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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Metal subgenres

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Comments: 4
Metal music is probably one of the most diverse genres in the world.  I mean, classical music may have it beat, but I'm not if anything else does.  One doesn't have to spend more than five minutes in the Metal Forum to find out just how broad metal really is.  Let's see, there's: thrash, death, black, power, heavy, grind, folk, viking, doom, progressive, and many more.  And there are even sub-subgenres, such as symphonic black, melodic death, brutal death, technical death, epic power, etc. etc.
In the Metal Forum there are occasionally people who come along and whine about the number of subgenres.  Their main argument is usually that the "over"classification results from elitism and pickiness, and they usually also say that metal is metal, so "why can't we just leave it at that?"  To them, subgenres add confusion unnecessarily, and creating them obscures any research that a new listener may do in the genre.  I've even seen someone claim that there seems to be a subgenre created for every single band out there.  I have to admit, for a brief time in my metal-listening career (in the early days, of course) I agreed with this general viewpoint, and I thought that things would be much simpler if we stopped worrying about trivial details like sub-subgenres.  Metal IS metal, I said.
But I was wrong.  The crazy thing about metal, like I said in the beginning, is the fact that it is amazingly diverse.  Think about it: on the one hand may be something like Hammerfall or Dragonforce, power metal with cheery vocals, heroic and glorious themes, and crisp guitars.  On the other, there is Marduk, singing with raspy vocals about Satan and evil, with black metal guitars and little melody.  Then contrast Megadeth and Opeth, Necrophagist and Therion, Machine Head and Ensiferum, Vader and Iron Maiden, and on and on, and you'll get my point.  It's really somewhat strange that all of these bands can be discussed in the same place, when their sounds are so varied.  And it's also interesting that their fans overlap so much---which is naturally why it's all grouped together under the monolithic title "METAL".
In reality metal is anything but monolithic.  So we come to the formation of subgenres.  Why are these important, and why do we not only need them but also need the sub-subgenres as well?  Well, the truth of the matter is that creating further fields of classification does not create confusion or a feeling of elitism, but rather makes things much MUCH simpler.  I'll put it this way, which is how I explained it recently in a thread:
If someone were to come up and ask me, "Hey, what are some good metal bands I might like?"  I wouldn't respond, "Oh, Slayer and Moonsorrow, definitely," because that would be stupid.  Instead, I would ask them what kind of stuff they were looking for, like, clean vocals?  Fast rhythm?  Ripping solos?  War themes?  Classical elements?  Melody or no?  And so forth.  Once I had an idea of what the hell he/she was interested in, I could hone in on some subgenres and guide them along those lines.  Similarly, when someone comes up and says, "I'm really into In Flames, what's out there that's like them?"  I can readily respond, "That's melodic death, and you should check out Dark Tranquillity, At the Gates, Enforsaken....."  A personal example occurred several months ago.  I was surfing around on the BNR Metal Pages and came across Moonsorrow.  I found them on Ruckus and (legally) downloaded them, and was immediately blown away.  I saw that they were classified as folk/viking metal, so I investigated the matter and came upon Ensiferum, Vintersorg, Falkenbach, and others, and I'm very pleased.
The moral of all this is that subgenres are not only helpful but vital.  With the extremely broad nature of metal, it makes perfect sense to organize things along logical lines based on vocal style, lyrical themes, guitar sound and arrangement, technicality, and so on.  This makes it possible to find bands quickly, to branch into new areas easily and without fear, and basically to navigate the treacherously stormy waters that is metal music without crashing upon the rocks and cracking your head open in a totally gory and metal fashion.
So to those who hate and fear the subgenres, stop whining.  They are your friends, not your enemies, and you must embrace them or embrace your own destruction.  Now go and check out some symphonic epic technical folk death metal!  Joke...
4:13 pm - 4 comments - 3 Kudos - Report!
Flamedmapletop wrote on Aug 23rd, 2007 11:56pm

Really good I must say. Though I knew very well from before that we need the sub genres, it was interesting to read. The sub genres help me find new bands. When I see Melodic death metal I check it out, when I see Metal core I might check it out, the same goes for power metal (though I prefer metal core to power metal) and when I see Black metal I get the hell away from that crap.


Flamedmapletop wrote on Aug 23rd, 2007 11:58pm

if we didn't have sub genres we would randomly run into bands that we dont like. But because we have got them I can listen to the great melodic stuff and stay away from the stuff I dont like.


Shinozoku wrote on Aug 25th, 2007 1:11am

Lets' not forget Blackened Melodic Death Polka :p

But all jokes aside, I think this should become an article for all UGers to see! Just a wake-up call to the people like I used to be (although "used to" was really only a few months for me).


nebraskan wrote on Aug 25th, 2007 6:24pm

Yes, I agree with this blog completely. I remember some time ago when my good friend Stan (Stanleybach on UG) told me about a band being classified as "viking metal" and I thought it was a joke, but he was serious. Eventually I learned to tolerate the ridiculous (or so I thought back then) sub genres of metal and now they are a very helpful tool and also a fun way to classify bands you're hearing for the first time (I always guess a band's genre, I'm getting quite good at too.)
People need not shun the hundreds of metal sub-genre classifactions, but instead embrace them, or embrace their own destruction as you stated earlier.


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