For the Love of Rock and Metal is a blog dedicated to music articles, concert reviews, CD reviews, interviews and all other things related to rock and metal. There is an emphasis on local or semi-local music in the Madison, WI area.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What is... METAL

What is… METAL?
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There are so many different forms of music and often it is hard to differentiate between them.  Sometimes, a band can fall into more than one genre or subgenre. First up on our list of “What is…” is metal.
Metal is characterized by certain distinctive features, including strong and vibrant drums, especially bass drum and often a double bass, forceful and dynamic vocals, guitar distortion and power chords. While these are not always hard and fast rules for metal, they are often key components.  Many subgenres of metal also include these characteristics, although sometimes the subgenres include other characteristics or exclude one or more of these. Vocals in metal can run the gamut from melodic singing to deep growls and carnal screams. Most importantly, metal is loud. The main characteristic is an assault of sounds that are akin to chaos and war, but in reality are usually fairly ordered. Metal is often associated with death, anger and masculinity.
Metal originated in the United States and the UK in the 1960’s as an alternative to the slower tempo available music. It is a spin-off of many things including rock, blues and punk. There are still subgenres of metal that represent these genres in the universe of metal, including metalcore. Some of the original metal bands included Iron Butterfly, Led Zepplin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple. Other bands like Pink Floyd, Cream, The Beatles, Grand Funk Railroad, and Blue Cheer also released heavier songs during the formative years of metal that would fall into the genre, even if the rest of the band’s songs don’t technically fall into the genre. These songs helped form metal and also became the basis for some of the subgenres.
As music progressed and the genre progressed through the 1970s and 1980s, more bands came into the scene and many subgenres were formed. Metallica, The Obsessed, Melvins, Quiet Riot, Motley Crue, Twisted Sister and Poison also came out during this time. Today, there are so many metal options that I’m not even sure where to start. Anthrax, Bullet For My Valentine, Megadeth, Slayer, Pantera, Lamb of God, Sepultura, Dream Theater, Children of Bodom and Slipknot are some bands that come to mind.
Although not as good of an indicator, fashion and gestures are also ways to tell if the band you are watching is metal. The fashion has changed quite a bit since the big hair metal bands of the late 1970s and 1980s, but artists in metal bands still often have long hair or non-mainstream hair, such as mohawks. They usually have tattoos, wear leather or denim, and often have t-shirts featuring their own influences in the metal world. Of course, I’ve seen many different looks on stage at a metal show so there is no all-encompassing “look.” Gestures including head banging, “devil horns” hand gestures, and fisted arm thrusting are all pretty good signs. In addition to the somewhat characteristic looks of the artists, the fans also follow many of the same fashion trends. Fans of metal are also referred to as Metalheads and come in all shapes and sizes and many of them do not always "look the part." If someone who didn't know me, for example, tried to guess what kind of music I like most based on what I looked like, my guess is that they wouldn't be able to determine that I'm a metalhead.
Still not sure that you know what metal is? Well, that’s ok – me either. If a band is very obviously one genre or subgenre, it is easy to figure out but sometimes bands blend different sounds and characteristics to create something that is not easily identified as a specific genre.
Something to look forward to: posts about identifying the subgenres of metal including Thrash Metal, Death Metal, Black Metal, Doom Metal, Power Metal, Industrial Metal, Progressive Metal and Nu Metal.

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