AU: I know that 'metal' is a big tent...
AU: What are the characteristics of a "good" metal band?
Member of the Metal Tribe:
I will now give you an example of a great band or two that you could definitely consider metal, if only in the retro/throwback sense:
Now: For technical guitar wizardry and that real traditional sense of shredding and METAL and dungeons & dragons and all that ridiculous crap here's a good AND a bad:
Good: Coheed & Cambria
Bad: Dragonforce [agreed...these guys remind me of simpering effing Rush]
and no, I'm not going to show my work. People might disagree, but that's how I'm calling it. If you haven't already - the penultimate metal band of the modern era (like... say post-grunge, part of the whole metal/rock revival) would be:
Mastodon. They are the best.
Like I said earlier, this is such a bizarre subject, it's all visceral. I think when you really boil it down it's sort of an evolution thing. The bands I cared about growing up, and that my peers listened to growing up, have affected what we play today. So the genre grows. The internet made a lot of strange bedfellows. Like you can tell that I grew up near Detroit. There is a certain sound (MC5, The Stooges) from the 60's and 70's that came out of the midwest. I also listened to a lot of Motown growing up in riding in the car; so I really don't like to be without a rock solid beat. I also was in my prime music phase when grunge and college rock were the hallmarks of cool and I latched onto that (but got bored with the moping).
How much energy they had on stage. They did something that was AMAZING on stage. They’ve got a lot of hype going on. There is a lot of buzz about the band in the different sources of media that cater to metalheads. How secretive the lead singer is. It normally isn’t dependant on how “Good” the music is. How much entertainment do you get from watching the band perform.
I’ve watched some classic’s play, and found myself wanting more, and wondering why there are people that like this kind of performance. Slayer is one of these bands. All the guitar players did was walk Right to Left, Left to Right on stage and throw their long hair around. It was a very stale show in my opinion, yet all the fans loved it. I blame it on the fact that the band was before my time.
The newer bands are getting more crunch out of their equipment, and they are incorporating a larger stage presence. Mudvayne and Slipknot are two metal bands that come to mind who are incorporating fun theatrics into their shows. Not only are they wearing heavy make-up and or masks, they are climbing all over the stage, taunting the audience, and strapping the drummer and his drum set down and moving them in circles, and rotating them sideways during a drum solo while not missing a beat. If you are going to try and make it as a metal band nowdays, you have some VERY LARGE shoes to fill.
Note the controversy about the band Slayer.... It's obviously difficulty to quantify subjective musical attributes. As with many personal preferences, it speaks to the fact that what you like is "good" for you, and may not be good for everyone. Hooray for diversity!
Killyosaur: (Killyosaur mentioned the lack of African-American band members, something that--I'm chagrined--wasn't even on my radar.)
As to the lack of women fronted bands, I'm not absolutely certain. I think some of the possible answers in your post seemed plausible, that it is the nature of the music, and possibly the culture. There are, as far as I know, virtually no black metal bands that are all women, or fronted by women, it is possible that metal has a stigma for being a men only music genre, I don't really know. [...]
Definitely a lack of african american, but also note that there is a style of metal known as "Black" Metal as in the color not the race, which is distinctly devoid of Female fronted, or all women bands. These bands tend to heavily lean on Satanism as a religion and being, to a certain extent, pro-evil. They largely started in Norway.
The true metal heads think that these bands are inherently weak. I enjoy the variety girl-fronted bands offer. Something different to listen to. Some of those gals can achieve vocal effects that rival even the most serious screams from their male counterparts. I’d love to see more female involvement. The other aspect you should take into consideration is the marketing aspect. How many attractive women can let loose the cookie monster? How many attractive women want to even try? I believe that there are quite a few that meet these requirements, they just don’t want to pursue that career path. They’ve been brought up to pursue other paths.
One final source, my Awesome Girlfriend, has a hypothesis about the lack of diversity among metal band members. She believes that girls and various ethnic minorities already have great music of their own that is superior to metal, so they have no incentive to explore the metal genre.
Next up: the concert review, In which I summarize my ethnographic fieldwork.