WORDS: YASMINE SUMMAN | PHOTOS: GEORGIA RAWSON / KAM HAQ
Arena tours have been hailed as the pinnacle of success for all kinds of music, but as heavy music, in particular, begins to seep out from the underground scene and rival up to the mainstream industry, bands like Architects and Bring Me The Horizon are finally breaking the seal for heavy music by claiming sold-out arena shows that popularize it on a wide mainstream scale.
“They are finally breaking the seal for heavy music by claiming sold-out arena shows that popularize it on a wide mainstream scale.”
For the average smaller hardcore or heavy metal band, building a career from scratch is founded on couch surfing and playing 50-cap grotty basement gigs with £3 profit left after tour expenses. But what keeps them driven is that thirst for the climactic music nirvana that comes in the form of hordes of fans stacked in a 12,000 capacity Wembley-like arena chanting your name, wearing your face on t-shirts and deafening you with your own songs. It’s almost become like a redefined ‘American dream’ for bands that’s always had this level of unattainability dangled over it with only the few getting the sweet taste of the ‘rockstar’ life. But with Architects peaking the cornerstone of success as thousands of fans flocked into their Wembley show in January, heavy music is finding it’s place in the bigger picture and arena shows are helping to pave the way forward
“It certifies you as something more than just another rock band with two catchy hits.”
Arguably Wembley arena is a staple in London’s music scene and has helped drive the push for iconic rock and metal bands like Gun N’ Roses or Black Sabbath, to claim widespread popularity and almost gain a higher ranking of authority or respect from outside viewers. Similar to the 70’s to 80’s era of rock and roll, hardcore and heavier music is finding a resurgence into society on an unprecedented worldwide level giving bands like Architects the platform to pounce on arena spots that put them on the same playing field as billionaire popstar and open the floodgate for heavy music to enter conventional society like we’ve never seen. Playing huge arena shows such as Wembley sort of separates you from the ordinary, because it’s a lot easier to get 10 people in a room to see you perform than it is to get 10,000 people with another thousand who weren’t able to get tickets. It gives you this gateway of ascension, like an unspoken ranking as a band that certifies you as something more than just another rock band with two catchy hits.
“Arena shows act as a turning point for heavy metal bands and will act as the catalyst of change.”
However, the sweet succession to stardom can act as a double-edged sword when criticism begins to swarm in. You’d think the root of disdain for heavy music’s popularity would come from outside audiences but perhaps its most critical listener is the fans themselves. Often criticism for underground projects reaching further than the small collective comes in the idea that succession to a wider audience or change in sound equates to selling out. But despite the critical patter, it’s undeniable that crowded basement shows with people dangling from the ceiling, half the room wrapped in equipment, a merch table locked into a corner somewhere will always be at the core heart of heavy and underground music. No, huge cannons bursting flames whilst you play to thousands of isn’t exactly the humble beginnings of 05’ at The Cockpit in Leeds, but often we make the mistake of clinging too tightly on the refreshing nostalgic days that we pose a potential threat to the music if we hold it back from outgrowing its time.
Heavy music has finally reached a point where it’s newer generation can sell out arena shows, where bands become household names and we aren’t confined to just playing small gigs around the country. Arena shows act as a turning point for heavy metal bands and will act as the catalyst of change for pushing heavy music further onto a global level.