The story of Metal Music is one of
splintering, diversity and creativity. From
the emergence of Heavy Metal in the late
1960s, there has been a massive
fragmentation of metal into many
subgenres, most distinguishable by image
and appearance, theatre, although all
supported by subtle and in some cases, and
distinct differenes in heavy music style.
Below is a snap shot of some of the major
subgenres (sometimes labelled
'underground') that did emerge.
Collectively all are essential ingredients in
modern popular music.
Thrash metal emerged in the early 1980s. It was
influenced by hardcore punk and the New Wave
of British Heavy Metal particularly songs in the
revved-up style known as 'Speed Metal'. The
sound developed by thrash groups was faster and
more aggressive than the original metal bands and
their glam metal successors. Thrash Metal lyrics
often express nihilistic views or deal with social
issues using visceral, gory language. Thrash has
been described as a form of "urban blight music"
and "a palefaced cousin of rap."
The big four of Thrash are: Metallica, Anthrax,
Megadeth, and Slayer, while three German bands,
Kreator, Sodom, and Destruction, played a central
role in bringing the style to Europe. There are
many others. Some bands including Slayer have
been accused of flirting with and attracting neo-
Metallica - Master Of Death
Slayer - Raining Blood
Megadeth - Countdown To Extinction
Thrash Metal soon also split into more extreme
metal 'genres'. Emerging during the mid-1980s.
'Death Metal' has been prominent among these. Of
musicians in this genre Chuck Schuldner has been
largely recognised as the father of 'Death Metal',
while Slayer's music was considered directly
responsible for the rise of this sub-genre, as was
the band 'Venom'.
The Death Metal movement in the West is perhaps
best known for emphasizing such things as
blasphemy and diabolism. Musically, it utilizes the
speed and aggression of both thrash and hardcore,
fused with lyrics preoccupied with 'slasher'
movie violence and Satanism. Death metal vocals
are typically bleak, involving guttural "death
growls", high-pitched screaming, the "death rasp"
and other uncommon techniques. Complementing
the deep, aggressive vocal style are downtuned,
highly distorted guitars and extremely fast
percussion, often with rapid double bass drumming
and "wall of sound"–style blast beats.
In terms of style, Death Metal, like Thrash Metal,
generally rejects the theatrics of earlier metal
styles, opting instead for an everyday look of
ripped jeans and plain leather jacket.
Metal bands such as Slayer, Kreator, Celtic Frost,
and Venom were important influences in the
emergence of this genre. Possessed and Death,
along with bands such as Obituary, Carcass,
Deicide, Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel are
often considered pioneers of the genre.
Possessed - Death Metal
Slayer - Angel Of Death
Venom - Welcome To Hell
Another sub- genre is Black Metal. This emerged in
Europe in the early and mid-1980s, led by Britian's
Venom, Denmark's Mercyful Fate, Switzerland's
Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, and Sweden's
Bathory. By the late 1980s, Norwegian bands such
as Mayhem and Burzum were heading a second
wave. Black metal varies considerably in style and
production quality, although most bands emphasize
shrieked and growled vocals, highly distorted guitars
frequently played with rapid tremolo picking, a
"dark" atmosphere and intentionally lo-fi production,
with ambient noise and background hiss. Satanic
themes are common in black metal, though many
bands take inspiration from ancient paganism,
promoting a return to pre-Christian values.
Numerous black metal bands also "experiment with
sounds from all possible forms of metal, folk,
classical music, electronica and avant-garde."
By 1990, Mayhem was regularly wearing
corpsepaint; many other black metal acts also
adopted the look. Some bands in the Scandinavian
black metal scene became associated with much
violence in the early 1990s, with Mayhem and
Burzum linked to church burnings. Growing
commercial hype around death metal soon
generated a backlash; beginning in Norway, much of
the Scandinavian metal underground shifted to
support a black metal scene resistant of being co-
opted by the commercial metal industry. According
to Gorgoroth vocalist Gaahl, "Black Metal was never
meant to reach an audience.... [We] had a common
enemy which was ..., Christianity, socialism and
everything that democracy stands for."
Yet another subgenre is Power Metal. During the
late 1980s, the power metal scene came together
largely in reaction to the harshness of death and
black metal. Though a relatively underground
style in North America, it enjoys wide popularity
in Europe, Japan, and South America. Power
metal focuses on upbeat, epic melodies and
themes that "appeal to the listener's sense of valor
and loveliness." The prototype for the sound was
established in the mid-to-late 1980s by Germany's
Helloween, which combined the power riffs,
melodic approach, and high-pitched, singing styles
of bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden with
thrash's speed and energy, a combination now
known as power metal. Traditional power metal
bands are considered to include Sweden's
HammerFall, England's DragonForce, Florida's
Iced Earth and Kamelot, among others. Many of
these bands including Nightwish, Rhapsody of
Fire, and Russia's Catharsis feature a keyboard-
based "symphonic" sound, sometimes employing
orchestras and opera singers.
Closely related to power metal is progressive
metal, which adopts the complex compositional
approach of bands like Rush and King Crimson.
This style emerged in the United States in the
early and mid-1980s.
And of course there have been many
others. Doom Metal emerged in the mid-
1980s with such bands as Saint Vitus,
The Obsessed, Trouble, and Candlemass,
Doom Metal rejected other metal styles'
emphasis on speed, slowing its music
right down. This music traces its roots to
the lyrical themes and musical approach
of early Black Sabbath. Doom
emphasizes melody, melancholy tempos,
and a sepulchral mood relative to other
metal varieties of metal.
Sludge, Stoner, &
In the late 1980s, Sludge Metal emerged
mixing doom and hardcore. Such bands
included Eyehategod and Crowbar.
Stoner Metal soon also emerged with
such bands as Kyuss and Sleep.
Drone Metal was introduced by bands
such as Earth helped develop the drone
And then there was Glam Metal (often cynically
referred to as 'Light Metal' or 'Hair Metal)'. By
the mid- 1980s, glam metal was dominant on the
U.S. charts, music television, and the arena concert
circuit. Major bands included Warrant,Poison
and Cinderella while Mötley Crüe and Ratt
remained very popular. Bridging the stylistic gap
between hard rock and glam metal, Bon Jovi
became enormously successful as did Europe,
and more particularly Guns N' Roses, and
Jane's Addiction. And don't forget Twisted Sister.
Fashion and personal style was especially
important for glam metal bands of the era.
Performers typically wore long, dyed, hairspray-
teased hair (hence the nickname, "hair metal");
makeup such as lipstick and eyeliner; gaudy
clothing, including leopard-skin-printed shirts or
vests and tight denim, leather, or spandex pants;
and accessories such as headbands and jewelry.
Bon Jovi - Living On A Prayer
Poison - Every Rose Has Its Thorn
In the mid- and late 1990s came a new
wave of U.S. metal groups inspired by the
alternative metal bands and their mix of
genres.Dubbed "nu metal", these bands
included Slipknot, Linkin Park, Limp
Bizkit, Papa Roach, Korn and Disturbed.
Nu Metal incorporated elements ranging
from death metal to hip hop, often
including DJs and rap-style vocals. Nu
metal gained mainstream success through
heavy MTV rotation and Ozzy
Osbourne's 1996 introduction of Ozzfest,
which led the media to talk of a
resurgence of heavy metal.
Slipknot - Psychosocial
Many of the most popular early 1990s groups
with roots in heavy metal fall under the umbrella
term "alternative metal." Bands at the centre
were Soundgarden and Alice in Chains.
The label was applied to a wide spectrum of
other acts that fused metal with different styles
such as: Faith No More, Primus, Tool, Fear
Factory, Ministry and Nine Inch Nails. Marilyn
Manson also did similar but also employed
shock effects of the sort popularized by Alice
Cooper. Alternative metal artists, though they did
not represent a cohesive scene, were united by
their willingness to experiment with the metal
genre and their rejection of glam metal
Alice In Chains
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