Full metal racket: the good, the bad, and the unsigned of Scotland's metal scene
- Henry Northmore
- 28 March 2017
Ahead of new festival Heavy Scotland we ask how healthy the current metal scene is
Metal has always been one of the most extreme genres: heavier, faster, more brutal than any other musical form. However, despite its outsider status, metal has an incredibly loyal and passionate fanbase. There are times when hard rock takes over the mainstream, glam metal in the 80s and nu metal in the 90s being obvious examples, but true defenders of the faith have stuck with it through thick and thin, weathering the many storms.
'At every level, metal is a uniquely cathartic art form. Once you connect with it as a listener or as a player or just on an intellectual level, you quickly start to explore and consume as much as you can because you need it instinctively at a primal lizard-brain level,' explains drummer Andy Brown from rising Scottish metal band Centrilia. 'There's always the next band to discover that opens up another door to what's possible, which leads to the next one and the next one …'
But how healthy is Scotland's current metal scene? On initial glance it looks pretty vigorous. Huge names like Iron Maiden and Kiss are booked to play the SSE Hydro (16 and 27 May respectively), alongside true underground pioneers (such as Napalm Death at the Classic Grand, 10 May), while venues like Ivory Blacks, The Cathouse, Bannermans, Opium and Studio 24 support local metal, niche bands, up-and-coming acts and club nights.
Another good sign is the launch of new festival Heavy Scotland taking over the Corn Exchange in Edinburgh. 'Heavy Scotland is a celebration of all things metal as well as a platform for local bands to gain a wider audience,' explains organiser Caitlin Elliott. 'There are so many incredible local bands, the aim is to try to help them reach a wider audience while also celebrating more established international bands in this amazing country.' Those more established names include a UK exclusive show from Behemoth, plus Arch Enemy, Finntroll, Destruction, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Havok and Blaze Bailey.
Alongside Disposable and Lucifer's Corpus, Centrilia are among the Scottish acts on the bill. 'We're honoured to have been asked to open the first day of the festival's inaugural event,' says Brown. 'To have a new Scotland-based festival that's aiming to bring a diverse range of world-class metal artists together in this way, and then to include and open that platform up to unsigned Scottish bands, well, it's pretty exciting all-round.'
Both agree, however, that Scottish metal faces some hurdles. 'There are a lot of fantastic local metal bands and new ones breaking into the scene all the time,' says Elliott. 'However, there are also a lot of half empty gigs and people often talk about how hard it can be to get people to gigs, especially for smaller, underground bands.'
'There's people out there already doing some great work,' adds Brown, flagging up Slow Dragon Music in Dundee and the New Hellfire Club in Glasgow. 'But more often than not, the age-old problem of artists being somewhat exploited by lazy promoters rears its ugly head time and time again. Tuesday night five local-band bills are never going have the pull necessary to build a reliable crowd that makes it worthwhile for any band or venue.'
Brown has a suggestion that could help invigorate the scene at a grassroots level: a network of venues, promoters and bands giving over a night every weekend to local acts with free entry. 'So, if you're a Glasgow band and you want to get out to Perth, Edinburgh, Dundee, Inverness, etc, you're able to just add your band to a waiting list for the bill in that city. The more bands circulated the better, and the more people had easy access to see them, the better everything would be for everyone.'
Heavy Scotland, Corn Exchange, Edinburgh, Sat 1 & Sun 2 Apr.