Bring Me Horizon Mercury Music Award
Bring Me Horizon scowl at the Mercury Music Award

Fear Of Rock- why have the Mercury Music awards routinely ignored metal? There is no excuse this year with breakout British metal band Bring Me The Horizon being left out.


Bring Me Horizon Mercury Music Award
Bring Me Horizon scowl at the Mercury Music Award

What is it with the Mercury Awards? there’s always a feeling that something is missing. A lot of things.

There’s nothing wrong with the list, plenty of good stuff in there but from a very narrow niche – suburban music, good taste music.

There is a Fear Of Rock.

A terror of the sonically alive, and it’s been going on for some time in the mainstream.

This is underlined by the Mercury Music nominations. Whilst individually most of the music in the list is ok – all lumped together it’s, as someone astutely pointed out on a debate on Louder Than War, ”Ëœthe new boring’.

Somehow they forget to include the dark and very heavy Sheffield based metal band Bring Me The Horizon in the list of nominees.

This is more than an oversight. Bring Me The Horizon are breaking out huge. Their Youtube page has up to 20 million hits just for one video. They represent the biggest alternative culture in the UK and they should be in the list. Their last album was number one in Australia and a top 20 album in both the UK and the USA. This fact should be recognised and celebrated. Why are they excluded? Why are they being denied all the attendant media overkill? Is there some cultural editing going on here?


It’s all a bit, well, nice, a bit tame. It is like if the Mercury Music awards had existed in the middle of punk they would have chosen Fleetwood Mac, Yes, and Fairport Convention and all punk and post punk had been roundly ignored. It’s like if it had been around in the fifties and trad jazz would have been the choice and rock n roll been roundly ignored. The Mercury Music Awards are strange anyway – good taste for the chattering classes decided by a panel of judges and given an amazing amount of media coverage – even more than Glastonbury!

The BBC’s excellent coverage of Glastonbury is great but what about Sonisphere? Barely mentioned anywhere on the TV or attendant websites – why? The biggest bands in the world were playing there! The same happened last year when AC/DC – who have the second best selling album of all time after Michael Jackson and way ahead of the Beatles were totally ignored whilst a middle ranking indie band who sell about 10 000 albums get all over the TV by playing Glastonbury and are constantly lauded in the press and then given the full Mercury treatment. This has to change. We can’t keep having the story of music rewritten for the sake of ”Ëœgood taste’.

Alternative radio is just not alternative – how much rock music do you hear on XFM and 6music? Both stations have excellent coverage of indie music but rarely stray beyond this. I know bands who have been told that their music is ”Ëœtoo noisy’ for XFM! But XFM’s remit is alternative radio – so what is this alternative? Mainly bland indie music – indie which now means watered down jangly guitars on a major label – hardly independent; independent of what?

The cutting edge of music in 2011 occurs at the fringes of metal – black metal has morphed into folk and dubstep and electro creating new ways of listening to music – most indie is trapped in set style; this is also unreported and denied. Why?


Why are bands like System Of A Down or Rammstein (both bands who sell 20 000 tickets for a gig in Manchester – far more than the Strokes ever could) denied any radio of press? Is all the mainstream media in the hands of elder indie kids?

It’s not that it matters about winning a Mercury award. Awards are for gold club lovers! But it’s the mass attendant coverage that is crucial.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. It’s typical of the modern music industry.They just want the public to hear ” safe ” music that will shift loads of copies.

  2. Well in that case why didn’t they nominate Take That’s “The Circus”, wasn’t that the biggest selling British album of the year by a considerable distance? I think this list is more like an industry adman’s idea of “cool” music, ie; music that they imagine the “kids” are listening to, whilst at the same time shying away from anything avant garde or heavy in order to appease the grinning fat cats who devised the ceremony in the first place. Or something along those lines anyway…

  3. Just been informed that Take That’s last album was actually NOT called “The Circus”, and also that it was actually released in November last year. Bugger. However, I think I can safely say it wouldn’t have been nominated anyway for not being “cool” enough, despite making the industry more money than most of this year’s nominees. Hope I’m right this time round…

  4. I can’t believe that metal is ignored so much by the industry, in particular The Mercury Prize. It continues to produce some of the most inventive music around. Bring Me The Horizon, definitely and in 2011, a debut from a progressive Death metal band, Talanas, that will surely become a classic of the genre.


    We really need to be bringing attention to home grown bands of this quality.

  5. Here’s another thought. With respect to the Mercury list, it’s not just metal.

    Where the fuck are Mogwai? One of Britain’s most enduringly popular bands released their seventh studio album at the start of 2011, to critical acclaim and sufficient popularity to fill Academy-sized venues on the associated tour.

    At first this question may look like the usual fan-whinge you get every year “bleat bleat my fave band didn’t get nominated” – but like John’s citing of Bring Me The Horizon, it’s less about the specific band but more the tip of a bigger iceberg. OK, another one: why have 65daysofstatic never been nominated? (no eligible albums this year, but should have been in last year’s). And with respect to the 2011 list, what about Gold Panda (who was actually tipped in some quarters, but didn’t make it) or Rival Consoles? What about the amazing debut from Y Niwl?

    And more to the point, what do a blisteringly loud band from Sheffield have in common with a bloke who makes intricate music alone in his home studio or four kids from Wales playing surf-pop? I’ll tell you – aside from The Token Jazz One (or classical, back in the 90s), where such things are permitted, the Mercury hardly ever recognises albums without singing on.

    Thus with one fell swoop they deny the existence of pretty much all music that falls under the (admittedly wide, but then so are “metal” and “indie”) areas of “post-rock” and “electronica”. The last non-jazz record without singing on to get a nomination was Burial’s “Untrue”, before that you’d have to look back to Lemon Jelly in 2003. The entire lengthy careers of such great British talents as Orbital and Autechre never existed in Mercury land.

    I do not consider my music taste to be particularly obscure or inaccessible, but looking back at my own “albums of the year” lists for the past few years there’s always a few non-vocal albums. Obviously some of them aren’t British, but many are: last year I put the Mercury omission of Fuck Buttons’ excellent “Tarot Sport” (an album which received across-the-board good reviews) down to what I call “electrophobia” (trad/lad/dad-rockers’ fear of and prejudice against music made with silicon chips instead of guitars, still depressingly commonplace) – and I still believe there is a certain element of that, but it seems the Mercury establishment is actually even more conservative than I’d thought: if you can’t sing along to it, they’re not interested.

    • “last year I put the Mercury omission of Fuck Buttons\’ excellent “Tarot Sport” (an album which received across-the-board good reviews) down to what I call “electrophobia””

      The reason is a bit more boring – Fuck Buttons didn’t put it forward for nomination. It’s still one of my favourite records of the past couple of years. I honestly believe it would have stood a good chance of being nominated considering the number of end-of-year polls it resided in.

  6. Surprised, but thanks for clearing that up… and then I thought, well they’re on ATP’s own label aren’t they – maybe, like many smaller labels, the promotional budget just didn’t stretch to the several hundred hard copies of the album etc required to submit. I forget exactly what the requirement is but when someone told me a few years back I was shocked. In which case, could it be that metal bands (or their labels) also decide not to put their albums forward, simply because they see it as “not for them”? Especially in the cases of bands – Bring Me The Horizon would be a prime example – who release on independents without big label backing.

    A major label will automatically submit all its name releases for the Mercury, and an independent label releasing radio-friendly guitar music or hipster-friendly cool stuff might also as they think there’s a chance for it, a small (in the grand scheme of things) metal label such as Visible Noise might not bother.

  7. “They represent the biggest alternative culture in the UK and they should be in the list”…surely this contradicts itself John – if they were on the list, what would they be “alternative” to?

    personally, they sound as blandly mainstream to me as the other nominees, but that’s not the point.

    Music awards are intrinsically shit as music is inherently non-competitive. I have every respect for the likes of Nick Cave and Sinéad O’Connor who have been nominated for such awards in the past but insisted their nominations were removed.

    Awards are nonsense…best record of 1988 for example? – Def Leppard’s “Hysteria”, The Membranes’ “Kiss Ass Godhead”, Public Enemy’s “Nation of Millions”, Sonic Youth’s “Daydream Nation”… which one got the awards?

    fuck awards…. music is not sport.

  8. […] Music prize in 1977? 1977 was the year of punk and the year of disco- plenty of options for the Mercury Awards…if they could go back in […]

  9. […] of \’rock\’ music here at LTW, serious discussion questioning why The Mercury Prize chooses to ignore the entire genre, and also more lighthearted fun from our kitchen guru Vegan Black Metal Chef – as such I thought […]

  10. […] has always been far too conservative to embrace guitar music apart a sometime nod to indie music. Bring me The Horizon had a top 20 album in America but were not considered for the Mercury Awards and it’s the […]

  11. Mind telling me what is ‘alternative’ nowadays? In the name of 2013 rock, I consider alternative to be- and isn’t this slightly ironic- the old school style of ’70s and early ’80s rock. I can’t call ‘alt rock’ alternative because it’s mainstream, and what was mainstream back then is now technically alternative (so Wolfmother IS an alternative rock band).

    More on subject… Metal has always been overlooked. It’s just a natural facet of the genre- those who don’t “get it” aren’t liable to glamourize it. Oh yeah, they may have an Enter Sandman here and a The Trooper there and maybe even an Iron Man hidden around there, but it’s not meant to be pop. That’s metal’s claim. It’s not pop music- it’s heavy metal. It really can’t be anything else but, and if it does- look at the metal charts in 1989. Cinderella, Poison, Warrant??! Ok, go ten years later, 1999. Limp Bizkit, Korn??! None of these are necessarily bad bands (not even Poison), but they don’t exactly exemplify metal’s true self. They’re more for the pop fan who wants to put metal on their iPod just to maximize their genre list.
    If Radio 1 won’t put any metal bands on its tracklisting because they’re wannabe hipsters, then so be it. That actually makes me happier to be a metal fan.


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