For millions around the world, no cultural event has caused more upheaval, frustration, and bafflement than the coronavirus epidemic. Over the course of a couple months, what started as a strange disease affecting specific countries became a global game-changer, altering everyday life as we know it. For the music industry, this came in the form of a complete revision of how things are done, specifically learning how to live without the bread and butter of traditional promotional tactics and live performances.
Make no mistake, every artist got screwed by COVID-19, its impact on our cultural landscape scuttling the plans of everyone from arena staples to extreme metal underground-dwellers. But for a handful of artists, the cancellation of 2020 hit especially hard. These bands and musicians are pretty major, so they’ll be fine in the long run–but they all had a massive year in the works, one in which they would redefine their careers; losing the ability to appear publicly and perform live pulled the rug out from under them so rudely that it was difficult to behold.
Here are 10 artists who got screwed extra hard by COVID-19…
No band had 2020 collapse on them quite like Mötley Crüe. 2019 saw the glam metal titans announcing their return to the stage due to the massive popularity of their Netflix biopic The Dirt. In order to make this happen, the Crüe’s four members had to renege on the contract they signed at the end of their enormous reunion tour, which they did in grand fashion by literally blowing it up. The whole enterprise felt theatrical, driven by the momentum of the band’s newfound cinematic fame…and then, the whole world went indoors, and, after waiting it out for what seemed like forever, the Crüe had to postpone their dates. The sudden inertia was a huge bummer, and took one of the more exciting reunion tours of 2020 away from both its performers and their fanbases. Hopefully, hearts can be kickstarted in 2021.
My Chemical Romance
The return of emo-punk legends My Chemical Romance was THE story of 2019, with the band’s California comeback date in December of last year revealing not only their continued sonic prowess but also a legion of diehard fans within rock and metal that some people probably didn’t know MCR had. 2020 was, of course, supposed to be where the Newark quartet officially hit the road with a full-on reunion tour–which, of course, didn’t happen due to coronavirus. While the massive response to their initial announcement shows that MCR’s fans are happy to wait another year, the sudden change from Best Year Ever to See You Next Year for My Chem was undoubtedly a bummer.
2019 saw Kentucky hardcore up-and-comers Knocked Loose release A Different Shade of Blue, their most exciting and punishing album to date. The obvious next step would be for the Louisville five-piece to hit the road and spend all of 2020 bringing their uniquely brutal live show to the masses. As you can imagine, this became problematic when every venue in the world got closed down. That said, while Knocked Loose had what would have undoubtedly been a huge year taken from them, the band’s track record of perseverance shows that no matter what happens, their riffs will be rattling our teeth in the near future.
Rage Against The Machine
Only as recently as February, the Internet was blowing up at the announcement of Rage Against The Machine’s North American and European tour dates alongside Run The Jewels. With the Trump presidency reaching a new pitch of lunacy and the world beginning to worry about this disease hitting China and Italy, it felt like the perfect moment for rap-metal’s finest to read a chapter out of the Book of Revolution. Unfortunately, COVID’s immediately dissolution of all live music meant that RATM’s huge return to form had to wait. However, one look at the streets of Portland and New York shows that Rage’s message is still alive and kicking, and will be well-received whenever they get the chance to hit the road.
It’s not that Grey Daze had massive globe-trotting plans that got canceled in 2020. Technically, Chester Bennington’s first band were still free to do what they set out to do pre-coronavirus: rerelease revamped classics featuring early recordings of the fallen Linkin Park vocalist. But not only did COVID-19 take a terrible toll on the world, but it’s also been the only thing anyone has talked about since March. Last year, Chester’s earliest project rising from the dead was a huge story, but now the band’s achievement, and the work they’re doing with Talinda Bennington, is only part of the news. A crying shame.
Lamb of God
Damn it, coronavirus, how’re you gonna show up the same year as Lamb of God release what might have been a breakthrough album? The Virginia five-piece’s self-titled new record dropped in June, and featured what many thought was a perfect sonic middle ground, maintaining their signature burliness while making their songs more evenly structured and listenable. Not only that, but a new Lamb of God album always comes with Lamb of God shows, which only help cement the band as one of metal’s best live acts of all time. Instead, with COVID-19 dominating the modern psyche and closing every venue, Lamb of God were dealt the short straw at a pivotal moment in their careers. Nice going, world.
Let’s be perfectly clear: Hayley Williams’ debut solo album Petals for Armor was a success, landing hard in many critics’ mid-year Best Of 2020 lists. But in the world of the coronavirus, there isn’t the same room for the kind of promotion that would’ve made this the year your grandma knows Hayley’s name. Williams is a huge public figure and a friend of Taylor Swift–with this album, she should’ve been on every red carpet and talk show. An example of how even success stories during COVID are inherently colored by the sickness.
In 2019, British goth-punk crew Creeper returned in pretty spectacular fashion. The London-based sextet stirred up a black cloud of hype and symbolism, leading up to this year’s Sex, Death & The Infinite Void. But like many bands in 2020, the promotional gauntlet for that album was spent discussing masks and social distancing protocol, meaning that the record itself–finally dropped last Friday–didn’t quite have the umph that their initial return to the limelight did (not to mention the band’s inability to take their enthralling live show around the world). Disheartening to say the least, as these guys have to potential to bring shadowy rock back into the sunlit world. We’re sure they’ll do eventually–after all, what’s one year to a gang of vampires?
System Of A Down
From the get-go, System Of A Down‘s 2020 live dates felt like a fragile house of cards, precarious and ready to collapse at the slightest provocation from one of the band’s outspoken members. Obviously, the coronavirus toppled it pretty deftly, as it did with all other live events. But now, with the date for potentially reinstating concerts moving further and further out, and the band members’ deeply polar political views emerging in the public, one wonders if SOAD live will happen, or be the same, ever again. Damn it, and we wanted to see “Aerials.”
2020 dicked Enter Shikari up and down in one vital way: the lack of gigs. The British hard rock quartet are the kind of live powerhouse that leaves headliners rubbing their foreheads and turns casual attendees into rabid fans. Not only that, but April saw Shikari drop Nothing is True & Everything is Possible, their most ambitious, unorthodox, and riveting record to date–an album that they can now, at most, play in a livestream. That big reunion tours aren’t possible sucks, but that a band as hungry and powerful as this one can’t punch the world’s trachea in 2020? We’ve been robbed.
Words by Chris Krovatin