Welcome to our guide to the world of metal subgenres. In this article, we will delve into the various subgenres that make up the genre of metal music. From the thunderous riffs of traditional metal to the atmospheric soundscapes of black metal, each subgenre offers a unique sonic experience and a distinct community of passionate fans.
Our goal is to provide you with an overview of each subgenre, including their defining characteristics, notable bands, and songwriting nuances. This list is not fully exhaustive, as we know there are always new genres being invented and some more obscure genres may have not made this list. Here are 20+ subgenres of metal and some of the notable bands within the genres.
Note: This article will be updated to include more subgenres as time goes on.
Traditional metal, also known as classic metal or simply "metal," serves as the foundation of the genre. It emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s, influenced by hard rock and blues. This subgenre is characterized by powerful vocals, catchy guitar riffs, and melodic solos that are often the driving force behind the songs. Traditional metal also place a strong emphasis on storytelling through lyrics and often features anthemic choruses that invite audience participation.
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Notable bands within traditional metal include Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest. These pioneers have not only shaped the genre but have also become icons in the metal community.
Thrash metal exploded onto the scene in the 1980s, taking the aggression of punk and merging it with the speed and technicality of heavy metal. Thrash metal is defined by its lightning-fast guitar riffs, relentless drumming, and socially conscious lyrics that often tackle political and societal issues.
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The most prominent bands are the "The Big Four" - Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, and Megadeth. Their contributions have left an everlasting mark on the genre and influenced countless musicians.
Death metal emerged as a subgenre of thrash metal in the late 1980s and pushed the boundaries of extreme music even further. Known for its brutal and aggressive sound, death metal features growled or guttural vocals with horror movie-esque style lyrics, heavily down-tuned guitars, and intense blast beats that create an atmosphere of relentless brutality.
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Notable bands within the death metal genre include Death, Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Suffocation, and Obituary. These bands have not only pioneered the genre but have also contributed to its evolution and popularity. Some current bands prominent in the scene include Gatecreeper, 200 Stab Wounds, and Cattle Decapitation.
Black metal, originating in the 1980s, is renowned for its raw and atmospheric sound. It features high-pitched shrieking vocals, tremolo-picked guitar riffs that evoke a sense of darkness and mysticism, and haunting atmospheric soundscapes. Lyrically, black metal often explores themes of nature, mysticism, and anti-religious sentiment.
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Prominent bands within the black metal genre include Behemoth, Mayhem, Burzum, and Emperor. These bands have contributed to the genre's development and created a distinct identity within the metal community.
Power metal is a subgenre that draws heavily from traditional metal while infusing it with a heightened sense of melody and fantasy-inspired lyrics. Known for its soaring and operatic vocals, fast-paced guitar solos, and epic compositions, power metal creates an atmosphere of grandeur and triumph.
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Notable bands within the power metal realm include Helloween, Blind Guardian, and Stratovarius. These bands have perfected the art of crafting melodic and anthemic metal anthems that translate especially well at large live concerts.
Progressive metal is a genre that pushes the boundaries of traditional metal by incorporating elements from various musical styles, including progressive rock, jazz, and classical music. Known for its complex song structures, virtuosic musicianship, and experimentation, progressive metal offers a captivating and intricate listening experience. Progressive metal songwriting showcases odd time signatures, extended song lengths, and concept albums that attempt to take listeners on intricate musical journeys.
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Notable bands within the progressive metal genre include Dream Theater, Periphery, Tesseract, and Opeth. These bands have carved a niche for themselves by blending technicality, emotion, and progressive songwriting and sell out tours around the world.
Doom metal, as the name suggests, embraces a slow, heavy, and melancholic sound. It is characterized by its down tuned guitars, slow tempos, and dark lyrical themes that explore despair, depression, and the occult. Doom metal songwriting is known for its long and atmospheric compositions that allow listeners to immerse themselves in a somber sonic landscape.
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Prominent bands within the doom metal genre include Black Sabbath, Electric Wizard, Katatonia, and Candlemass. These bands have shaped the genre with their monolithic riffs and brooding atmospheres.
Groove metal emerged as a fusion of thrash metal and hardcore punk, incorporating elements of both genres. Known for its mid-tempo grooves, aggressive riffing, and rhythmic emphasis, groove metal delivers a headbanging and mosh-worthy experience whether listening live or jamming to the records.
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Notable bands within the groove metal realm include Gojira, Sepultura, Overkill, Pantera, Lamb of God, and Machine Head.
Metalcore is a genre that combines elements of metal and hardcore punk, resulting in a dynamic and intense sound. Metalcore songwriting often incorporates breakdowns, which are heavy, groove-laden sections that inspire moshing and energetic live performances. Additionally, many metalcore bands incorporate electronic elements and synthesizers to add depth and atmosphere to their music.
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Notable bands within the metalcore genre include Killswitch Engage, August Burns Red, All That Remains, and Parkway Drive. These bands have made significant contributions to the genre, bringing it into the mainstream while maintaining its heavy and emotive qualities.
Industrial metal is a genre that, as the name suggests, fuses metal with industrial music, resulting in a unique and often dark and abrasive sound. It incorporates heavy use of synthesizers, samples, and industrial beats to create a mechanical and industrial atmosphere.
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Prominent bands within the industrial metal genre include Static-X, Rammstein, Ministry, and Nine Inch Nails. These bands have pioneered the fusion of metal and industrial music, creating a sonic landscape that combines aggression with electronic textures.
Nu metal emerged in the late 1990s, blending heavy metal with elements of alternative rock, grunge, and hip-hop. It is characterized by a fusion of heavy guitar riffs, rap verses, electronic elements, and angst-filled lyrics. Nu metal songwriting incorporates a balance of heavy guitar-driven sections and melodic, radio-friendly hooks. The genre's popularity paved the way for experimentation and cross-genre collaborations within the metal scene.
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Notable bands within the nu-metal genre include Slipknot, Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Linkin Park. These bands brought a fresh and accessible sound to metal, attracting a new generation of listeners and is seeing a rise in popularity today.
Symphonic metal is a genre that combines the intensity of metal with the grandeur of classical music. It incorporates operatic vocals, orchestral arrangements, and symphonic elements to create a majestic and cinematic sound.
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Notable bands within the symphonic metal genre include Nightwish, Epica, and Within Temptation. These bands have mastered the art of blending metal with symphonic elements, resulting in epic and emotionally charged compositions.
Folk metal combines the power of metal with traditional folk music, incorporating folk melodies, acoustic instruments, and lyrical themes rooted in folklore and mythology. It offers a unique and captivating blend of heaviness and folkloric charm. Folk metal songwriting often integrates traditional folk instruments such as flutes, bagpipes, and fiddles, adding an authentic folk flavor to the music.
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Prominent bands within the folk metal genre include Ensiferum, Eluveitie, and Finntroll. These bands have successfully merged metal with folk elements, infusing their music with catchy melodies and energetic folk instrumentation.
Melodic Death Metal
Melodic death metal, also known as melodeath, combines the aggression of death metal with melodic elements. It features harsh vocals, melodic guitar harmonies, and aggressive yet melodic compositions. Melodic death metal bands tend to do really well on European festival tours.
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Notable bands within the melodic death metal genre include At the Gates, In Flames, and Dark Tranquillity. These bands have pioneered the melodic death metal sound, showcasing a balance between brutality and melody.
Djent is a subgenre of progressive metal that is characterized by its distinctive guitar tone and rhythmic patterns. Originating in the early 2000s, djent focuses on low-tuned, palm-muted guitar chugging, creating a heavy and syncopated sound.
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Notable bands within the djent genre include Meshuggah, Vildjarta, Northlane, & Periphery. These bands have played a crucial role in popularizing the djent sound and pushing the boundaries of progressive metal.
Melodic hardcore combines the intensity of hardcore punk with melodic elements, resulting in a dynamic and emotionally charged sound. It features aggressive and passionate vocals, fast-paced instrumentation, and lyrics that often tackle personal and societal struggles.
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Prominent bands within the melodic hardcore genre include Counterparts, Stick To Your Guns, Comeback Kid, Defeater, and Being as an Ocean. These bands have brought melody and introspection to the hardcore punk scene while maintaining its raw energy.
Deathcore is a genre that blends elements of death metal and hardcore punk, creating an extreme and aggressive sound. It features heavy guitar riffs, breakdowns, and intense vocals that alternate between guttural growls and piercing screams.
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Notable bands within the deathcore genre include Whitechapel, Chelsea Grin, Suicide Silence, and Carnifex. These bands have made significant contributions to the genre, delivering relentless brutality and uncompromising heaviness.
Atmospheric Black Metal
Atmospheric black metal is a subgenre of black metal that focuses on creating immersive and atmospheric soundscapes. It emphasizes the use of ambient textures, repetitive patterns, and expansive song structures to evoke a sense of darkness, mysticism, and introspection.
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Prominent bands within the atmospheric black metal genre include Agalloch, Wolves in the Throne Room, and Alcest. These bands have redefined black metal by incorporating elements of post-rock, shoegaze, and folk music, resulting in a mesmerizing and ethereal sonic experience.
Technical Death Metal
Technical death metal is a subgenre of death metal that places a strong emphasis on musicianship, complex song structures, and intricate technicality. It features rapid guitar shredding, intricate drumming patterns, and intricate bass lines, pushing the boundaries of technical proficiency. Many guitarists would agree that some of the most proficient players today are those who play in technical death metal bands.
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Notable bands within the technical death metal genre include Archspire, Necrophagist, Obscura, and Beyond Creation. These bands showcase exceptional technical skills and precision in their performances.
Post-metal is a genre that combines elements of post-rock and atmospheric metal to create a hypnotic and introspective sound. It features slow tempos, atmospheric textures, and a focus on building emotional tension and release. These bands have embraced a more experimental approach to metal, incorporating ambient passages, dynamic shifts, and evocative songwriting.
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Prominent bands within the post-metal genre include Isis, Cult of Luna, and Russian Circles.
A newer genre, blackened deathcore combines elements of deathcore and black metal. Similar to deathcore, blackened deathcore bands incorporates orchestral elements and symphonic sounds to add depth to the atmosphere within the songs. The songs feature very fast drumming, dramatic changes, intense vocals, low tuned guitars that play quick riffs and shredding solos.
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Notable bands include Lorna Shore, Mental Cruelty, Black Tongue, and Shadow of Intent. These bands have contributed to an explosion of popularity for the genre with bands like Lorna Shore eclipsing 1M followers on Spotify and are selling out tours.
From the powerful vocals of traditional metal to the atmospheric soundscapes of black metal, and from the technicality of progressive metal to the aggressive energy of deathcore, metal offers something for every music enthusiast. While not fully exhaustive, we hope this guide has sparked your curiosity and encouraged you to explore different subgenres! Let us know any particular subgenres you think we should include!
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