Some Brief Thoughts: The Problem of Originality in Nowadays Metal

It is rather commonplace among certain circles to engage in lamentations over the current state of Metal and a perceived disconnect between the classic glory days of high adventure with contemporary mediocrity.

Long-time readers of this site for example are probably quite used to hearing – or even expressing – such sentiments as “Metal has been dead since 1994” [or 93 or 95 or even 96 depending on who’s talking].

For a deeper understanding of this “issue” it is crucial to understand that this does not necessarily mean that there have been no “good” – or even “great” – Metal albums released since the early 90’s. Even our legendarily exigent site founder has made note of numerous releases from the last decade, and even the previous year, that he regards as having at least some degree of musical notability.

What this “issue” actually (partially) stems from is that it was around the mid-90’s that basically all the defining forms of the Metallic musical language became codified, and most bands since have either tried to ape on as formalist cookie-cutter imitators of classic bands/styles, or tried to “transcend” Metal altogether by bringing in external influences.

The 1970’s and early 1980’s saw the codification of the “classic/traditional” Heavy Metal style, the mid-80’s the codification of Speed/Thrash Metal, and the late 80’s/early 90’s codification of Death and Black Metal. Despite the autistic drive of Internet users to make up countless fictional sub-genres, these are the main styles of Metal [a possible subject for its’ own “Some Brief Thoughts” article]. Accordingly, no new major genres/styles/“languages” have been pioneered since the mid-90’s, and consequently, a relative dearth of truly iconic and original sounding new Metal.

Indeed it seems the best way to summarize the situation with Nowadays Metal is that:
For the past two decades, the issue with new Metal bands is that they either try to focus on formally “sounding like Metal” [and thus sacrifice originality], or alternatively indulge themselves as being “more than Metal” [and thus sacrifice Metallic Desolation].

We are all familiar with the former scenario. It seems that almost any modern band gets its sound defined solely by comparison to older bands or styles, not to mention general “retro” and “worship band” phenomena. “These guys sound just like an awesome cross between Venom and Motörhead, “This new record sounds just like Swedish Death Metal but with a bit of an old-school Thrash kick”, etc, etc, etc.
(Of course, upon encountering such statements as “this sounds like classic band x!”, the question that should immediately arise within any discerning individual’s mind is naturally “why would I want to listen to this when classic band x already exists?”)
Examples of the latter is anything from the modern Indie/Post-Rock incorporating so-called “Black Metal” to explorations of explicitly Classical-influence, Jazzy “Prog”, Electro-Folk, and/or “Atonal”/12-tone, etc. with, uh, “highly varying” degrees of success.

This hastily-written article doesn’t pretend to offer any immediate solutions, just a brief meditation to perhaps bring this phenomenon into a clearer light.
A possible piece of general advice to upcoming artists could be to primarily focus on making powerful, honest, quality music before worrying about fitting into specific genre trappings/sounds of old [after all Black Sabbath never consciously set out to make “Heavy Metal” when they created their legendary masterworks]… without, however, losing grip of the necessity of an energetic vehicle flaming with Six-Stringed Desecrational Fury.

To quote Camazotz of SoL:

METAL IS DEAD LONG LIVE METAL

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31 thoughts on “Some Brief Thoughts: The Problem of Originality in Nowadays Metal”

  1. Rønne says:

    I think this is the general conclusion most people come to either late in their metal exploration, or early on if you at least pay some attention to the development of the genre 90s forward. The whole “We sound like X” deal you mentioned I think is something that is oft quoted, but the real implications of it are rarely given note; to put it this way: Older metal bands took non-metal sounds to form a naturally-occurring, tougher metallic sound while the newer ones, who I suspect are motivated by street cred, want to be either more metal metal as you put it, or metal in name only.

    1. Tyrell Dahlstrom says:

      Hello Rønne! Hope all is well.

      “I think this is the general conclusion most people come to either late in their metal exploration, or early on if you at least pay some attention to the development of the genre 90s forward.”

      Indeed!

  2. John II says:

    Really? Classic, death, and thrash are the only metal genres? What about symphonic, prog, djent, metalcore, neoclassical, power, opera, and gothic metal?
    As for originality, I beg to differ. Metal was born as a result of blues and hard rock elements being combined with classical elements. Haken’s 2010 Aquarius provided an excellent metal/jazz fusion combination. On a similar vein, there was Cynic’s 2008 Traced in Air. Then there is Amaranthe, who with Hunger in 2011 combined modern synthpop with metal. Epica combined death metal with Nightwish-esque opera metal with The Phantom Agony in 2003. Then of course there is Devin Townsend, who really needs no explanation. Finally, on a lighter note, I leave you with Babymetal.

    1. Haken just made syncopated hard rock music that did absolutely nothing special. Atheist implemented Jazz into metal much better than Haken or Cynic could ever conceive. Cynic’s first demos sound like a band that dreams to be Atheist. Amaranthe don’t have a single ounce of metal in them. It is literally Metalcore chugs with pure synth pop and some hilariously bad growls. Epica have never used actual Death metal, just chugs against a keyboard. They have two riffs in their entire career. Devin Townsend’s work ranges from good to absolutely atrocious depending on the song. Metalcore isn’t metal, just hardcore with Pantera stylings. Symphonic metal makes no sense as it is pop arrangements with a female singer. Gothic is even dumber. Neoclassical is a misnomer. A few motifs from Vivaldi doesn’t make your music classic. Power metal is a combination of Speed and Heavy. Babymetal is autistic pop music for pedos.

    2. Tyrell Dahlstrom says:

      Haha, welcome back my friend! :D

      “Classic, death, and thrash are the only metal genres?”

      Correction/Clarification/Spoiler for my potential upcoming article:

      Black, Death, Heavy, Thrash and Doom are the only Metal genres.

      (although even these internal distinctions are not necessarily as rigid as some may think, but that is a subject for another time…)

      “What about symphonic, prog, djent, metalcore, neoclassical, power, opera, and gothic metal?”

      Power Metal is the literally the same thing as Heavy Metal just faster and with more keyboards and sugary melodies.

      So-called “Prog Metal” is almost always either Heavy/Power Metal, super-technical/wonky Thrash, and/or modern “Prog Rock”/Alternative Rock with down-tuned guitars [i.e. not Metal]

      So-called “Gothic Metal” is either just Doom Metal or mis-labeled Alternative Rock/Mallcore/Pop Rock [i.e. not Metal]

      So-called “Symphonic Metal”, “Neo-Classical Metal” and “Opera” [?] all fall under at least one of the above.

      With the possible exception of [mainly early] Meshuggah, Metalcore and “Djent” are not Metal just wonky/hyper-tekknikul Chug-a-Lugga Hardcore/Mallcore

      “Metal was born as a result of blues and hard rock elements being combined with classical elements.”

      Close but not quite. While maybe not completely accurate or the “whole story”, I believe this description from the FAQ comes closer to describing the genre origins: “Heavy metal fused progressive rock, hard rock, and soundtrack styles using the power chord to make phrasal composition [vaguely akin to classical music]”

      Basically all Metal directly succeeding from Black Sabbath (with a few exceptions) gradually eschewed Blues elements, and if anything one of the defining distinctions between Classic Heavy Metal bands and “normal” Hard Rock is that the former tends to be generally bereft of the Bluesy “vibe” and song-writing.

      At any rate I don’t see what this discussion on the influences and origins of early Metal has to do with the topic at hand (i.e. the relative lack of originality in modern Metal)

      “Haken’s 2010 Aquarius provided an excellent metal/jazz fusion combination.”

      Haken are not Metal. Just modern “Prog Rock” with “heavy production” and occasional lame and awkwardly ill-fitting and forced-sounding cookie vox

      “On a similar vein, there was Cynic’s 2008 Traced in Air.”

      actually one of the worst albums I ever heard in my life lmao

      “Then there is Amaranthe, who with Hunger in 2011 combined modern synthpop with metal.”

      Never heard of this band before. Ironically your description of their music as a band that “combine[s] synthpop with metal” is exactly in line with the phenomena I relate in my article. [P.S. DragonForce and Virgin Steele already did Synthpop Metal first and better btw ;) ]

      “Epica combined death metal with Nightwish-esque opera metal with The Phantom Agony in 2003.”

      As much as I am besotted with the crimson-maned beauty of Epica’s frontwoman, that does not change the fact:

      (Hard Alternative chugging + “unclean” vocals) =/= Death Metal

      “Then of course there is Devin Townsend, who really needs no explanation.”

      Strapping Young Lad is an “interesting” blend between Thrash/Death elements with “Industrial”/Mallcore.

      I am of the opinion that basically none of Devin Townsend’s 1997-2011 solo albums are really Metal with the exception of “Physicist” (which is a SYL album for all intents and purposes), and maybe “Ziltoid” and “Deconstruction”.

      The rest are all basically Alternative Rock with a very sophisticated production and guitar tone but not actually “Metal” in the song-writing with the possible exception of a song or two per album.

      “Finally, on a lighter note, I leave you with Babymetal.”

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2e9aG_ippZI

      1. It might be noted also that doom metal is either heavy metal or death metal, just slower.

        1. Tyrell Dahlstrom says:

          Good point and I actually agree. I was somewhat hesitant to even include Doom Metal as a separate fifth genre. I generally don’t listen to Doom that much compared to the other main genres anyways.

          1. screaming chaos of pain says:

            Wrong. Doom bands aren’t just slow, they “use” slowness, which makes them qualitatively different to heavy and death metal. If you slow down death metal you get autopsy, obituary and bolt thrower. Not Saint Vitus, Candlemass and Cathedral.

            Doom looks back to the past of metal when there was still a blues connection, still the groove from hard psych. Like blues, it uses inflection (blue notes) and repetition to create a hypnotic atmosphere. This influences lyrical themes, which in doom, like blues, are much more personal and melancholy than the violent and triumphant attitudes of death and heavy metal.

            The idea that doom is a slow version of death metal or heavy metal is absurd since it predates both. If anything death and heavy metal build on the doom platform. Death metal was essentially created when Celtic Frost mixed doom metal and thrash. It was the slow, ominous, doomy aspects of death metal which distinguished it from thrash initially before it became all about blast beats.

            1. Tyrell Dahlstrom says:

              Note how Brett said Doom “is either heavy metal or death metal, just slower”.

              In this case, at least to me, it would sense to characterize bands like Saint Vitus and Candlemass as Heavy Metal, just slower. They might “use slowness” in a special way, but that doesn’t necessarily make them an entirely different genre from Heavy Metal, just a certain “style” or expression or whatever. That would be like saying USPM is entirely different from Heavy Metal because it “uses speed”.

              After all, such so-called “Traditional Doom” bands all basically sound like Black Sabbath (as you sort of pointed out), and almost everyone considers Black Sabbath to be Classic/Heavy. (As Sabbath sound closer to Candlemass/Vitus than Maiden/Priest, it generally always never made sense to me that people would consider Doom to be completely separate from Classic/Heavy but then at the same time categorize Sabbath as Classic/Heavy as opposed to Doom.)

              Bands like Cathedral I’m not quite sure about, along with bands like Skepticism, is part of the reason why I initially listed Doom as it’s own genre.

              Perhaps to even further clarify my “thesis”:

              There are no more than 5 Genres of Metal: Black, Death, Doom, Heavy, Thrash

              For example, I’ve always thought one could make a similar argument for Thrash, in that most bands in that genre are either basically early Death Metal except for the vocals, or Heavy Metal with Hardcore influences. (After all Slayer, at least to my personal vision, are much closer in essence to Morbid Angel than Metallica).

              But there are some bands that just doesn’t quite make sense for, so i’m fine with Thrash and I guess Doom too being considered their own genres. But no more than those 5 max!

              The main point in initially saying this, is to get rid of retarded multi-prefix/adjective fake sub-genre names (“Post-Blackened Melodic Technical blah blah”), as well as point out the obvious fact that Non-Black/Death/Doom/Heavy/Thrash bands are basically not Metal as an easy definition to clear up the confusion of some individuals such as commentator “John II”. (Which I think all regular readers of this site already know).

              To get as as close to the bone as possible, one could argue there are only two genres of Metal: “Extreme Metal” and “Heavy Metal”. And perhaps even that barrier may not be quite as rigid as some may think…

              Maybe there is no point in writing my article since I guess I already explained my main points. Although, actually, maybe the article should be written to have this all properly organized to clear up all confusions/misunderstandings of my point, come to think of it…

              1. In this case, at least to me, it would sense to characterize bands like Saint Vitus and Candlemass as Heavy Metal, just slower.

                Unlike the pseudoid 70s hard rock “stoner metal” bands, these guys designed their sound around playing slow, dark, morbid heavy metal instead of slowing down party rock because weed lol.

                Cathedral really crystallized doom metal and gave it a sound of its own. It was basically Candlemass with Witchfinder General and Saint Vitus influences, but done like art rock, and we all wanted another album like Forest of Equilibrium. Instead, the MBAs got involved and we got Cathedral trying to port their “sound” to stupid 70s stoner rock, which all the idiots loved but killed off their power user audience, so Cathedral faded away rather than getting huge. Never listen to your label.

    3. John II says:

      “welcome back my friend” – to the show that never ends? :P

      Apparently we have differing definitions of metal. To my mind, metal is heavy. You mention power chords in your FAQ and post. However, I would discard them as anything to do with a metal definition, as using this as the sole definition (to take an extreme case) counts as metal bands such as Coheed and Cambria, Halestorm, Pink Floyd, Rush, Santana, Toto, Jethro Tull, Eagles, etc. Admittedly, most metal bands use power chords, but that is a bit like saying that most metal bands use drums.
      Using this as a definition, it is easy to see how bands such as Nightwish, Epica, Amaranthe, Within Temptation, and Haken qualify as metal. All have properly heavy riffs. Furthermore, it is simply ridiculous to imply that Meshuggah or TesseracT are not metal.
      In my original post, I also forgot to mention Opeth, who combined Genesis or Yes style prog arrangements with death metal. They, along with prog metal bands such as Dream Theater and Haken, are what I believe to be one of the new metal movements. The other is Nightwish, Within Temptation, Epica, and Sabaton with their symphonic metal.

      1. Tyrell Dahlstrom says:

        ” “welcome back my friend” – to the show that never ends? :P “

        indeed! :D

        “To my mind, metal is heavy”

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jl5vi9ir49g

        “You mention power chords in your FAQ and post. However, I would discard them as anything to do with a metal definition, as using this as the sole definition (to take an extreme case) counts as metal bands such as Coheed and Cambria, Halestorm, Pink Floyd, Rush, Santana, Toto, Jethro Tull, Eagles, etc. “

        I never said that Power Chords are the sole definition as Metal. Read this more closely:

        http://www.deathmetal.org/faq/

        Rush’s 1974-1980 material is much closer to being Metal than most of the bands you have mentioned above and below btw

        “Using this as a definition, it is easy to see how bands such as Nightwish, Epica, Amaranthe, Within Temptation, and Haken qualify as metal. All have properly heavy riffs”

        “Heavy Riffs” does not Metal make.

        I would be fine with at the very least considering Nightwish’s early material such as say Oceanborn being Power Metal.

        I never specifically said Epica were not Metal, just that they are not Death Metal. I’m not familiar enough with their music off the top of my head for me to recall if it is more fair to label it under Power Metal or simply Hard Alternative/”Goth” and don’t really feel like re-listening to their music at this time.

        I don’t remember if I’ve listened to Within Temptation before so again I can’t specifically comment here whether it’s Hard Alternative or Power Metal (although for some reason I have a feeling it’s more likely the former).

        I already briefly explained why I don’t think Haken is Metal, and that I’ve never even heard of Amaranthe (although my colleague’s perception is that they “don’t have a single ounce of metal”, so for now I’ll take his word for it and leave it at that).

        “Furthermore, it is simply ridiculous to imply that Meshuggah or TesseracT are not metal.”

        I already said I personally consider Meshuggah to be a borderline case. “Contradictions Collapse” is definitely Metal, “Destroy Erase Improve” probably is Metal overall but with lots of Chug/Core elements blended in, everything afterwards is pretty iffy with the exceptions of “I” and “obZen” iirc.

        Again, I’m not familiar enough with TesseracT to comment off the top of my head and don’t feel like looking them up, but if it’s post-Meshuggah “Djent” then it almost certainly is not Metal

        “In my original post, I also forgot to mention Opeth, who combined Genesis or Yes style prog arrangements with death metal.”

        1. Opeth were never “Death Metal”, although on their first two albums they were Gothenberg/Melo-Black influenced

        2. “Morningrise” is the only Opeth album that’s consistently well arranged all the way through. “Orchid” had some good ideas but it’s very inconsistent and awkward in terms of the song structures. The later albums have more internally consistent song structures however the spirit and quality of the material had significantly diminished while becoming more melodically accessible and 00’s Opeth is basically low-key Dream Theater but with growls and acoustic sections.

        Certainly Opeth was overall never on the level of Yes or Genesis. (Although to be fair, neither are even most Top-Tier Metal bands to my personal taste).

        3. Your description of “they combined X with Y ” is, again, exactly in line with the phenomena I described in my article.

        “They, along with prog metal bands such as Dream Theater and Haken, are what I believe to be one of the new metal movements.”

        Dream Theater have been making music since 1986, Opeth since 1994. Opeth haven’t even been making Metal in over a decade, it is debatable to what extent post-80’s Dream Theater even is Metal (although I personally think they just barely make the cut, but it depends on a song-by-song basis). Not even getting into the quality of their music, it can hardly be said that those bands actually represent a “New Metal Movement”.

        “The other is Nightwish, Within Temptation, Epica, and Sabaton with their symphonic metal.”

        Sabaton are just Heavy Metal, and very weak at that. I’ve already explained that “Symphonic Metal” is general is either just Heavy/Power/Doom or Hard Alternative/Goth/Mallcore and where I think those other aforementioned acts belong in that dichotomy.

  3. screaming chaos of pain says:

    Reply to Tyrell Dahlstrom:

    I don’t really buy your thesis.

    If doom is just heavy metal but slower you could argue that death, thrash and black are just heavy metal but faster. But I think that would be facile. The decision to play at a certain tempo affects compositional and creative intent massively. It also assumes that (a) Black Sabbath were totally doom, and (b) doom bands are all Sabbath clones. Neither of these are true. Black Sabbath had certain doom songs but a lot of songs that influenced other genres – Symptom of the Universe (thrash), Children of the Grave (power metal), as well as straight-up rockers. Candlemass would never release something like Paranoid for example.

    So it’s okay to classify Sabbath as both classic/heavy and doom because they had both in their sound. The doom bands that followed only had the doom element and doubled down on that aesthetic to create something unique. I don’t think Candlemass sound particularly like Black Sabbath, for example, and Saint Vitus owe more to Black Flag and punk than metal. Doom bands since then have diverged even more from a Black Sabbath or traditional metal aesthetic. Sludge and stoner doom owe much to Black Flag and Melvins.

    If you want to go down the rabbit hole, I think USPM qualifies as its own genre. You can like USPM and not have much time for NWOBHM or 70s metal quite easily.

    Early death metal was just down-tuned thrash with grunt vocals, so maybe not quite as distinctive a genre as you’re making out. The first time I heard Death and Bathory was on Speed Kills 4 along with a bunch of thrash bands – they stood out but I didn’t think of them as anything other than idiosyncratic variations of thrash.

    A lot of black metal bands sound to me like a hybrid of death metal and power metal.

    And what about grindcore? That doesn’t fit neatly into any of your main categories yet was a massively influential movement. Or industrial? Where does Godflesh sit? Is groove metal to be simply ignored despite how popular it was?

    So I don’t really agree that there are only 5 genres. It throws up too many complications. Is Destruction’s Infernal Overkill thrash metal or black metal for example? I think Blackened Thrash sums it up nicely, even if it is a retroactive term. Is Celtic Frost thrash or death metal? Is it okay to simply label Obituary and Suffocation death metal with no qualifiers even though there’s a considerable distance between their sounds?

    If your argument is labels are meaningless and it should all just be considered metal, fair enough, but if you’re arguing only the four/five labels you’ve chosen are valid labels then you have failed to convince.

    1. Tyrell Dahlstrom says:

      “If your argument is labels are meaningless and it should all just be considered metal, fair enough […]”

      At the end of the day this is pretty close to how I see things.

      “[…] but if you’re arguing only the four/five labels you’ve chosen are valid labels then you have failed to convince”

      I will further attempt to clarify my admittedly not well-expressed thesis:

      There are no more than 5 Main Metal Genres: Black, Death, Doom, Heavy, Thrash.

      The internal barriers between these genres are definitely more fluid than people may think, to the point that one could perhaps make the argument that even some of these aforementioned genres “do not really exist”. [i.e. “Doom” is either Slowed-Down Heavy or Slowed-Down Death, “Thrash” is either proto-Black/Death, or Hardcore-influenced Heavy]

      HOWEVER, the main point to drive home is that any style of Loud Guitar-Based Music, contrary to popular opinion, is NOT Metal unless it specifically falls under one of those 5 Genres, or at least has significant enough affinity to them.

      ————————————–

      “So it’s okay to classify Sabbath as both classic/heavy and doom because they had both in their sound.”

      I agree. Just because Genre X and Genre Y may be different genres, doesn’t mean a given band cannot be both Genre X and Genre Y at the same time (this will also apply to some other cases you’ve mentioned).

      The main reason I initially brought that up is that I’ve straight up seen people claim Black Sabbath are not Doom Metal, just a Classic/Heavy band who were a major influence on it which seems absurd to me.

      “Doom bands since then have diverged even more from a Black Sabbath or traditional metal aesthetic. Sludge and stoner doom owe much to Black Flag and Melvins.”

      Hence why I (or most people around this site) don’t really tend to consider much of stuff to be Metal (although to be fair this would depend on a band-by-band basis, and I admittedly very far from a Doom “expert”).

      http://www.deathmetal.org/article/stoner-rock-is-not-doom-metal/

      “If you want to go down the rabbit hole, I think USPM qualifies as its own genre. You can like USPM and not have much time for NWOBHM or 70s metal quite easily.”

      How would that make it a different genre though? Again, you can classify it as a specific sub-sub-genre or specific regional expression or whatever, but a completely different genre entirely? Nah. With that logic you could say Incantation and (1990-1991) Entombed are not both Death Metal since it’s easily imaginable for someone to find the latter more accessible than the former.

      “Early death metal was just down-tuned thrash with grunt vocals, so maybe not quite as distinctive a genre as you’re making out.”

      I believe I’ve already said something to that effect. (Specifically the reverse, that more Extreme Thrash Metal is basically proto-Death, but that’s basically saying the same thing). My re-stated thesis at the beginning of this comment generally addresses and clarifies my stance on this sort of thing.

      “And what about grindcore? That doesn’t fit neatly into any of your main categories yet was a massively influential movement.”

      I will give credit where credit is due, and say that Metal-Archives are actually on to something when they state that there is a difference between Grindcore that has (Death) Metal elements and Grindcore that is just a form of Noise Rock / Hardcore Punk, with regards to what they consider “Metal”. (Not that I necessarily agree with where they specifically draw the line – or any of their several other “questionable” editorial policies we are all familiar with – just that they point out that such a line exists somewhere)

      Naturally the Grindcore that is “Metal enough” I personally have always just lumped in alongside Death Metal to make things as simple as possible.

      “Or industrial? Where does Godflesh sit?”

      I like Godflesh. However, just like Skinny Puppy, Coil, Throbbing Gristle, Einstürzende Neubauten, Cabaret Voltaire, etc. I don’t really consider them to be Metal.

      “Is groove metal to be simply ignored despite how popular it was?”

      “Groove” is either a kind of Thrash, or more often than not Hard Alternative/Mallcore. Usually somewhere in the middle.

      “So I don’t really agree that there are only 5 genres. It throws up too many complications. Is Destruction’s Infernal Overkill thrash metal or black metal for example? I think Blackened Thrash sums it up nicely, even if it is a retroactive term. Is Celtic Frost thrash or death metal?”

      As I said earlier in this post, it’s totally possible for a band to embody elements of more than one genre at the same time. (This goes for music in general beyond Metal).

      “Is it okay to simply label Obituary and Suffocation death metal with no qualifiers even though there’s a considerable distance between their sounds?”

      Yes it is. The need to fully “describe” a band’s specific sound by adding “qualifiers” results in retarded multi-adjective/pre-fix sub-sub-sub-genre name “Post-Brutal Blackened Atmospheric blah blah”.

      Perhaps I should have mentioned this in my original article, but this actually ties in to the phenomena of Nowadays bands focusing on formally “trying to sound like Metal”.

      This whole desire for excessive sub-sub-genre classification and “qualifiers” probably relates to people thinking every band in a “genre” is supposed to sound like exactly the same carbon copies of each other, and whenever a band actually has their own unique “personality” that somehow means they have invented their own completely new sub-sub-genre which is retarded and makes things needlessly complicated.

      1. I place speed metal in its own genre.

        Death, black, speed, and thrash are just metal + hardcore, with varying emphases.

        Death = structural riffing, like Cro-Mags

        Black = ambient riffing, like Discharge

        Speed = emphasis on percussive guitar, like Motorhead plus Sex Pistols

        There were cross influences of course, but when writing short compositions, you have to pick some style that gives you a voice. That requires emphasizing some elements over others. You get more variety in longer compositions like those in classical music.

    2. USPM = speed metal re-absorbing Judas Priest.

      Just like NWOBHM re-absorbed rock elements (Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple) into what Black Sabbath had done (musically, not the mountains of cocaine and hookers).

  4. rockfan says:

    it’s all just rock

    1. Whomst be this? says:

      Its pure undiluted autism, thats what it is.

  5. Richard says:

    Re: Sludge

    I’ve heard lots of arguments that Melvins was the first Sludge Metal band, but that’s a complete fallacy to me. Their music is a mix of Grunge and Stoner Rock with hints of Doom Metal, Punk and Hard Rock, but the Hardcore influence is way too minor for the band to be anything like Sludge. Melvins’s biggest influence (that is, the B-side to Black Flag’s “My War”) simply lacks all the necessary elements to be a Sludge album, no matter how important to the genre’s development it is.

    Even Iron Monkey, a band so much closer, lacks the necessary Hardcore influence. “Iron Monkey” and “Our Problem” are amalgamations of downtuned “Vol. 4” riffs played faster with intermittent feedback and an incomprehensible yet talented vocalist whose aggression alone carries the tunes. For simplicity’s sake, they’re called Sludge since “Extreme Doom” isn’t a valid genre qualifier.

    Another aggravating tendency among supposed Sludge listeners is the tendency to lump various Southern Metal bands into the category solely on the basis of geography; looking at you, Acid Bath. No, aggressive metallicized Southern Rock doesn’t make a band Sludge. Corrosion of Conformity, Buzzov•en, Bongripper and Weedeater are not Sludge bands.

    Weedeater is often listed as Stoner or Sludge, but they are far from both in spite of the downtuned guitars. Though they may often feature marijuana as a lyrical theme, lyrics do not a band make. The riffing is wholly unlike typical Stoner Metal riffing as far as rhythm and phrasing go. Moreover, they feature no Doom Metal riffing nor any Hardcore riffs, so clearly they’re not Sludge. Weedeater’s riffs are almost entirely Blues based and sound like a Metal version of bands like Black Oak and Lynyrd Skynyrd. In fact, they’re a Southern Metal band in a truer sense of the word than tripe like Alabama Thunderpussy or Texas Hippie Coalition.

    I don’t really consider Acid Bath to be Sludge since they lack the necessary attributes compositionally and aesthetically. A few swears removed and you could hear them on the radio. They’re Alt-Metal (or Heavy/Hard Alternative, as you say) at most, and they could even be considered Nu-Metal at other times. Mike Sanchez once said, “Our music is commercial in an extreme sense. We need more airplay. To the kids out there listening to NIN, Korn, Tool, Black Sabbath, Ministry, and The Deftones, if you haven’t heard Acid Bath then you’re still in for a beating.” I like how he lumps his band in with them.

    In plain terms, Acid Bath’s discography is a mix of Alt-Rock, Doom aesthetics, Southern and Stoner Rock, with some some Groove Metal and Grind riffs thrown in. The riffs cycle through Stoner/Southern riffs, a few Grind streaks, and some slow riffs. All of Sludge’s defining characteristics are missing save the bluesy sections which is always present due to the Sabbathian influence; might as well call every Sabbathian Metal band Doom which is a fallacy since Sabbath was never a fully fledged Doom band even under Ozzy. In fact, “Paegan Terrorism Tactics” is a very “happy” album. The uptempo riffs eagerly hands you a smiley sticker once you turn the album on. The few exceptions are simply moody and mellow, not of thunderous impending doom. It can be incredibly catchy at times, causing you to hum a riff or two in your head or to shout “DYING FELT SO GODDAMN GOOD TODAY!”.

    Another important thing: most songs on “Paegan Terrorism Tactics” follow a verse-chorus structure, a feature that underscores my refusal to deem Acid Bath to be a Sludge band. While other songs don’t adhere to that format (in all fairness), they’re few and far between.

    To keep it simplified, Sludge = “Vol. 4” + “Saint Vitus” + “My War” + “Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing”. Add the piercing feedback, shrill vocalist and downtuned guitar for completion’s sake.

    The essential Sludge releases:
    Eyehategod – In the Name of Suffering
    Toadliquor – Feel My Hate – The Power Is the Weight – R.I.P. Cain (reissued as “The Hortator’s Lament”)
    Dystopia – Human = Garbage
    Grief – Dismal
    Noothgrush – Erode the Person

    1. Tyrell Dahlstrom says:

      “Alt-Metal (or [Hard Alternative], as you say)”

      Indeed. That’s the title by which I’ve personally used to refer to that style of music for years now. Maybe it can catch on, as it’s surely a much more accurate descriptor.

      “might as well call every Sabbathian Metal band Doom which is a fallacy since Sabbath was never a fully fledged Doom band even under Ozzy”

      At least to my ears, most “Doom Metal” sounds like it’s trying to be Black Sabbath (especially Master of Reality and the song “Black Sabbath”), except nowhere near as good.

      As for the rest of your post, it doesn’t need to be that complicated. “Sludge” is either a special form of Hardcore (i.e. not Metal), or Doom Metal (or perhaps even mis-labeled Hard Alternative as you say).

      1. Just call it hard rock. Alternative, “alt-metal,” post-metal, etc., are basically hard rock hybridized with other genres like indie, shoegaze, emo, etc.

    2. screaming chaos of pain says:

      Good analysis of various bands, but it goes to show the dangers of defining a genre too narrowly or there’s no scope for expansion or crossover. Just because Crowbar and Eyehategod had fast hardcore parts doesn’t make it a pre-requisite for everyone who followed. To me the fast parts are less important than squalls of feedback, atonality and an overall ugly, squalid, aggressive vibe, which come more from post-punk and noise rock than straight-up hardcore actually. So I’d say Iron Monkey qualify. I’d agree Acid Bath are definitely more in the alternative rock camp. I’d consider albums like Godflesh’s “A World Lit Only by Fire” and Alice In Chains “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here” to be sludge too – at least it’s the description that seems most apt to the sound of those records.

    3. Basically, you can skip sludge and miss nothing. “Slow hardcore” or “slow hard rock.”

      1. Richard says:

        >you can skip sludge and miss nothing

        That’s somewhat shortsighted in my book. Sludge bands have been capable of producing absolutely mindblowing albums, but it needs to have the right ideas and requisite pacing, atmosphere, tone, et cetera. Sludge that is composed of scalding, malevolent riffs with steady stream of misanthropic, hateful lyrics make for much more enduring music than the Post-Metal influenced garbage. Dystopia, Eyehategod, Grief and perhaps Iron Monkey (for the sake of argument) get it whereas tripe like Neurosis, Mouth of the Architect, Pelican or Isis fuck it up.

        Take Grief’s “Dismal”. That album is the genre’s highest achievement. The songwriting, the length of this foul beast, the musicianship, and the production are covered in cigarette ashes and spilt bourbon. Not one track outstays its welcome. The riffs are generally quite slow, but not uncomfortable, monotonous, or gratingly dirge like. They jam a blues lick for a while, then get right back onto the depraved, downtuned riffage. Some hardcore passages creep up on you throughout the album, changing the pace and providing a retreat from the oppressive doom. There are maybe one or two solos found on this album, both of which are pentatonic fests gone mad and call to mind the solos of Dave Chandler of Saint Vitus. The bass is quite murky, yet is always lurking behind some dark corner of this broken down apartment of an album. When you first turn on the album, the churning bass lets loose, a warning sign to the listener of the raging rhino found within. The bass is always audible and distorted to an almost unreasonable amount. But that’s the beauty of it: they know how to restrain themselves and keep everything in perfect balance. The drums sound great and change up their patterns just often enough to keep one interested.
        https://youtu.be/VxPZitSAnWE?t=25
        https://youtu.be/MV8Bor8btfI

  6. bloodypulp says:

    this is why Pharmakon (new york) and Burmese (oakland) are great. just heavy scary music that doesnt try to fit it in anywhere. pharmakon’s not metal and burmese is a stretch but both are unique and both are happening NOW.

  7. Richard says:

    Re: Doom

    Ugh, that’s a tedious discussion. I’m of the opinion that Doom can be distinguished from “TraditionaL” Heavy Metal despite being much closer to it than Extreme Metal. Far more annoying is the retroactive labeling of heavy ’70s Rock as “proto-Doom”.

    Until the mid-2000s, Doom Metal was perhaps the least noticed of Heavy Metal’s subgenres in spite of two decades worth of mindblowing albums. An unfortunate consequence of this collective intrigue in forgotten Metal records from decades ago came this overzealous labeling of heavier Psychedelic bands as Doom Metal. This includes the ever so prevalent fallacy of “70s Doom” propagated by insolent music journalists and clever record distros who saw the perfect opportunity to move product. Simply put: no active, touring and/or recording Doom bands existed in the ’70s. Despite Black Sabbath’s influence on Metal and especially Doom Metal, the band never was a full-fledged Doom band. One could even argue they weren’t a Metal band until “Master of Reality”*. Pentagram’s early material tinkered with Hard Rock, Psychedelic Rock and Heavy Metal, and Bedemon’s demos never reached a wider audience until they were bootlegged in the ’80s.

    Doom Metal proper started in the ’80s, a decade that bequeathed Tyrant (who later became Saint Vitus), Trouble, Death Row/Pentagram, Candlemass, Cirith Ungol, Witchfinder General and Pagan Altar. These bands can be safely considered the origin of Doom Metal. The few obscure “Doom” bands (besides those affiliated with Candlemass and Iron Man) people name drop from the ’70s lack so many of the qualities seen in the bigger bands.

    So what is Doom Metal, you ask? This is perhaps the best explanation for the genre I’ve heard:
    >Imagine Black Sabbath’s career were moving chronologically backwards. Let’s start in the 70s here so we don’t have to go through their entire back catalog. Imagine “Vol. 4” was Black Sabbath’s first album. Then “Master of Reality” is their second, “Paranoid” their third, and then the self-titled album is their fourth. Now imagine that the band Earth never existed, and instead of following up their now fourth album with whatever blues type of music Earth played you take the backwards development of the Black Sabbath style and spin it further into the unknown. Muddier, more inchoate, more protozoic and somewhat creepier with each passing album. Then, when you followed that backwards movement all the way to the eighth album (being some time in 1962 or so), you’ve arrived at Saint Vitus. All their influences reverse engineered to a form that would have existed in the early 1960s if Heavy Metal and Doom Metal had not evolved from Rock music but came into being at zero metalness (but nothing else either) in 1950 and slowly but steadily grew more and more in Metal content (without Rock music or blues or any other form of music ever having any influence).

    *Since this will perhaps be the single most controversial passage in the above message, I’ll better explain here. In order to deem Black Sabbath’s earliest outputs Metal, we would first need to set the standards for Metal’s compositional grammar. Metal is heavy, Psychedelic and Blues-based Rock music structured in either minor-key, modal or chromatic scales. Power chords, quick picking and galloping riffs are also very important. Bands that don’t utilize them in any fashion can’t be considered Metal in my book. Furthermore, the tonal centers of the Metal riffs in each composition are not fixed but progress over the course of it. The rhythm guitar is therefore not a merely a rhythm instrument but, in fact, the lead one. The drum kit (and timpani if you’re Master’s Hammer) is enslaved to the guitars as a mere metronomic timekeeper despite whatever swing, texture, or fills the drummer flourishes the music with.

    If “Robbing the Graveyard and Raping the Dead” from Satan’s Massacre is any proof, you construct Metal music simply with your amp and guitar with no bass or percussion needed at all:
    https://youtu.be/WoOsT-vtS4Q
    https://youtu.be/C4zRPo6pPBM

    It’s these reasons I refuse to dub Black Sabbath’s self-titled album and even “Paranoid” as Metal. Black Sabbath’s Metal work started with “Master of Reality” and virtually every album since that time. Ozzy’s most Metal album with Sabbath was a toss up between “Sabotage” and “Vol. 4” with “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” not far behind. “The Wizard” may have that one riff (I’d argue it’s a Hard Rock riff [the fills, phrasing, and little notes popping up here and there are even more indication]), but even so, claiming the debut is the first Metal album is inane.

    Just listen to “Ride the Sky” by Lucifer’s Friend which dropped in November of 1970, almost a year before the world would hear “Children of the Grave”. That song alone is heavier than most of what Sabbath made until that “Master of Reality”. For shits and giggles, follow that up with “Deceiver” by Judas Priest and you’ll notice some parallels:
    https://youtu.be/GX5uGJ4eask
    https://youtu.be/yELpVTsWmpI

    1. bloodypulp says:

      you made your point at “tedious discussion”

      1. screaming chaos of pain says:

        hear hear

      2. Richard says:

        I recall you being massively analpained at Cynical’s posts. Good to see you haven’t changed one bit.

    2. Doom Metal proper started in the ’80s, a decade that bequeathed Tyrant (who later became Saint Vitus), Trouble, Death Row/Pentagram, Candlemass, Cirith Ungol, Witchfinder General and Pagan Altar.

      While it is hard to disagree with this, musically they are slowed-down heavy metal.

      We face the problem always that people want to categorize metal by technique alone. In that view, Blue Cheer is the origin of heavy metal, when really it has nothing to do with it other than “distorted power chords.”

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