Metal Is Not Rock

There remains a massive confusion in mainstream media, society, and culture regarding metal as a truly separate genre of music.  The mainstream media and leftist-controlled academia regard metal merely as a subgenre of rock music, rather than its own distinct genre. This is of course absurd. If metal isn’t its own entirely separate genre of music then jazz, folk, country, and blues are all rock ‘n’ roll too as they can all be played with the same basic set of modern instruments. Since this topic is well-documented in Death Metal Underground’s extensive Heavy Metal FAQ, in this article I will merely layout some basic musical differences between the genres and provide a few appropriate examples to hammer it down into the brains of the ignorant.

Rock music, unlike metal, is not instrumental music for the most part. Rock music typically is arranged in strict vocal song structures like other forms of popular music. The rhythm section (rhythm guitar, bass, and percussion) is strictly rhythmic for the vocals to sing over. Keith Richards asserted that rock ‘n’ roll developed from blues musicians like Chuck Berry in the early 50s directly transposing two chord blues boogie rhythm riffs from piano to electric guitar and replacing shouted vocals with pop singing, hooks, and structure. Richards is probably right; rock riffs are typically two to three chords arranged around a static center while the blues leads are mere adornishment so the vocal melody and catchy rhythms can prevail. For an example, let us have a listen to one of the more instrumentally focused hard rock bands:

Led Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown” is a verse-chorus-verse song based around a fixed three chord verse boogie riff for Robert Plant to wail and howl over like a 50s rock ‘n’ roller. The chorus riff is a standard rock ‘n’ roll bluesy boogie that exists to proceeds forth into the solo in the bridge before the vocal chorus repeats and the song fades out. “Communication Breakdown” like most rock music is held back by the need to make a radio rock song. Led Zeppelin performed much better with their more virtuosic progressive rock songs such as “Achilles Last Stand”, one of their few tracks I can still stand. The guitars are structured like vocal arrangements in prior rock music while keeping the repetitive rock feel to progress each instrument to the catchy hooks and choruses over a steady rhythm riff, bass line, and drum beat in an extended rock jam from well-practiced former studio musicians:

Metal, even heavy metal based around riff pairs, in contrast is melodically structured instrumental music. Metal riffs are typically based around powerchords and merely repeated phrases in a longer melodic construction that is usually minor-key, modal, or chromatic. Furthermore, the tonal centers of the metal riffs in each composition (metal tracks are not vocally-based so therefore not songs) are not fixed but progress over the course of it. The “rhythm guitar” is therefor 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.

For comparison and contrast to Led Zeppelin, let us listen to a more minimalist older metal band: Motorhead. Motorhead were one of the more talented and musical mainsream metal bands sort of like those “one riff” black metal bands; they knew melody unlike other metal bands who stay in chromatic snooze land or dad rock bands in blues lala land. Motorhead combined riff progression with chopped up minor key melodies to progress their heavy and speed metal compositions forward. Listen to “Overkill”‘s thrashy metronomic pick-up beat, the shifting forward chord progressions, and the appropriately progressing leads:

Motorhead’s minimalist approach to writing music meant that they never had to budget riff; Lemmy and company always exploited the basic melody in a riff way further than they needed to in order to construct a speed metal track or whatever other genre they felt like playing such as the occasional crooner ballads. Despite repeating rhythms and structures, they were able to to successfully milk this formula artistically and commercially until Lemmy died right after the release of Bad Magic:

Motorhead mostly played heavy metal music despite Lemmy’s insistence that Motorhead were rooted in pre-rock ‘n’ roll blues music. His musical influences predated rock and most of the music he wrote postdated it. His biggest “hits” kept a deliberate down and dirty dive bar aesthetic in imitation of short, faster blues-based rock songs without actually being such. They belonged to a wholly different genre of music: heavy metal.

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19 thoughts on “Metal Is Not Rock”

  1. I never recovered from Angra's split says:

    More of this well-explained stuff please !

  2. Ranger Werkslut says:

    It’s kind of embarrassing that average non-metal listeners and even many metallers alike will never see the genre as more than just some pathetic rock music. To be fair, I would probably describe it exactly same if captured and under threat of dissection by space aliens. Or even just to save time while explaining to some random fuckhead.

    1. randomcommenter says:

      Lol, explaining to some random fuckhead? Like you even leave your basement.

      1. you're gay says:

        You realize he’s not actually Rainer, right?

        1. Cornrose says:

          Omg u guyz!!!!!! LAugh out loud

  3. Rainer Weikusat says:

    Chuck Berry is not “a blues musician”. His early recordings where somewhat sensational (for the standard of the day) because he transcended the established categories of ‘race music’ by playing ‘white’ stuff like Ida May/ Maybellene. And blues vocals are not shouted.

    The catchphrase was “We’re Motorhead. We play rock’n’roll.” I had the joy/ privilege to hear this live exactly once, with that band from Brazil, Soup of torture or so, featuring as “the sucky openener”.

    Semi-random selection of mid-early guitar-based blues recordings:

    1. canadaspaceman says:

      I only discovered sin the past few years that Chuck Berry was just as influenced, or maybe more influenced, by country guitarists (probably chicken pickers like James Burton) than blues players.

  4. you're gay says:

    “Furthermore the key centers of the metal riffs in each composition (metal tracks are not vocally-based so therefore not songs) are not fixed but progress over the course of the song.”


  5. compulsive anal wanker says:

    Metal is cock

    1. Strong firm male appendages are vir.

      1. Male on Male says:

        What about feminine appendages?

        1. you're gay says:

          Feminine appendages are nowhere near (here).

        2. Bale upon Bale of pubic care says:

          Not all men have penises. Not all women have vaginas. Some men have vaginas. Some women have penises. Some folks with penises or vaginas are neither men nor women.


  6. GGALLIN1776 says:


    I always hated hearing “hey look at the rocker”, it’s not like i wear feathers in my hair & don aerosmith shirts. Stupid puerto ricans ALWAYS say something retarded along those lines when I stop at the gas station. One said “what’s up tom petty”. AGGGHHHH.

    If you want to mock my life’s choices, atleast say ” hey look at the stupid metalhead” so I can knock your teeth out for a reason that makes sense.

    1. you're gay says:

      I’d punch them for calling me Tom Petty before dumb metalhead or rocker.

    2. Rainer Weikusat says:

      How about “Find a polite way to get rid of a woman who’s unaware that ‘you really look like Axl Rose’ is not a compliment”? :-> The “extremely funny homophones[*]” are also difficult to deal with without open violence.

      [*] These are people who look gay. And act gay. But for some reason only known to themselves, they’re convinced they aren’t.


    First I discovered the hidden influence of Burzum (the band primarily responsible for moving ‘metal’ away from traditional heavy metal/rocknroll-isms) was none other than iron Maiden and Judas priest. Then I discovered the style of any particular music is merely an appropriate vector for the ideas intended to be communicated. You can see how massive this leap is by listening to the first Morbid Angel? (I think not). I want to know is there not more to this discovery than it just being a way of looking at the situation? I’m talking about legitimate innovation. How do bands not see this today or from 1993 onwards?

  8. Glibert V says:

    Sure, metal # rock,no similar, in my country have several problems in this confussion

  9. woops says:

    Have you gone to school for music theory or even understand how to play an instrument?

    Motorhead example is terrible and is laden is blues Pentatonics

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