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Thread: Is hard rock a dead music genre?

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    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Is hard rock a dead music genre?

    I was thinking about this the other day after a fruitless attempt to hear new music that one would consider hard rock/heavy alternative/metal/nu-metal (call it what you want- you know it when you hear it) on the various Boston FM “rock” stations. Even WAAF (which in the late 90s/early aughts almost exclusively played contemporary hard rock artists) was opting instead for a heavy rotation of Metallica, Aerosmith, Guns and Roses, AC-DC, Nirvana, et. al. It’s now a classic hard rock station, basically, with the occasional new release from Seether, Linkin Park, or The Deftones thrown in the mix. Nowadays it seems that the majority of new rock music you’ll hear on the radio is of the hipster-rock variety, and with the exception of My Morning Jacket, I can’t stomach hipster music. It’s just way too soft and non-threatening for my taste. I feel like they’re parodying rock-and-roll somehow, like when Lil' Wayne played the guitar (badly) at last year’s Grammys and everyone thought it was the coolest thing in the world. Call me a d-bag, but I need faster and harder guitar riffs, pounding drums, screaming testosterone-fueled vocals, and lyrics about sex, drugs, and destruction.

    Anyway, so do you agree that it is probably time to write hard rock’s obituary? Who should we blame for killing it- shifting demographics, hipsters, Nickelback?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    I was thinking about this the other day after a fruitless attempt to hear new music that one would consider hard rock/heavy alternative/metal/nu-metal (call it what you want- you know it when you hear it) on the various Boston FM “rock” stations. Even WAAF (which in the late 90s/early aughts almost exclusively played contemporary hard rock artists) was opting instead for a heavy rotation of Metallica, Aerosmith, Guns and Roses, AC-DC, Nirvana, et. al. It’s now a classic hard rock station, basically, with the occasional new release from Seether, Linkin Park, or The Deftones thrown in the mix. Nowadays it seems that the majority of new rock music you’ll hear on the radio is of the hipster-rock variety, and with the exception of My Morning Jacket, I can’t stomach hipster music. It’s just way too soft and non-threatening for my taste. I feel like they’re parodying rock-and-roll somehow, like when Lil' Wayne played the guitar (badly) at last year’s Grammys and everyone thought it was the coolest thing in the world. Call me a d-bag, but I need faster and harder guitar riffs, pounding drums, screaming testosterone-fueled vocals, and lyrics about sex, drugs, and destruction.

    Anyway, so do you agree that it is probably time to write hard rock’s obituary? Who should we blame for killing it- shifting demographics, hipsters, Nickelback?
    All of the above. It just doesn't appear to be "cool" to like hard rock/metal music like it was a genearation ago. Today, if you prefer hard rock over rap, you're probably considered an outcast.
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  3. #3
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Illinois Planner says "Are you crazy?"

    In the Detroit market we still have plenty of rock stations playing all sorts of genres.

    Where would you fit Kid Rock or Em? Niether one is all rock nor is it all rap.
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    Cyburbian Tarf's avatar
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    Depends on what exactly you mean by hard rock...

    Heavy metal is definitely a dead genre, along with all of its incarnations (e.g., death metal).

    However, a lot of bands out there still are doing rock that I would consider hard rock (i.e., music that is "harder" than the Beatles type of rock 'n roll). We have multiple radio stations that play that kind of music. So, no, I would not say that it's dead.
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    I think there is still a good amount of hard rock out there, but it's no longer hair bands with cheesy lyrics. Certainly there has been a shift of a lot of music into a fusion type of hard rock - hard rock with some other genre fusion - Linkin Park and Deftones, the Black Keys, Minus the Bear being good examples of the hard rock semi-fusion genre. And radio is no longer a primary driver of commercial music success. Deftones released an album not very long ago, same with linkin park. Black Keys just released an album and have another one coming out.

    Along the lines of what I would consider traditional hard rock we still have bands like Paramore, Disturbed, Incubus, Muse, Slipknot, Seether, Staind, Crossfade, Godsmack, to name a few, that are producing albums that get played on major radio. Then there are still some old school hard rockers out there. Heck, even Motorhead just released an album recently.
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    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    The only people around here who listen to hard rock/heavy metal are the kind of people who wear lots of black t shirts and are generally upset about something all the time.

    I wouldn't consider Kid Rock hard rock. To me hard rock is like Metallica, Gwar, and Rammstein
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  7. #7
    Cyburbian kalimotxo's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    Where would you fit Kid Rock or Em?
    I'd fit him in a toilet, but most wouldn't flush a turd of that size.

    There is a lot of good hard music out there, most of which is somewhat underground and I guess could sadly derisively be dismissed as "hipster rock". Bands like Isis, Mastodon, Titus Andronicus, Harvey Milk, Channels, Medications, etc play solid heavy rock, without some of the wankage sometimes associated with hard rock.

    On the more mainstream side, I'd say Queens of the Stone Age, Clutch, Jack White (and the 100 bands he plays in) are all keeping it real. It might seem like it's dying, but that's just because Nickelback continues to defy the laws of nature and make hit records. Hard to wrap one's head around that one.
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    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    All of the above. It just doesn't appear to be "cool" to like hard rock/metal music like it was a genearation ago. Today, if you prefer hard rock over rap, you're probably considered an outcast.
    Or do you mean Outkast?

    My son, 11, is getting into music and is reliving my own childhood discoveries, some of which is hard rock and/or its antecedents. Zeppelin, of course, but also Queen, White Stripes, Ozzy, AC/DC and the like. Its pretty fun to relive all of this with him. Kids have a very different sense of categories and genre these days and, at least at his age, there seems to be little concern with being pigeonholed. He also like Michael Jackson, the Police (probably his favortie band) and Old School hip hop like Run DMC. And now he's getting into some old school Punk (Kinks, Sex Pistols, etc.) Go figure...

    As for Gwar, I just want to give an RIP shoutout to Cory Smoot who was found dead recently. I loved Gwar but never got to see them in concert.
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    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    I loved Gwar but never got to see them in concert.

    I did. One of the... well lets just say their set at one point included an inflatable hillary clinton... I'm not going any further than that. I would consider Gwar more metal-ish

    Hard Rock is still around, it's just no longer the dominant scene like it was back in the 'ol Alice in Chains Nirvana grunge days (and certainly not like the 70s). I grew up listening to Zeppelin all the time and still love a good jam, nowadays I listen to Black Keys (obviously) and Them Crooked Vultures are pretty great too.

    Anybody see Das Racist on Conan O'Brien the other night? I think it's a pretty tell tale sign that we're currently more in an 80s throwback than a 90s (Lady Gaga = Madonna)

    Rock will come back, it's just taking a break at the moment. It still needs a breather after Motley Crue almost gave it alcohol poisoning...
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    Cyburbian Tarf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    The only people around here who listen to hard rock/heavy metal are the kind of people who wear lots of black t shirts and are generally upset about something all the time.

    I wouldn't consider Kid Rock hard rock. To me hard rock is like Metallica, Gwar, and Rammstein
    Metallica and Gwar are/were heavy metal, not hard rock. Some of Metallica's more recent stuff may fall more towards the hard rock side, but Ride the Lightning and the like definitely was metal.

    Also, I think you're conflating hard rock with heavy metal. Hard rock doesn't necessarily involve the all black t-shirts. Also, the "upset all the time" is probably more gothic than metal or hard rock

    I'm assuming you were fully adult by the time the 80s rolled around?
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  11. #11
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tarf View post

    I'm assuming you were fully adult by the time the 80s rolled around?
    No, I became a teenager in the 90's. I was never in to heavy metal/hard rock (or whatever the difference is). About the "hardest" band I ever listened to was Oasis.
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  12. #12
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tarf View post
    Metallica and Gwar are/were heavy metal, not hard rock. Some of Metallica's more recent stuff may fall more towards the hard rock side, but Ride the Lightning and the like definitely was metal.

    Also, I think you're conflating hard rock with heavy metal. Hard rock doesn't necessarily involve the all black t-shirts. Also, the "upset all the time" is probably more gothic than metal or hard rock

    I'm assuming you were fully adult by the time the 80s rolled around?
    Upset all the time would be more emo or punk, maybe heavy metal and gansta rap? Goth people are usually super nice and chill in my experience. I definitely do not associate hard rock with being upset all the time.
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  13. #13
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tarf View post
    Metallica and Gwar are/were heavy metal, not hard rock. Some of Metallica's more recent stuff may fall more towards the hard rock side, but Ride the Lightning and the like definitely was metal.

    Also, I think you're conflating hard rock with heavy metal. Hard rock doesn't necessarily involve the all black t-shirts. Also, the "upset all the time" is probably more gothic than metal or hard rock

    I'm assuming you were fully adult by the time the 80s rolled around?
    In my book, Heavy Metal is a form that grew out of Hard Rock. It emerged in the early 70s with many of the early bands standing on the boundary between the two sounds - Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Queen, even Zeppelin.

    This quote from the Rock historian Ian Christe describes its emergence from Heavy Metal pretty well, IMO:

    Black Sabbath's audience was...left to scavenge for sounds with similar impact. By the mid-1970s, heavy metal aesthetic could be spotted, like a mythical beast, in the moody bass and complex dual guitars of Thin Lizzy, in the stagecraft of Alice Cooper, in the sizzling guitar and showy vocals of Queen, and in the thundering medieval questions of Rainbow.... Judas Priest arrived to unify and amplify these diverse highlights from hard rock's sonic palette. For the first time, heavy metal became a true genre unto itself.
    FTR, I graduated HS in 1986. I would still put all the metal and punk genres generally under "hard rock" to distinguish them from genres like folk rock, emo, independent rock, singer songwriters, etc.
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  14. #14
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    I don't think hard rock is dead. It's certainly not as "mainstream" anymore as it used to be, and it seems to only to continue to become less mainstream. There's certainly a demand out there for mainstream hard rock music, but the media seems to have snubbed it. A lot of it has to do with how the music industry has changed so dramatically. Hard rock music used to be a very album-oriented genre. Now that fewer people are buying albums and everything is oriented around having a few monster hit singles that will be popular with the kids on iTunes, it's really put a dent in the music formula for rock records. Why would a band want to make a killer hard rock album like Led Zeppelin IV, Back in Black, Rocks, Appetite, or Hysteria, where every song is good, when no one is buying albums anymore? In addition, I think rock got too commercial for some people in the 80s and 90s, and so now there's been this retreat by hard rock artists (with the exception of Nickelback) to make more authentic harder rock music that has integrity and cred among the metalheads and hard rockers. Unfortunately, this has resulted in songs that are repetitive and no longer catchy or interesting to the mainstream, thus the decline in popularity. No longer is hard rock the genere that produces everything from hard-hitting songs about violence, to big power ballads, to blues, to sleazy sex songs, to party anthems, to politics, to war, to drugs, to inspirational songs. Instead, all these newer bands only pick one or two of these topics or sounds, instead of branching out. And it gets boring.

    Hard rock used to be king in the 80s and 90s. They even had a whole series of heavy metal/rock categories at the American Music Awards in the late 80s and early 90s, during its peak popularity. All those are gone now. So a newer band can't even get exposure or recognition anymore.

    And yes, the radio formats are changing a lot. They killed a lot of alternative rock stations that were playing a lot of the modern hard rock acts. One of them being Q101, here in Chicago, which has always been very popular. There are a lot of pissed off people. And all because the owner of the company that bought the station happens to personally like talk radio more than modern rock. In addition, a local classic hard rock station (97.9 WLUP) is shifting more to classic 60s/70s rock, and is not playing as much stuff from the 80s, 90s, or new stuff, like they used to. There is a modern hard rock station in Kenosha (95.1 WIIL), but it only covers the northern counties of Chicagoland. I also hear that alternative rock stations on the East Coast have also been axed. And it's not because the listeners aren't there. It's because the people who own these stations are out-of-touch with reality.

    There's definitely still a demand out there. There's a lot of interest and nostalgia for classic hard rock music. It's no wonder that bands like Bon Jovi, Metallica, AC/DC, Aerosmith, and Van Halen continue to be top draws that command top dollar. And in 2008, Metallica and AC/DC both released albums that went double-platinum, despite the commercial climate when it comes to albums. In addition, there is a very sizable population that loves the newer hard rock artists. I don't listen to the new stuff as much, so I was surprised when I went to an Avenged Sevenfold concert with my friend and saw how popular this band was. Everyone there was going nuts for this band that is not really known outside of the rock community. I was shocked. It was a packed sold-out amphitheater show, and there were tons of kids there (yes, as a 24 y.o., I felt I was older than the median age of the crowd). I thought they all liked Justin Bieber. But no...there's a large powerful contingent among today's youth that is hungry for hard rock music. If the music industry wasn't as messed up, and if Avenged Sevenfold was open to trying different stuff (instead of sticking just to the horror-movie stuff), I'd say they could have been the next GN'R...the next big rock band.

    But things change. I think it could come back into mainstream popularity. Like HomerJ said, I think it's just kind of laying low right now. I think it's going to require the right people getting back into positions of power in the media and in the music industry, in addition to rock diversifying its sound again and being open to exploring different sounds without sacrificing their musical integrity.
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  15. #15
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    music has always been cyclical, so I'm not too worried about the long-term prognosis for hard rock. The loss of some radio stations in regards to format is very unfortunate, but is more a result of corporatization of previously independent (or at least having a long leash) stations. Clear Channel and the like taking over has without a doubt done serious damage to music diversity on the radio.

    I do think that ip touched on something important, which is the death of the album through the proliferation of MP3, iTunes, etc. Compared to other genres, hard rock has always seemed to be oriented toward "great albums" rather than "great songs". I think the shift in the music industry toward really just creating a bunch of singles rather than a true, quality album has perhaps done the most damage. The modern hard rock bands that have come out have either been frustratingly stubborn (Avenged Sevenfold) or have simply not held together. Some of your post-grunge has survived to carry the banner for hard rock. Foo Fighters is a great example, and some even make the argument that Kings of Leon leans toward hard rock (I disagree).

    I also blame Nickelback, simply because they are convenient and their music annoys me.

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    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    My OP was that hard rock is no longer as popular as it used to be, as in there are fewer people listening to it currently than there used to be. Things that "go underground', or are "no longer mainstream", are, let's face it, things that are no longer popular. These are terms used by people who can't admit something they like is no longer popular (not calling you out illinoisplanner- I respect your opinion. I am speaking more generally about the nature of fans).

    Almost all of the successful hard rock acts that are currently touring and releasing new material have been around for at least ten years, with the most successful acts dating back to the 80s. There are so few new artists that one is not exposed to them on whatever media they choose (radio, internet, album retail). This distresses me as a huge fan of the hard rock genre.

    I was at a bar last night and heard Three Doors Down, and I thought to myself: "now that was a great band". The Better Life is probably one of my favorite rock albums of the past 20 years, but it was released in 2000 (yeah that long ago). Think back over the past ten years- how many hard rock releases would you consider your favorites? And IP- the album format seems to be working pretty well for Justin Bieber and pop music in general. Why can't it work for hard rock again?

  17. #17
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    My OP was that hard rock is no longer as popular as it used to be, as in there are fewer people listening to it currently than there used to be. Things that "go underground', or are "no longer mainstream", are, let's face it, things that are no longer popular. These are terms used by people who can't admit something they like is no longer popular (not calling you out illinoisplanner- I respect your opinion. I am speaking more generally about the nature of fans).

    Almost all of the successful hard rock acts that are currently touring and releasing new material have been around for at least ten years, with the most successful acts dating back to the 80s. There are so few new artists that one is not exposed to them on whatever media they choose (radio, internet, album retail). This distresses me as a huge fan of the hard rock genre.

    I was at a bar last night and heard Three Doors Down, and I thought to myself: "now that was a great band". The Better Life is probably one of my favorite rock albums of the past 20 years, but it was released in 2000 (yeah that long ago). Think back over the past ten years- how many hard rock releases would you consider your favorites? And IP- the album format seems to be working pretty well for Justin Bieber and pop music in general. Why can't it work for hard rock again?
    No, I admit it...hard rock music isn't as popular among the mainstream population as it used to be. My point was, though, that there is still a sizable group of hardcore hard rock fans out there that are appreciating what's out there now, and an even larger contingent that's nostalgic for the classic stuff and still waiting for the next Guns N' Roses to come around. But the people out there who like pop music aren't into the newer hard rock music anymore, because hard rock music is no longer poppy in nature. Hard rock has gone back to the basics, which thrills their hardcore fanbase, but alienates the general public who like pop hooks and catchy tunes. As for the album format, yes, Katy Perry released an album that had five #1 singles. 10-20 years ago, that would have gone 10 times platinum by now. But instead, I'm not even sure if it's reached double platinum. That's because people are just buying the singles on iTunes. Hard rock has never been a singles-oriented genre. IMO, the only way hard rock will come back into mainstream popularity is if artists incorporate catchy pop hooks and greater musical and stylistic diversity into their music again. But nobody really wants to be labeled another pop sellout like Bon Jovi or Nickelback. So the few hard rock bands out there write the same old dark, heavy rock music, so as not to piss off and alienate their hardcore fanbase and risk losing their musical credibility and integrity.
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  18. #18
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Concerning creative endeavors, the model I subscribe to goes something like this - it first begins with a smattering of typically unassociated individual proto-pioneers, folks who are years ahead of their time. These individuals produce avant garde efforts that are largely unknown to the public and if the public somehow manages to get exposure to their creative works roundly rejects it (....who'd want a bizarre building that looked like that?...my god, that music is nothing but noise....my 6 year old could paint as good as that....etc.). Some time later these works are 'discovered' by forward-thinking but contemporary individuals who recogize original genius when they see it and proceed to take the pioneers' ideas and flesh them out, expand upon them, and create variations. Be it a group of authors living in Paris, pot smoking street musicians in San Francisco, or school of architects in Weimar, these individuals frequently know and associate with each other either formally or informally. There is much cross-pollination of ideas among these folks and works associated with the creative endeavor begin to acquire a recognizable form sharing certain common themes through repetition. At this point a 'genre' emerges. It usually happens that a special class of people step in to the picture at this point and creates sometimes 'watered down' versions of the creative product that is more readily accessible to the larger public that greatly popularizes it and everyone now loves it. The public is a fickle thing though and broad general interest eventually wanes as new creative forms are introduced to the public that eventually eclipses interest in the earlier genres. At this point the original creative endeavor's forms have been largely explored, become overly-familiarized and ultimately played out. Earlier variations often crystallize into genres or subgenres in their own right. What passes in name for what the creative endeavor originally was can be almost unrecognizable or a cartoonish self-parody at this stage in the creative endeavor's life cycle. 'Purists' may continue to produce works that adhere to previously established forms, but at this point the art is no longer a living-evolving thing and ceases to produce new variations or forms and eventually dies out entirely as that generation it was popular with passes on.

    I think this applies to hard rock as much as it does any other creative endeavor, be it jazz, modernism, romanticism, rap, cubism, or country music.

    Oh, and I'd say that while people still listen to it hard rock as an evolving art form is pretty much at an end now.

  19. #19
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Plenty of good stuff out there, and most of it is getting airtime. Five Finger Death Punch has a new album out and Under and Over it is getting airplay. I enjoy In This Moment and Bullet For My Valentine. I think the hard stuff is alive and well, and I like it!
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  20. #20
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    IMO, WAAF was always kind of a station for meatheads with an extra chromosome or two - I used to listen to Nik Carter on WBCN religiously back in the day (late 90s/early 2000s). Like the rest of terrestrial radio, both are now terribly stale.

    The hard rock genre is not dead, but I would say that it's no longer culturally relevant for the most part. Why is this the case? Massive changes to the music business (Clear Channel, Napster, etc) that destroyed the old linkages between local artists and signed acts and made it next to impossible for local bands with fresh sounds to make their way up through the scene. I saw this first hand myself as a musician in the local Boston music scene ten years ago. The music industry stopped doing A&R - the practice of sending their people into the local scene to scout out new talent - and the price of this was the severing of the link between rock's 'minor leagues' and the big leagues of signed, touring acts. In the end, the only bands getting signed were those that sounded safe . Basically, musical inbreeding. Nirvana sure as hell wasn't safe when it burst through to the mainstream.

    There is good stuff out there, but it won't come to you via radio. Check out the Aussie hard rock scene... lots of good stuff coming out of there recently. Karnivool, the Butterfly Effect, Cog, Dead Letter Society are a few. Muse and Porcupine Tree from the UK as well. But if you're looking for arena rock to come back into cultural relevance (beside a few tokens like the Foo Fighters and Kings of Leon), don't hold your breath.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    Think back over the past ten years- how many hard rock releases would you consider your favorites?
    First off- I disagree that 3 Doors Down is hard rock. Cool band, not hard rock.

    Just looking through my Ipod, from the last ten years Lateralus and 10,000 days (Tool), Wonder what's Next (Chevelle), a number of Incubus albums, Hybrid Theory and Meteora (Linkin Park), Break the Cycle (Staind), Audioslave (Audioslave) are all releases from the last ten years that are up there with my favorites
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  22. #22
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by imaplanner View post
    Just looking through my Ipod, from the last ten years Lateralus and 10,000 days (Tool), Wonder what's Next (Chevelle), a number of Incubus albums, Hybrid Theory and Meteora (Linkin Park), Break the Cycle (Staind), Audioslave (Audioslave) are all releases from the last ten years that are up there with my favorites
    All of these bands have been popular for at least ten years though. Just sayin'.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    Heavy Music

    Tough to pop a label on music these days. Genres have morphed. Kid Rock is a good example.....some of his tunes blend country, rap, and hard rock. How can you tell the difference between Seattle grunge and some of Neil Young's work? To this Bear, hard rock falls into the "classic hard rock" bucket, including:

    The Who (especially early Who)
    Jimi
    Boston
    Bush
    Deep Purple
    GNR
    Neil Young
    Santana
    Uriah Heep
    Sammy Hagar
    Vanilla Fudge

    Music I grew olde with.

    Bear

    NOTE: Attached vid is not "hard rock" But it does qualify as "Heavy Music".

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EjO6lzvnIw
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  24. #24
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    This may be a bit heavier than hard rock but NPR's All Songs Considered put out their "Viking's Choice" podcast a couple of weeks ago. This is their annual roundup of some highlights from the heavy metal genre. I haven't listened to it yet, but I have generally found a few gems in it each of the years they've produced it.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  25. #25
    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    As a devotee of the heavy music I'd say from firsthand experience that hard rock/metal most assuredly is not "dead". It has certainly become more fractured into subgenres and has become more underground and in some cases has become more "pure" and less "commercialized" in sound. There are some bands out there that have garnered a pretty decent following and have become headlining acts for larger tours and venues such as Avenged Sevenfold, Bullet for my Valentine, Three Days Grace, Mastodon, and a few others. I was at Uproar Festival about two months ago (which featured all of the acts I just named) and it was a packed house. Avenged has a huge following. There are others that are still around from 10-20 years ago (Puscifer as the evolution of Tool, Foo Fighters, Dream Theater, Amon Amarth) that are still performing and expanding their respective genres, then newer bands that are just now making a name for themselves (Five Finger Death Punch, Beneath the Buried and Me, Evergrey).

    Fact is, as long as there are testosterone fueled male teenagers (or angsty, rebellious female teens) there will be a steady supply of new adherents to the gospel of heavy rifts and dark lyrics.
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

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