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.
Ghost is playing festivals. Kvelertak finally has an American label deal. Asking Alexandria is putting out a new album. Gojira is finally touring. The metal A list/B list is pretty established at this point. You’ve got your headlining bands, your middle tier bands, and plenty of openers. Yet this past year saw Volbeat emerge from the pack, and the album’s quietly sold nearly 200,000 albums in the two years it’s been out. With the year almost 1/12th over, we thought we’d brawl about what band might be next due to break out.
Bram: I think this could be Ghost’s year. With them playing both Rock on the Range and Coachella, they’re expanding their reach in a big way. Their music is palatable enough to not turn people off, and their image is fascinating. Hell, I’ve seen them three times and can’t look away whenever they’re on stage. With the weight of Universal behind them, not to mention a pretty huge reported advance and Dave Grohl on board, it’ll be hard to imagine that they won’t get plenty of buzz that could translate into sales. At the very least, they’re going to be seen by a lot of people that never saw them before, and their live show will definitely make believers of skeptics. On another note, I’m still shocked that Devin Townsend sells so few records. Both Epicloud and Addicted are masterpieces, and he writes music that should and could connect with a much larger audience than the Ziltoid/Devy fanboys.
Zach: I completely agree that Ghost have an enormous advantage over others. However, I’m expecting big things for Kvelertak as well. They’ve already been gaining buzz State-side for the past two years. And now with a well-established label in the U.S. backing them, I think they have the chance to have even more doors open for them. I also wouldn’t rule out Holy Grail breaking big this year. Ride The Void really sees them taking it up a notch in song writing while still sounding like the best album Iron Maiden never released. Plus, the Metal Alliance Tour definitely will help them play in front of new and bigger audiences.
I would really love to also see Gojira continue the momentum they gained in 2012 and make this year even bigger for them. With that said, though, they’re going to need to do more than just an awesome co-headlining tour. Doing a summer touring festival like Mayhem Fest or even Summer Slaughter could help Gojira greatly. And let’s not rule out Killswitch Engage. I know what you’re thinking, “Wait, they already made it big!” Well, with the momentum they gained last year with Jesse Leach’s return, I think there’s great potential for KSE to grow even more in 2013 with the new album.
Kodi: Going back to what Bram said, I think a huge part of why Devin Townsend doesn’t sell more has to do with how un-moshable his solo work is. I say that as an admitted, full-on nerd for his work, especially Epicloud and its predecessor Deconstruction; his most recent exploits are very personal and just don’t have as much physical lurch to them as a Lamb of God or a Gojira, but this is also the same guy who stopped Strapping Young Lad while it was still something he could express himself with and not an out-of-hand monster. Hevy Devy doesn’t care about record sales the way a lot of successful metal artists do, and the fact is, he’s carved out an amazingly consistent body of work and a name for himself that few can match. He’s an A-lister with an asterisk.
Kvelertak seems primed to cross to A-list status, Norwegian lyrics and all. Roadrunner signing them is just nuts, as they were already buzz-laden in ways that few except Ghost can match. I actually think their ceiling is a touch higher than Ghost, who will still probably give us one of the best metal records of 2013 much as Kvelertak will. Kvelertak is lighter on gimmicks and way heavier on riffs, though that’s not to undersell Ghost and their insane knack for catchy Satanism at all. Think of where Kvelertak could go if they got Dave Grohl on a track, and I think it makes sense. Holy Grail is absolutely ready for the big leagues as well; they wowed me at New England Metal and Hardcore Fest last year, and their Metal Alliance dates could easily be a star turn.
And let’s not forget, after all their years of existence, the rise of Orange Goblin to newfound prominence. A Eulogy for the Damned found widespread acclaim last year, and their dates with Clutch this spring will put them in front of a crowd that doesn’t even know yet how much they need Orange Goblin in their lives, and their cover story in the new edition of Terrorizer marks the UK-based stoner mavens’ first cover feature in a UK magazine. Don’t call it a comeback, but it’s reasonable to think that this band is finally breaking out of underground status.
Matt: I’d like to see Gojira make a breakthrough this year. This isn’t just because of how great L’Enfant Sauvage is (thought it is really great), but because they’ve been at it for a while now and they’ve continued to put out material that is both fresh in the metal scene and sports some serious cojones. Now that they’ve come to be recognized more recently in addition to sharing a stage with Devin Townsend, I’d say they’re deserving of a breakthrough.
That said, I think 2013 is going to be the year for Ghost. They have festival performances to look forward too, but think about what else they have to bring to the table. They have a retro feel to their sound and look, and retro is really the way to go these days. Plus, with their mysterious persona, they fill a certain niche of intriguing bands wearing masks or facepaint or what have you in order to pull off a spectacle that is more theatrical and less of a gimmick.