Metal music can be pretty confusing. Sure everyone has heard of Heavy Metal music and bands such as Megadeth, Metallica, AC/DC, Led Zepplin etc. come to mind, however, Metal music is so much deeper than just that. There’s several genres and subgenres and while the following list is by no means comprehensive, it does, at least, make you aware of some of the more popular types. There’s still stuff like Math Metal, Deathcore and Nintendocore (Say what now) but at that point, it quickly gets out of hand and becomes confusing. Baby steps, people.
Anyway, to the list!
Nu Metal is the fusion of heavy metal with funk, grunge and hip hop with a guitar technique often different from “traditional metal.” Many bands include a DJ and it is largely syncopated and based on guitar riffs. A contrast with other metal genres is its emphasis on rhythm, rather than complexity or mood. Nu Metal bassists and drummers often draw influence from funk and hip hop break beats, respectively, helping add to the rhythmic nature of the genre. Some argue Nu Metal is a misnomer, stating the genre has very little to do with heavy metal. Made popular by bands such as Korn, Papa Roach, Linkin Park, System Of A Down and Limp Bizkit. African Band: With Dawn
Metalcore is a fusion of Extreme Metal (Thrash, Doom, Death, Speed and Black) with Hardcore Punk Rock. It employs screamed vocals combined with the use of clean vocals usually during the bridge or chorus of a song. The instrumentation of metalcore includes heavy guitar riffs, double bass drumming, blast beats and breakdowns. It is now one of the most popular of the Metal offshoots due in part to its mainstream appeal to youths with lyrical themes such as love, rebellion and angst. It is what modern punk rock has evolved into. There’s a lot of argument between some buffs on whether emo-centric bands like Black Veil Brides are actually Metalcore but that goes beyond the scope of this list. Check online forums for more on that. Popular bands include Black Veil Brides, Bring Me The Horizon, Killswitch Engage, Asking Alexandria, All That Remains, Devil Wears Prada and Bullet For My Valentine. African Bands include: We Own Grizzly Bears, If This Is Forever, In The Mouth Of Madness & Last Year’s Tragedy.
Black metal music uses melody to create an illusion of atmospheric emotion and isolation. Characteristics include fast tempos, a shrieking vocal style, highly or heavily distorted guitars played with tremolo picking, raw (lo-fi) recording and unconventional song structures. Church organs, violins, cellos and other similar instruments are usually implemented to add to the atmosphere and conjure a funeral vibe to the sound. This music was born out of conflict brought about by war, racism, natural selection, misunderstanding and others. The main message of black metal music is for people suffering from isolation to rise and fight to overcome difficulties brought about by the judgemental society. Though Black Metal music is often related to crimes and mayhem in the West, there’s no doubt that it’s an honest and emotional expression of feelings from people who just want to be heard. There are two major variations of Black Metal, the normal one that has occultic/Satanic undertones as well as Unblack Metal which is the exact opposite and is Christian and praising of God and Jesus. Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse and Suffocation are considered some of the greatest artists of this genre. African bands include: Rigormortem, Spectral Realm & The Four Horsemen
As the name implies, Death Metal usually tackles issues about life and death and is almost comparable to Black Metal. The only difference is that while the former uses more subtle and emotional sound, Death metal is all about violent sound. It’s very easy to distinguish since it can be both melodic and harsh. It incorporates heavily distorted and low tuned guitars, played with techniques such as palm muting and tremolo picking, deep growling vocals and screams, aggressive, powerful drumming featuring double kick or blast beat techniques, minor keys oratonality, abrupt tempo, key, and time signature changes and chromatic chord progressions. Pioneers of Death Metal include Death and Slayer, two bands which emerged in mid-1980’s. Death metal diversified in the 1990s, spawning a rich variety of subgenres which still have a large “underground” following at the present including Melodic Death Metal, Technical Death Metal, Doom-Death and Deathcore, just to name a few. African bands include: The Fallen Prophets, Bile Of Man and BloodBeast Band
The name thrash came from the word “thrashers” or teenage skate boarders. This genre incorporates heavy metal and punk music, giving focus on the view of punk music which questions how the society treat people who seem weird and different from others. It has a fast tempo and is very aggressive in sound. It is categorised by use of fast percussive beats and low-register guitar riffs, overlaid with shredding-style lead work. Conceived in the 1980’s, trash gave popularity to artists including Metallica and Exodus. The later generation of Thrash music involving artists like D.R.I and Corrosion of Conformity started to strengthen the integration of hard-core music to punk roots. African bands include: Wrust, Mizera and Wargrave
The main goal of Grindcore artists is to create sounds which are generally hard to listen to. This sound must be off time, semi-coherent, speedy, highly intensified and ugly. Technically, this genre is a combination of hardcore punk, death metal and thrashes music. Grindcore music usually sounds so off and creates an idea that the artist is singing from the outer space. The lyrics often talks about death, blood and other human limitations. At times, it also talks about political issues. Pig destroyer, Carcass and Nasum are some of the biggest names in this genre. African bands include: None, duh! Nobody would listen to it… (Just kidding! Or am I?)
Also known as Traditional or Classic Metal, True Metal is said to be the ancestor of all other genres of heavy metal music. Rooted in 1980’s, True Metal introduced big names like Judas Priest, Manowar and Iron Maiden. The first True Metal bands use raging sounds and few lyrics but later on, other pioneering artists like Ironsword emerged, using rawer music production and gruffer vocals. Also known as Traditional or Classic Metal, True Metal is said to be the ancestor of all other genres of heavy metal music. Rooted in 1980’s, True Meta introduced big names like Judas Priest, Manowar and Iron Maiden. The first True Metal bands use raging sounds and few lyrics but later on, other pioneering artists like Ironsword emerged, using rawer music production and gruffer vocals. Popular bands: Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest & Manilla Road. African Bands: Octanium, Skinflint & Zombies Ate My Girlfriend
Power Metal is much easier to distinguish than other sub-genres of heavy metal. It incorporates music and vocals in a more subtle way. The lyrics are usually about a range of topics but sang on faster way incorporating strong music background and accentuated with keyboards. Just like other sub-genres, it makes use of the guitar more than other instruments but vocals are not left behind. Most power metal artists like HammerFall and Gamma Ray came from the Europe. African Bands: Minority for the Masses, Strident & SubMission
Known as the most artistic heavy metal genre, Progressive metal carefully combines progressive art rock of the 70’s and other heavy metal sounds to create more complex sounds. The modern Progressive Metal was pioneered by a band named Fates Warning in 1908’s. Progessive Metal is extremely experimental and may not be melodic, rhythmic or feature any kind of singing/growling/screaming etc. Progressive metal often utilises the conceptual themes associated with progressive rock. The experimentation of progressive metal has a strong emphasis on technicality and theoretical complexity. This is done by playing complex rhythms and implementing unusual time signatures and song structures – all with the use of traditional instruments. Djent is the only subgenre under Progressive Metal characterized by palm-muted, syncopated riffs- often poly-rhythmic in nature, as well as use of extended range guitars. Popular bands include: Dir En Grey, Periphery, Tesseract, Animals as Leaders and Vildhjarta. African Bands: Mezzanine Floor, Poverty of Ideals & Raptorbaby.
Founded by St. Vitus and Candlemass, Doom Metal tackles sensitive topics of harshness, despair, dread, and impending doom. It is categorised by it’s use of slower tempos, low-tuned guitars and a much “thicker” or “heavier” sound than other metal genres. Doom Metal albums are typically composed of a series of long songs that almost tell a novel. Doom Metal bands are known to sing about mourning, death, war and other tragic events. At times, they tackle all these issues at once, making listeners feel a subtle kind of feeling of sadness. This genre has been very popular for telling real stories of real people. Popular bands include Candlemass, Electric Wizard, Draconian, My Dying Bride and Witchcraft. African bands: Grämlich
Gothic Metal artists like Lacuna Coil, Theatre of Tragedy, Evanescence and Paradise Lost are different from other heavy metal artists because they usually use female vocals with a male voice growling in the background. The number of Gothic Metal bands skyrocketed in the 1990’s when people were cheering mostly for cute pop artists. Today, this music genre has evolved, using techniques of other heavy metal bands while sticking to soprano female voices. Often mistaken with Symphonic Metal, musically Gothic Metal is a loose fusion of the bleak, icy atmospherics of Gothic Rock with Death Metal riffing with moody keyboards and female vocals, sometimes mixed with aggressive growling from a male vocalist, sometimes not and with the loud guitars and aggression of heavy metal, finding the middle ground between the three styles. Popular bands include Theatre of Tragedy, Sirenia, Tristania, Lacuna Coil, Paradise Lost & Evanescence. Some African bands: Darkest Place and Vortex
Alternative metal usually combines heavy metal with alternative rock, and in some cases other genres, such as hardcore punk and progressive rock. Alternative metal bands are often characterized by heavy guitar riffs, melodic vocals, unconventional sounds within other heavy metal genres, unconventional song structures and sometimes experimental approaches to heavy music. Popular Alternative Metal bands include Disturbed, Avenged Sevenfold, Five Finger Death Punch and Red. African bands: Aiming at Shadows, Ignite the Sky, ParkingLotGrass & VOL
Symphonic metal combines the characteristics of Heavy Metal, such as heavy drums and guitars, with different elements of classical music including (but not limited to) symphonic instruments, choirs and on occasion, a full symphony orchestra. They are mostly led by female lead singers and the definition can get a bit confusing as several Heavy Metal subgenres incorporate symphonic elements like Black Metal, Power Metal and Thrash, suffice to say, your best bet for knowing if it’s symphonic is to look out for orchestral and choir sounds. Got it? No? Well, I didn’t invent this shit. Popular bands include: Nightwish, Within Temptation, Leaves’ Eyes, Tarja and Epica. African Bands: Inner Empire, Inferium and Cold Hand Chemistry
Culled in part from: Typelist.com, Wikipedia and a rather unreliable brain…
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