In the same way we dove into the encyclopedia of rock previously, now we’re going to go through some metal genres. There are almost as many different flavors to fall in love with here.
Much like the rock piece, this isn’t a complete list, but it does hit a lot of the major players of metal genres. Start here and then further your education out there on your music listening platform of choice (or try some live concerts).
We’ll start with an easy one.
Notable Artists: KORN, Disturbed, and Alice in Chains
Simply stated, it’s heavy metal mixed with alternative rock. The combination usually combines unconventional song structure with experimental approaches to the “old way of doing things” in metal’s sound. It started in the mid-’80s and gained more traction in the early ’90s.
Notable Artists: Boris, Sunn 0))), and Celtic Frost
Take the experimental approach from above and triple it. This could easily be called experimental metal, but avant-garde sounds so classy. Extremely unconventional structure and sounds throughout.
Notable Artists: Venom, Hellhammer, and Immortal
When it first started up, it was connected directly with satanic metal, but that is not always the case. It’s usually associated with fast tempos, heavy distortion, insane drumming, unconventional structure, and shrieking vocals.
Notable Artists: Underoath, Demon Hunter, and Jerusalem
This genre of metal can go across many different styles of metal, but is usually performed by self-professed Christians and focuses the lyrics around the same beliefs. In some circles, it’s also known as “white metal” or “un-black metal.”
Notable Artists: Dying Fetus, Deicide, and Obituary
Starting up in the ’80s, this one is an extreme sub-genre of metal that usually brings with it deep growling vocals, crazy drumming, tremolo picking, and heavy distortion. A main focus of lyrics is, obviously, often death, dying, and the macabre.
Notable Artists: Black Sabbath, Pagan Alter, and Pentagram
You can’t say doom metal without at least thinking about Black Sabbath. Most doom metal bands state that they’re influenced by the group. It brings with it slower tempos and a heavier, thicker sound across guitars. The focus of the lyrics often focuses on impending death, doom, despair, etc.
Notable Artists: Children of Bodom, Napalm Death, and Rotting Christ
It’s exactly what it sounds like. Heavy metal with added aggression, speed, and an abrasive nature, and it’s often non-commercialized. This is basically metal turned up to a level 13 intensity and often brings a mix of death metal, speed metal, hardcore, and thrash metal.
Notable Artists: Finntroll, Moosorrow, and Tursias
You usually don’t associate folk music with metal, but in this genre, the two are fused into one. Often bringing in traditional folk instruments and sometimes even singing styles from folk. The earliest folk metal came out of the early ’80s with bands like Golgotha and in the ’90s with Skyclad.
Notable Artists: Rage Against the Machine, Faith No More, and Red Hot Chili Peppers
Take metal and add a good bit of that funky bass line and you’ve got funk metal. In a lot of cases, this one could be considered closer to funk and alt-rock than metal, but it’s definitely a genre to know. Came about in the late ’80s and early ’90s specifically with RHCP and Fishbone.
Notable Artists: Def Leppard, Quiet Riot, and Mötley Crüe
Also known as hair metal, this is the metal genre that came out of the late ’70s and early ’80s with bands like Poison, Ratt, and Mötley Crüe. More focused on the visual stylizations of the band, it’s a flamboyant style that often brought huge hair with it.
Notable Artists: Within Temptation, Lacuna Coil, and Paradise Lost
Bring on the dark atmospheric metal with a mix of doom, death, rock, and darkwave. Coming out after doom metal in the mid-’90s in Europe. It’s not quite death, it’s not quite doom, but it’s definitely on the darker side of things when it comes to metal genres.
Notable Artists: Pantera, Trivium, and Devildriver
The first groove metal album comes out of 1990 with Pantera’s Cowboys from Hell. Groove is basically taking the intensity of sound of thrash metal and playing it at a slower speed to “groove.” Vocals are often yelled, screamed, or growled rather than sung.
Notable Artists: KISS, Judas Priest, and Alice Cooper
The core of metal is “heavy metal.” It came about in the late ’60s with a mix of blues rock, psychedelic rock, and volume. It’s called metal because metal is harder than rock. Heavy metal is what everything else on this list is based around.
Notable Artists: Rammstein, Orgy, and Powerman 5000
Combining the harshness of metal with an industrial music sound. Usually incorporates repetitive metal guitar riffs, sampling, synths, and distorted vocals. Developed in the late ’80s and stems from black metal.
Notable Artists: Babymetal, Ladybaby, and Dazzle Vision
Ummm… Kawaii is one of the more unique metal genres. This is “cute metal,” fusing together elements of power metal, industrial metal, and J-pop. It started up in the late 2000s and early 2010s.
Notable Artists: A.N.I.M.A.L., Sepultura, and Soulfly
Metal with Latin origins including instrumentation, rhythms, and structure. Keep in ming though, much like Latin rock, just because a band sings in Spanish does not make it “Latin metal.”
Notable Artists: Atreyu, Bullet for My Valentine, and All That Remains
Mixing up hardcore punk with metal. Most often it’s found with metal guitar riffs combined with double bass drums and vocals mixing shouting and death growls. Originated in the ’90s with bands like Hatebreed, Killswitch Engage, and Integrity Unearth.
Notable Artists: Drowning Pool, Mudvayne, and Sevendust
This one mixes up alt-metal with elements from across the board, including hip-hop, industrial, grunge, and funk. Coming out of the late ’90s, this style of the metal genres often focuses on rhythm and simplified riffs, rather than complexity or mood.
Notable Artists: Isis, Neurosis, and Cult of Luna
Heavy pull from post-rock with a minimal focus on vocals and more of a focus on emotion from the instrumentation. Often found with lower-tuned guitars, evolving song structure, and heavy distortion. Songs are usually longer and driven by the guitar or bass.
Notable Artists: Sabaton, Firewind, and Edguy
Massive influence from speed metal with driving double bass drum and melodic lead guitar. The rhythm guitar often comes across with power chords under it all. First started up in the mid-’80s and gained popularity in the ’90s.
Notable Artists: Dream Theater, Symphony X, and Queensryche
Extremely complex metal fused with prog-rock. One of the big prog-rock bands often claimed as an influence on the genre is Rush. If you want to hear incredibly technical, often fast-paced metal, this is the genre to check out.
Notable Artists: Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, and POD
Take the backbone of metal and switch up the lyrics to rap and you’ve got rap-metal. It’s often said that the genre came to be with metal and hip-hop groups joining forces, like when Anthrax teamed up with Public Enemy, or when Tourniquet featured P.I.D., or when Sir Mix-a-Lot hooked up with Metal Church.
Notable Artists: Eyehategod, Acid Bath, and Crowbar
Combining elements of hardcore punk, doom metal, and noise rock, this is one of the more heavy and very experimental metal genres. Vocals are shouted and distortion is found throughout. Often confused with or mistaken for stoner metal/rock.
Notable Artists: Megadeth, Accept, and Slayer
Take everything that you love about metal and speed it up. It still holds the melodic approaches of metal, but at a tempo that almost seems impossible. Extremely technical and came out of the late ’70s/early ’80s.
Notable Artists: Fu Manchu, Kyuss, and Sleep
Heavily associated with stoner rock, it mixes psychedelic rock, doom metal, and blues-rock using slow/mid-tempo, low tuning, and heavy bass. Started in the early ’90s.
Notable Artists: Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica
Grandiose metal. This genre has a massive sound to it, incorporating orchestral elements throughout it, if not using an actual orchestra. The soundstage in symphonic rock is massive and often theatrical.
Notable Artists: Testament, Destruction, and Kreator
Described as the first “extreme metal” genre. The three main descriptive facts for it include speed, complexity, and aggression. The four bands starting it up are often referred to as “the big four” and include Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax.
Did we miss any? Do you have a favorite in the world of metal genres?
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