Once again, predictably, the ARIA Awards have failed the nominees and winners of its minor categories. After nine years of awards for Best Heavy Metal or Hard Rock Album and nine years of basically ignoring it, that should come as no surprise.
Paul Brown from Wall of Sound immediately took the ARIAs to task with his op ed the next day, targeting the mere six seconds of airtime devoted to Parkway Drive winning their category this year ahead of DZ Deathrays, Polaris, King Parrot and West Thebarton. Like us, Wall of Sound focuses on the heavier end of the spectrum so that’s where Browny’s allegiances obviously lie, but his criticism of the ARIAs only scratches the surface. The ARIA Awards were established to annually “recognise excellence and innovation in all genres of Australian music” – their words, not ours – and so has been their mantra since Elton John hosted the first one back in 1987.
For all of ARIA’s talk of recognition, however, where is said recognition for artists like Peter Black, a 35 year veteran who spent 2016 releasing a new song every single day while also performing in two bands? Like Parkway Drive, Blackie’s band the Hard Ons are both a hugely influential band and one to have succeeded on their own terms, without and in spite of music industry machinations. Everyone knows who they are, they pack out shows whenever they play and they’re held in a kind of reverence by fans and other artists alike, and yet they have never even been nominated for an ARIA Award – where exactly is this recognition the Association speaks of?
ARIA can’t even help insulting the artists they seem to care about.
When one of the country’s greatest songwriters, Nick Cave, was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2007, his band the Bad Seeds weren’t included in the nomination because three of its members were from other countries and therefore the group couldn’t be considered Australian. It begged the question, why not just induct the Australian members of the band (which Cave did personally during his acceptance speech)? According to Wikipedia, the ARIA Hall of Fame is “to honour [those] who have influenced music culture in Australia”, so ARIA’s argument that the Bad Seeds weren’t “Australian” enough is a joke, especially when one looks at the heritage of many of the artists already in the Hall of Fame: two of the guys from AC/DC, for example, have never lived in Australia and the only Australian member of Split Enz – only ever nominally from this country anyway – was Paul Hester. (If you want to see who else has been made a Hall of Famer and argue about that, here’s a list.)
How many others have they indirectly insulted with poor decisions?
Deservedly, Parkway Drive collected their second ARIA Award this year, for Reverence, and at least Ben Gordon was afforded the opportunity to make an acceptance speech, even if it wasn’t televised and only posted on Twitter later. Parkway Drive won their first ARIA (for Deep Blue) in 2010. It was the year the Best Hard Rock or Heavy Metal Album category was instituted and the band was on tour in Europe at the time. The award wasn’t even presented during the main ceremony and was barely mentioned on the famously terrible TV broadcast from the steps of the Sydney Opera House, during which 18-time ARIA winners Powderfinger were hurriedly ushered off stage almost before they’d had time to finish the night’s opening performance, and Bob Katter was there for some reason.
Parkway’s snubbing and the lip-service the category they were awarded for isn’t just an insult to them and the fans of Australian metal and heavy music, it’s downright embarrassing for ARIA. Metal and its satellite genres has never been more popular in Australia than it is at this moment. Parkway Drive aren’t just the biggest metal band this country has ever produced, they are arguably the biggest Australian band of any kind right now. They are a band on the brink of true global stardom. They should be getting nominated for the major awards, like Best Group or Album of the Year, not shunted out to a sub-category for artists the industry doesn’t care about. But a band playing the sort of music you’ll never hear piped into Coles, who are essentially still surf punks at heart, who play to their own rules and continue to surge in popularity in spite of every industry expectation for such a band, is never going to fit into a self-congratulatory, glad-handing fashion show like the ARIA Awards. Because Parkway Drive is keeping real, something the ARIAs have long ago forgotten.