Between revivals of classic heavy metal genres and iconic bands' reunion tours, it's clear that a love of tradition still runs deep in aggressive music culture. Metalheads are infamous for their Klingon-like loyalty to the bands and styles they love; many metal heads don't just let their musical tastes inform their listening habits, but everything from their style of dress to their social circles. In 2011, many bands sought to honour these hardcore fans with tours and albums that paid tribute to, and drew inspiration from, respected genre conventions. While still outside the mainstream, aggressive music now has the strength and power of a rich musical heritage all its own, and found success in celebrating that.
The year saw many significant bands reuniting, including the recent announcement that the original Black Sabbath line-up would be writing a new album together and embarking upon a world tour. Anthrax reunited with vocalist Joey Belladonna to record a new album, and thrash's Big Four (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax) toured together for the first time in their mutual history.
Successful genre revivals, such as thrash and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, continued to thrive. Unlike other genres, metal is not trendy, and to delve into a particular style of metal means to invest in a vast back-catalogue as well as seek out new music. Fans of NWOBHM are just as likely to be listening to old Raven LPs as they are to be enjoying the latest 3 Inches of Blood release. Albums are valued by fans for how much they adhere to the conventions of these beloved genres; to say something sounds exactly like an early example is a form of praise.
When seminal bands released new records in 2011, including titans Megadeth, Opeth and Mastodon (pictured), fans were delighted. All of these albums were examples of bands refining their much-lauded and well-established aesthetics, or, in some cases, a welcomed return to form (such as the last two Megadeth releases, Thirteen and Endgame) after failed experiments or weak periods.
Successful albums were judged on meeting expectations ― Vader's much-lauded Welcome To The Morbid Reich sounded just like a great Vader album should. No music fans are more dedicated (some might say "crazy") than heavy metal fans, and keeping those fans happy was paramount.