Classification of Metal

David Myers



            Just like last year, 2006 may prove to be another "year of metal" as both current bands and older, experienced main-stayers release several high-rated albums.  Bands such as Slayer, Trivium, Lamb of God, and In Flames issued new releases into the open arms of their fans.  Those who do not prefer heavy metal as a favorite type of music tend to blend the genre into one single collection of noise and chaos.  Yet there are many subgenres, each with its own defining characteristics.  Whether hardcore, death metal, or thrash, there is much room for classification.


            Hardcore metal, also called metalcore, sprouted in the New England region.  Bands such as Killswitch Engage and Unearth wanted to make an original sound, but wanted it to not sound like traditional metal.  Probably the most modern form of metal, hardcore emerged in the late 1990's.  Hardcore is a blend of punk and metal in that it involves short songs with little skill, though some bands have tried and succeeded in making really talented music.  The subgenre is mainly concert-oriented, as one characteristic is the use of open-note breakdowns played as loudly as possible.  Another characteristic is the use of kick drum-guitar synchopations, where both instruments join together simultaneously.  This makes for a very repetitive and uninventive subgenre, though a few bands such as Between The Buried And Me strive for variety.

Killswitch Engage, one of hardcore's fathers.


            An almost opposite of hardcore, death metal is the heaviest and most aggressive form of metal.  As the name suggests, death metal's lyrical atmosphere concentrates on darker themes.  Florida and the far-away lands of Scandinavia are both considered death metal's birth places.  From the aptly named Death to the more progressive Opeth, this controversial subgenre has brought up many bands that hardly ever succeed commercially due to subject matter.  Usually, the drummer is the driving force behind death metal, and most are accomplished musicians.  Another characteristic is the use of down-tuned, heavily distorted guitars, creating a sludgy, doom-filled atmosphere.  Yet the most defining characteristic of all is the vocals, which involve low-pitched growls that render the lyrics incomprehensible.

Cannibal Corpse, one of the defining death metal bands.


            While hardcore is relatively new and death metal flourished in the early 1990's, thrash is one of the older forms of metal.  Started in the 1980's, this subgenre has influenced metal for many generations.  A primary characteristic is the deceivably complex drumbeat played at fast tempos.  This drumbeat has a very thrashy sound and is why the subgenre is named so.  Another characteristic of thrash is the guitar work.  The guitars are played at high speed, and many guitar solos involve high-speed shredding.  Though old, some bands such as Shadows Fall, Trivium, and Lamb of God are working to bring thrash back.

Thrash metal giant Slayer.


            Though not popular by today's standards due to little mainstream exposure, heavy metal is a 30-year-old genre that continues to grow.  There is more to the music than the noise and aggression.  There are many subgenres, including hardcore, death metal, and thrash.  Even more continue to emerge.

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