In case you missed it, author and musician David V. Stewart recently did a couple of videos in which he ranked heavy metal albums. One video ranked Metallica’s discography, while the follow up graded Megadeth’s catalogue (on the front end of his Final Fantasy V stream).
Both are highly worth watching.
David and others have noted familiar but troubling phenomenon evident in both bands’ oeuvres. Metallica and Megadeth broke onto the scene in the early 1980s and achieved superstardom in the early 90s. Then both bands put out disappointing late 90s records that precipitated long declines.
Before we go any further, it should be noted that David is an educator who’s taught at the elementary-through-high school levels. He’s explained his grading criteria before, and they’re both objective and internally consistent. He’s not evaluating these albums based on their popularity or sales, but on the musicianship and production values evident in the finished recordings.
Taking a cue from David, I charted my quintessential Ground Zero band according to similar standards.
Here’s what emerged when I objectively evaluated every album by Irish rock band U2–at least every one I’ve listened to:
Cryptic Writings, Load, Pop, Reload, Risk–all dropped around Cultural Ground Zero.
These three bands are just some of the most prominent examples. Almost every major rock act that got big in the 80s and 90s stumbled right around 1996-1999. What we have here is a record industry-specific Music Ground Zero.
Why did it happen? How did almost every major band lose its groove ca. 1997?
Some blame rock’s final divorce from its blues roots. Others point the finger at soul-destroying music software like Pro Tools and Auto-tune.
Others argue that the Low 90s were when the Death Cult clinched its hold on the entertainment industry, and even major acts were forced to parrot the party line.
Still others, like David, point out that the advent of the CD prompted bands to clutter their albums with throwaway tracks beyond the inevitable 8 good ones for fear of “wasting space.”
Those are all contributing factors, to be sure. But on the whole, they’re symptoms of the secular West finally exhausting the cultural patrimony it inherited from Christendom.
All of Western music lies in the shadow of Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. Those guys composed hymns and Masses. The source of their inspiration isn’t hard to figure out.
Revitalizing popular culture will take a revival of Christian art.
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