Metal Music Fatigue

There is an audience in Toronto for metal music, but it’s not enough to get the scene out of its stagnant state and to the next level

Colin Lernell is fed up with the mentality in the Toronto metal scene.

Even though there are many metal bands in Toronto, “you’d be hard-pressed to find a single one who’s developed their sound into something worth going to hear,” he said.

Toronto metal band Burn To Black performs on Saturday May 19, 2007 at The Metal Bar, which closed five months later. At the time, The Metal Bar was considered one of the hotspots in Toronto for the thriving metal scene.
Toronto metal band Burn To Black performs on Saturday May 19, 2007 at The Metal Bar, which closed five months later. At the time, The Metal Bar was considered one of the hotspots in Toronto for the thriving metal scene.

The problem is that there are not many bands in Toronto that offer anything great, he said.

What makes his comments particularly interesting is that Lernell is not only a metal fan, but he is also a member of a Toronto metal band called Senate.

“Most fans do not support local acts at shows,” Lernell said. “This lack of support is directly correlated with a lack of quality acts.”

He said even with a ton of bands and shows in the city, the metal scene is stagnant. It is a lethargic mentality on the part of these bands, he said, which differs very much from the Quebec metal scene.

“Quebec hosts the largest and most exciting fan-base of underground metal in Canada and some of the most inventive metal acts out there today,” Lernell said. “I think Toronto could learn a thing or two and stop waiting for acts to become famous in the U.S. before paying attention.”

Lernell said there are supporters of underground metal in Toronto, but many are often closed-minded and only support particular sub-genres of metal. However, he said there is also a “plethora of mainstream metalheads [who] only find it worth their time to go out to huge shows like Iron Maiden or Slayer.”

Derek Tully, host of college metal show Black Flame Radio, said the metal scene in Toronto is alive and well with a lot of people who go to as many local shows as they can.

“The support problem isn’t from the current fans,” Tully said. “It’s the fact that the scene isn’t expanding.”

He said the Toronto metal scene is fragmented by sub-genre.

“You’ll probably notice a lot of the same faces at specific types of shows,” Tully said.

Charles Ivey is a freelance writer and member of metal band Shadows Bright. He also said the Toronto metal scene is alive because “there are hundreds of fantastic bands doing their thing.”

But, it’s alive “in a living dead kind of way,” he said, because people don’t know about shows. He blames the lack of advertising by the venues.

“They leave it up to the bands, which makes [the scene] seem invisible,” Ivey said.

However, not everyone agrees that the whole Toronto metal scene is dormant.

The scene “has definitely gotten stronger in the past few years,” said Clare Buchanan, writer and member of Toronto black metal band Eclipse Eternal.

Buchanan said being in Eclipse Eternal has showed her “the sense of community, loyalty, friendship, and devotion that surrounds metalheads and the Toronto metal community.”

But like Lernell, Buchanan agrees that the Toronto metal scene is divided. There is the underground scene, and the mainstream scene that fills larger venues. Although the metal scene as a whole has got stronger, she said the underground scene is wavering.

“There was a period not too long ago when the local scene felt strong in its support and solidarity, but recently it feels like it’s been petering out a little bit,” Buchanan said. “It’s probably a natural thing. The popularity of metal has always had cycles, yet has never completely disappeared, so our little scene has to weaken before it gets stronger, I guess.”

Caroline Restiaux is the host of college radio show X-plosive Metal and owner of management company X-plosive Entertainment.

Right now the scene “seems dormant because of the lack of quality local shows,” she said. “It’s always the same bands, same line-ups, and same venues, so people can pick and choose which shows to go to as they know there will be another one a few weeks later.”

She said the Toronto metal scene is supported, but “local promoters aren’t delivering the goods to build on that support, so it just seems like no one cares about it.”

But the problem may not be just in the shows.

Some note that the Toronto metal scene has become more of a fashion scene than a music scene.

“It’s been that way forever to some extent,” Lernell said. “People aren’t doing their own thing, and when they do, it’s with such a closed-minded attitude.”

Buchanan said almost everything is commercialized and “it just takes a bit of weeding out to find the true bands and true fans.”

However, Tully disagrees that the metal scene has such a trend-setting impact.

“It’s incredibly un-hip to be a metal fan these days. Metal is still the bastard child of rock n’ roll in the eyes of the mainstream,” he said. “Even huge groups like Lamb of God, that many into more underground bands would consider the penultimate of mainstream popularity, aren’t really well known outside of the metal scene.”

Tully said people in the metal scene argue endlessly about which bands are metal and who sold out, and this causes a lot of drama and problems in scene.

A major hotbed for drama within the Toronto metal scene is a particular message board — Braveboard.

Lernell said this message board is a positive thing for the metal scene “in that it shows people that there is an underground community.” However, he also said that it has a negative side in the sense that it cultures closed-minded mentality.

“Bickering is always a bad thing for the community,” Ivey said. “It’s a waste of time and makes potential fans shy away.”

But Buchanan said Braveboard also has positive aspects.

“There is a sense of community, people have become friends via this site, and it’s great for networking and finding out about bands and shows,” She said. “But it’s just crazy to me the things that people will say to each other when they’re hiding behind their computers.”

The closure of The Metal Bar and its impact on the Toronto metal scene is also an issue that has caused drama and that many people within the scene are still arguing about.

Tully, who used to work at The Metal Bar, said he thinks it was a positive thing for the Toronto metal scene.

“The Metal Bar was a venue specifically for metal,” Tully said. “It put a name and a face to the Toronto scene and gave people a place where they could regularly go and see bands.”

However, many people have mixed feelings about The Metal Bar.

“There was a time when I thought to myself ‘Awesome, the city needs a place like this,’ and truly believed it would do great things for the metal scene,” Restiaux said. “On the other hand, I thought The Metal Bar was poorly run, it lacked a solid marketing plan, and it wasn’t really a friendly bar; it just seemed like a cold atmosphere.”

She said, “The big guns in the scene don’t really seem to appreciate its customers and overlook the fact that without the fan base, there’s no job for them.”

Lernell said he thought The Metal Bar was great — “not because it was a particularly amazing venue, location, or well-equipped, but because it really showed that there were at least some underground dedicated metalheads who are willing to support.”

However, Lernell also said The Metal Bar “showed how few metalheads actually came out to support in such a big city, and made people aware that the scene needs to change.”

Buchanan said there are many rumours and broken friendships surrounding the closure of The Metal Bar.

“The Metal Bar started out with good intentions, but people’s loyalties got in the way and it ended with a lot of needless drama,” Buchanan said. “But while it lasted, it was tons of fun. The regular crowd got closer, and it is spoken of often and fondly.”

She said the closure of the bar “has affected the metal scene because of this tenderness we have for it and the time in which it existed.” However, she said “after its closure, a lot of relationships had been seemingly irreversibly destroyed, which possibly put a damper on the local metal scene.”

Buchanan said the Toronto metal scene “feels a little weakened at the moment and whether it’s partly due to The Metal Bar’s demise or not, I don’t know.”

There are many different reasons people state for why The Metal Bar went out of business. Some say it was because of lack of fan support, others say it was because the owner needed to spend more time with his family, some say it was because the owner burned a bridge with Toronto’s top promoter, and others simply say it sold out.

No matter what the reasons really are, Tully said he doesn’t think its closure will affect the Toronto metal scene.

“There was metal in the city long before The Metal Bar, and there will be long afterwards,” he said.

“The closure of the bar was a disheartening thing for many local metal fans, myself included,” Lernell said. “But I don’t think it’s a sign of failure of metal in this city.”

Lernell said there are some great prospects for the future of the Toronto metal scene.

“I hope the scene grows up to be better than its predecessors,” Lernell said. “Especially because I’m a part of it.”

Restiaux said, “Every one needs to help each other out in the scene in order to make it a stronger one.”

However, Tully said things need to change in the world of metal in general, not just in Toronto.

“By and large, metal fans have turned into a complete antithesis of what metal is about, which is doing your own thing, and listening to whatever you want regardless of what somebody has to say about it,” he said.

“Metal is becoming less about the music, and more of a hipster ideal,” Tully said. “This needs to change because the last thing we need is metal losing its roots.”