Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Heavy Metal Genres (in brief)

I thought I would take this opportunity to actually offer some "education" in the various genres of Heavy Metal. You see, when I inform people that I listen to Heavy Metal, they immediately develop some rather biast pre-conceptions - that metal is not music, that the singers can't sing and that it is really just a whole lot of noise and no rhythm.

They are, of course, naive and ignorant of the great scale of the metal genre.

Heavy Metal is, as a genre, as encomposing as "Rock Music" or "Classical". And indeed probably has more sub-genres than both combined. Now, I am sure there are many hidden nuances and subgenres to Rap and House music as well, but as they have never proven to be of any interest to me whatsoever, I think it is in my best interests to just ignore them and leave them to their experts.

Not that I'm a metal expert, but I have had over 20 years auditory experience.

And my mother said it was "just a phase".

Firstly, when I say I listen to Heavy Metal - I do not mean all the subgenres. I do not like hardcore, or grindcore or anything that is too aggressive or sounds like the vocalist is trying to cough up their oesphagus or that the guitarists each have six arms and cannot hear what each other is playing. Despite the fact that their vocalist is a bird (literally, he's a parrot - and no, they don't perform live, he's recorded separately and then added into the music) I do not like Hatebeak. I do not like death metal either. Black metal amuses me in small doses and if it is not too serious (Cradle of Filth and Ancient are acceptable, and I rather like Sadness, for example).


My interest mainly lies in the other half of the spectrum. The melodic stuff.

Now, there is quite a wide diversity amongst the melodic stuff too. Let me discuss the various SubGenres that you are likely to see referenced in my labels:

Note: These are my own interpretations, and may not quite be the same as those found on, say, wikipedia. This is because the metal genre is entirely too complicated and confusing and you need a degree in Heavy Metalogy to understand it properly. So consider this a summary.

Power Metal - This is the real creme de croppe - sophisticated guitars, occasional inclusion of classical instruments, usually the vocals have a slightly operatic edge. Themes are generally fantasy or historical or occasionally pseudo-religious. Bridges and choruses, often quite catchy, clever melodies. Generally feeling rather intense, powerful, almost like being caught in the middle of an epic scale D&D campaign battle. The sort of music that makes your heart swell fit to bursting and inspires you to run around your room, waving a ruler like it's a sword and putting the light fixtures at risk*.

Bands of that ilk:
Helloween (esp the "Keeper" years), Stratovarius, Edguy, Blind Guardian, Dragonforce, PowerQuest, Gamma Ray, Avantasia, a large proportion of my collection.

~ * ~ 

Progressive Metal - Similar to Power Metal, but with more synthesizers, a generally more "modern" vibe and lyrics about more mature themes such as politics or love.

Bands of that ilk:
Dream Theater, Queensryche, Angra, Rush.

~ * ~

Folk Metal - The addition of folk instruments such as fiddles, bagpipes, and things that I don't even know the names of. Songs that make you want to jump around and engage in various forms of, well, folk dance. Usually have fast, repetitive rhythms; catchy, repetitive lyrics and are overall pretty damned awesome. Topics generally about maidens of various humanesque species, rogues and vagabonds - or in Skyclad's case, serious political issues and far too many puns.

Bands of that ilk:
Skyclad, Elvenking, Phoenyx, Subway to Sally, Amorphis (some albums)

~ * ~ 

Doom Metal - Slow, heavy, ponderous - as though every beat is an effort. Vocals can be low and growling (doom-death) or almost operatci (awesome). Lyrics generally about death and dying - sometimes depressing, sometimes not as bad as you would expect. Sometimes violins and other maudlin classical instruments are incoporated to add to the general feelings of desolation.
Have the roots in early Black Sabbath.

Bands of that ilk:
Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus, Confessor, Anathema, My Dying Bride.

~ * ~

Symphonic Metal - Really complex structures, soaring instruments, intense emotions - basically, symphonic metal makes use of the many various "voices" of classical music to create not only a song, but a whole atmosphere. Not disimilar in some ways to Power Metal, but the lyrics are generally more sophisticated and they make more use of synthesizers. Often have female vocalists or female AND male vocalists.  Symphonic Metal bands are AMAZING live.

Bands of that ilk:
Nightwish, Alpine Fault, Epica, Therion, Rhapsody, Leaves Eyes.

Looking at Wiki, it appears that Symphonic and Power are VERY similar and many of the bands that I have rated as one, they have rated as the other. I believe trying to pigeonhole bands is probably a fool's game. But kinda a fun one. I'll just label things as both, okay?

~ * ~

Thrash Metal - characterized by heavy percussive beats and fast, hard riffs. Aggressive, churning music - often with intelligent and political lyrics.

Bands of that ilk:
Metallica, Megadeth, (early) Anthrax.

~ * ~

Speed Metal - heavy, fast and technically demanding metal - often with fairly complex guitar rifts and of a higher, faster pace than Thrash (above). Not usually as aggressive and can, in fact, be rather positive. European stuff tends to be "happier" than American, which still remains quite aggressive. Vocals generally higher pitched - sometimes screaming, shrieking or (my favourite) operatic. Later evolved into power and symphonic metal.

Bands of that ilk:
Paradox, (early) Rage, Running Wild. (oops, these are all German bands, heh), Toxik.

~ * ~ 

Polish Funk Metal - This genre never seems to feature on the more formal Metal Genealogy charts. Why, you might even think I just made it up! But, since I own a couple of CDs that cannot possibly be labelled as anything but PKM, here we go! This is a kinda funky  metal, undertaken by Polish bands with relatively broken english and off-beat attitures. A few years ago I got chatting to a Heavy Metal fan from Poland who was delighted that I actually knew something of the bands from his actual country. There are two other Polish metal bands that I know of - Turbo and Dragon, but neither of them are particularly funky.

Bands of that ilk:
Wolfspider, Acid Drinkers.

Okay, so mostly they're considered to be thrash bands. Spoil my fun *pouts*
But it's thrash with funk!

Okay, too tired to continue this for now - but stay tuned cos I will make updates as I add more genres in to my labels.

* But let us not speak of the "Manowar Incident"

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