know the nominees, it’s time to ask the following:
-Who do we think will win?
-Who do we think should win?
-Who do we wish was nominated?
See who Bram, Kodi, Zach, Chip and Matt picked as their choices, and relive the Grammy’s first (and arguably biggest) injustice they made towards metal above.
Zach: To me, it’s a safe bet that Black Sabbath is going to win. They’ve got the best shot for two reasons: 1. While last year’s winner disproved my theory, the Grammys typically give the award to the oldest group (whenever a Dave Grohl band isn’t nominated). 2. …it’s Black Sabbath, the originators of metal! Not to mention it’s for a song off of Sabbath’s first album with Ozzy Osbourne singing in 35 years. Even the most metal-ignorant members of the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences know the significance of that, and they probably think they’d lose “credit” for giving it to anyone other than Sabbath (which is ironic given how much credit they’ve already lost). As for who I think should win… well, why not Sabbath? Dream Theater, Killswitch Engage and Volbeat are nominated for great material, and I’d be beyond stoked to see them win (and hell, even though it’s for a cover, it’s still fucking Anthrax!). But we’re not just talking about some live track or b-side from Black Sabbath. 13 was a damn impressive effort from the reunited legends, and even if you weren’t a huge fan of it, the fact that it sounds as damn good as it does is impressive given everything it had going against it.
As for who I wish hadn’t been snubbed, I would’ve loved to have seen Kvelertak and Ghost get a nod (two international bands that not only released quality albums last year, but also found success in crossing over to audiences outside of metal). With that said, I would’ve personally liked to see The Dillinger Escape Plan nominated. I’ll admit, for a while I wasn’t really into DEP. However, I started to “get” what the band was about with Option Paralysis and was completely sucked in after seeing them live for the first time this year. But more importantly, One of Us is the Killer really showcased The Dillinger Escape Plan’s growth. Even though the album didn’t make it into my top ten this year, it was the final proof to me that DEP was the real deal and turned me into a legit fan.
Bram: First off, I want to congratulate the Grammy people for not completely embarrassing themselves this year. At least the bands nominated in the Metal category are actually relatively metal. I’m going to agree that Sabbath is going to take it. A legacy band with reunited with their legacy singer performing on an album produced by Rick Rubin is like catnip to the members that will be voting. Anthrax would probably be the runner up, on account of it’s another legacy band covering a band that everyone knows. As far as who would I like to see win, I’d be happy with anyone but Anthrax. No offense, they’re a fine band, but a cover shouldn’t be nominated, and it’s pretty much an insult to all the other bands that released metal albums of original material this past year. It’d be amazing if King Diamond wound up winning a Grammy by way of Volbeat though, and Dream Theater put out one of their best albums in years.
As far as who should have been nominated, Carcass is a band that’s been around for 25 years, and put out a surprisingly good album. In terms of how influential they are, it would’ve been nice to see that. I’m a bit surprised that Ghost wasn’t nominated, especially since they’re a band that musicians and those in the music industry like. Deafheaven would’ve been a bold choice that would have pissed off a lot of people, but they released a critical favorite that got mainstream coverage by the likes of Spin. And it’s a shame that Clutch continue to get ignored, especially after putting out such a great album this year with Earth Rocker.
Chip: I need to preface my response with this: I hate the Grammys. I’m not going to get into the “hows” and “whys” here just know that going in. So with that said the band that should and will win it is Black Sabbath. Think about everyone who votes on these awards. Black Sabbath is probably the only band on this list that they have all heard of (o.k., maybe Anthrax?) so of course they’re going to win. But they should too because out of all these nominees the Sabbath record is easily the best of the lot. This is a case of the band most deserving out of those left standing will actually walk away with the hardware.
Now with that said, none of these records are making my Top 10 of the year. I would have loved to seen a band like Amon Amarth get the nod. Massive international fan base, spent the Summer on a major US festival…why not? It’s also still baffling to me how a band like Clutch continues to get ignored. I also would have loved to seen a band like ASG or Scorpion Child get some love as well.
Matt: I still find it weird that, for once, this is a fairly competent list of nominees. Well, except for Anthrax covering AC/DC, but there had to be a flub in there somewhere or it wouldn’t be the Grammys. Anyway, I’m also going to have to say Sabbath have this one in the bag. Even the most incompetent voter would have to think “Oh, the guys who wrote ‘Iron Man’? Yeah, sounds good.” And you know what? That would be just fine. 13 is a great album and even though Black Sabbath are legends I’ve always felt that they’re a bit underappreciated in the world of music outside of material from Paranoid. So good on them if they win. If they don’t…well it’s not like the success of a metal band ever hinged on a Grammy before. Apart from Sabbath, my runner up choice would probably be Volbeat not only because the band has had an amazing year, but because it would also mean a Grammy for King Diamond.
I also think that it would have been cool for Ghost to get a nod. It wouldn’t have been out of the question either considering how much they have risen in popularity and how good Infestissumam is. As for bands who were less likely to be nominated, I would have loved to see TesseracT on the list. Altered State is a fantastic sophomore effort, but that would have been a stretch since they’re still picking up steam here in the U.S. And I would also have to say that Clutch not being acknowledged, while unsurprising, is still a shame. Who knows? Maybe they’ll be scrambling for nominees next year and pick “Earth Rocker” alongside a live version of “The Final Countdown’ or something.
Kodi: Considering the grandpa vote tends to win out at the Grammys, I’m fully expecting Black Sabbath to win. And you know what? I am MORE than fine with that! 13 was a very good record, not a classic but a surprisingly worthy comeback deserving of widespread acclaim. Though Volbeat’s nomination is badass simply because it’s the King Diamond track, which is metal as hell and a very shocking nomination to me.
I’m not bothered by Ghost or Kvelertak being excluded; Ghost is getting huge and will have their turn if they continue on this trajectory, and Kvelertak would probably need to get Rammstein-big to overcome the language barrier, so I understand that miss. But Clutch is the modern-day Deep Purple, never getting quite the respect they deserve from large award committees and popular critics despite being among hard rock’s greatest torchbearers. I’d love to see them pull a nomination down. Killswitch Engage and Dream Theater are both deserving this year, but one other band I would have loved to see up there with them has got to be The Dillinger Escape Plan; they have the cred well in their corner by now to make it justifiable, and it’s hard to imagine a free jazz fan on the Grammy committee not recognizing Dillinger’s history of pushing heavy music’s boundaries this far into their lengthy career.