That's so metal. What? What is so metal?
September 18, 2014 1:49 AM   Subscribe

So what are the cool kids listening to? What groups and subgenres should I know about?

I have a basic old school metal knowledge: I liked Zep, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, etc. when I was a kid. I guess that's probably not even considered metal anymore.

The 'Hair Metal' Ratt, Poison, Motley Crue thing is so musically and lyrically trite, I just can't enjoy it.

I guess RATM is rap/metal. Maybe 311, too. I like that.

Tool is amazing.

I don't really care for the growly vocals of death metal, but the compositions are cool.

So what are the cool kids listening to? What groups and subgenres should I know about. Basically, can I have a contemporary metal primer, please?

\m/ - - \m/
posted by j_curiouser to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Radiolab just tagged the end of a story about nihilism with the track Generation from Liturgy. So now it is blessed by public radio and not cool enough for cool kids, but seemed adequate for headbanging purposes and has upside down crosses and stuff. May be too repetitive for some, but I kinda liked it.
posted by Gotanda at 2:07 AM on September 18, 2014

I'm a bit out of the loop (I lost track of metal about five years ago), but I found that the interactive Map of Metal was a great primer.

Someone more up to speed on the hot bands right now can chip in, but I believe that today's metal still broadly maps out as: Death metal (deep riffs and growly vocals, see also Technical Death metal, Djent, etc.); Black metal (high tremolo riffs, high vocals, Satanists, see also Viking folk metal etc.); Doom metal (Sabbath like and slow, see also Drone metal, Stoner rock, and Sludge); Grindcore (fast, technical punk).

Outside of those, Progressive metal is still really big (basically prog rock + metal), Power metal never died (and still sounds silly as ever), crossover genres like Metalcore seem popular, and there was a 1980s style Thrash revival a few years back but I don't know if that's still going.

I think you'll be in luck in general, since Hair metal is basically dead, but Sabbath like bands are still really in vogue, and progressive / technical bands like Tool are everywhere.
posted by iivix at 2:09 AM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

The cool kids are listening to a certain strain of black metal that combines the brutal sonics of that genre with a kind of unexpected lush beauty and dynamism. Quite a bit of it sounds influenced by disparate genres like shoegaze and post-rock. (Sometimes dismissively referred to as "hipster black metal," but that's silly and you should ignore it.) Deafheaven, Liturgy, Wolves in the Throne Room, Krallice, Blut Aus Nord, Xasthur, Alcest, Nachtmystium - these are all excellent bands to explore in this hazily defined area.
posted by naju at 3:01 AM on September 18, 2014 [14 favorites]

I'm not really a "metal guy" as such but yeah, I'd agree with iivix and naju that a lot of it nowadays.. well, like the last decade or two... is instrumental or nearly so (growly, scratchy, semi-wordless vocals), with the influence of grunge, post-rock (sort of an orchestral approach but without the orchestra), math rock (sort of a jazz approach but without the jazz band), and all the 'sludgey' styles fast (black/death...) or slow (doom, djent)... pretty brutal, rhythmic, odd-signatured, heavily layered or fuzzed-out sort of stuff with vocals often absent or heavily obscured.

These are pretty extreme examples and also pretty silly but I like how much these videos kind of sum up the BRUTAL approach that's all the, ahem, rage over the past few years -- bearing in mind these are both about 7 years old mind you!

Ernie and Bert go BRUTAL

... Ehh, although having said that I guess the kids are more into stuff derived from emo, screamo, pop-punk, nu-metal (rap-rock) and similar. Lots of vocals that in my crankiness I'd call "whiny". :P Some of them are good though, check out these guys. Wait, shit, they're also pretty old-school at this stage - 10 years!

I'm not up on the real cutting edge stuff in metal though, who even knows what that could be, blasting airhorns in eachothers' ears or something no doubt, damned kids harmanbarman. Kerrang seems pretty filled with oldening guys anymore.

Have some NEWS related to METAL. RARR:

Metal Underground
Metal Hammer
Metal Injection
posted by Drexen at 3:39 AM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

naju hit a lot of correct buttons. A great place to find new, interesting-to-adults metal is (of all places) NPR Music. They have a guy, Lars Gotrich, who's really been championing a lot of interesting metal for them in the past few years, mostly under the "Viking's Choice" banner (he does cover other stuff, but that's the place for metal on NPR; he does annual best-of-the-year lineups for them as well which are a great place to start).

Other good places to explore are Invisible Oranges, Last Rites, and BrooklynVegan (BV covers way more than metal, so you'll have to sift, but there's good stuff there too).

Probably the best metal label going right now is Profound Lore, so go on there and just start listening to stuff. Everything they (well, he, it's one guy) put out is amazingly good, just maybe not to everyone's taste.

The beauty of now is that there is so much good metal available on SoundCloud and BandCamp. Nearly any band you read about, you can immediately listen to, which then leads to exploration of other similar artists. It's a golden age for music discovery.

And, here's a list of metal I've been buying lately in reverse order of purchase; you can find most of them on BandCamp:

Myrkur (black metal)
Gorguts (death/black)
Pallbearer (doom)
Panopticon (black/folk/wtf)
Cormorant (black/thrash/classic)
Castevet (black/music theory nerds)
Lazer/Wulf (I don't even)
Agalloch (black/folk)
Sunn O))) (doom/weird)
Kylesa (Southern sludge)
Vattnet Viskar (black)
Russian Circles (instrumental post)
Deafheaven (blackish)
Kowloon Walled City (post-hardcore/metal)
Krallice (US black)
posted by The Michael The at 5:00 AM on September 18, 2014 [7 favorites]

Check out atmospheric black metal.
posted by akk2014 at 5:15 AM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Since you used the phrase "cool kids" a couple of times, I'll point you toward Unlocking the Truth, who were on Colbert the other night, absolutely killing it. They are 12-year-olds.
posted by jbickers at 5:29 AM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

There are some good recommendations here. I would add Earth, who just released a new album (with vocals!), and the Bay area, as yet unsigned, Cardinal Wyrm, whose new self-released album is intense.
posted by dortmunder at 6:08 AM on September 18, 2014

From my experience (East Coast, but closer into the Midwest side of things) the "cool kids" are coming out of a weird conflation of "hardcore" and folk music. I'm not sure if they're there any longer, but that's the spot they were at about five years ago and what has influenced where "they" are today (early 20's). Another genre that had some traction around here at least a few years ago was powerviolence, which I can't believe is a real thing but it's totally a real thing.

Anyway, Code Orange has been on NPR a few times over the last couple years, and are all young (but not party-trick-young, like Unlocking the Truth or when Care Bears on Fire first came out). I'd say they are at least one solid data point for where the "cool kids" of metal are right now.

I Am King
Liars // Trudge
Nothing (The Rat)
posted by Poppa Bear at 6:27 AM on September 18, 2014

I would just add some of the Boris catalog to naju's list
posted by slow graffiti at 6:29 AM on September 18, 2014

posted by Koko at 6:57 AM on September 18, 2014

Screamo is a thing with the kids these days. Not that I actually know any bands, but I know they should be getting off my lawn.
posted by gnutron at 7:19 AM on September 18, 2014

I got into instrumental post-rock / post-metal stuff a while back. I'd suggest looking at bands like Pelican or Russian Circles.
posted by komara at 7:33 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Surprised that nobody mentioned Mastodon yet. Check Leviathan and Crack the Skye.

Deafheaven's Sunbather was really something last year.

Besides that I would also mention Opeth, sort of death/prog metal, more prog on the last two releases. Check out Blackwater Park and Heritage.
posted by florzinha at 7:36 AM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

+ 1 naju
+ 1 The Michael The

I would add that Southern Lord is still a relevant label even for cool kids (among other things they put out that Earth album mentioned above). Here's the Bandcamp page.

The upcoming Baptists record, on Southern Lord, is getting some serious hype right now. I expect some cool kid backlash though given that Dave Grohl name checked them a while back and so far what I've heard from it is just Bushcraft part 2 (which don't get me wrong means it will be really good). Kurt Ballou recorded this new record of theirs and I mention it because following up on records he's been engineering / involved with is another way of checking out some good stuff e.g. Nails, Trap Them. He recorded the Code Orange record mentioned above, too.

I'm excited to hear what Sumac will sound like members of Russian Circles (mentioned above / are excellent), the drummer from Baptists, and Aaron Turner (Old Man Gloom, Isis, and others). Aaron is another person to keep an eye on (Old Man Gloom has a new record coming out). I will confess to preferring Zozobra over OMG for sheer fact of being more direct.

I don't know if they are cool with the right people anymore but since you mentioned the old school metal stuff I will also add that Electric Wizard's Dopethrone is my go to heavy record that is evocative of earlier stuff but still vaguely contemporary feeling (it's like 14 years old now though).
posted by safetyfork at 8:45 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I came in here specifically to recommend Mastodon and Opeth, but florzinha beat me to it.

Both of them were really popular about 5 years ago, so they may not be super cool anymore, but they're definitely more recent than Sabbath or Rage. I particularly love Mastodon, and listened to their album Leviathan just last night.
posted by 256 at 8:53 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure about their "coolness index", but I got into the proto-doom band Pentagram after I watched the truly excellent documentary, Last Days Here (the documentary is very good, even if you are not into heavy metal).
posted by alex1965 at 9:08 AM on September 18, 2014

Oh, yeah, speaking of Mastodon, their new single collaboration Atlanta with Gibby Haynes (of the Butthole Surfers) is just straight up great.
posted by The Michael The at 9:09 AM on September 18, 2014

Yep naju, The Michael The, and safetyfork are on it: the cool kids are into this convergence of black metal / doom / drone / shoegaze. Anything on Profound Lore or Southern Lord is pretty good. Personally I looooooove Earth. To add to the list of atmospheric black bands already mentioned, I would definitely check out Ash Borer and Fell Voices. Probably a good starting point for this new American (mostly west coast) black metal would be Deafheaven, although the cool kids won't admit to liking them for being too hipster or something, but that album was pretty good. Wolves in the Throne Room was one of the pioneers of that scene so that would also be good a starting point.

Cvlt Nation is the blog you want to follow if you're into that stuff.

Screamo is a thing with the kids these days.

Nah 'screamo' was briefly cool in like the aughts, although it's made a more polished and doomier reappearance as shoegaze. I really love the band True Widow and Whirr from the bay area is also awesome.
posted by bradbane at 9:14 AM on September 18, 2014

Correcting my failure to provide at least one Baptists link, on preview, let me make that this one from Cvlt Nation with youtube embeds, etc.
posted by safetyfork at 9:16 AM on September 18, 2014

Carcass's new(ish) record Surgical Steel rips. Also look into Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, kind of a lo-fi psych doom thing, but catchy.
posted by evisceratordeath at 9:19 AM on September 18, 2014

My advice is to go to the metal subreddit and explore. The Official Recommendation Thread is a good place to start.
posted by chaoticgood at 9:37 AM on September 18, 2014

No idea if the following bands are cool or not nowadays but I have at various times over the past few years had the following bands on constant rotation:

Killswitch Engage (Howard Jones era)
As I Lay Dying (Powerless Rise and Shadows are Security esp.)

Between the Buried and Me - give these guys a few listens, it is well worth it once you get past the growly vocals.
posted by natteringnabob at 9:51 AM on September 18, 2014

If you dig Black Sabbath, be sure to check out Ghost, aka Ghost BC. They're a terrific Swedish metal band.

There's also a terrific Japanese psychedelic band called Ghost, but they're different.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:18 AM on September 18, 2014

I'm sure they don't fit in the modern "metal" classification, but if you like the swaggery 70s rock you mentioned above, you owe it to yourself to check out Queens of the Stone Age and related one-off supergroup (Josh Homme, Dave Grohl, and John Paul Jones) Them Crooked Vultures. And possibly another related project, Eagles of Death Metal.
posted by usonian at 11:16 AM on September 18, 2014

Screamo is definitely the one that comes to mind as a sub-genre with metal base. Some are harder than others, no deep deathly growls in most bands of that genre.

Something else you may be interested in, in something called "nu-metal" - not my favorite by a long shot - but I'm also not a "metal" fan.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 11:22 AM on September 18, 2014


haha, no that's Limp Biskit, don't listen to anything called that anyone.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:10 PM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you like musical complexity. Look into Meshuggah and the work of Devin Townsend, especially his work with Strapping Young Lad. Djent is also a "thing". is a good resource. Soulkiller webzine is also a good resource. Full disclosure: my husband maintans it.
posted by cleverevans at 12:35 PM on September 18, 2014

ILX's Rolling Metal Thread 2014 has all your current metal needs discussed inside.
posted by klangklangston at 4:57 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I +1 bradbane's approval of the above posters and come to add Grand Magus if you're a Maiden fan (though they can tend much closer to power metal than Maiden ever did) and The Sword -- I think Warp Riders is their most loved record. Also, be sure to check out Torche, Helms Alee, and Tilts, which has a very classic feel you will probably like.

The kids are also really excited about the upcoming At the Gates album, and the recent Sleep record is very good.
posted by amicus at 5:13 PM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Since you liked Tool, you might want to checkout Soen.
posted by mirthe at 8:46 AM on September 20, 2014

« Older Pork Belly Recipe Ideas   |   How do I explain the whole daddy dom thing to my... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.