28 times the Mercury Prize got it wrong

Alternative Mercury Prize
(Image credit: 3rdeyedezine0 / Pixabay)

Every year we moan about the Mercury Prize nominations, and we should probably know better. 

We really shouldn't get upset. It's increasingly an awards show designed to signal the demise of an artist's career rather than their breakthrough. Anyone remember Speech Debelle? Exactly. 

Like Gorillaz said, when asking for their nomination to be discounted in 2001, the prize is "like carrying a dead albatross round your neck for eternity."

But moan we do. Every. Single. Year.

Partly it's because there's a party going on and we're not invited

Partly it's because metal doesn't even get a mention on the official entry information form ("The Prize is open to all types of music, including pop, rock, folk, urban, dance, jazz, blues, electronica, classical…"), and we'd like to know why. 

And partly it's because the exclusion of metal is a giant industry 'Fuck You!' to all the bands and artists the Mercury Panel has clearly chosen to ignore for the best part of three decades. 28 years of hurt. 

It's like they're not listening. It's like they don't get it. Worse, it's like they don't even fucking care.

Seriously. If Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath or Deep Purple or Thin Lizzy or Iron Maiden released their first album today, the Mercurys would ignore them. 

Just as they've ignored metal for 28 solid years. So Here are 28 British metal albums they could and should have included.

1992: Bolt Thrower – The IVth Crusade

As the title suggests, it’s the fourth album from the Coventry death metallers. Slowing down and dooming up their sound considerably, Bolt Thrower deliver crushing riffs through a Pentagram-shaped lens.

1993: Carcass – Heartwork

This is Carcass’ best album and there’s no arguing about that. A masterclass in melodic death metal from Bill Steer and Jeff Walker, the title track alone showcases just how savage a bunch of northerners can be.

1994: Therapy? – Troublegum

No, they're not a straight-up metal band, but they’re the only ‘heavy’ band to ever be nominated by the Mercury Prize. And they didn’t win, which is why this is listed as a mistake by Mercury.

1995: Paradise Lost – Draconian Times

A top 20 album and arguably Paradise Lost’s finest hour, the gothic overtones and gloomy passages show form the backbone of everything the band were and still are. 

1996: Cradle Of Filth – Dusk… And Her Embrace

Cradle Of Filth’s second album and one that put them on the path for extreme metal superstardom. Quickly gaining a cult following, Dani Filth and his cohorts found the magic formula for taking black metal to the masses.

1997: Orange Goblin – Frequencies From Planet Ten

The debut album from London’s favourite drunkards, Orange Goblin took their mix of stoner metal, Lemmy worship and psych-rock and turned it up to 11. It still hits hard.

1998: Pitchshifter – www.pitchshifter.com

Nottingham industrialists became overnight sensations in heavy and alternative music with their first major label release. The URL now belongs to a Japanese website about height worries, but this ‘98 record is a wonderful amalgam of industrial and proto nu-metal.

1999: Godflesh – Us And Them

It’s depressive, dense and dark, yet there’s something uplifting about the cold industrial world Justin Broadrick has created. Bringing in heavy drum ‘n’ bass influences, it only increased the anarchic, apocalyptic sound.

2000: Electric Wizard – Dopethrone

Riffs, do you like them? Dopethrone is Electric Wizard’s masterpiece and perhaps the finest example of stoner metal the United Kingdom has ever produced. Heavy as all hell and just as sinister.

2001: Akercocke – The Goat Of Mendes

The ‘Satanists in suits’ struck gold with their Peaceville debut The Goat Of Mendes, bringing the evil blackened death metal of London town to the UK at large.

2002: Raging Speedhorn – We Will Be Dead Tomorrow

The Corby sludgemonsters established themselves as a force to be reckoned with after years of solid touring and a top 40 single under their belts. This sophomore effort was just as riled up and aggressive from off with the aptly titled opener The Hate Song.

2003: Dragonforce – Valley Of The Damned

Before they became that band from Guitar Hero, Dragonforce were popularising power metal for a younger audience. Rapidfire fret-flailing and wailing vocals, it’s just a glimpse of the supersized anthems they would soon produce.

2004: Anaal Nathrakh – Domine Non Es Dignus

The second full-length release from Brummie extreme metallers Anaal Nathrakh features a credit to one Paul F for vomit, which should be all you need to know. It’s nasty stuff and a brutal, powerful display of 21st century black metal.

2005: Cathedral – A Garden Of Unearthly Delights

Doooooooom. Cathedral’s first album on Nuclear Blast might not be their most coherent, but it shows just how versatile and heavy Lee Dorrian and co. can be.

2006: Bullet For My Valentine – The Poison

The debut album from Bullet For My Valentine made them instant stars in the UK. Packing the infectious singles Tears Don’t Fall, 4 Words To Choke Upon and All These Things I Hate, they became heroes to teenagers everywhere.

2007: Primordial – To The Nameless Dead

Irish black metallers Primordial opted for a raw, harsh approach for their sixth LP, recording on all analogue equipment and only using the band’s first or second recordings. It’s the sound of a band at their most vulnerable and vicious.

2008: Motörhead – Motörizer

Not the best Motörhead album, but Motörhead don’t do bad albums. Reaching number two in the UK rock charts on your 19th album shouldn’t be sniffed at, and there’s a ton of fun from the likes of Runaround Man and Rock Out.

2009: Gallows – Grey Britain

A caustic take down of British society by one of the unsung voices in all of British music. It’s crazy that Grey Britain didn’t receive a Mercury nomination as it tells a cohesive story and weaves a vicious take down of establishments in biting punk fashion. 

2010: Devil Sold His Soul – Blessed & Cursed

Melding post-metal and metalcore was ambitious at the turn of the century, and Devil Sold His Soul were ahead of their time. Emotional and expansive, DSHS stood out amongst their post-hardcore peer group.

2011: Sylosis – Edge Of The Earth

Sylosis’ second album and the first time we heard Josh Middleton take up full-time vocal duty, the Reading progressive thrashers should be way more popular than they are, and this album proves it.

2012: While She Sleeps – This Is The Six

While She Sleeps’ debut album brought British metalcore to the forefront with its fiery, impassioned tales of Sheffield, their fans, love and war. Still as ferocious today as it was six years ago.

2013: Bring Me The Horizon – Sempiternal

The biggest oversight in Mercury history was the lack of a nomination for Bring Me The Horizon’s rager Sempiternal. Its use of electronics and polished production formed the blueprint for hundreds of bands around the world, and sent BMTH crashing into arenas worldwide.

2014: Marmozets – The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets

Leaving their mathier roots behind and signing to Roadrunner, Marmozets became masters of the chorus with The Weird And Wonderful. From the slower, melancholy of Hit The Wave to the bombastic Born Young And Free, this is the sound of the youth in Yorkshire having a great time.

2015: Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls

The mighty Maiden’s sixteenth album didn’t disappoint. At two discs and featuring their longest song to date with Empire Of The Clouds, it sees the band fully embrace their progressive side and show there’s still life in the old dogs yet.

2016: Architects – All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us

We didn’t think they could top Lost Forever // Lost Together, but Architects’ latest album is an aggressive, emotional exploration into darkness by the Brighton heavyweights. A non-stop cathartic bludgeoning from start to finish.

2017: Employed To Serve – The Warmth Of A Dying Sun

Exploring the concept of a quarter-life crisis, ETS’ second album brims with riffs and bile-fuelled screams that whip up circle pits wherever they go. The title track and I Spend My Days Wishing Them Away are bona fide new-age anthems.

2018: Rolo Tomassi – Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It

Mercury, you are just daft for missing this one off your list. The greatest music Rolo Tomassi have ever produced, diving into darkness and emerging the other side in glistening bliss, it’s experimental, romantic, hellacious and heavy. What more could you want from music?

2019: Puppy - Goat 

Oi! Mercury Idiots! This year we made it really easy for you: a metal album you might actually understand, with huge choruses pulled direct from the pages of the grunge playbook. Think The Posies. Think Nirvana. Think Ghost, who you'd be all over if they weren't from Sweden. Alternatively, don't bother. After all, you never do.  

2020: Loathe – I Let It Un And It Took Everything

Even those who haven’t heard them agree that Loathe are the most exciting British band in years – part of a vanguard of bands who draw influences from the past and shape it into something brand new, pushing metal’s boundaries forwards while they’re doing it. Their second album, I Let It in and It Took Everything, is a landmark-in-waiting and a shoe-in to appear on any clued-up end-of-year list. Have the Mercury panel acknowledged it? Of course they haven't. Not when there's a Dua Lipa record kicking around.

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