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How Metal Is Your City?

You won't believe which city tops the list (seriously, it's a shocker).

According to Encyclopaedia Metallum, an online database containing 109,666 heavy metal bands worldwide, the US has 22,983. This works out to about 72 bands per million residents. Are there some areas of the country with a higher concentration than others? Inspired by Jakub Marian's map of metal bands per capita in Europe, I sought to find out. According to my analysis of Encyclopaedia Metallum's data, the state with highest amount of bands (active and inactive) per million residents is Oregon with 146, which is unsurprising given Portland's well-known prominence. Mississippi has the least with 17, again not surprising.


At the city level, the variation is far greater, with some interesting findings. By employing the same metric that was used to come up with state and country level data, the city with the highest amount of bands per capita is…Cleveland, Ohio, with 837. While there are some large underground labels like Hells Headbangers and Shadow Kingdom there, at first glance it still seems a bit of a stretch that it would surpass Portland (and even Finland!). A closer look at the numbers however, reveals that only 124 of the bands in from Cleveland are listed as active (38 percent). This is apparently a relic of its 90s thriving death metal scene. Nationwide, the figure is 52 percent. For Portland, it's 67 percent. All the other cities in the top 10 similarly feature more active bands than inactive, making the total count a better proxy for how, well, active the local scene is. In absolute numbers, Los Angeles has the most bands in the database (1,086) though it comes in at no. 26 per capita.

Of course, all the numbers in the world can't tell us the quality of a city's metal scene, which is a much more subjective and complex matter. Just because a lot of bands came from a specific area doesn't make them all good. Nor does it tell us about other important factors like say having a plethora of metal friendly venues. But it's certainly a fun exercise to check out the data on how each locale measures up, and what that data tells us about its present…and its past.

Nerd Alert: Methodology

States: Advanced search via site June 6, 2016. US Census 2015 population estimates.

Cities: Chosen from pool of top 125 cities by population per 2015 US Census estimates with 10+ bands in database and cities in top 300 with 20+ bands. Final band counts via advanced search on site June 6, 2016. Best faith effort was made to reconcile source data with US Census data. In some cases (affecting approx 2-3 percent of bands), the source data formatting was inconsistent or vague (i.e. listing only state, or a region that did not readily match census designation). Also, bands may be counted more than once due to being active in more than one locale. Los Angeles, California includes all cities/neighborhoods in LA County, except Long Beach listed separately per US Census. New York, New York includes all boroughs and bands listed as 'Long Island, NY' or just 'New York'. Despite being two separate cities, Dallas and Fort Worth are combined due to amount of bands listed as 'Dallas/Fort Worth'.

Simon Davis is on Twitter​.​