Angry Metal LisaA really curious thing happens from time to time that I think it’s time to comment on. Because we all (that is, those of us who read and/or write love heavy metal, we all essentially draw boundaries for it. It all depends on your perspective, but largely we say that one thing is metal and another thing is not. We make fun of the things we find to be not metal and we praise (and often deify unnecessarily) that which we find to be super metal. This is not a surprise. In fact, I’d guess that it’s a natural part of the human brain: we group things and put them in their place so as to better order our world. We also use cognitive short cuts in order to reach conclusions about the vast seas of information that exist outside of our existence.

Being a metal guy (and an Angry one at that), I certainly have done this. In fact, I made a comment about Amaranthe (wow, they come up a lot around here) in my review where I said that it wasn’t metal. To be totally frank, that’s not true. Amaranthe is metal in the strictest sense of the word. But in my mind, heavy metal has some requirements – one of them being that it should be grungy and dangerous – and Amaranthe fails remarkably at that, in my opinion. A while back, on our Facebook page, one (probably former) reader made the comment that Slipknot is not metal. But, of course, that’s not really true either. I’d say by most anyone’s definition Slipknot, no matter how much you hate them, is a metal band. They have screams, they have heavy distorted guitars, they have heavy drums and so on. They’re a metal band.

But herein lies what I think is fascinating: we (snobs) also use genres to signal that a band is bad or that a group of bands aren’t quite up to snuff. A really good example of this is the genre called “nü metal” by the majority of the public. 99% of the time, this is used to talk about bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit and their ilk. Nü Metal is probably the most maligned heavy metal genre of all time. And so every time I talk about bands like Helmet or Life of Agony or Tool or Rage Against the Machine and I call them Nü Metal people freak out. But why? Well, because Tool, Life of Agony, BiohazardRage Against the Machine, System of a Down and Helmet are all bands that people like and that have been accepted into the metal pantheon (they call them “alternative metal”). Korn though? Oh no, no, no, nononono. They’re a nü metal band! But what’s the difference? All of those bands came out or got big after the collapse of hair metal and the rise of grunge. They all eschewed guitar solos and experimented with the types of music that were not part of metal orthodoxy – using rap, hardcore screams, emotional or political lyrics, stripped down production and so forth. So, same time period, roughly similar styles and largely the same fanbase. So, why were these bands not grouped with Deftones and Korn? And how different does Life of Agony sound from Godsmack really (aside from that the former had one good record and the latter had none)?

Another genre that gets kicked around is “metalcore.” Now there are a lot of metalcore bands that really sucks. It’s a shitty genre in general and it needs to have died – but hasn’t. But that genre is essentially where bands that look a certain way get lumped even when they don’t have anything in common with other bands in the scene. A great example of this is The Black Dahlia Murder. I will personally whip the next person who calls TBDM a metalcore band. There is nothing metalcore about them – aside from the fact that the guys in the band have tattoos, short hair and plugs. The band essentially sounds like At The Gates with more blast beats (though they have really developed with time), and I cannot think of a single song by the band that has a breakdown. What is metalcore about this band? In fact, I’d say that Ritual from 2011 is one of the best melodic death metal records that’s been released in the last 5 years. Listen to that album and show me the “metalcore.” It’s not there.

But I think it’s super hilarious how metalheads carve up genre differentiations and then divide bands they like into one good genre and ones they don’t like into other genres. Fallujah? Well, they’re fucking technical death metal. The Faceless? Deathcore. Tool? Alternative metal. All the fucking Tool wannabe bands? Nü metal. And don’t even get me started on Metal Archives keeping all the “dark ambient” bands, but dropping deathcore bands. Such blatant hypocrisy.

Ultimately I see this as a weakness of the scene. Just because something in your scene sucks doesn’t invalidate your opinion. How many shitty power metal bands exist? OMG SO FUCKING MANY. Does this mean that all power metal is bad? Nope. God, when was the last time you heard a black metal ripping of Darkthrone that you enjoyed? Puke. Does this make black metal a bad genre? Not at all! Did the post-metal period of the 90s that gave rise to nü metal suck? Hell yes it did. Did nü metal produce tons of shitty bands? Yes, yes it did. Does that mean that everything it produced blows? No way! In the same way that I love Unearth‘s early stuff and God Forbid and think the first Job for a Cowboy record is solid and think that The Human Abstract is great – no matter what genre they’re in. Just ’cause a scene is devoid of ideas doesn’t make the whole scene invalid. And we need to stop using genres pejoratively.

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  • I judge a band by what they sound like. I honestly couldn’t give a crap what sub-genre of metal people want to lump them into. To be honest, I think I have a fairly broad taste in metal… I listen to everything from Cannibal Corpse and Nile, to Killswitch Engage and August Burns Red…. Katatonia and Porcupine Tree to Barren Earth, Dream Theater and Opeth. The Human Abstract, sick band….but I also love Unleashed. I think if the band writes good music, I honestly couldn’t give a shit if its ‘cool’ or ‘respectable’ within the supposed underground metal fan base to listen to.

    • I think *that’s* what is truly metal. Not to crawl up your ass and hate stuff that isn’t seen as cool by the scene.

      • But don’t you think that by the same token, the much maligned Amaranthe and their overtly poppy take on metal can be accepted as “metal” the same way?

        • Sure, and in a sense they’re allowed to do it: just like I’m allowed to fucking hate it and malign its metal cred.

    • King Aurthoar, Dragon Puncher

      I can relate to this.

  • Kyle McDonald

    Thanks for pointing that out AMG. I realize that I do that, though I wouldn’t say to that extreme, but I am definitely guilty of some level of this. I’ll have to work on that.

  • HohenheimOL

    I have to disagree pretty heavily. Since when were screams, distorted guitars, and heavy drums indicative of metal? By that logic, just about any rock band could be labeled metal. Frankly, nu-metal by and large reminds me much more of punk. I do agree that being a different genre is in no way indicative of quality, but to my experience you’re exaggerating how many people really don’t understand that. Yes, there is a very stupid vocal minority in metal that makes that mistake, but you can’t judge a scene by its worst excess any more than a genre.

    Genre is not about making a statement of quality, it’s about finding music that matches your preference. When I search for metal, I want to find music with guitar driven melody, technical and/or melodic song structure, general mood and atmosphere, etc. Nu-metal, metalcore, and deathcore all fail to satisfy those requirements for me. Ergo, I say they are something other than metal. Once again, just because a few misguided souls think they can use genre as a measure of quality does not invalidate the practice of using genres to classify music, however strict the divisions may be. So long as the classifications are impartial ones, I see nothing wrong with it.

    • I’ll have to second that… I need to sit more with this and think on a better response, but my first reaction to your piece AMG was quiet disagreement. Subgenres exist for a reason, and classification is not only a normal human process of thought but a vital one I believe. Negative classification is of course a side effect of this, and its helpful for people on the point of entry to the metal genre (something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently… which ties into your views on this widely discussed Amaranthe band haha). For that new young person about to make his/her foray into metal it IS important for them to know the difference between Korn and say Faith No More, or Godsmack and say Amorphis particularly if those more popular bands don’t offer an inviting sound/image. I’ll have to elaborate more on this somehow when I have a moment to think clearer on it but one thing I’ll conclude on is this:

      As veteran and perhaps older metalheads, sometimes we forget the importance of things that we’ve long rendered inconsequential. I’m guilty of it myself. Among these things are the values of perceptions vs realities — the leading factor in negative classifications serving as the “metal community’s mindset” defense mechanism. Another would be the importance of image (to indirectly respond to a comment above about how only the sound of a band should matter). Does anyone think this discussion on a website like this would even be occurring if all metal bands throughout history dressed like our dads on weekends off at the golf club? Or emulated the look of the Beatles, etc, etc. Without over emphasizing it, there’s more to metal than just the music, and those kind of things matter to younger audiences.

      • Kryopsis

        “Without over emphasizing it, there’s more to metal than just the music, and those kind of things matter to younger audiences.”

        Metal is music. Everything else derives from the music or, more likely, advertising. The people carving ‘SLAYER’ on their forearms with a razor blade, whose wardrobe consists of two dozens of black band t-shirts and four pairs of Jeans, are victims of aggressive marketing. You talk a lot about younger people in your post. Teens are easily exploited and are indeed the target of most advertising campaings. They are often irrational consumers, unaware of the implications of the products they choose. Slayer t-shirts are sold in stores that cater to tween girls whereas children who listen to Dimmu Borgir would assume they are German and move on. The Metal ‘attitude’ or Metal ‘fashion’ you’re probably thinking of are just for show. I am not saying Metal does not influence teen fashion; one look at Hot Topic’s catalogue would disprove that. I am saying that the metal ‘culture’ (when it deals with anything but the music) is a commerical explitation of the genre.

        Teens do not realize that most Metal musicians do not wear tight leather, chains and spikes outside of concerts. When you listen to your records, they may picture a half dozen of bare-chested, long-haired, headbanging hellions going wild in a studio but it’s more likely to be a bunch of dudes dressed like their parents on their days off, playing their instruments with an air of quiet professionalism. This is why seeing bands like Metallica pardading around in flip-flops and Armani Emporium apparel is so disappointing. If you chose to believe the myth cultivated by the band’s appearance, reality just knocked on your door. It’s like learning the secret behind a stage magician’s trick: you will not find the performance as compelling.

        • I wasn’t intending to suggest that anyone would be so naive to think exactly what you are describing in the above paragraph — namely, that metal bands look like metal bands all time. My original comments were directed at image as seen on stage, in promotional pictures, artwork, etc etc… behind the scenes is completely irrelevant and not at all what I was discussing.

          You’re also saying that the “fashion” (that term should be used casually when it comes to metal t-shirts) within metal is an exploitation of the genre? Come on… its the BANDS themselves who are creating and marketing this merchandise. Are you saying that when you go to a concert and enjoy a band’s performance, you decline to buy a shirt on the basis of it somehow exploiting the integrity of the music?

          Metal is music — of course. But its more than music as well. Older metal fans (and I’m 30 myself) I’ve noticed tend to drift into mindsets defined by jadedness and “seen-it-all-before” syndrome. Particularly on the internet where we’re everyone is tempted to argue just for the sake of arguing, or anonymously sneering down their noses at what they perceive as naive, younger, newer metal fans. The thing is, I remember being a young six year old kid myself, staring with fascination at the pull-out poster of Megadeth on my cousins bedroom wall wondering who the hell were these people that looked so strange and deranged? When I investigated and finally heard the music, metal opened up to me. The image connected with the music I was hearing and I wanted to be a part of that – in any way possible.

          I think we’re straying way off topic from AMG’s original post though (sorry dude!).

          • Kryopsis

            Ah, fair enough. You mentioned younger listeners so I wasn’t entirely sure what you were getting at (by the way, yes, there are definitely people as naive as I described). I see your point now. Unfortunately you are right, both about the jaded attitude of older fans and the argumentative people on the internet. As much as I’d love to discuss the connection between image and music, it is indeed off topic.

    • Kryopsis

      You are unhappy with the description of Metal provided but the author of the article but you’re having trouble describing it yourself, aren’t you? I can think of quite a few Prog Rock bands that would match your ‘music with guitar driven melody, technical and/or melodic song structure’ criteria. As for the rest (‘mood and atmosphere’), you are being quite vague. I am getting the impression you’re making the same mistake outlined by Angry Metal Guy: classifying music based on your own preferences. How can classifications be impartial when ever you yourself make a distinction between music that satisfies your own requirements (Metal) and music which doesn’t (not Metal)?

      • HohenheimOL

        Wrong. I’m unhappy with AMG making some broad blanket statement saying anything bearing the slightest resemblance to metal automatically is metal. That’s not how it works.

        And furthermore, rock is not guitar driven. Rock has far simpler guitar chords and generally is more driven by vocals/drumming. And no shit I’m being vague. It’s music, not a physics course. There are general classifications that can be made, but there’s always going to be a grey area.

        Also, classifying music based on my preference? way to miss my entire point. When i said “impartial”, I meant exactly what I’d spent my entire fucking post saying: not to judge an entire genre as inherently bad.

        I’m presenting what in my opinion constitutes metal as a genre(yes, this is a discussion of opinions, fancy that) and pointing out that the entire fucking point of genres is to specify what kind of music you’ll be hearing if you listen to music, and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with observing differences in music, especially when your prefer specific types of music over others.

    • You haven’t really listened to a lot of nü metal if it reminds you of punk. Slipknot has a lot more in common with death metal than hardcore. Jordison and other members of the band were even in death metal bands from Minneapolis, and their themes and production were definitely metal.

      I think the same is true of bands like Helmet and Tool, who were stripped down, but weren’t punky really at all. Life of Agony? Godsmack? Both of them were ripping of Alice in Chains – who (from a quote by Jerry Cantrell himself) started out being labeled a metal band in the late 80s and then went to being called an alternative band in the 90s.

      But it’s totally wrongheaded to say that because you don’t *like* a genre it’s not metal. Nü metal is metal, it’s just not metal you like. Metalcore is definitely metal: it’s melodic death metal or Swedish thrash with hardcore breakdowns, what else would it be? And deathcore: saying that’s not metal is completely indefensible. It’s essentially bad technical death metal. If you can’t call *that* metal, you’re fucking kidding yourself. There’s no way you’re being impartial if you’re calling things that are definitely metal _not_ metal.

      • HohenheimOL

        Slipknot is one nu metal band, and there are many nu metal bands out there. To be fair, punk may not fit it that well, but that’s more because nu-metal is sort of its own thing. Tool? Hard rock more than anything, with some trippy time signatures thrown in for good measure. Alice in chains strikes me as being similar, albeit with a bit of heavy metal influence.

        And I never said I don’t like a genre solely because it’s not metal. I’m saying metalcore, deathcore, and nu-metal are all genres that I happen to not like and are coincidentally not really metal. I explicitly stated in my first post that I generally assume most music is good for what it is. I apply that principle to the aforementioned 3 genres. I assume they’ve got their ups and downs, but by and large they simply aren’t my thing.

        And metalcore would be hardcore punk. hardcore punk with a bit of general melodeath influence. It’s got hardcore breakdowns because it IS hardcore. And seriously? saying deathcore isn’t metal is “indefensible”? How about blatantly generalizing it to all be bad tech death like you just did? And what about bands like Five Finger Death Punch? Are they supposed to be technical somehow? Hell, they sound more like a hard rock/grunge band to me.

        • Chris Cox

          I didn’t actually read all through to comments before posting above, but I think my point becomes more clear in the context you are providing. Bands like Five Finger Death Punch (FFDP) are trying to appeal to as broad a base as possible, shooting to be just a little more extreme than mainstream in the context of familiar hooks and composition. At some point, we are splitting hairs: a band like that is not categorically in or out of the metal camp. Really it isn’t something intrinsic to the music, but what group of listeners claim it. To stick with FFDP, I think their objective is to get a pop-mainstream-alt rock audience to headbang and get unruly (but comfortably so). I feel like they are going for a metal-ish reaction, granted a watered down and redundantly repackaged way. And it works. It’s the same way that boy bands like N Sync and stuff could be manufactured back in the late 90’s: there is a formula. If you want to be accessible, you follow it. Being accessible is very “un-metal” but they are stealing all their recipes from the metal cookbook.

          I think AMG’s point is, you have to take the good with the bad, and it is senseless to categorize based on a value judgement. I think “pop” is a super-genre that might be used to capture bands who pick and chose their techniques and fashion their image with the primary intent of being accessible. Then, you don’t have the problem. Much of the questionable cases in metalcore and nu metal could just be called pop, IMO. AMG is observing that people bend the rules for quality and enforce them strictly against less inspired work. And, well, that isn’t really an impartial categorization scheme, it’s trying to pick a winning team.

          • HohenheimOL

            I totally agree, it’s pointless to try and change around genre lines to disown bad bands. If I said there weren’t metal bands I hate, I’d be lying(see: alestorm). But to accuse genre thumpers of styling their genres around quality rather than style is fallacious to the point of it being a strawman argument.

          • I find the fact that you can somehow nü metal, metalcore and deathcore as “not really metal” because “when I search for metal, I want to find music with guitar driven melody, technical and/or melodic song structure, general mood and atmosphere” yet at the same time accept that Alestorm is metal really hilarious. Point is, you’re just dismissing bands as not metal on a pure arbitrary fashion, because you don’t apply a coherent or consistent criteria of what is and what is not metal, and where are each genres borders, or seem to acknowledge the fact that music genres tend to overlap a lot. Either that, or you’re very bad at exposing your ideas.

          • HohenheimOL

            So it’s hilarious that I point out three genres of music that aren’t metal as such yet I point out that a bad metal band is metal? If you’re set out to disprove me, it’d help if you had a coherent argument.

          • From the posts I have read here, your criteria on what defines heavy metal as a genre seem purely arbitrary,
            and you’re really bad at exposing your own ideas, so I guess it’s both. By your own definition, it can be easily inferred that metalcore, deathcore and nü metal are indeed metal, yet you dismiss them as not metal. On the other hand, you consider Alestorm, a band that’s hardly guitar driven, has songs so hooky and poppy that can easily be reworked as dance hits and doesn’t have any atmosphere besides “let’s party, my hearties!” as metal. Not that there is anything wrong with that, I love Alestorm, they’re a great party band, and one thing metal direly lacks these days is a sense of fun, but I digress. Maybe you should be more precise about what kinds of guitar driven melody, technical and/or melodic song structures and general moods and atmospheres are unique to heavy metal and why metalcore, deathcore and nü metal lack them, otherwise, you’re just saying “I don’t like it so it’s not metal”.

          • HohenheimOL

            It’s like you didn’t read a single thing I wrote.

            First off, what drive Alestorm has comes from guitarwork. They have melodic song structure, and you just stated for yourself what atmosphere they have. They are playing metal, they just aren’t very good at it. And I find it paradoxical that your definition of fun is drawn out, repetitive snorefests like Alestorm tends to create.

            Let me spell this out simply:

            Nu-metal is not guitar driven, nu-metal riffs, if you can call them that, are mostly simple one note chords that take a backseat to vocals.

            Metalcore guitar work either sounds about the same as nu-metal or adopts some technicality. It however never carries melody. Drumming and vocals drive the melody in metalcore.

            Deathcore is metalcore with faster drumming and breakdowns. guitarwork still carries no melody and once again mostly takes a backseat to vocals and drumming.

            That’s about as specific as I can get. If you still don’t understand then clearly we enjoy music in different ways, and there’s no real getting around that.

          • Actually, you’re confusing me even more.
            When you say “that nu-metal riffs, if you can call them that, are mostly simple one note chords that take a backseat to vocals” are you implying that simple riffs are not metal? What about Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” Pantera’s “A New Level”, Priest’s “Breaking the Law” and Sabbath’s “Iron Man”, to name a few incredibly simple riffs that any moron with a guitar can play, yet are an indelible part of the heavy metal canon.
            When you say” what drive Alestorm has comes from guitarwork”, you mean that the songs are built around guitar riffs? That’s not the case, Alestorm songs are mostly built from either vocal melodies or simple melodic synth part, or both.
            See, this is what I’m talking about: you don’t have a consistent or coherent framework to define metal outside “this is metal because I consider it to be metal”.
            Also, if you truly believe that in deathcore “guitarwork takes a backseat to vocals and drumming” and that “metalcore guitar work either sounds the same as nü metal or adopts some technicality”, sorry, but the problem is not that “clearly we enjoy music in different ways”, the problem is that you either have serious hearing issues or don’t know that much about music, or metal, for that matter, and there really is no way around it.

          • HohenheimOL

            Then clearly you have serious hearing issues. That isn’t my problem, so don’t pretend it is.

          • I’d call The Propaganda by Limp Bizkit a metal song. Or Bullet for my Valentine’s Cries in Vain. But when listening to Shipwrecked by Alestorm, I heard a lot of rock. Doesn’t matter, it’s all metal. You’re both strange.

          • HohenheimOL

            That’s a shame, because not one of those classifications is correct.

          • King Aurthoar, Dragon Puncher

            Says who? God? A leader of a nation? Your parents? A man who’s pointing a gun up to your head? If not either of them, then I call bullshit on that.

          • King Aurthoar, Dragon Puncher

            What if you’re actually the one who has the hearing issues, and not Eloli? Honestly I’m with Eloli here. You aren’t stating your point clearly and everything you’ve posted up to this point has been biased and unsupportable.

  • I never really thought about genres like that – a way to use them as boundaries to “protect” your interests and “exile” your dislikes. I do, though, find it really, really hard to keep all of the genres and sub-genres straight. That’s why my metal has two genres: love it, hate it.

    (side note: I can’t help but roll my eyes whenever I see genre classification wars on places like YouTube or wherever. I don’t even know why I read the comments on that site, but sometimes my eyes accidentally wander into the blast zone.)

    • I usually don’t engage in genre debates – they’re not worth it. I just thought I’d have a more general discussion about it here.

  • This post is a big let down in every way. Seriously.

    • O RLY?

    • Care to clarify why?

      • Musical genres are created so that they could be could be used pejoratively against a different existing genre I think they are one of the essential uses of creating or defining a genre. So what’s the point of this post. :)

  • Chris Cox

    This is interesting. I assumed everyone *knew* this was the motive behind sub-genre definitions. Sometimes it is helps organize metal/music and make it something that you can discuss intelligently. Other times, and I think more often than not, people (read: aficionados; people who identify with their love and their knowledge of metal/music) will use sub-genres to cordon off their (good) taste from other’s (bad) tastes or from things that it might be embarrassing to enjoy from various reasons. It’s part of the psychology of superiority… I don’t mean this as a criticism, either. It is done by the nicest and most modest, as well as the biggest dicks. It is a consequence of 1) your deep connection with the scene and how you want to identify yourself, and 2) wanting to express that you know what you are talking about.

    Deathcore, though. That is a tough egg. I was actually thinking about this the other day, after hearing a really really bad attempt to discriminate death core from death metal. I think death core is defined more by the intended appeal than any technical or stylistic aspect. People cite the breakdown as a mark of deathcore. But that isn’t a perfect indicator. I think the reason so many deathcore bands have a breakdown is because it is a surefire way to get a very stereotyped reaction out of a crowd. It’s accessible. Metal core is just, IMO, more concerned about being accessible. It seems to me that the lyrics are more “relatable”, the song structure more predictable, the production value higher. I don’t mean to sound derisive… I am not saying this is bad. It’s just part of why aficionados don’t like it… it’s not trying to push boundaries except to sound more extreme in precisely the way listeners have an appetite and a pallet for. So in this case, I really do think the sub-genre labeling makes sense.

    By contrast, the nu-metal label is, as you write, meant as an insult exclusively. Meh… this was a more cogent argument in my head.

    • It’s interesting how the second wave of nü metal became what “nü metal” was and the first wave has been excused and re-genred.

      But I certainly never tried to use genres this way. It’s just something I’ve noticed as time has gone along. Certain genres have a “pall” over them, which is a shame because every genre has its stand outs.

  • Hurenhugo

    agree completely, great post.

  • Great Post .I just to say a artist who get alot of wrongly label is Marylin Manson.Alot of people think he is goth rock but he is not really.

    Really the stupid “what is not metal and what is”is kind of stupid but hey when you have a bunch of tween and teens ,always in you’re face about how metal they are because they listen to Slipknot and Korn.It sometimes might annoy the metal head who listen to underground genre like Black Metal.

    Then agin I think Nu-metal is a gateway to other lesser mainstream stuff.If you ask me when I was in my teens if I knew who My Dying Bride or even listen to death metal.I would have said would have not known who they were or diss the genre of death as garbage.

  • Very valid post. I like it a lot.

  • “When I search for metal, I want to find music with guitar driven
    melody, technical and/or melodic song structure, general mood and
    atmosphere, etc. Nu-metal, metalcore, and deathcore all fail to satisfy
    those requirements for me. Ergo, I say they are something other than

    Your definition of metal is both vague and limiting to allow you to exclude what you don’t like…. exactly what the article is against.

  • I feel bad for the bands that are generally classified as “nu-metal.” Think they get a lot of undeserved hate. Especially when people refer to them as “mallcore.”

    Everytime I hear that, I just picture an elevator in a mall blasting Korn. lol

  • I can’t say I really agree on the classification of nu-metal. To put my opinion in perspective: I was one of the many ’90s kids who loved nu-metal, which got me into ‘actual’ metal a couple of years after (the only big difference between me and others who got into metal this way is that I still dig the likes of Korn, though others seem to think it’s cool to bash what you’ve liked before just because your taste has matured a little).
    Anyway, my point is that I don’t think nu-metal is metal (maybe except for Slipknot). Why? The way I see it (and apperently also how AMG sees it) nu-metal originates from grunge, not from metal. That’s why most nu-metal bands are in fact a lot closer to grunge or alternative rock than metal. Really, don’t Korn, Linkin Park and Sevendust belong much more to the same genre as Foo Fighters, The Killers and Nickelback than as At The Gates, Maiden and Dimmu Borgir?

  • Great post AMG. 100% with you, specially regarding the hipocrisy at Metal Archives.

  • thehuntress144

    “…we group things and put them in their place so as to better order our world.” Bingo. Cognitive psychologists call these ‘heuristics’; a well known example is the stereotype.

    • Sure enough. But using the word heuristics is probably not a way to keep everyone involved for the whole post.

  • Great
    post, AMG and great blog btw, I’ve been lurking for years but this is the first
    time I’ve felt the need to comment on a specific post.

    the “not metal” pejorative to “any given subgenre you don’t like” is almost as
    old as metal itself, and something I’ve always associated to two of the worst
    traits of big segments of the metal audience namely, a stupid subcultural need
    for underground credibility and racism, that constantly interact in a never ending
    downward spiral of idiotic scene isolationism.

    the first one, I think it’s pretty obvious. Heavy metal has always been the
    bane of rock critics, and the fact that it started as a pretty massive and
    commercial hard rock offshoot in the early-to-mid seventies irks “serious
    headbangers” who wish their music was as respectable as punk to no end. That’s
    why any style that’s perceived as popular will always be lambasted by this
    segment, be it hair metal, nü metal, metalcore or deathcore. Hey, troo kvult
    types out there, I’ve got bad news for you: heavy metal, even in its current relative
    underground incarnation, still moves a lot of moolah and pushes a lot of
    product, and even the rawest black metal releases out there are marketed using
    the same techniques any pop artist uses, only with a smaller audience.

    other one is a little more subtle, but equally annoying. I’m not implying that
    metal audiences are racist per se (I’m a latino, after all :D) but the truth is
    that up until the mid-90s, metal’s audience was mainly white, and a lot of racist
    types latched on to it as some kind of flag bearing style against all that “awful
    black music onslaught”. Some have been very explicit about it (like Varg, in
    his infamous quadrants diagram), some are more discreet, but I can bet that a
    lot of metalheads who viscerally reject nü metal in the US and Europe have a
    real problem with rap influences just because it’s “black music”. What I personally find extremely funny about
    this particular rejection is that the troo kvult types who dismiss nü metal
    because it’s a “hybrid bastardization of metal with non-metal influences like
    rap” welcome folk metal to our beloved genre’s cannon with open arms. I mean,
    folk music? How more removed from metal can you actually get than Korpliklaani?
    How much people who claim Korn is not metal would never dare to even suggest
    they shouldn’t be covered by the same sites that cover Immortal, Cannibal
    Corpse and Slayer? What about all the folky, ambient offshoots from former
    black metal artists? I never heard anyone protesting about their coverage by
    metal sites, when they hardly have a distorted guitar buried somewhere.

    yeah, this “that’s not metal” rationale is completely illogical, hypocritical
    and tiring.

    free to call me a poser, or not metal enough, I don’t care.

    been listening to metal since 1984 when I was 11, and I don’t feel my metal
    credibility threatened for liking Job for a Cowboy’s music despite their emo
    image, and probably, the ones that would give me shit for that weren’t probably
    even born when I was rocking to Mötley Crüe and thrashing to Slayer in the mid-80s.

    rant over. Great column, and great site, keep up the good work, AMG.

    • Funny you say about folk metal.Yeah why is Folk okey to mix with metal but not Rap.

      • For me it’s purely aesthetic: I dislike hip hop and rap and I enjoy folk music from everywhere.

        • Personally, I enjoy some Folk music. The first songs I learned in the guitar are my people’s folk songs, what attracted me to Heavy Metal originally was how different it sounded back then. Also, from a purely aesthetic point of view, most Folk music (regardless of its origin) can be excruciatingly boring if you don’t have a feeling of belonging the society that produced it… the truly great Folk Metal bands are the ones that produce music where you feel the folk elements working in harmony with the metal elements, like Primordial or Skyclad. Sadly, most Folk Metal bands use these folks elements as a mere gimmick, and end up with unconvincing pastiches, yet these bands are praised while System of a Down, a band that has infused its music with a distinct, Armenian sensibility without resorting to gimmicks, gets trashed by most “true” metallers… must be the fact they were very popular at one time.

          • Sure, but I love System of a Down precisely because of those influences. :) Though, their guitar work gets pretty boring at times.

          • King Aurthoar, Dragon Puncher

            “True” Metallers? Pffft! More like ignorant hipsters full of hypocricy. I’m being serious. One thing that makes me feel bad for being a metalhead is the fact that you apparently have to be a segregational, hypocritical elitist in order ot be considered a “true metalhead”. However, I found a way to shut this feeling down: by shunning them out or laughing at them.

            For me, I don’t like most Nu Metal bands because their sound just doesn’t hook me by the lip as much as an actual fish hook would. However, I’m not going to pelt them with verbal slurs and ignorance(unless it’s Korn! That was actually a joke, I listen to their more-dubstep-ish music such as their songs that feature disk jockeys such as Skrillex.) Hell, I don’t like the older generation of metal that much either, mostly because of what it sounded like. It’s quality, to me, was too… “distorted” in all of its aspects instead of the guitar. Another thing that tends to turn me off are the heavy grunge-ness(that’s now a word. I hear by announde it as a word because I am a king and because I couldn’t find a better, more fitting word for its place.) and the screaming in most of the later bands. Primal Fear’s, HellYeah, Five Finger Death Punch’s, Children of Bodom, Amorphis, Arch Enemy’s, I Prevail’s, and Amaranthe’s unclean vocalists are exceptions because there’s something appealing I find about their style. Might be because I find their vocals to be very unique and go well with the rest of their sound, unlike other bands who don’t even bother trying to make their vocals link together with their sound.

            Another thing I’ve been wanting out of Metal is a band that doesn’t just try to poke out of the bounderies of the genre, but demolish it entirely(not literally), as in combining genres such as electronica and classical together while still having a heavy metal sound and feeling tying the other two together, sort of like putting a lion and a tigether and keeping thme together with a heavy chain.

            That last simile is probably horrible, but I don’t care because I’m tired and pissed off at Skyrim’s incapabilities with having tea some mods(Look, now there’s a horrible metaphor added into the bunch too!) that I really want to install. However that’s off topic, unless you guys make a new discussion on how some games don’t like working with some “dirty”(let’s just say it’s the “worst of both worlds” for that word) mods, which I doubt will happen. Anyways, point taken, there’s a lot of metal I can’t stand, yet it’s the genre I enjoy listening to the most because of the bands which I discover every so often which wrap their arms around my attention and are keeping me hooked until the day I die(Dammit I want an amazing fusion of Amaranthe and Apocalyptica now. Thanks, AMG!)

    • So let me say this: as an anti-racist who dislikes large swaths of “black music” except for early rock n’ roll and early jazz for purely aesthetic reasons, I think you need to be careful about what’s going on there. Yes, there is definitely racism in the scene. Yes, I agree that there are probably racialized reasons why people dislike rap and don’t want it in their heavy metal music and I believe that racism motivates why certain bands have succeeded or failed. However, I *really dislike* rap and hip hop and don’t want it in my metal because I think it’s boring, simplistic and lowest common denominator kind of stuff. And even when it’s not lowest common denominator stuff, like hip hop scene that is much more politically relevant and whom I agree with and respect for their poetry and politics, I don’t like their beats or their composition and would never listen to it by choice. So while I agree with you that there is a bit of a double standard when it comes to mixing metal and other kinds of music, the use of folk music in metal doesn’t bother me because folk music from all over the world – by people of all shades, ethnicities and nationalities – are musics and traditions that I respect and appreciate for their beautiful melodic structures and technical finesse.

      Glad you like the page, though, comment more! :)

      • I’m an anti-racist who dislikes most black music styles outside classic motown and funk (yes, this includes Blues, not being from the US I don’t feel obligated to worship it like a lot of rockers do, he he), and have to be literally strapped to a chair (Clockwork orange style) to listen to rap or hip hop, yet I do appreciatte some Nü metal bands. The use of folk music in metal doesn’t bother me as long as the folk elements don’t drown the core metal elements; hence, Primordial=Great Folk Metal, Darkest Era=Good Folk Metal, Eluveitie=Gimmicky Folk Metal, Korpiklaani=Show me the Metal Folk Metal. What really bothers me is the double standard when it comes to accepting some styles within the metal cannon, and how much ambient garbage is being covered and praised by metal sites just because it’s made by metal artists. Not to say that some non metal stuff made by metal artists can be great (I agree completely with you in that Weather Systems is an incredible album and that some metal influence shows in it despite its lightness) but still, if we’re gonna get strict and reductive when defining metal, at least we can be fair, can’t we?

        • Yeah, I agree with you (I hate blues too, and worse, I hate BLUES ROCK.. ugh.. – that includes fucking Led Zepplin and Cream and all that shit I’m supposed to worship). And I agree with you about the folk metal stuff, too. I love Vintersorg and Otyg but think Korpiklaani was all gimmick and don’t really think it’s that great.

          I think we’re in agreement here: metal is inconsistent and that double standard has an uncomfortable tinge to it.

    • BAM

      Wow, what an un-metal hipster poser.

  • KingKuranes

    I’m a big-tent metal guy. I find the “that’s not metal” criticism so tiresome, especially when applied to older bands that were definitely considered “metal” at the time but have been somehow downgraded to “not metal” just because there’s heavier stuff around now. When Jon Lord died, people on the metal blogs asked incredulously what this news had to do with metal!

  • Adolf Oliver Fingers

    Look at these metalheads, farting higher than their assholes, lol…

  • If you look at what the elitists consider “metal” and what they do not, it comes down to something pretty politically incorrect:

    1) It has to be white. It cannot resemble, derive from, or remind of you black culture or post-blues black music, be it rap, pop, hip hop, soul, worship, disco, or r&b. If the singer so much as raps or makes people jump up, jump up, and jump around instead of moshing, it’s no longer metal. Therefore wiggers, despite being white, don’t count.

    2) It has to be mature, manly, and straight. It cannot remind you of youth, who are weak and annoying and don’t have hair on their chests. Thus punk is out. And emo is gay, hence all the ‘core’ bands are out too.

    3) It cannot be popular. At least not in America. If popular in Norway, Sweden, or Finland then that’s okay, but not in the USA. Because America isn’t that white anymore.

    4) It has to honor or reflect 80s or 70s metal culture in some way. Otherwise it’s nu-metal. If it resembles Iron Maiden, it’s automatically metal.

    5) It has to be genuine. Or at least, music must take priority over image. If image is played up but music isn’t that technical or original, then it’s more like pop than “real metal.”

    I’m half kidding and half serious with this post.

    • I think pointing out whiteness is really important in this context. Metal is majority white for sure, and that plays a big role. In fact, I think one of the reason that such a large percent of my friends are white is because of the fact that I primarily listen to progressive rock and metal and am from a really white place in the first place – so the segregation that comes with that is huge.

      I’ve always felt that one of the reasons that God Forbid got the shit end of the stick is that they’ve only got one white guy in the band. Go and read comments on their Blabbermouth posts sometimes – I’ve seen some pretty heinous shit on there.

    • Greetings fellow listeners of metal, I would like to discuss some of TC’s points:

      Point 1:
      Suffocation, Sepultura (Those 2 alone with their legendary metal standing is enough to disprove this whole “has to be white” bullshit, )… Not to mention: Sevendust, crackdust,pillar, impiety, makam, El Dragon, V8, Demonic Resurrection, Stentorian and many many many others.

      I don’t know one “metal elitist” who would say Suffocation and Sepultura aren’t “metal”. I’m not going to even comment on your whole “cannot resemble, derive from, or remind of you black culture” because you had to rule out one before posting to make your point valid.A HUGE portion of metal is derived from blues, a HUGE amount… and there are others.

      Point 2: I laughed at this quite a bit… BUT you are in fact Wrong :) Punk isn’t out, where do you think thrash came from? Where do you think black metal came from? Crust punk even draws the same influences as Black Metal.

      Point 3: It’s not the fact that “it can’t be popular in america” it’s the fact that it will NEVER be popular in america… There aren’t many countries in the world where extreme metal could compete with other more popular(read as easier to listen to) music. There are plenty of extreme metal bands that have featured on different scandinavien charts, this is pretty much unheard of outside of scandinavia/eastern europe and a select few other countries.

      Point 4: Not really true, shit people will be saying this about Meshuggah in 10 years, oh no wait, they do already…

      Point 5: I agree with you on number 5, but i don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing… If a guy rocked up on a harmonica covered in corpse paint and started pelting away country and western tunes(I would pay money to see this), it still doesn’t make him “metal”… The same way puting on a flexifit cap doesn’t make you a rapper.

  • MetalMartin

    Very interesting post. Interesting because of the development of your ideas, to which I tend to agree. Interesting also because this post had a lot of comments. I think these days it tends to be hard to classify bands. There’s a lot of “hybrid” ones out there. In my opinion, if it’s a good band, fuck the sub-genre. Melodic or not. Screams or not. Growls or clean singing. Blast beats or not. Technical or not. I don’t care. I just need to be entertained intelligently and sometimes brutally or calmly. It depends on my mood. I could listen to Opeth, Anathema or Cattle Decapitation, Kreator, Skeletonwitch, General Surgery or Obituary or Caliban or fuck what ever, depending on how I feel. That’s it, that’s all. And when I discuss about a band with my friends, I don’t talk about the genre. I talk about the actual entertainment potential of the band’s songs/album/music. Cheers AMG.

  • I completely agree. The worst part is, I find myself doing this far more often than I should; not just with metal but with other genres and sub-genres as well. It’s so easy to do because there are often clear trends within a sub-genre that are more or less terrible but I’ve just about missed out on some amazing bands – I was really turned off of black metal for a long time until I was finally sideswiped by Wolves in the Throne Room and Melechesh – as well as a few guilty pleasures (Lamb of God) due to these assumptions.

    • Yeah, I’ve done it too. I don’t even really listen to promos from new metalcore or deathcore bands anymore. I figure I won’t like it, as most of the time I haven’t before, and move on.

  • Leroy

    Just to add fuel to the fire that is the AMG comments section, I’d go so far as to say that most ‘metal’ bands these days aren’t actually that metal at all – or that perhaps people forgot how metal came about. AMG mentioned ‘screams’ as one criterion of being metal – as far as I’m aware, until the likes of say Venom or Morbid Angel (early black and death scenes, respectively), heavy metal was essentially rock music with an almost film-score like epicness about it (Black Sabbath’s eponymous track, Deep Purple’s “Fireball”, or Rainbow’s “Tarot Woman”, anyone??)

    Along came the 80’s and the level of virtuosity/musicianship started picking up – big guitar/drum solos were in vogue. Those that didn’t/couldn’t ended up turning to the extreme – using offensive lyrics, sub par production, and the aforementioned screaming to leave their mark on the scene. Somewhere along the way it became about the extremity – the gorier your lyrics, the faster you played, the more apathetic you presented yourself as, apparently the more metal you were. All of a sudden the up and comers decided that being the next Euronymous/Glen Benton was more metal than becoming the next Eddie Van Halen (a point of which I rue).
    Don’t get me wrong, a plethora of great bands have evolved from the less virtuosic/more extreme side of the scene along with a slew of musically rewarding subgenres that we now find ourselves arguing about. What I’m trying to point out it that, though, is there is still this fascination with the extreme – screaming, double bass, downtuned guitars, relentless wall of sound – apparently without these things you’re not (or, rather, not allowed to call yourself) metal…

    …which – on a side note – brings us around to bands like TBDM. I concur regarding their last album (Ritual) – a fine listen with some great chops. That said, I can’t help but feel that they are still a band (among many) that looks for an excuse to play as ‘extreme’ as possible, thus propagating this whole ‘Amaranthe isn’t metal’ stereotype’.

    • Well, I disagree. Metal has expanded to the point where many of the original metal bands have been downgraded to hard rock. I think that’s fine and have done it myself.

      But I think that the backlash of “vest metal” bands is a way of reintroducing and reclaiming that part of metal.

  • I’d like to ad a few directionless thoughts to this awesome discussion.

    I’m in the video game industry and I always get upset with the construct of genres. For both games and metal I

    find they really help discuss the intricacies of things. Help you find new
    music if your in the mood for something specific. but, I also feel that
    they are harmful because they create expectations for both the creator
    and the audience.

    A genre is a set of rules, there is nothing in the work of art that forces it to be bound to these rules, this all happens because of the people behind it. When you are just starting out creating games or music, it’s very helpful to have.

    If I want to make a tower defense or a death metal song.. I know that there are tried and true methods for this. I know how other people have done it. The next tower defense game I make I may try to twist the rules a bit and make something more original. In this way it’s a good starting point for the creator. They help the creator get it right if they don’t really understand things on their deepest levels.

    Also I want to add to the rap+metal debate below. In my view Rap and Metal aren’t exactly peanut butter and Jelly. The nature of these things are sometimes often at odds.

    I think good rap is very rhythmic and constant (Similarities to techno.)

    I think good metal is very melodic and dynamic. (Similarities to classical music.)

    I feel that the voice fills the same role as an instrument. If you chang the way the the singer delivers, then you need to change the whole
    structure of music behind it. You can’t just take an Iron Maiden song
    and have Bruce Dickenson rap. He needs to wail and shout and chance the tone of his voice.

    This changes what the music is. Maybe this is
    why a lot of people find Nu Metal so unappealing? That’s just not what
    they want out of their music.

    One more thing! Totally agree with
    AMG about Black Dahlia Murder. Everyone I’ve recommended the latest
    album to comes back with something like “I didn’t know you listened to
    that ‘core crap.” It’s a little bit frustrating.

    • Doesn’t your own definition put a lot of very popular genres with non-melodic voices at odds with heavy metal, namely any metal genre with no clean singing? Because most extreme metal vocals are directly toneless, nü metal choruses at least have sung vocals every now and then, so rap influence aside, nü metal vocals can have more kinship here with classic metal tropes. Also, thrash metal can be very rythmic and thrash vocalists are hardly melodic. Does the incredible breakdown in the middle of Slayer’s “Reign in Blood” makes it less metal? Does anyone believe that Destruction, Kreator or Sodom are not metal because Shmier, Mille and Tom never even bothered singing? This comes to show just how arbitrary some criteria for excluding nü metal from the metal canon are. Going back to your food analogy, rap and metal may not be like peanut butter and jelly, but they are like strawberries with vinegar and basil. Yes, strawberries, lightly seasoned with vinegar and basil are delicious, they taste even better than with sugar. Problem is, few people even considering eating strawberries with vinegar, and some open mindedness is needed to take the plunge… and that’s always been a problem with heavy metal since day one: no enough openmindedness or sense of humour. I’d bet the day Stained Class came out, some proto headbangers were bitching about how “pretty double guitar harmonies and falsetto vocals are not metal, metal is suppossed to be plodding and based on minor keys exclusively, just like Sabbath”. :D

  • ab

    I’m glad that you mentioned the Metal Archives. Even though that site is an important resource to me, I have always been baffled at their inconsistencies, even when keeping in mind that it is impossible to draw a clear line between what is and isn’t metal. For example, Faith no More is listed on that site, but Rage Against the Machine and Tool are not. I can’t for the life of me understand how Faith no More is any more metal than the latter two bands.

    • Obviously that’s a hornet’s nest. But it’s stupid, it’s hypocritical and close-minded. But I guess that’s metal.

  • Uzi T

    Cool post and I wish I had the time to read the discussion, will try later.

    I also enjoyed the first JFAC and a bit nu metal at the time.
    Also an interesting note on Metal Archives dropping Deathcore but accepting “dark ambient stuff”(which can be an equally terrible style)….didn’t know that and it’s pretty ridiculous.

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  • Mauro

    Boundaries are getting hazier and hazier. Styles merge and every single result is unique. A lot of imagination is required to gather under a simple tag bands like the above mentioned. Of course, movements like grunge and pretty much every other movement before that (especifically located in time and place) have spat bands that can be categorized but this phenomenon was possible 20 years ago when there were such remote place. Globalization shortened distances and killed every possibility to grow domestic music features. There will never ever be another music style. Just bands that sound like…

  • Yves Parrays

    Angry, you’re very clear on that fact you think metalcore produces crap in general.
    What are the few metalcore bands you like, then? (apart from The Human Abstract, which you quoted and has metalcore influences)

    • Unearth, God Forbid, The Human Abstract (though, I think they’re on the border. It’s those three, really.

  • Would bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit be less ridiculed by heavy metal fans if they labeled themselves as,let’s say, alternative rock and not nu-“METAL”? Also, someone mentioned that metal has a racism problem. I completely agree with that. I’m from India and we have some very good bands, better than some of the stuff that gets reviews here, but they rarely get any recognition outside the country. Its a real pity.

  • “information that exist outside of our existence”

    You meant to write “outside of our knowledge”, no?

  • Metal Archives doesn’t list System of a Down or Tool. And “Slaughter of the Soul” is the worst ATG record according to the votes.

    I sometimes wonder what’s up with that site.

  • raulmetalhead

    Im not a veteran, and my views could be biased because of the location i come from, India. We have a handful of metal bands. Many metalcore bands getting attention for their tight live acts and some old school thrash. Many alternative and fusion rock/metal popping up.

    Lots of Scandinavian bands visiting in the past 2 years.

    But in general i think the issues on genres keep getting a habit is because metal is slowly dying. Over the years some prominent sub-genres came to birth like death metal, black metal, power metal, etc.

    But then in recent times many sub-sub genres came up. But very few sub-genres. IT almost looks like you are forcing two sub-genres to come up with something new, like Blackened death metal.

    I think Viking metal and folk metal are some good ofshoots, but they could also fit in the previous bracket like power metal.

    I hope good new sub – genres get created so that we dont need to spend time categorising the ones we have.

  • T.J. Barber

    Good article.

  • Alex Benedict

    1) Some nu metal really sucks, but not all of it does
    2) Don’t use genres pejoratively
    Yet, hip hop sucks(lcd), blues sucks, blues rock sucks, jazz sucks, etc.

    Hopefully you see where I’m going with this. To cut off entire genres is completely against what you’re arguing here. It comes off as extremely immature and close minded, especially for a music critic. According to your own argument, there has to be some good, even within a sub par genre. I say i dislike country, but actually, there has to be some that I’d like. And I love metal, but you can’t be metal all the time. This post–when paired with the comments–is hypocritical instead of inclusive, as originally(i think) intended. It seems to me that a lot of people here, rather than genuinely disliking other types of music, are simply saying that anything “not metal enuff” isn’t good.

  • King Aurthoar, Dragon Puncher

    Honestly, I think people are taking this whole genre war thing too far. For me, I classify metal on what the guitar sounds like. Mainly, if it’s fairly distorted, heavy enough, and very energenic(this doesn’t mean I think all slow metla songs aren’t metal because the distortion and heavy part will rule out the energenic part for me), and is fairly aggressive, then it’s metal in my book. If it’s hard to tell, then I consider it to be hard rock or alternitive metal.

    Grow up already! Metal has changed, and dispite some of it is bad, it’s still metal, only meant fora newer generation and racism has became a shameful thing and only makes you lower than the one you’re discriminating! I honestly can’t believe I’m telling most of you, who are most likely in their middleages, to “grow up” and yet I’m still 2 years away from becoming an adult. That must bring shame to some of you true metal(elitist)heads, huh?