The Changing Face of Heavy MetalSabbath/Solo Frontman - Some only know him as the vocalist for "Iron Man" and
Ask a bunch of real metalheads, the ones who can't go a day without some power coming out
of their speakers, who the face of their favorite music is--the person who comes to mind
when you say "Heavy Metal" and you will probably get a different set of answers
based on who they are, what they listen to and the generation they came from.
Robert Plant, Ronnie Dio, Dimebag Darrell, Bruce Dickinson,
James Hetfield, Rob Halford, Marilyn Manson, Alice Cooper, Angus Young
Opinionwise, all are valid answers at any given time in Metal's 35+ year history, but the
name I believe that would be spoken most often by the average person on the street
A 56 year old man!
Let's look quickly at how the image of metal has changed over the years to the more
In the early 70's, metal was Rock 'n Roll's long-haired, retarded kid brother and
dominated by two bands--Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. The former had a wide range of
music, but the press mostly sold the wild and hedonistic lifestyle. For Sabbath, it was
the dark, ominous and the occult which gave them reputation. Then along came Alice Cooper
and KISS who added great showmanship and flair, yet continued with horror themes. Judas
Priest brought in the leather and power; Motorhead the grime. Iron Maiden lent fuel to the
anti-metal crusaders with artistic, albiet misunderdstood, uses of devilish imagery.
The early 80's saw Ozzy become notorious as a moon-howler and bat-biter, but the newer
groups were younger and MTV took pleasure in selling the decadence of the hair bands with
their emphasis on sex, drugs and partying. Power, Thrash and Death bands rose to
prominence and expanded the scene, but were more-or-less seen as dirty, unwashed, younger
versions of Sabbath.
The 90's saw angst and detachement from Nirvana and the Grunge bands while Marilyn Manson
sold himself as the Antichrist Superstar. For the new Millenium, Ozzfest and Nu metal were
So, Ozzy has given us a facial reference point for four decades! Those deep within the style know
that popularity isn't an indicator of greatness, but what kind of face is Ozzy providing
as a defacto representative?
TV Celebrity/Whore - It may have only been on MTV, but "The Osbournes"
generated enough press for them to be America's favorite dysfunctional
family and got Ozzy spoken to by the President of the U.S.
Bumbling-Stumbling Fool - Who can't forget the moment when Ozzy fell back in his chair
and crashed to floor or the times when he shuffles across his mansion floor uttering
Horror Parody - In the 70's and 80's Ozzy had a wild, well-deserved reputation but
now when he calls himself the "Prince of Darkness", nobody
takes him seriously.
Financial Incompetent - Would Ozzy have made it without his wife Sharon? It's pretty
clear that she controls the purse strings in the family.
Rich Bastard - OzzFest has consistently been one of the highest grossing tours per year
since it started with take home estimates in the millions.
Recovering Alcoholic/Drug user - He said recently that he has been clean of drugs and
alcohol for a year and a half now, and that he's never felt better. If so, good for him.
But is Ozzy the depiction we want for Heavy Metal and has it ever really had an extremely
popular visual agent who symbolizes the genre in a fairly positive light to the non-metal
masses? Does metal even need a positive figurehead?
I'm not saying to replace Ozzy or his legacy. I'm just wondering, who can young people and
the general public look up to today that will give metal a more positive image? Who could
the metal community push into the spotlight as a rep for our cause that doesn't make us
look bad and help to change the persona we have pretty much always had as the ugly,
out-of-control son of R&R?
Recent rumors went around that Ozzy had plastic surgery, i.e. a facelift, done to look
younger. Maybe it's time to give the entire scene a change of face. If we decide it needs
it, who could we appoint as The Statesman:
James Hetfield--sober, becoming elder, some negative alcoholic past.
Dio--nice guy but as old as Ozzy.
Eddie Van Halen--off the wagon appearently.
David Lee Roth--an island unto himself.
Tony Iommi--not in the spotlight.
Gene Simmons--way too self-promoting.
Bruce Dickinson--bit of a loose cannon.
Phil Anselmo--too outspoken
Dave Mustaine--no so respected in the industry.
Ted Nugent--too controversial
Brett Michaels--not metal enough.
Tommy Lee/Nikki Sixx--too wild.
Axl Rose--too flaked-out.
Lars Ulrich--after Napster, hell no.
My main choice would be--Rob Halford. He's not too old, he's respected,
he's a dignified speaker and he's certainly an elder in the style. Rob, of course, will
get dogged by the more conservative for his sexuallity, but without the political
terminology, metal has always been pushing the forefront of music and instrumental
innovation moreso than ideologies. Halford is a Metal God. in high standing.
My dark horse candidate--Scott Ian who has been the backbone of Anthrax
for 20 years, doesn't suffer from negative press and who seems to be a damn funny guy.
Let us know who you think it should be and why in a coherent few sentences and we'll use
your responses in a later column.
Other Maximum Metal Columns
<< back >>