Thanks to the pandemic The Grammys have been pushed back from their usual February ceremony to early April. And that coincidence gave me an idea.
The Grammys has been recognising metal and hard rock since 1989, though rarely does the award make the televised ceremony anymore. The award itself has a complicated timeline, having been originally combined as Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental, before being separated into Best Metal Performance and Best Hard Rock Performance in 1990. They briefly merged again in 2012 and 2013 before the Best Metal Performance returned in 2014 and hard rock music was considered under Best Rock Performance. Got all that?
So little consideration is given to the award that there’s been a number of recipients that move beyond head-scratching to downright funny when you accept that the voters don’t know the songs nominated. All you can do is laugh at the cluelessness on display. It really does read like an April Fools joke at times, especially when you see some of the other nominations. None of the tracks listed below are bad, and they included some of the industry’s biggest names, but all of them show a lack of care for what millions of fans and bands see as an important mainstream recognition.
And the winners are:
# 1 – Jethro Tull – Crest of a Knave
1989 Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental
- AC/DC – Blow Up Your Video
- Iggy Pop – ‘Cold Metal’
- Jane’s Addiction – Nothing’s Shocking
- Metallica – …And Justice for All
Yeah, so it started with one of the more infamous Grammy snubs of all time. An award introduced to recognise a band like Metallica was given to progressive folk-rock band, Jethro Tull. Yes, Crest of a Knave is (by Tull standards) a hard rock album, but few would’ve thought their sound fit alongside the other nominees. Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson thought they were no chance and didn’t even show up at the ceremony. Metallica on the other hand had just performed ‘One’ live for the audience. The controversy was enough that the award was split to recognise Hard Rock and Metal separately, making Tull the only winners of this specific award.
Should have been: Nothing’s Shocking would’ve been a worthy winner and might’ve kicked started the alt-rock scene prior to the Seattle breakout. But really, this was Metallica’s to win (and they’d win the first Best Metal Performance the next year).
#2 – Metallica – ‘Better Than You’
1999 Best Metal Performance
- Judas Priest – ‘Bullet Train’
- Nashville Pussy – ‘Fried Chicken and Coffee’
- Rage Against the Machine – ‘No Shelter’
- Rammstein – ‘Du Hast’
Probably the best example of a winner selected by name recognition. ‘Better Than You’ was released on the 1997 album ReLoad and wasn’t even one of the three singles released from that album. It’s not even in the best five songs on what is considered the lesser of the two Load albums and there’s no indication the band is a fan of it. They’ve never even played it live. ‘Fuel’, Reload’s third single, was actually nominated for Best Hard Rock Performance the same year.
Should have been: Rammstein’s breakthrough song was cutting edge at the time and would launch them to bigger heights later in the year when it was included on The Matrix soundtrack.
#3 – Motörhead – ‘Whiplash’
2005 Best Metal Performance
- Cradle of Filth – ‘Nymphetamine (Overdose)’ (featuring Liv Kristine)
- Hatebreed – ‘Live for This’
- Killswitch Engage – ‘The End of Heartache’
- Slipknot – ‘Vermilion’
Motörhead inspired Metallica in the early 80s and have covered them twice in return. In fact both their covers have been Grammy nominated (‘Enter Sandman’ in 2000), with ‘Whiplash’ winning in 2005. No issue with the cover, it’s killer, but look at those other nominees. Considering this cover was released on a relatively obscure tribute album, it had no business being classed against those other four. Sadly it was Motörhead’s first win too, which says more about the voters than anything else.
Should’ve been: Killswitch Engage broke big with ‘The End of Heartache’, but the Grammys rarely gets it right when the act is hottest.
#4 – Slayer – ‘Final Six’
2008 Best Metal Performance
- As I Lay Dying – ‘Nothing Left’
- King Diamond – ‘Never Ending Hill’
- Machine Head – ‘Aesthetics of Hate’
- Shadows Fall – ‘Redemption’
Ever heard of ‘Final Six’? I don’t blame you if you haven’t, given it was a bonus track on deluxe reissues of Christ Illusion (and the Punisher: War Zone soundtrack) that is now long out of print and unavailable on streaming. Another winner on name recognition, made all the more strange by the fact they got their maiden Grammy win the year before for a song on the album’s original edition.
Should’ve been: Machine Head’s defense of Dimebag was not only a call to arms for fans but a great single from their manga opus, The Blackening.
#5 – Tenacious D – ‘The Last in Line’
2015 Best Metal Performance
- Anthrax – ‘Neon Knights’
- Mastodon – ‘High Road’
- Motörhead – ‘Heartbreaker’
- Slipknot – ‘The Negative One’
I bloody love Tenacious D. And Dio. And to be honest, Jack Black and Kyle Gass covering Dio is alright by me. But the best metal performance? Sorry fellas. They even replaced the guitar with a recorder solo. Clearly someone liked the Dio Tribute album, since Anthrax’s Black Sabbath cover is from the same disc. By comparison, Ronnie James Dio himself or his bands were never nominated for a Grammy.
Should’ve been: Mastodon hadn’t won yet (they did in 2018 for ‘Sultan’s Curse’) and had a number of tracks from their critically acclaimed albums that would’ve been worthy winners. ‘High Road’ is less prog and more banger than their earlier work, perfect for a mainstream Grammy win.
The Best Metal Performance winners haven’t been all bad though. You can check out most of the past winners in the playlist below! The latest nominees are actually a great field with hardly a joke candidate in sight, despite the ceremony being pushed back to April.
This year’s nominees are:
- Deftones – ‘Genesis’
- Dream Theater – ‘The Alien’
- Gojira – ‘Amazonia’
- Mastodon – ‘Pushing The Tides’
- Rob Zombie – ‘The Triumph Of King Freak (A Crypt Of Preservation And Superstition)’
The 2022 Grammy Awards take place April 4th, 2022 (Monday Australian time, Sunday USA time). The Best Metal Performance Award won’t be broadcast live on TV so you can tune into Wall of Sound to find out the winner.
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