August 21, 2019 10:00 AM   Subscribe

Please help me establish mental reference points for the many subgenres of heavy metal music by recommending exemplars.

Today I learned about "drone metal." I have always been intrigued by the great variety of metal subgenres, but my knowledge is mostly stuck in the 70s and early 80s. Previous attempts to explore the genre in a self-directed way have ended with me bouncing off of the less-accessible nonmelodic stuff.

Please expand my horizons by recommending important or representative songs and albums from the metal subgenres you know well. I am still interested in listening to the less-accessible nonmelodic stuff, as long as I have some understanding of the context in which it matters.

I understand that problematic and disturbing stuff is pretty well baked in to the genre and that answerers are not endorsing the content of any works that might get brought up here.
posted by prize bull octorok to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Folk Metal:
Song - Helvetios, from the album Helvetios by Eluveite (Swiss)

album - From Afar, by Ensiferum

album - Igeret by Dalriada

There will be more recommendations, I'm sure, as I've found that Meta has a great number of folk metal enthusiasts and I don't have a ton of time to expand right now.
posted by Naib at 10:06 AM on August 21 [1 favorite]

Map of Metal, while no means comprehensive, is a good jumping-off point into the grey (and deep black) areas of metal sub-genres. The map has the option to play songs by bands in each genre. (Edited to warn: Clicking 'Enter' on the site opens the map and autoplays music)
posted by helpontheway(skft) at 10:18 AM on August 21 [7 favorites]

I'm not sure where the lines between Doom / Stoner / Sludge / Drone lie, but:
Electric Wizard — Dopethrone
Boris — Pink
posted by ZipRibbons at 10:25 AM on August 21 [1 favorite]

I feel like more people should know about Dungeon Synth, kin to black metal.

See historical notes and overview here, along with plenty of canonical examples.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:45 AM on August 21 [1 favorite]

I feel like this is a thread where BitterOldPunk would be a good voice here -- I've learned a bunch about subgenres of metal from him on Twitter -- but we don't have at "tagging" feature here, do we?
posted by uberchet at 11:55 AM on August 21 [1 favorite]

Check out
Every Noise at Once The metal genres are in a few different places down the page a bit . It's....comprehensive.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:12 PM on August 21 [5 favorites]

Drone metal (sounds about like you’d expect):
Sunn0))) , “Monoliths and Dimensions”
Om, “Conference Of The Birds”
Boris, “Pink”

Doom (slow, plodding, creepy, down-tuned guitars, usually inspired by or straight-up ripping off early Black Sabbath):
Cathedral, “Forest of Equilibrium”
Witchfinder General, “Friends of Hell”
The Obsessed

Stoner metal (a lot like doom/drone, but mostly about celebrating the wonders of cannabis thru high volume and hilariously dumb lyrics):

Sleep, “Dopesmoker”, “The Sciences” (I LOVE this band)

Sludge metal (sort of a cross between doom and hardcore punk. Shouted/screamed vocals, can be fast or slow, sounds “muddy”):

Slugdge (their songs are all about a cosmic slug deity. I don’t know either.)
The Melvins (kinda? They’ve made so many different kinds of music you could slot them in anywhere)

Post-Metal (what happens when the smart kids get tired of King Crimson and start listening to Slint):

Russian Circles
Kowloon Walled City (maybe better classified as noise rock, it’s REALLY hard to listen to)
Wrekmeister Harmonies (combines drone, choral music, and death metal in really interesting ways)

That’s a few of the genres most closely related to doom/drone. Some of these bands have been around forever and made music that defies easy categorization.

If I had to put together a playlist of stuff to intrigue someone new to experimental metal, it would definitely include Sleep, Neurosis, Wrekmeister Harmonies, Boris, and The Melvins.

Metal genres proliferate like mushrooms after a spring rain, and that’s both great and frustrating. I highly recommend going to shows and chatting up fellow fans. Metal fans may sometimes look scary, but 95% of them are huge music nerds who love the chance to talk about the music they love. You’ll discover great new stuff and probably make a few friends.

(PS Everyone hates Deafheaven, but I think they’re kinda neat.)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:36 PM on August 21 [21 favorites]

I don't directly know what I'm talking about, but a grad student of mine who is a formidable doom metal bass player did a thesis on sludge metal and taught me this taxonomy so that I would understand what he was writing about. It's not comprehensive, but it helped me a lot:

[a few songs are in brackets after the band's name]

stoner metal:

sleep [dragonaut, holy mountain]
the sword [freya]

doom metal:

witchfinder general [witchfinder general, free country]
saint vitus [born too late]
trouble [at the end of my daze]

black metal: burzum, mayhem, bathory, and behemoth

power metal: (wizards and keyboards)
iron maiden [fear of the dark, run to the hills]
judas priest [breaking the law, living after midnight]
dragonforce [through the fire and flames, heroes of our time]
wintersun [beyond the dark sun, sons of winter and stars]

death metal:
cannibal corpse [hammer smashed face, make them suffer]

thrash metal:
slayer [raining blood, angel of death, disciple]
metallica (first three records)
anthrax [madhouse, got the time, caught in a mosh]
megadeth [a tout le monde, symphony of destruction]

speed metal: (dated genre label) Motörhead [ace of spades, heartbreaker]

progressive metal:

behold! the arctipus [disintegore, monolithic destractions]
psyopus [duct tape smile, medusa]
cynic [veil of maya, the space for this]
consider the source [closer to home, moisturize the situation]


boris [flare, melody]
sunno))) [aghartha]
earth (their early stuff) [torn by the fox of the crescent moon, there is a serpent coming]


melvins (proto-sludge): [honey bucket, a history of bad men, hooch]
eyehategod [agitation! propaganda!, trying to crack the hard dollar]
crowbar [all I had (I gave), no quarter]
goatwhore [apocalyptic havoc, poisonous existence in reawakening]
acid bath


napalm death [scum, the wolf I feed]
agoraphobic nosebleed [agorapocalypse now, timelord one]


dillinger escape plan [milk lizard, one of us is the killer]
psyopus (see prog above)
converge [dark horse, aimless arrow, trespasses]


isis [hall of the dead, so did we]
pelican [bliss in concrete]

djent: (form of progressive metal)

meshuggah [bleed, combustion, the demon's name is surveillance]

savannah, georgia scene:
mastodon [high road, blood and thunder]
baroness [take my bones away, march to the sea]
kylesa [tired climb, unspoken]
black tusk [bring me darkness, brewing the storm]
posted by umbú at 1:41 PM on August 21 [14 favorites]

I would suggest all Black Metal bands be viewed as racists unless positively demonstrated otherwise.

For example from the list of black metal bands above:
  • burzum is NSBM* just think what you have to do to get your own SPLC entry- here is lead singer's Varg Vikernes
  • mayhem is racist
  • bathory inspired NSBM! - how about just a list of all these NSBM bands?
  • behemoth is also racist
*All of these bands are National Socialist Black Metal.
posted by zenon at 2:03 PM on August 21 [5 favorites]

Yes, zenon is right regarding these black metal bands--I just included them for genre identification purposes. Now that I think of it, it was a mistake to include spotify links. I'll have the mods change that.
posted by umbú at 2:14 PM on August 21 [2 favorites]

[Removed spotify links from those four bands]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:41 PM on August 21 [1 favorite]

Thank you all for the excellent answers so far. I marked the ones that I could easily incorporate into a playlist as "best," but I very much appreciate the links and other information as well.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:01 PM on August 21

Oh, Sleeper is considered metalcore.

Underoath has been called metalcore, post-hardcore, screamo, and several other related genres.

And although they are usually considered screamo, Emery has some harder stuff like this song "Thrash."

I also love me some Project 86, which is more straight metal/rock.
posted by tacodave at 4:02 PM on August 21

Symphonic metal is definitely Nightwish [Amaranth]
posted by Zalzidrax at 5:55 PM on August 21 [4 favorites]

Borknagar is a Norwegian progressive black metal band, with no links to any sort of Nazi, racist, or NSBM scene that I know of. (If there are links, definitely let us know!)

Universal is one of their best songs.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:43 PM on August 21 [1 favorite]

Gotta add Overkill to the thrash list.
posted by look busy at 5:45 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]

If you're up for an affectionate spoof/homage: Heavy Trip is about a "symphonic post-apocalyptic reindeer-grinding Christ-abusing extreme war pagan Fennoscandian metal" band.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 12:56 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]

Babymetal: Gimme Chocolate!!, Megitsune, Karate.
posted by Pendragon at 5:05 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]

I acknowledge that it is VERY niche, but I recently learned about Mongolian heavy metal, which incorporates overtone singing and traditional steppe instruments. NPR has more perspective on their origins.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 11:23 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]

And don't forget about Anvil, who were the subject of a heartbreaking documentary in 2008.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 11:45 AM on August 25

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