This year’s nominees for Best Metal Performance at the Grammy Awards sees a smattering of exciting metal genre artists and one that flirts with the genre vying for the trophy. Typically, the category is filled with artists that are household names that transcent metal fans and beyond. This year, the Grammy committee has been more discerning and chosen to nominate lesser-known artists who are beloved in the metal community.
The Grammys have been awarding Best Metal Performance since the 1990 ceremony, in which Metallica took home the honors. Since then, we’ve seen a string of amazing metal performers take home the award, including Nine Inch Nails, Mastodon, and Rage Against the Machine. Who will join the golden list this year?
Each of the five nominees this year presents a solid case for why they should take home the trophy. Only one can reign supreme. Let’s unpack the nominees.
Swedish doom metal act Candlemass are nominated for single “Astorolus – The Great Octopus” featuring founding Black Sabbath lead guitarist Tony Iommi. Featuring a metal legend such as Iommi on their track was definitely a wise choice, and that alone could land Candlemass a win.
Candlemass, surprisingly, have never been nominated for a Grammy until now. With a dozen albums to their illustrious credit, the band has also seen just as many band member incarnations. The group’s lineup has changed so many times over the years, but they’ve stuck it out and their resilience has resonated with the Grammys at last.
On paper, it would seem curious for American rock outfit Tool to be nominated for a metal award. Surely there are groups out there who are “more metal” than Tool, right? Their track “7empest”, from recent studio album Fear Inoculum, is certainly the least blatantly metal choice of the nominees. But don’t count Tool out just yet. Despite leaning more into the prog rock category than metal itself, the band actually has a decorated history in this category.
Tool’s “Schism” won Best Metal Performance at the 2002 Grammys, shutting out an incredible list of contenders including Black Sabbath, Slayer, and Slipknot. Heck, the group even managed to sneak out a win over the very popular “Chop Suey!” by System of a Down that year.
Tool has always experimented under the metal umbrella without forcing themselves to be confined to any specific genre. That detail never kept them from winning this Grammy category before and wouldn’t necessarily disqualify them from this year either.
Their chances are pretty good considering they’re the most recognizable name of the bunch according to SportsBettingDime.com. Consider too that the Grammy committee can have a tendency to go for well known artists over critical darlings and that would put Tool in the lead. Their presence is known to music fans across the board, even to those who don’t listen to hard rock or metal necessarily.
California thrash metal band Death Angel is also up for this award for “Humanicide”, the title track off their ninth studio album. Death Angel are nothing short of prolific, with a career that started back in 1982. Death Angel have been doing their thing for quite a while and it’s nice to see them finally be recognized by such a big force in the music industry.
Despite their rich catalogue, they’ve never been nominated for any Grammys before. Truly, this really does seem to be the year the Grammys have searched beyond their usual scope for intriguing and lesser looked at nominees in many categories, and Metal Performance is no different.
In terms of newer artists, Michigan metalcore group I Prevail are present in this category with single “Bow Down” from sophomore album Trauma. That album also sees a nomination this year in the Best Rock Album category. Typically artists who see multiple nominations are awarded over those who only see one nomination.
Finally, Killswitch Engage round out the nominations with “Unleashed”. Will third time be the charm? The Westfield, Massachusetts metalcore group has been nominated twice in this category, in 2004 and 2013. They lost out to big artists both times: Motörhead and Black Sabbath, respectively. Without those or similar names present this time around, Killswitch has a much stronger chance of taking the award home.
With everything going on in this category, it’s most plausible to imagine Tool taking the award home. Their return to the business this year has been big news and excited many. After being away for so long, they’re likely to be rewarded with a Grammy for coming back.