Behemoth, Polish purveyors of technical death metal, debuted this week in the Top 200 on the Billboard charts.This is incredible, especially when one considers how far out of the mainstream Behemoth really is. Forget Nirvana in 1991: there’s really no precedent for something like this.
I believe that the commercial resurgence of metal may be the kind of canary in a coal mine that warns us as to which way the future will go. Metal fans have a reputation for being fiercely loyal and supportive of their favorite artists–two things, to be sure, that most record industry people would tell you are lacking in virtually every other sector of the market. Even if the metal fans are not multiplying quickly, their position as record buyers may be strengthening: keep in mind that the Billboard 200 measures their success relative to other releases, meaning that it could be evidence of their growing popularity or evidence of their popularity staying relatively even while the market collapses around them. I tend to think it’s the latter, which means we’ll be seeing some interesting chart positions for records that heretofore wouldn’t have been thought of as Top 200 material.