What is Metal music? History, Genres, Bands, Sub-genres & FAQs

What is Metal music?

Metal, in its most basic form, is a type of rock music that offers a hard sound with aggressive vocals accompanied by distorted guitars. Metal’s roots date back to the late nineteen sixties when it emerged from blues and jazz, but the exact origins are hard to determine. The driving force behind early metal was the electric guitar, which was used in blues prior to the late fifties and early sixties.

This post will explore the many genres of metal present today as well as outlining metal’s most popular artists and subgenres.

How Metal was Born?

While there’s no exact date for when heavy metal was born, it’s most often thought that Black Sabbath is considered the first band to play a true heavy metal song with their song entitled “Black Sabbath.”

Heavy metal was first a part of the American underground music scene.

The initial heavy metal bands were focused on two themes: horror and the occult. Metal’s first major breakthrough came when bands like Black Sabbath made it big in the early seventies with albums such as “Black Sabbath” and “Master of Reality”.

The glorification of heavy metal music peaked when artists started using heavy metal as a way to talk about issues that they wanted to address.

Popular Genres of Metal

Metal is most commonly divided into 28 genres but in this post we will be looking at 10 popular ones.

Heavy Metal

Heavy metal is the broadest term within the genre of metal and includes anything from hard rock to thrash to power metal.

Heavy metal has a darker style that incorporates lyrics about violence, war, death, and the occult. In the 1970’s heavy metal started to attract a rebellious following that were interested in more extreme music. It’s primarily associated with bands such as Metallica, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Megadeth and Black Sabbath.

Death Metal

Originally, death metal is a subgenre of heavy metal (for similar reasons). Death metal blends traditional heavy metal with elements of hardcore punk.

Death metal lyrics tend to deal with dark subjects and much less on social issues, finding more inspiration from horror movies. Death metal musicians often incorporate high-pitched shrieks into their vocal styles.

Primarily using the guitar as its strongest instrument, death metal uses double bass drums and extreme distortion to produce an extremely dark sound.

Notable Artists

  1. Possessed
  2. Death
  3. Kreator
  4. Slayer

Alternative Metal

Alternative metal (often abbreviated as alt-metal) is a diverse style of metal music that emerged in the 1990s. Alternative metal musicians typically mix metal with elements from other genres (e.g. hip-hop, alternative rock, electronica), while still maintaining heavy metal’s traditional sound. Guitars riffs in alternative metal are often heavy, down-tuned and mid-paced.

Notable Artists

  1. Faith No More
  2. Alice in Chains
  3. Tool
  4. SOAD
  5. Godsmack

Avant-garde metal

Avant-garde metal or avant-metal is a subgenre of heavy metal that combines sounds and aesthetics from avant-garde music with elements of various styles of heavy metal. Avant-garde metal is known to include a vast variety of influences and styles, ranging from experimental music to jazz fusion and many others. The genre originated as an outgrowth of industrial, free improvisation, jazz fusion, noise music and progressive rock in the mid to late 1980s.

Notable Artists

  1. Celtic Frost
  2. Earth
  3. Helmet
  4. Neurosis

Black metal

Black metal is a sub genre of heavy metal, encompassing a wide range of subgenres based largely upon the application of stylized performances of Satanism, Satanist imagery, and other themes from the heavy metal genre.

Band members typically dress in all-black clothes adorned with homemade black metal jewelry and make frequent use of distorted guitars played at high volumes and speed.

Notable Artists

  1. Hellhammer 
  2. Venom
  3. Immortal
  4. Mayhem

Christian Metal

Christian metal, also know as white metal, is a heavy metal subgenre that combines elements of heavy metal music with Christian lyrics.

Christian metal bands typically focus on themes of love, peace, and hope rather than Satan and evil. Christian metal bands tend to avoid the heavy metal genre’s negative imagery, such as satanic imagery and violent depictions of relationships between men and women. This is due to the fact that many Christians find such imagery inappropriate for their personal faith as well as morally reprehensible.

Notable Artists

  1. Resurrection Band
  2. Petra
  3. Jerusalem

Doom Metal

Doom metal is a blend of heavy metal with non-standard scales and slow tempos. Doom metal also typically relies on drone-like guitar effects, low-pitched tunings, sludgy guitar riffs and heavy distortion.

Doom metal features lyrics that cover topics such as despair, nihilism, depression, existentialism or apathy with themes such as loneliness or isolation.

Notable Artists

  1. Black sabbath
  2. Pagan Altar
  3. Witchfinder General 
  4. Pentagram

Extreme Metal

Extreme metal is a subgenre of heavy metal music that ranges from extremely fast and loud to extremely slow and quiet. Extreme metal bands typically endorse a particular philosophy or belief, such as antinationalism, anarcho-capitalism or anti-religious sentiment. They are also known for their interest in science fiction or fantasy topics. The sub-genres includes thrash metal, speed metal and death metal.

Notable Artists

  1. Megadeth
  2. Meshuggah
  3. Metallica
  4. Venom
  5. Slayer

Folk Metal

Folk metal combines heavy metal music with traditional folk music. Folk metal emerged in the 1990s mainly in central Europe and Scandinavia, with a large number of bands emerging from the German and Estonian scenes.

Folk heavy metal is characterized by more folk-influenced lyrics and melodies. Many of the traditional instruments such as the bagpipes are used.

While much of folk heavy metal traces its origins to certain European countries, including Sweden, Norway, Germany and Latvia, it has grown into a global phenomenon.

Notable Artists

  1. Finntroll 
  2. Ensiferum
  3. Turisas
  4. Moonsorrow

Popular Sub Genres of Metal

Dirty – It’s a term used to describe heavy metal music that has little artistic value. This type of metal is seen as the “baseline” or the “checkpoint” for all other types of metal. This music tends to have an aggressive, fast sound with loud bass and rhythmic drum beats.

Melodic – This style is what most people would think of as typical “metal.” Melodic metal has a soaring and dreamy style with melodic vocals and song structure.

Thrash – This type of metal is generally seen as being the most aggressive and violent of the three types. The music is characterized by it’s fast tempo and by heavy use of drums and bass, which help contribute to its aggressive sound.

Glam – This style consists of a mix of hard rock and heavy metal with glam artistry. The purpose was to create an image that would rival that of pop stars like Madonna.

Power – Power metal is a type of classic heavy metal music with a hard rock style and musical arrangement. This style combines the energy of metal with elements of traditional hard rock and 1970s heavy metal.

Progressive – Progressive music is a term used to describe heavy metal music that has an artistic quality to it. Progressive metal features long musical passages, more complex song structure, and more melodic vocals than traditional heavy metal.

Grindcore – Grindcore is a very popular style of extreme metal. The musical structure is characterized by it’s non-stop, high tempo, and extreme content. This type of metal has radical lyrics focusing on graphic violence and gore.

Thrashcore – Thrashcore is a style of music similar to grindcore except that it tends to focus on anti-establishment themes rather than gore and violence. It’s often referred to as “political punk.”

Popular Metal Artists

Many popular artists in metal music have been at the top of their game for years. The best form of metal is often associated with these artists:

Metallica – Metallica has been one of the most popular metal bands since the nineteen eighties. They’re one of the biggest heavy metal bands in the world and are one of the most influential to break out of the genre.

Iron Maiden – Iron Maiden is a heavy metal band from Leyton, East London that was formed in 1975. The band has played an important role in the world of heavy metal influencing many other artists alongside Metallica.

Judas Priest – Judas Priest is a legendary heavy metal band that’s ranked next to Black Sabbath as being among the first bands in heavy metal history. They’ve been a mainstay in the industry for decades earning them a huge following and a long list of albums.

Mastodon – Mastodon is an American heavy metal band that was formed in 1999. They’re one of the best heavy metal bands of all time and are ranked as one of the most influential acts by Rolling Stone Magazine.

Anthrax – Anthrax is an American thrash metal band that was formed in 1981. They’ve been a mainstay in the industry since their formation and have been at the top of their game for a long time.

Motörhead – Motörhead is a English heavy metal band that was formed in 1975. They’ve been one of the most influential heavy metal bands on the scene and have influenced other artists including Megadeth and Metallica.

Thin Lizzy – Thin Lizzy is a Scottish hard rock band that has been around since 1969. The band has one of the best catalogs in heavy metal history and are ranked as being among the best by many critics.

Cannibal Corpse – Cannibal Corpse is an American death metal band that was formed in 1988. They’re considered to be among the top bands of that style and are very good at what they do.

Megadeth – Megadeth is a legendary heavy metal band from the United States. They’ve been one of the biggest acts in the genre since their formation in 1983 and have influenced other artists.

Testament – Testament is an American thrash metal band that was formed in 1983 making them one of the oldest thrash metal bands on this list. They’ve been around for decades and have influenced a lot bands.

Pantera – Pantera is a thrash metal band that originally formed in 1981. Though the band has split up, they have maintained a commercial presence for decades and have influenced many bands.

Slayer – Slayer is one of the best thrash metal bands of all time and is ranked as one of the biggest heavy metal bands in the United States. They’ve gained a large fan base over the years and have influenced other bands.

FAQ about Metal Music

What is considered heavy metal music?

The term heavy metal refers to a type of rock music that combines elements of blues, rock and punk. Heavy metal music is louder and more aggressive than other forms of music. Metal bands typically have a vocalist, two guitarists, a bassist and a drummer in the band.

How popular is metal music?

Metal music is the most popular genre of music now. It’s as popular as pop and country music. It’s older than rock ‘n roll and it has created legends like Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica and so many other.

Why metal music is popular?

Metal music is popular because it contains aggression. It’s very good for health. Aggression is one of the most positive emotions in our life, without it we have no power. Because of aggression we can do great things in our life. Most importantly it makes you head bang, which is much healthier than dancing in your chair all day.

What kind of people listen to metal music?

Metal music has the largest fan base in the world. Most of them are students and young adults who like to go to concerts. There is no such thing as typical person who listens to metal, it’s a very diverse genre. Many famous celebrities listen to metal music, like Mike Tyson, Jim Carrey, Triple H, Nicolas Cage and many more.

Why metal music is so loud?

A lot of bands use distortion to get their message across so for them, it’s not about being loud. It just a way to let you know what they have to say. Some bands, like Disturbed, use distortion with melody to make something beautiful from something that sounds horrible.

Is heavy metal music evil?

No, heavy metal music isn’t evil. It’s just a way to express what we feel and what we want to say. Metal music is a form of art, like painting, drawing or writing a book. It’s whatever you want it to be.

Is heavy metal music satanic?

Heavy metal is not satanic and the lyrics have nothing to do with anything satanic. They’re a way for the artist to express themselves and their life experiences.

Is heavy metal music dead?

No, heavy metal music isn’t dead. It was born in the nineteen sixties and it’s still live today. It might be different from what it used to be but it will always exists and getting more and more popular.

Is heavy metal mainstream?

Yes, heavy metal is mainstream but it’s not a commercialized genre. You can find money in the pockets of most singers and bands that create heavy metal music. But there are some bands that don’t have any money at all and they still make amazing music.