The past 12 months have been amazing for metal – and yet we still don’t get a Mercury Prize nomination

Well, here we are again. Another year the Mercury Prize nominations are announced, another year we frantically Google the bands to try and sound cool on Twitter by saying we’re fans of the most obscure. 

And another year that heavy music has failed to be represented in any way. 

The people at Mercury seem to have gotten over their boner for grime by nominating almost exclusively rock bands, but metal is still nowhere to be seen. 

Now, this isn’t a whine about the mainstream not accepting heavy metal because let’s face it, that’s never actually going to happen. You won’t see Slipknot on TFI Friday again and you won’t see Limp Bizkit get a number one album again - but the Mercury isn’t supposed to be the mainstream. It was originally a counter to stuffy old Brit awards that focus solely on pop and remembering the legacies of tired old men. The Mercuries should be about what’s new, what’s happening right now in alternative music, and the past 12 months have been some of the most exciting for British metal in a long time.

Rolo Tomassi released a career-best with the ethereal yet violent Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It (and is the highest rated album of the year according to reviews aggregator MetaCritic). Svalbard’s untamed blackened hardcore on It’s Hard To Have Hope was a venomous call to arms, redefining what it means to be a feminist and liberal in 2018. Conjurer’s savage riff worship and post-metal warcry on Mire redefined what it means to be heavy. Judas Priest unleashed their best album in years with Firepower, packing in more fist-pumping choruses than most bands manage in a lifetime. 

In fact, it’s frankly baffling that Marmozets didn’t get a nod from the Mercury bods this year. Their long-awaited second album Knowing What You Know Now left their ‘heavier’ roots behind in favour of more accessible, bombastic and infectious rock ‘n’ roll. It also made it to #23 in the UK album charts, the same as King Krule who was actually nominated. 

So what does it take for metal (or even heavy) bands to get noticed? The UK has been firing on all cylinders in the world of heavy music for years, and the past 12-18 months have been ludicrous. Gigs are packed with hundreds and thousands of adoring fans, festivals are full of new and exciting heavy bands, and for years Spotify has been telling us how popular metal is as a genre. But we’re being overlooked again and again, despite writing objectively more creative, vital and interesting music than the smorgasbord of inane guitar waffle currently vying for this year’s Mercury Prize.

Of course, this isn’t a new thing. In fact, since the Mercury Prize started in 1992, there have been ZERO metal albums nominated. The closest we’ve had was a nomination for The Prodigy's Music For The Jilted Generation or Troublegum by Therapy? in 1994, neither of which are metal bands. Bring Me The Horizon have never even been nominated, and Sempiternal shook mainstream rock music to its core. 

So what do we have to do, Mr Mercury Prize? What are you looking for that the world of metal and heavy music isn’t offering? It’s emotional, it captures the zeitgeist, it's provocative and it's different to the status quo. So what if there’s a bit of screaming or a guitar solo, music is music, and there is more artistic integrity in the latest album from Bury Tomorrow than whatever Noel Gallagher has crapped out this time.

What are you looking for? Or are you just not looking at metal at all?

Luke Morton joined Metal Hammer as Online Editor in 2014, having previously worked as News Editor at popular (but now sadly defunct) alternative lifestyle magazine, Front. As well as helming the Metal Hammer website for the four years that followed, Luke also helped relaunch the Metal Hammer podcast in early 2018, producing, scripting and presenting the relaunched show during its early days. He also wrote regular features for the magazine, including a 2018 cover feature for his very favourite band in the world, Slipknot, discussing their turbulent 2008 album, All Hope Is Gone.