FINAL EDIT: Can't be bothered updating this anymore, sorry guys ;_;
I WILL BE UPDATING THIS THREAD FREQUENTLY WITH INFORMATION AND EXAMPLES OF MORE AND MORE GENRES, SO I'LL SPOILER STUFF AS I GO SO THE THREAD DOESN'T TAKE 100000 YEARS TO SCROLL THROUGH. Also, could an admin please sticky this thread, as there really hasn't been a thread as ambitious as this one in the music section aside from the 'new albums' threads. I realise that admins don't like stickying threads pertaining to single genres, but considering how comprehensive and central this thread will be, I think it is definitely deserving of it.
Hey all, I've been thinking about doing a kind of thread like this for a while now - a sort of database of information on everything metal - so that people can get to know, understand and hopefully love - or at least appreciate - the wide world of music that metal has to offer. I know how metal can seem impossible to get into if only because there's so much of it to listen to, so I'll try to give as much information on all of the sub-genres of metal as I can, as well as note-worthy examples of each, a few widely acclaimed albums and a few of my favourites. That should give those of you who are interested a good place to start.
I'll start off by telling you a little bit about myself at the moment of writing this guide: I'm a uni student doing an arts degree majoring in music / popular music at the University of Queensland, music has always been a great interest of mine, especially since I started listening to and playing metal around 2006 (I'm a guitarist). Over my few short years of listening, I've probably at least been exposed to most of the world of metal, but there's always more to listen to and more to discover. I've been writing metal of my own for around four years and I'm slowly putting together a band, so perhaps one day (hopefully soon) I'll get to post our stuff in this thread for you!
Now... where do I start? For those who know just how big metal is, you can probably appreciate the daunting task that this is... I think the best way to do this would be to start at the beginning:
Despite what some people think, 'Heavy Metal' isn't necessarily an umbrella term for metal as a whole, it is a distinct genre in and of itself, and was the first kind of metal music. Obviously metal didn't just come out of no where; like all musical genres, it was influenced by the music and societal attitudes of the time. Music never just appears overnight, which is the case for metal as well. Musicologists still argue over the time when metal became a distinct genre of its own, so obviously it's not a clear cut date.
Generally speaking, heavy metal was born thanks to the hard rock bands of the late 60s. Bands like The Kinks or The Yardbirds (featuring Jimmy Page) and their (for the time) highly distorted, chaotic sound influenced other fore-runners of metal like Led Zeppelin. Arguably the first 'metal' song, 'You Really Got Me' by The Kinks, released in 1964, proved to be a key moment in the development of alternative genres like punk and metal that we have today. The use of 'power chords', the blues scale, heavy drums and non-melodic vocals formed a template for bands like Black Sabbath - who are widely regarded as the first true metal band - to work off. Black Sabbath took this formula provided by The Kinks and distilled it into the first distinct genre of metal: heavy metal.
Heavy metal is characterised by its slow/mid-paced tempos and homophonic or monophonic texture; meaning that most of the time, the vocals and/or bass is simply mimicking the guitars. Guitar solos are often featured, frequently using the blues scale or the standard major scale. Heavy metal is still very close to rock music, in that it still retains a lot of blues influence. If you are a fan of classic rock, heavy metal is probably a genre you would enjoy.
An all-round good example of heavy metal is the track 'Iron Man' off Black Sabbath's second album Paranoid:
Iron Man is an exceptional example of the monophonic / homophonic textures of heavy metal, with the guitar, bass and vocals all playing the same melody during the verses.
Black Sabbath's Black Sabbath, released in 1970. Black Sabbath's debut album:
#1. 'Stand Up and Shout'
#2. 'Holy Diver'
#4. 'Caught in the Middle'
#5. 'Don't Talk to Strangers'
#6. 'Straight Through the Heart'
#8. 'Rainbow in the Dark'
#9. 'Shame on the Night'
#1. 'A Dangerous Meeting'
#3. 'Desecration of Souls'
#4. 'Night of the Unborn'
#5. 'The Oath'
#7. 'Welcome Princess of Hell'
#9. 'To One Far Away'
#10. 'Come to the Sabbath'
#1. 'The Wicker Man'
#2. 'Ghost of the Navigator'
#3. 'Brave New World'
#4. 'Blood Brothers'
#5. 'The Mercenary'
#6. 'Dream of Mirrors'
#7. 'The Fallen Angel'
#8. 'The Nomad'
#9. 'Out of the Silent Planet'
#10 'The Thin Line Between Love & Hate'
Thrash metal is arguably the most iconic kind of metal, with many of the most famous and successful metal bands playing their kind of thrash. Today, we are most familiar with bands like Metallica and Megadeth, renowned for their fast paced, chromatic riffs and intense solos. This style developed out of the American speed metal of the late 70s, which in turn was greatly influenced by the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal - commonly referred to as the NWOBHM (I could have discussed this movement originally, but I thought I'd save it for today).
The NWOBHM took the heavy metal of the time, and incorporated elements of punk into it (punk was a big thing in Britain around this time), resulting in a more aggressive, faster, and less bluesy sound than something Black Sabbath might have played. Iron Maiden is the most famous example of a NWOBHM band, along with other bands like Saxon, Diamond Head and Motorhead. Heavy metal bands like Judas Priest were also influenced by the NWOBHM and ended up joining in with this new wave of metal.
Motorhead took the already aggressive NWOBHM style and added gruff vocals, made their music more centred around the riff rather than the lead parts, and played even faster. This resulted in the birth of speed metal, which caught on worldwide, developing scenes in Europe, America and parts of Asia. European bands like Accept followed the sound of Motorhead, whilst American/Canadian bands like Anvil were already becoming more extreme, thanks to bands such as Venom - who will be discussed more in a later topic - and forging the way for thrash metal.
Finally, at the turn of the decade, the scene was set for thrash metal. Metal had been getting harder and faster over the last decade, and was quickly gaining momentum, both in its fan-base and its music. In 1981, two key bands were formed, in the forms of Metallica and Slayer. By the mid 80s, they were joined by bands like Megadeth, Testament and Kreator.
Regional scenes and styles developed, the most notable of which is the 'Bay Area' thrash scene of West Coast U.S.A. which gave birth to bands like Exodus and Metallica. Thrash also took off in Europe, especially Germany, other parts of America, and Brazil - which gave birth to bands like Sepultura, who heavily influenced Groove metal bands like Pantera and Lamb of God, who played thrash metal mixed with influences taken from hardcore punk or crossover thrash.
Thrash was heavily against glam metal, which was gaining mainstream popularity in the 80s/90s, because many thrash bands thought glam metal focussed too much on its image and not enough on its music. In this way, thrash metal can also be seen as a reaction against the popularisation of metal.
Thrash today is nowhere near as big as it was back in the 80s, but there are still loyal fanbases for it around the world, thanks to the internet. The biggest and most acclaimed thrash metal band of recent times is indisputably the American band Revocation. In metal circles these guys have been hailed as 'the saviours of thrash metal' or similar monikers. Today, the 'Big 4 of Thrash Metal' is a term commonly used to describe Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax, due to their worldwide success and long careers. The Big 4 are still releasing albums and touring with much success.
Characteristics: NWOBHM: A blend of classic heavy metal and classic British punk. Uptempo, with melodic vocals and lead parts. Mostly done away with the 'blues scale' of rock / heavy metal.
Speed Metal: Evolved out of the NWOBHM, kept the upbeat tempo and added gruff or non-melodic vocals. The music became more about aggression and was based around riffs rather than catchy choruses.
Thrash Metal: The child of speed metal. Contains many of the same characteristics of speed metal, which leads to some people equating the two genres. In many ways, thrash is a more refined version of speed metal which has centred its music and image towards aggression; generally aggression against politics, religion or war.
Groove Metal: Thrash meets hardcore punk. Thrashy riffs are often interwoven with syncopated hardcore punk breakdowns.
Sorry to those who already know and love Iron Maiden, but they really are an archetypal example of the NWOBHM. Iron Maiden - The Trooper
A great song by Motorhead that most of you should know. Thanks to its appearance on Tony Hawk 3's soundtrack, I can claim I have been a metalhead since my childhood >.> Motorhead - Ace of Spades
#1. 'Ace of Spades'
#2. 'Love Me Like a Reptile'
#3. 'Shoot You in the Back'
#4. 'Live to Win'
#5. 'Fast and Loose'
#6. '(We Are) The Road Crew'
#7. 'Fire, Fire'
#10. 'Bite the Bullet'
#11. 'The Chase is Better Than the Catch'
#12. 'The Hammer'
Don't really need a listening example, you heard Ace of Spades earlier.
Venom's Welcome to Hell, released in 1981. This is more extreme than most other speed metal bands, and greatly influenced genres of extreme metal that were still to come:
#1. 'Sons of Satan'
#2. 'Welcome to Hell'
#3. 'Mayhem with Mercy'
#5. 'Live Like an Angel'
#6. 'Witching Hour'
#7. 'One Thousand Days in Sodom'
#8. 'Angel Dust'
#9. 'In League With Satan'
#10. 'Red Light Fever'
#1. 'Balls to the Wall'
#2. 'London Leatherboys'
#3. 'Fight it Back'
#4. 'Head Over Heels'
#5. 'Losing More Than You've Ever Had'
#6. 'Love Child'
#7. 'Turn Me On'
#8. 'Losers and Winners'
#9. 'Guardian of the Night'
#1. 'Practice What You Preach'
#2. 'Perilous Nation'
#3. 'Envy Life'
#4. 'Time Is Coming'
#5. 'Blessed in Contempt'
#6. 'Greenhouse Effect'
#7. 'Sins of Omission'
#8. 'The Ballad'
#9. 'Nightmare (Coming Back to You)'
#10. 'Confusion Fusion'
#1. 'Enter the Hall'
#2. 'Pestilence Reigns'
#4. 'Existence is Futile'
#5. 'The Brain Scramblers'
#6. 'Across Forests and Fjords'
#8. 'Dismantle the Dictator'
#9. 'Anthem of the Betrayed'
#10. 'Leviathan Awaits'
#11. 'The Tragedy of the Modern Ages'
#1. 'Laid to Rest'
#3. 'Now You've Got Something To Die For'
#4. 'The Faded Line'
#6. 'Blood of the Scribe'
#7. 'One Gun'
#8. 'Break You'
#9. 'What I've Become'
#10. 'Ashes of the Wake'
#11. 'Remorse is for the Dead'
If you ask a non-metal fan to describe what they think metal is, they will 9 times out of 10 describe death metal: gory imagery, brutal instrumental parts, and growled vocals. Death metal is one of the more extreme genres of metal, so it might not be the best place to start if you are interested in getting into metal. Nonetheless, it's worth learning about it because it's an interesting subgenre - and there are the hilarious song titles - and even if you think it is mindless noise, you might wonder why - or how - people listen to it. In my opinion, it's mostly going to be an acquired taste. I can honestly say that when I first listened to Necrophagist's 'Only Ash Remains' (the first death metal song I can remember listening to, a few years ago now) I thought it was little more than unstructured noise, and I almost laughed at the vocals. Today they are one of my favourite bands; first impressions rarely last in the world of metal, I can surely say.
Death metal was born out of the more extreme thrash/speed metal bands of the 70/80s. Many people think that Slayer's Reign In Blood - which I mentioned last update - almost single-handedly created death metal. I'm not sure how true that is, but it was definitely a massive influence, along with other extreme thrash bands like Venom (who will get paid their due next update). It'd be pretty boring if I just stopped there with the history, so I'll talk about a few other things that may or may not have influenced death metal.
Oddly enough, The Who might have been an influence on death metal (sorry to those who may think otherwise); specifically their song 'Boris the Spider'. In the chorus of this song John/Pete use a vocal technique that is strangely similar to death metal's notorious growls.
Possessed, a band from the Bay Area scene, also influenced the death metal sound that would follow. Their debut album Seven Churches released in 1985 distilled the aggressive thrash sounds of Dark Angel and Slayer further, resulting in what could be argued as the 'first death metal record'. Of course, there is never a specific point where something is created, and due to this gradual process some people will argue that it comes later, on records such as Dark Angel's Darkness Descends in 1986 or Death's Scream Bloody Gore in 1987. It doesn't really matter, because all the albums are greatly influential in their own right.
Death's Human, released in 1991, marked a turning point in their own sound; they began to use more complex timings, leads and riffs, along with lyrics with deeper meanings. This 'more refined' sound influenced other bands such as Suffocation and Gorguts, and eventually gave birth to the sub-genre of technical death metal, or as it is commonly known as, tech-death.
Tech-death is the kind of music you could show to an elitist jazz musician; they'd probably hate it, but they might be able to appreciate the musically complex techniques used. Often tech-death musicians are classically trained, or educated in jazz - such as members of Atheist. They incorporate their knowledge of intense music theory into death metal and accomplish a very brutal yet ordered sound.
There are of course other sub-genres of death metal, but many of them are either too underground and intense to talk about here - such as brutal death metal or goregrind - or are a popular genre in and of itself - like melodic death metal or deathcore, the former of which will get its own topic in a while.
Death metal is extremely hard and fast kind of music, frequently using low guitar tunings to achieve a more brutal sound. Drummers almost always use double kick pedals or two bass drums. Guitar parts are tremolo picked and often atonal or heavily chromatic, generally avoiding the major scale. Also frequently used are the minor/harmonic minor scales. Songs often change tempo or time signature, which gives an abrupt 'stop-start' feel to the music which makes it generally unpredictable. Guitar solos are frequent and can either be shredded and atonal, like a Slayer solo, or can be surprisingly emotive, like a solo by Necrophagist or Death. Songs can either be extremely heavy - which means heavily accented beats, and generally slower tempos; this is music to headbang to - or brutal - which refers to the high tempo, frenetic sounds of bands like Death.
Technical death metal is harder to define within limits because it is often pushing the limits that are set for it. Generally speaking, technical death metal can be described as death metal with a technical or bizarre twist added to it, like Cynic/Atheist and their jazz-fusion techniques or Opeth and their long acoustic passages. Of course, these 'twists' aren't always as blatantly obvious like a sudden jazz section in the middle of a song, it is often seen in subtle theoretical application, which may not always be obvious to the listener. Bands like Gorguts or Cryptopsy may just sound like any other death metal band, but their songs are composed using carefully thought out theoretical processes.
Note the atonal guitar solos and the heavily accented beats:
More frenetic sounding, uptempo death metal. This is also where the genre took its name from:
Technical death metal featuring a classical influence and one of the best guitar solos of all time:
#1. 'Lunatic of God's Creation'
#2. 'Sacrificial Suicide'
#3. 'Oblivious to Evil'
#4. 'Dead by Dawn'
#7. 'Carnage in the Temple of the Damned'
#9. 'Day of Darkness'