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Micro-songs: the shortest songs in heavy metal

by Brett Stevens
November 23, 2013 –

no_time_for_pop_songsAbout a decade ago, the trend of flash fiction or micro-stories seized the literary world by storm. The reasoning was that as people did more of their reading via phones and portable computers, they would want shorter, harder-hitting fiction.

Of course, metal was there first.

Heavy metal has a long tradition of making short and fast songs that derive intensity by compressing an idea and then unleashing it like a jack-in-the-box with razor blades for teeth. This tradition spans multiple metal genres and decades.

Generally three and a half minutes is considered the ideal length for a pop song, give or take a half-minute. Many bands, especially in more “serious” genres like AOR, progressive rock, jazz and metal, tend to write five minute or longer songs. Micro-songs on the other hand clock in well under two minutes, often under one.

According to many bands, writing a short song is harder than writing a long one. When the song goes by quickly, song structure is more transparent. There aren’t comforting layers of conventions, like guitar solos and ballady choruses, that can be used to disguise an emptiness within.

It’s just the songwriter versus the void.

Here’s a (brief) run through of heavy metal (and hybrids) who made flash-audio or micro-songs.

  1. Dirty Rotten Imbeciles (DRI) – “Money Stinks” (0:46)

  2. Corrosion of Conformity (COC) – “Nothing’s Gonna Change” (1:07)

  3. Disharmonic Orchestra – “Interposition” (1:59)

  4. Napalm Death – “You Suffer” (0:02)

  5. Blood – “Sodomize the Weak” (1:38)

  6. Insect Warfare – “Oxygen Corrosion” (0:54)

  7. Gridlink – “Asuka” (0:35)

  8. Fallen Christ – “World of Darkness” (1:57)

  9. Carcass – “Genital Grinder” (1:32)

  10. Chronical Diarrhoea – “Attack of the Blur Demons” (0:55)

  11. Agathocles – “Well of Happiness” (1:10)

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4 comments

  • Lord Mosher

    Whaatt??? What?
    But Brett, none of these are really Metal bands!
    They’re all Punk bands. Thrash and Grindcore is not really Metal.
    None of these bands (at the stage of the selected albums to sample this post) would have considered their music as Metal, nor were they trying to be a Metal band ! ! !
    .
    Ha ha, nah, I’m just kidding…

    Reply
  • EDS

    Writing short songs is easier for me. Shorter songs lend themselves to being easier to structure and they can have solos and other extras applied over them for distinguishing purposes. On the other hand they are harder to listen to after a while (grind and hardcore) as they just blur by creating a massive mashup of songs.

    Reply
  • 1349

    When i played my version/parody of death metal, we had a 12-song program with a total time of less than 30 minutes… It was normal for us to stuff (and repeat!) 7-8 different riffs in a song lasting 1:40. This wasn’t on purpose but happened automatically, naturally. Now that material seems hasty to me, more like summaries of songs…
    “You guys play faster than I masturbated when a kid!”

    Reply
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