Most of us know the terms “Heavy Metal” and “Death Metal“. But not everyone can really explain the differences. Some of them have other sub-concepts on the radar like Thrash or Black Metal. And then there are various subgenres from the full steam department, which are only known to the specialists among the metalheads. Here come 10 subgenres with (attempted) explanations and musical examples:
Disclaimer: Some content in this article may not be suitable for readers under 18 years of age.
Pirate Metal as a subgenre of Heavy Metal incorporates the pirate mythology into music and stage performance. Elements of Thrash, Speed and Folk Metal, sometimes taking influence from sea shantys, is what you may hear distinguish. Also, typical folk instruments, like the concertina, are often used.
bands: Alestorm, Swashbuckle, Running Wild
At first glance, the name seems a little confusing. This Metal variation is not very “funny”. On the contrary. The tempo is rather slow and underpinned by orchestral soundscapes. Over and over again synthesized church organs and violins play to the guttural vocals. Wistful and monotonous the lyrics deal with depression and dark themes.
bands: Skepticism, Evoken, Thergothon
Black Metal and Death Metal combined with Scandinavian folklore, plus lyrics that tell of the sagas, battles and mythologies of the Vikings: We are already in the middle of the subgenre that bears the name Viking Metal. In addition, there are partly epochal sounds and vocals with screams typical of Black Metal, the growling, but also the vocals with a clear voice. Gladly in unison like in the classic sailor songs.
bands: Bathory, Amon Amarth, Tyr
Suicidal Black Metal
At the end of the ’90s, the Depressive Black Metal, also known as Suicidal Black Metal, emerged from Black Metal. Typical are the slow tempo, simple drum rhythms and the special guitar playing. Trademark for the vocals is a reverberated screaming, which can easily rattle your soul. SBM is the setting of sadness and the longing for a way out.
bands: Xasthur, Silencer, Lifelover
Black ‘n’ Roll
As the play on words of the name already suggests, this subgenre is a combination of Black Metal and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Two musical styles that at first sight hardly seem to fit together, however the interplay of the two genres works very well and is characterized by its very special drive with sounds of the harder variety. Midnight are considered the uncrowned kings of Black ‘n’ Roll.
bands: Satyricon, Kvelertak, Vreid, Midnight
A real crossover genre is folk metal. Also here two styles are thrown into one pot, which actually have nothing to do with each other. The representatives of this subgenre always let folkloric elements – and also such instruments – flow in. Mostly these elements have their origin in European folk music. Incidentally, these bands often emerge from rural areas.
bands: Korpiklaani, Eluveitie, Finntroll
Death Doom Metal
Out of Doom Metal on the one hand and Death Metal on the other comes Death Doom Metal. The bands slowed down the tempo and created a mood suitable for the minimalist, but rather evil and hateful, riffs. It’s the combination of melancholic, dark passages with rapid beating, deep growls and guttural vocals. The first band of this subgenre was the Pennsylvanian-born Dream Death.
bands: Paradise Lost, Swallow the Sun, My Dying Bride
Post-Hardcore and Doom Metal shake hands in Post-Metal. Besides guitar, bass, drums & co. folk instruments are thrown into the mix. The rhythms and dynamics are very varied, often with ambient or acoustic passages. The vocals are also rich in contrast. Roaring and clear vocals, speaking and whispering are combined into a harmonious whole.
bands: Neurosis, Russian Circles, Isis
War is the theme of the subgenre Battle Metal. The bands use all musical possibilities to make their songs sound dark and oppressive. For example, the rhythm is constructed in such a way that one really has the feeling of being on a battlefield. Lyrically, visually and sonically everything is directed towards the concept of war. No wonder why the listeners get a black shiver down their spine…
bands: Sabaton, Manowar, Turisas
Yup, you read that correctly. Some call burping a talent, others call it a repulsive bodily function. Either way, mixing it with metal music is pretty fun. Go drink some soda pop and try it yourself! Warning: Your mother might slap you, hard. 🤘