Home > Metal, Misc. > Metal: Defining The Subgenres

Metal: Defining The Subgenres

Metal is a genre that has far too many different sounds within it to squeeze under one common adjective. So, we make up new ones. Metal has the most sub-genres of any other musical type, and it’s an extremely lengthy list. People often question exactly what kind of Metal certain bands are, and it never really is easy to classify one. Well, I’m here to try my hand at explaining each of these sub-genres, and hopefully give you a better understanding of what makes them all different from each other.

This list is taken from the Wikipedia list of Heavy Metal sub-genres. Most example bands also taken from lists on Wikipedia. The descriptions of each, however, are of my own work.

  • Black Metal
Black Metal is typically very fast music, more often than not has higher-pitched screams, and tries to create a very dark atmosphere. Lyrical themes can vary from 16th century poetry to a musical biography of a serial killer. A quick way to describe Black Metal is “medieval.” Example bands include; Cradle of Filth, Moonspell, and Celtic Frost.
  • Death Metal
Death Metal is what one typically thinks of when they imagine modern-age Metal. Powerful and repeated drum patterns, thrashing guitars, and very deep, growling vocals are the norm. Lyrics are again variable. Example bands include; Cannibal Corpse, Death, and Morbid Angel.
  • Doom Metal
Doom Metal is… complicated. Like Black Metal, Doom often strives to create a very dark or depressing atmosphere. On the contrary; it’s typically slower, something it shares with Gothic Metal. Despite the often slower speeds, it’s still very powerful music, with raging drums and maybe a ripping guitar solo every now-and-again. Example bands include; Skepticism, Internal Void, and My Dying Bride.
  • Drone Metal
Drone Metal is basically Doom Metal, except it focuses largely on drones, which are notes sustained throughout most of a song. Example bands include; Sun O))), Black Boned Angel, and Burning Witch.
  • Folk Metal
Folk Metal is what you would get if musicians from the Medieval period came to modern times and found out what electric guitars were. Go listen to some folk music, imagine that on an electric guitar, and *poof*, you have Folk Metal. Example bands include: Alestorm, Subway to Sally, and Orphaned Land.
  • Glam Metal
It’s pretty much every single hair-band ever. Glam Metal is what we saw a lot of in the ’80s, and is what pioneered what we know as Metal today. Example bands include: Motley Crüe, Poison, and Murderdolls
  • Gothic Metal
Very similar to Doom Metal, and often mistaken for Black Metal. Gothic Metal is often very slow, and has a large inclusion of piano parts. Unlike Doom Metal, however, it’s not exactly heavy. It’s very calm and moody. I tend to get depressed while listening to it. Example bands include; Moonspell, Paradise Lost, and Evanescence.
  • Groove Metal
It’s Thrash Metal. End of story. Example bands include; Metallica, White Zombie, and Black Sabbath.
  • Industrial Metal
A cross-over of the Industrial genre, Industrial Metal incorporates a lot of synthesizer work, and overall tends to have a very electronic sound. Example bands include; Nine Inch Nails, Static-X, and Dope.
  • Metalcore
Punk Rock/Thrash Metal/Extreme Metal. The end. Example bands include; Killswitch Engage, Zao, and Underoath.
  • Neo-classical Metal
Beethoven meets Death Metal. Example bands include; Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Symphony X, and Rhapsody of Fire.
  • Nu Metal

Nu Metal is often a cross over of metal and Alternative Rock, and it’s not uncommon to hear some turntable scratches. Example bands include; Linkin Park, SlipKnot, and Hollywood Undead.

  • Post-Metal

Post-Metal is a very emotional type of Metal. It’s basically the metal version of Post-Rock, whatever the hell that is. Example bands include; Neuosis, Cult of Luna, and Isis.

  • Power Metal

Power Metal is what you get if you tried to play a techno song on an electric guitar, and threw in a random solo in the middle. High-pitched vocals, pounding double-bass, and crazy solos are all around here. Example bands include; Dragonforce, Blind Guardian, and HammerFall.

  • Progressive Metal
A bizarre twist of Progressive Rock and Metal. Prog. Metal is very unusual and unique to the rest. Odd time-signatures, a huge variety of lyrical themes, and many other little things make it an interesting sub-genre. 
  • Speed Metal

Speed Metal is, as it’s name implies, very fast-paced. It’s instrumentals are like thrash metal sped up times-100. Example bands include; Motorhead, Annihilator, and Accept.

  • Stoner Metal

You are legally required (not really) to be on drugs while writing Stoner Metal. And that’s what it all sounds like. It’s quite possibly the closest thing you can get to a drug-trip outside of actually smoking crack. Example bands include; Acid King, Electric Wizard, and Sons of Otis.

  • Thrash Metal
Fast, aggressive, and heavy. Everything you can think of when it comes to metal. Wailing vocals, slamming double-basses, and, well… thrashing guitars are what define this genre. Example bands include; Pantera, Megadeth, and Anthrax.

So, that’s it. Every single sub-genre of metal… and that only took me an hour to write. Fun. This post was originally meant to be a review of the new Five Finger Death Punch album, War Is The Answer, but I’m not feeling all that great, and my head just said “no” to listening to a metal album. Maybe tomorrow… assuming I have time.


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Categories: Metal, Misc.
  1. RupturedSpleen
    December 12, 2010 at 2:51 PM

    this is the some of the worst misinformation on metal subgenres ive ever seen, and this from someone who hates arguments about subgenres. groove and thrash are totally different. and black sabbath, groove or thrash? wtf are you smoking? sabbath are predominantly doom metal. and white zombie arent thrash either. cradle of filth did perhaps one black metal album before turning gothic metal, or perhaps something worse than that. and pantera are groove, not thrash. really poor article. just take the it down, its a joke.

    • December 12, 2010 at 3:23 PM

      Take note that the bands that fall under each genre were pulled from a Wikipedia list, I haven’t necessarily formed an opinion about what genre most of these bands are.

      What genre a group is is often left to the opinion of the listener. I personally don’t see Sabbath as a doom metal band, and more of a groove/thrash sound. When I think Black Metal, I think of bands like Cradle of Filth, and they’re typically recognized as Death Metal anymore. Some may believe Moonspell to be Doom, while I see them as Gothic.

      This was a hastily written article that I did just kind of throw together in about an hour, but I wont take it down or consider it a ‘joke’ just because someone disagrees with my opinions on what bands are what genre.

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