Why Not Try Metal?
Despite not having a single double bass drum roll within any of our iTunes libraries, my mates and I recently found ourselves in Pit and Pendulum on Victoria Street. The reason: we were searching for a bar where we wouldn’t have to queue an hour for drinks. This unplanned visit made me think about just why I, and many others with otherwise broad musical tastes, are so reluctant to listen to metal.
A lot of people are probably put off by metal before they even give it a listen. For many, metal is solely associated with monstrous riffs, cacophonous drumming and demented vocals. Yet as any metalhead will implore, the term ‘metal’ actually covers innumerable sub-genres that feature a vast range of styles and subtleties. A reason why many are reluctant to listen to metal is that it is in fact much more than a genre — it is also a culture and a whole way of life for some. Many believe that to get involved in the metal scene you have to wear the clothes, grow the hair and get the tattoos. Given that this image isn’t perceived as being particularly cool, it is perhaps unsurprising that metal is shunned.
But could metal finally be making something of a crossover? Recently we have seen Lou Reed working with Metallica, Skrillex collaborating with Korn, Justice remixing Metallica and Mastodon moving over to the mainstream, even managing to sneak onto Jools Holland’s show. Maybe now is the time to give the much-maligned genre another try.
4 Categories of Metal
Although some of these earlier bands may not sound ‘heavy’ to modern ears, they undoubtedly helped to shape the metal genre in the decades to follow. In the early to mid 1970s, the riff was king, as shown by classics like Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’, Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’, and Kiss’s ‘God of Thunder’. What’s more, if you find the sound of later metal too harsh, bands such as these can act as a great way to ease yourself into the world of metal.
Some of metal’s most important bands and albums came out of the Thrash subgenre, which fused the technical musical ability and imagery of metal with the speed and aggression of punk. This was revolutionary at the time, and thrash’s ‘Big Four’– Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax still influence many of today’s young metallers. As time went on, however, much of the music released by Thrash bands became more cerebral and less focussed on all-out speed – check out the amazing Eastern-sounding acoustic guitar solo on Megadeth’s ‘Holy Wars’.
Glam metal ultimately represents for metal what Duran Duran represented for pop – a musical equivalent of the decadent ‘80s. Most Glam features typical ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’ lyrics, copious guitar solos, and the type of chorus that you can’t help but shout along to (think Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’). It’s also probably the most consistently ridiculed subgenre of metal, with the make-up, the big hair, and the cheesy lyrics all making it a pretty easy target for its detractors. If you can get past the image (or if you love the image – each to their own), there are some real gems to be found within this subgenre.
Nu metal emerged in the late 1990s, fusing elements of metal, grunge, industrial, and hip hop, among others. Despite being focussed mainly on metal instrumentation, Nu metal rarely featured elements otherwise commonly found in metal, such as guitar solos; instead DJs were often used to create an entirely different sound. In addition to this, many Nu metal vocalists such as Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit and Corey Taylor of Slipknot incorporated rapping, as well as the more traditionally metal screams and growls, into their music. By the mid-2000s, nu metal’s popularity had waned, but it has recently experienced a resurgence in popularity, with Slipknot and System of a Down headlining festivals worldwide in 2011.
Joseph Gallagher & William Gulseven