Heavy metal subgenres: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A number of heavy metal genres have developed since the emergence of heavy metal (often shortened to metal) during the late 1960s and early 1970s. At times heavy metal genres may overlap or are difficult to distinguish, but they can be identified by a number of traits. They may differ in terms of: instrumentation, tempo, song structure, vocal style, lyrics, guitar playing style, drumming style, and so on.


Primary heavy metal subgenres

Black metal

Black metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal. It often employs fast tempos, shrieked vocals, highly distorted guitars played with tremolo picking in oftentimes droning or hypnotic patterns, and unconventional song structure. It places more emphasis on creating a specific atmosphere of dread or depression than death metal or thrash metal, something it shares with doom metal.

During the first half of the 1980s, certain thrash metal bands established a prototype for black metal. This First Wave includes bands such as Venom, Bathory, Mercyful Fate, Hellhammer and Celtic Frost.[1] A Second Wave emerged in the early 1990s, which consisted primarily of Norwegian bands such as Burzum, Mayhem, Darkthrone, Immortal, Gorgoroth, Satyricon, and Emperor. Black metal can also be combined with Death metal to create Blackened death metal; bands of this subgenre include Behemoth, Zyklon, and Akercocke.

Death metal

Death metal is an extreme heavy metal subgenre. The genre is typically characterized by the use of heavily distorted guitars, harsh vocals that are low-pitched and/or growled, morbid lyrics, exceptionally fast-paced rhythms and melodies, frequent blast beats on drums, and complex song structures with multiple tempo changes.

Building off the speed and complexity of thrash metal, death metal came to true prominence by the mid 1980s.[1] Bands like Possessed and pioneer death metal bands such as Death, Morbid Angel and Deicide are considered prime influences in the genre.[2] In the late 1980s and early 1990s, death metal gained more media attention as popular record labels like Earache Records and Roadrunner Records began to sign death metal bands at a rapid rate.[3] Since then, death metal has diversified, spawning a rich variety of subgenres.[4][5]

Doom metal

Doom metal emerged as a recognized heavy metal sub-genre during the first half of the 1980s.[6] Generally, doom metal features very slow tempos, low-tuned guitars and a much "denser" or "heavier" sound than other metal genres. Both the music and the lyrics intend to evoke a sense of despair, dread, and impending doom.[6]

It is strongly influenced by the early work of Black Sabbath, particularly songs such as "Black Sabbath" and "Into the Void", which are considered embryonic or prototypical doom metal songs. However, the style was defined as a genre in the early-mid 1980s by bands such as Pentagram, Saint Vitus and Candlemass. Doom metal is generally regarded as the basis of the gothic metal, stoner metal, sludge metal and drone metal genres.

Drone metal

Drone metal began as a derivative of doom metal and it is largely defined by drones; notes or chords that are sustained and repeated throughout a piece of music. Typically, the electric guitar is performed with large amounts of reverb and feedback[7] while vocals, if present, are usually growled or screamed. Songs are often very long and lack beat or rhythm in the traditional sense. Drone doom is generally influenced by drone music,[7] noise music[7] and minimalist music.[7] The style emerged in the early 1990s and was pioneered by Earth,[8] Boris,[7] and Sunn O)))[7].

Folk metal

Folk metal developed in Europe during the 1990s. As the name suggests, the genre is a fusion of heavy metal with folk music. This includes the widespread use of folk instruments and, to a lesser extent, traditional singing styles. Examples of the genre include Skyclad, Finntroll and Týr; the bands Cruachan, Orphaned Land and Subway to Sally are representative of the three subgenres Celtic metal, Oriental metal and medieval metal respectively. Pagan metal is also considered a genre separate from folk metal that is an extreme form and focuses on lyrics rather than definite characteristics of the genre. Bands of this style often fit into other related genres of folk metal such as Enslaved or Skyclad.

Glam metal

Glam metal (also known as hair metal)[9] is a term used to describe the visual style of certain heavy metal music bands that arose in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the United States, particularly on the Los Angeles Sunset Strip music scene. It was popular throughout the 1980s and briefly in the early 1990s, combining the flamboyant look of glam rock and playing a commercial hard rock/heavy metal musical style. "Hair bands" was the term popularized by MTV in the 1990s and derives from the tendency among glam metal acts to style their long hair in a teased-up fashion. Many of the bands donned make-up to achieve an androgynous look, similar to that of some 1970s glam rock acts. Mötley Crüe, Poison and Faster Pussycat are examples of bands who adopted the glam metal look in their stage attire and their music video imagery.

Gothic metal

Gothic metal is characterised as a combination of the dark melancholy of gothic rock with the aggression and sonic power of highly amplified heavy metal music. The genre originated during the mid 1990s in Europe as an outgrowth of doom-death, a fusion genre of doom metal and death metal. Examples of gothic metal bands include Paradise Lost, Lacuna Coil and Tristania.

Groove metal

Also known as neo-thrash, post-thrash, or power groove, groove metal consists of slow or mid-tempo and down tuned thrash riffs, bluesy guitar solos, greatly emphasized drum work and harsh vocals. Examples of groove metal include Pantera, Machine Head and Sepultura.

Industrial metal

Industrial metal combines elements of industrial music and heavy metal. It is usually centered around repetitive metal guitar riffs, sampling, synthesizer or sequencer lines, and distorted vocals.[10] Founding industrial metal groups include, Rammstein, Godflesh,[11] Static-X,[12] Ministry, and Nine Inch Nails.


Metalcore combines elements of hardcore punk with heavy metal, thrash metal or extreme metal. Generally, metalcore guitarists use harmonized guitar riffs and solos, drummers use hardcore d-beats and double bass drums, and vocalists use a sing-along style. A distinguishing characteristic is the "breakdown", whereby the song is slowed to half-time and the guitarists play open strings to achieve the lowest-pitched sound. Metalcore generally differs from thrash metal in that it avoids the "chugging" guitar sound and focuses more on melody than aggression. Prominent metalcore bands include Bullet For My Valentine, Killswitch Engage, All That Remains, and Shadows Fall. Most modern metalcore bands are from North America.

Neo-classical metal

Neo-classical metal (also known as shred metal) is a subgenre that is heavily influenced by classical music in its style of composition. It uses a very technical style of guitar soloing called shred guitar, in which guitarists use cross-picking, sweep picking, and economy picking to play rapid scales and arpeggios. As well, it uses elements borrowed from classical music; including instruments, scales and melodies. Yngwie J. Malmsteen, Tony MacAlpine and Vinnie Moore are prominent performers in this genre.

Nu metal

Nu metal, sometimes called nu-metal is a style that combines heavy metal and hip hop with elements of alternative rock, funk, grunge, industrial metal and groove metal, often utilising several traits and styles seen in hip hop such as rapping and the use of turntable scratching to create sound effects. Examples of nu-metal include Korn, Linkin Park, Slipknot and Mudvayne.


This heavy metal movement takes influences from post-rock. While it is in many ways similar to post-rock, post-metal tends to include lower-tuned guitars, darker themes and tones, and heavier drums. Post-metal stresses emotion, contrasting the ambiance of post-rock with the weight and bombast of metal. Vocals are deemphasized or non-existent, and lyrics tend to be equally abstract: often thematic or philosophical in nature. It is a largely American phenomenon, but also includes some Japanese bands. Bands like Neurosis, Isis, Cult of Luna, and Pelican write lengthy songs (typically five or six per album) that can range from light and guitar-driven to extremely heavy, drum and bass-driven.

Power metal

Power metal is more upbeat than most metal genres, taking heavy influence from heavy metal and speed metal. Power metal often emphasizes clean, melodic, high-pitched vocals, fast pacing that is mostly driven by double bass drumming and melodic lead guitar. The rhythm guitar is defined by straight power chord progressions. Power metal leans toward the positive, happy side of life, seeking to empower the listener and inspire joy and courage. Power metal lyrics usually involve fantasy or science fiction themes. Examples of power metal bands include Helloween, Dio, Blind Guardian, and HammerFall.

Progressive metal

Progressive metal is a fusion between progressive rock and heavy metal. It is one of heavy metal's more complex genres, due to its use of unusual and dynamic time signatures, long compositions, complex compositional structures, and skilled instrumental playing, where instrumental solos are detailed and extended. However, the latest age of Progressive Metal has favoured rougher lyrics and lower-pitched riff sequences with high amounts of strumming. Vocals, if present, are melodic (though there are a few that utilise unclean vocals), and lyrics are often philosophical, spiritual, or political. Examples of the genre include Tool, Queensrÿche, Dream Theater and Fates Warning.

Sludge metal

Sludge metal began as a derivative of doom metal, incorporating hardcore punk and elements of Southern rock. Many sludge bands compose slow and heavy songs that contain brief hardcore passages.[13][14] However, some bands emphasise fast tempos throughout their music.[15] The string instruments are heavily distorted and are often played with large amounts of feedback to produce an abrasive, sludgy sound. Drumming is often performed in typical doom metal fashion, but drummers may employ hardcore d-beat or double-kick drumming during faster passages. Vocals are usually shouted or screamed, and lyrics are generally pessimistic in nature. Suffering, drug abuse, politics and anger towards society are common lyrical themes. New Orleans with its metal scene is often considered as its birthplace.[6] The style was pioneered in the early 1990s by bands such as Eyehategod,[13] Crowbar,[14] Buzzov*en[15] and Acid Bath.[16]

Speed metal

Speed metal originated in the late 1970s and early 1980s and was the direct musical progenitor of thrash metal.[17] When speed metal first emerged as a genre, it increased the tempos that had been used by early heavy metal bands, while retaining their melodic approaches. Examples of speed metal include Motörhead, Annihilator and Accept.

Stoner metal

Stoner metal is typically slow-to-mid tempo, low-tuned, and bass-heavy.[18] It combines elements of psychedelic rock, blues-rock and doom metal, often with melodic vocals and 'retro' production.[19] The genre emerged during the early 1990s and was pioneered foremost by the Californian bands Kyuss[20] and Sleep.[21] Other prominent stoner metal bands include Acid King, Electric Wizard, and Sons of Otis.

Thrash metal

Thrash metal is often regarded as the first form of extreme metal. It is generally characterised by its fast tempos, complexity and aggression. Thrash metal guitar playing is most notable for the "chugging" sound it creates through low-pitched palm muted riffs, and high-pitched shred guitar solos. Drummers often use double-kick and double-bass drumming. Vocals are most often shouted or sung in an aggressive manner.

Thrash metal evolved from speed metal and NWOBHM at the beginning of the 1980s, although Black Sabbath's 1975 song "Symptom of the Universe" is often regarded as the earliest example of a thrash metal riff, and "Stone Cold Crazy" by Queen is an even earlier example. Bands such as Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth spearheaded thrash metal and are referred to as the genre's "big four", while on the European side Sodom, Kreator and Destruction form the so-called "German Thrash Triangle".

Cross-genre terms within heavy metal

This section concerns terms that are generally used to:

  • group heavy metal genres that share similar traits and origins (for example the umbrella term extreme metal)
  • refer to a style, rather than a strictly-defined genre, that can exist within many heavy metal genres (for example avant-garde black metal, symphonic black metal, or Viking black metal)

Alternative metal

Alternative metal is a cross-genre term used to describe heavy metal bands with a pronounced experimental edge. Bands often use typical heavy metal instruments, but include unconventional lyrics, odd time signatures and unusual technique. In many instances it is described as a fusion of metal and alternative rock, and distinguished from nu metal by its lack of hip-hop influence. Examples include Deftones, Jane's Addiction and System of a Down.

Avant-garde metal

Avant-garde metal (sometimes called experimental metal) is a cross-genre term used to describe metal bands that exhibit experimentation through non-standard sounds, instruments, and song structures akin to the genre of metal they are rooted in. Examples include Fantômas, Mr. Bungle and Meshuggah.

Christian metal

Christian metal is a cross-genre term used to describe metal bands that introduce Christian themes into their lyrics. This sub-genre has a long tradition within metal, starting with Christian hard rock bands springing up alongside the NWOBHM phenomenon to the Christian metalcore bands today. Often the Christian themes are melded with the subjects of the genre the band is rooted in, often providing a Christian take on the subject matter. Examples include Stryper, Tourniquet, and Mortification.

Crust punk

Crust punk (often simply crust) is one of the evolutions of anarcho-punk and hardcore punk, mixed with extreme metal guitar riffs.[22] The style, which evolved in the mid-1980s in the UK, often had songs with dark, pessimistic lyrics, lingering on political and social ills. It is typically played at a fast tempo with growled and screamed vocals and anarchist lyrics. Notable crust punk bands include Amebix, Antisect, and Doom.

Extreme metal

Extreme metal is a cross-genre term used to describe heavy metal that is considerably heavier, faster, more aggressive and more abrasive. For example; vocalists may often use death growls or high-pitched shrieks and more obscene lyrics, drummers may often use blast beats, and the band's appearance may be intended to shock. Bands of this grouping are typically of the black metal, death metal, doom metal and thrash metal genres. The term is also used when a band is musically "extreme" enough but does not conform easily to any of the extreme metal genres; bands of this calibre include Cradle of Filth, Celtic Frost and Strapping Young Lad.

Funk metal

Funk metal is essentially a fusion of heavy metal and funk. It started off in the late eighties as a subgenre of alternative metal, and was heavily influenced by alternative rock bands such as Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone. Funk metal was also one of the key influences of the nu metal genre. Notable funk metal bands include Primus, Living Colour, and Faith No More.


Grindcore is a fusion of crust punk and thrash metal or death metal. It is characterised by growling vocals, blast beats, and incredibly short songs with lyrics that are often focused on gore and violence, though sometimes the lyrics can be political. Grindcore, in contrast to death metal, is often very chaotic, and lacks the standard use of time signatures. The style was pioneered by the British band Napalm Death in the eighties. Other notable grindcore bands include Carcass, Brutal Truth and Pig Destroyer. Styles related to grindcore include deathgrind, which has a much more notable death metal influence, goregrind, which has often comically gory lyrics, and pornogrind, which is similar to goregrind but trades the gory lyrics for sexually explicit ones.

Rap metal

Rap metal, synonymous with the terms Rapcore and Rap rock, is a cross-genre term used to describe bands that institute the vocal and lyrical form of rap. It is generally different to nu metal in that rap metal is a straight-forward combination of heavy metal and hip hop, while nu metal also takes influences from grunge, groove metal, alternative metal, industrial metal and hardcore punk (though rap metal pioneers Rage Against the Machine also had a heavy hardcore punk influence). Examples of rap metal include the aforementioned Rage Against the Machine, Stuck Mojo, and Urban Dance Squad.

Symphonic metal

Symphonic metal varies in form. It most commonly refers to heavy metal bands that use orchestral elements in their music. These elements include full orchestras, opera themes, vocals or keyboarding akin to that of opera or symphony music, and a softer and more upbeat nature than other metal genres. Prominent examples include: Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Therion.

Traditional heavy metal

Traditional heavy metal, also known as classic metal[23] or often simply heavy metal, is a recent umbrella term describing bands and artists who play a metal music style similar to the style heard before the genre evolved and splintered into many different styles and subgenres.[24][25]. It is characterized by mid-to-fast-tempo riffs, by thumping basslines, crunchy riffs, extended lead guitar solos, and clean, often high-pitched vocals and anthemic choruses. It is not generally categorised as a subgenre of metal, but the main genre of it. Examples include Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple.

Viking metal

Viking metal is a subgenre of heavy metal music characterised by its galloping pace, keyboard-rich anthemic sound, bleakness and dramatic emphasis on Norse mythology, Norse paganism, and the Viking Age. The genre of Viking metal was pioneered by the Swedish band Bathory, who took some of their inspiration and musical style from American heavy metal band Manowar.[26] An epic sound is "a prerequisite for inclusion under the Viking metal banner"[27] and bands in the genre typically adopt a "bombastic, keyboard laden" approach.[28] Viking metal acts are known to be different with influences from death metal, black metal and some power metal.[citation needed] Both clean vocals and death growls can be found in Viking metal and the "speed varies from mid-pace to a fast pace." Like folk metal bands, Viking metal acts "generally utilize some acoustic and other unusual instruments in addition to the traditional metal instruments."[29] Examples of Viking metal include Bathory, Enslaved, and Ensiferum.

See also


  1. ^ a b Dunn, Sam (Director). (August 5, 2005). Metal: A Headbanger's Journey. [motion picture]. Canada: Dunn, Sam. http://imdb.com/title/tt0478209/. 
  2. ^ Morbid Angel page @ Allmusic "Formed in 1984 in Florida, Morbid Angel (along with Death) would also help spearhead an eventual death metal movement in their home state"
  3. ^ Is Metal Still Alive? WATT Magazine, Written by: Robert Heeg, Published: April 1993
  4. ^ Silver Dragon Records "During the 1990s death metal diversified influencing many subgenres"
  5. ^ Deathmetal.org "The golden years of death metal were from 1988 to 1994, during which time the classics of the genre and all of its variations formed"
  6. ^ a b c "Doom metal". Allmusic. http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=77:11956. Retrieved 2008-07-21. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f John Wray, "Heady Metal", New York Times, May 28, 2006. [1] Access date: August 18, 2008.
  8. ^ Jason Jackowiak, Splendid, September 14, 2005. [2] Access date: August 23, 2008.
  9. ^ Glam Metal Urban Dictionary. Pop-culture reference.
  10. ^ "Industrial Metal". allmusic. http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=77:2919. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  11. ^ Walters, Martin. "((( Godflesh > Overview )))". allmusic. http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:3ifexqu5ldke. Retrieved 2008-07-03. 
  12. ^ Di Perna 1995a, page 69.
  13. ^ a b Huey, Steve. "Eyehategod". Allmusic. http://www.allmusicguide.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:fzfixqu5ldse~T1. Retrieved 2008-07-21. 
  14. ^ a b Huey, Steve. "Crowbar". Allmusic. http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:j9fexqq5ldse~T1. Retrieved 2008-07-21. 
  15. ^ a b York, William. "Buzzov*en". Allmusic. http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:kzfoxqy5ldse~T1. Retrieved 2008-07-21. 
  16. ^ York, William. "Acid Bath". Allmusic. http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:gxfyxqe5ldfe~T1. Retrieved 2008-07-21. 
  17. ^ "Speed metal rock history". www.silver-dragon-records.com. http://www.silver-dragon-records.com/speed_metal.htm. Retrieved December 14, 2006. 
  18. ^ Sharpe-Young, Garry. "Rockdetector – Kyuss biography". Rockdetector. http://www.rockdetector.com/officialbio,5049.sm. Retrieved 2007-12-10. "[Kyuss] almost single handed invented the phrase ‘Stoner Rock’. They achieved this by tuning way down and summoning up a subterranean, organic sound..." 
  19. ^ "Stoner Metal". Allmusic. http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=77:11953. Retrieved 2007-12-10. "Stoner metal could be campy and self-aware, messily evocative, or unabashedly retro." 
  20. ^ Eduardo Rivadavia. "Kyuss biography". Allmusic. http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:dzfqxq85ldte~T1. Retrieved 2007-12-10. "...they are widely acknowledged as pioneers of the booming stoner rock scene of the 1990s..." 
  21. ^ Eduardo Rivadavia. "Sleep biography". Allmusic. http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:kiftxqr5ld0e~T1. Retrieved 2008-07-21. 
  22. ^ Von Havoc, Felix (1984-01-01). "Rise of Crust". Profane Existence. http://www.havocrex.com/press/article/3/83. Retrieved 2008-06-16. 
  23. ^ Ian Christe, The Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal, Flammarion,2007, p. 91, ISBN 978-2-08-068797-5
  24. ^ Bowar, Chad. "What Is Heavy Metal?". About.com. http://heavymetal.about.com/od/heavymetal101/a/101_history.htm. Retrieved April 8, 2008. 
  25. ^ Michka Assayas, Dictionnaire du Rock de A à L, Robert Lafond,2002, p.776-777 ISBN 2-221-91260-8
  26. ^ http://www.anus.com/metal/about/interviews/quorthon/
  27. ^ Kalis, Quentin. "Voimasta ja Kunniast review". Chronicles of Chaos. http://www.chroniclesofchaos.com/reviews/albums/2-2407_moonsorrow_voimasta_ja_kunniasta.aspx. Retrieved 2008-06-16. 
  28. ^ Azevedo, Pedro. "Daudingekvider review". Chronicles of Chaos. http://www.chroniclesofchaos.com/reviews/albums/2-3905_eljudner_daudingekvider.aspx. Retrieved 2008-06-16. 
  29. ^ Bowar, Chad. "Folk Metal Artists". About.com. http://heavymetal.about.com/od/heavymetalartists/u/heavymetalartistsandstyles.htm#s6. Retrieved 2008-06-16. 

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address