One of my fondest memories of Saturday nights in the Eighties was watching Headbangers Ball on MTV. Headbangers Ball was the block of heavy metal videos that MTV aired every Saturday night. It debuted in 1987 and at its peak lasted three hours long. While MTV had a tendency to show far too many hair metal bands (pop metal acts such as Helix and Poison) on Headbangers Ball, one could also see some truly good stuff, such as the latest from Metallica or Queensryche. Sadly, with the decline in the popularity of metal also came a decline in the ratings for Headbangers Ball. It was cancelled in 1995.
Fortunately, it was in 2003 that Headbangers Ball returned on MTV2. Not having MTV2, I did not have the opportunity to see it again until this weekend, when I was visiting a friend. Sadly, I somewhat regret having watched an hour of it, as it was not the Headbangers Ball I knew. It started out well enough, with the latest video from Avenged Sevenfold. Unfortunately, I was then made to suffer through a straight hour of death metal and black metal. Among others, they played videos by Behemoth, Arch Enemy, Obituary, Opeth, and Job for a Cowboy. And while the bands may have had different names, they all sounded essentially the same, with those incomprehensible "Cookie monster" vocals (also known as the "death growl"). The very worst was perhaps the video "At The Left Hand Ov God" by Polish death metal band Behemoth. It looked for all the world like the trailer for a live action version of the Adult Swim cartoon Metalocalypse. Acccording to their website, apparently after I switched Headbangers Ball off they did play videos by Unearth, Gwen Stacy, and Mars Volta, but that was after what was over a solid hour of death metal.
Now while I will admit that I do not keep as good a track of the latest heavy metal bands as I once did, I am not entirely out of the loop. And among the things I know is that death metal is hardly the most popular subgenre of heavy metal in America. In fact, it remains largely unknown to the general public and has an extremely small following among metalheads. I know several long time metal fans besides myself who actively hate the subgenre. I am then mystified as to why Headbangers Ball played over an hour's worth of death metal. Okay, they would play over an hour's worth of the hair bands back in the Eighties, but at least they were popular (there is sometimes no accounting for tastes...). Death metal is not popular at all.
I am truly hoping that this past Saturday's installment of Headbangers Ball was an anomaly and that they don't play over an hour's worth of death metal every week. If not, I certainly won't be tuning in again. And given how many agree with me on the subject of death metal, I rather suspect that their ratings will soon be in the toilet.