In 1958, science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon made a remark on the general state of the SF genre that would live on through the years as an axiom applicable to all human endeavours. The remark will be infamously known as “Sturgeon’s Revelation” or, more familiarly, “Sturgeon’s Law”:
The first reference I can find in his oeuve appears in the March 1958 issue of Venture Science Fiction, where he wrote:
“I repeat Sturgeon’s Revelation, which was wrung out of me after twenty years of wearying defense of science fiction against attacks of people who used the worst examples of the field for ammunition, and whose conclusion was that ninety percent of sf is crud.
“The Revelation: Ninety percent of everything is crud.
“Corallary 1: The existence of immense quantities of trash in science fiction is admitted and if is regrettable; but it is no more unnatural than the existence of trash anywhere.
“Corallary 2: The best science fiction is as good as the best fiction in any field.”
Sturgeon’s Law is applicable to all fields of human creation, including metal music and its different subgenres.
– NWOBHM: for every cool band arising from the genre such as Angelwitch, Diamond Head, Pagan Altar and the like, there were hundreds of bands mixing mostly early 60s rock with some half-assed, early-Judas Priest rip-off attempt. Mediocre acts such as Tygers of Pan Tang, Praying Mantis, Mythra, Def Leppard and the like were the norm back when the movement exploded in popularity.
– Speed Metal: there was only one Metallica, one Kreator, one Sodom, and many, many Kublai Khans, Evil Deads, Xentrixes, D.A.M.s and Atrophies pouring out uninspired, pussified drivel to bores us to death.
– Death Metal: story repeats itself here. For every masterpiece of the subgenre such as “Like an Ever Flowing Stream”, there was either a lot of wannabe brutal crap or randomly pasted bad speed metal riffs with death growls on top that drowned the genre into irrelevance.
– Black Metal: oh shit, where do we begin here? Let’s just say that the genre was at its most brilliant creative phase when only a handful of bands scattered on different parts of the world such as Norway, Greece, Switzerland, the US and certain south american localities made the most powerful and influential works of the genre. Now, it takes only a small game of “I know one who knows another” to easily link you to any of the thousand wannabe garage black metal bands expecting to be the next legend in the subgenre. And where are the exceptional works of our time? Eeehhh…
Most of the mediocre stuff that plagued each of the metal genres from speed metal downwards have thankfully dissapeared with the years, but some were revived by the shouts of the hipsters demanding 4 LP “die hard” collector versions of the reissues. We can thank them for that.
But don’t despair. As in Sci-Fi, the metal genre may have way too much fat on it, but that doesn’t mean that it’s dying. Rather, the current downfall of the genre is caused by our excessive tolerance of run-of-the-mill music with no intent, passion and spirit on it. That brings us to another point: the fact that metal needs to be fresh again in order to pursue new creative heights. A genre of art, whether it is science fiction or metal music, is defined by the quality of the few acts that can pull the task off, not by the total number of bands.
What should we support, then: the crud, or the good?