If you do not have an interest in heavy metal music or its cryptic maze of sub genres, you may want to skip this post, as it may get very arcane very fast. If you are into that sort of thing, or just want a look into the jet black, acrid smelling interior to the massive structure that heavy metal has become, then please read on.
It is no secret that my absolute most prized form of music has developed an issue (be it positive or negative) with creating a massive amount of tiny subgenres. Its a lot like a giant tree, where the trunk is traditional heavy metal music, featuring such bands as Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer and Deep Purple. The trunk has many branches, each of which represent a smaller subgenre than the one it sprouted from. For example the largest branches would be genres like Shock Rock, Glam Rock, Doom Metal, Prog Metal, and Power Metal. Then, naturally, each of those branches would have smaller genres sprouting out until we get to things like Thrash, Hardcore, Death, Black, so on and so forth.
For the most part this is all fairly common knowledge, nothing that can’t be easily learned in a Wikipedia entry. Where it gets crazy is with microgenres. These are not even branches, these are twigs, or better yet, leaves. These are genres so microscopically tiny, they really only have a handful of bands representing them, two of which are probably the only ones worth talking about, and haven’t been produced by some 17 year old kid in Singapore in a bathroom (sometimes that’s the best kind of metal though). The average Joe wouldn’t even suspect that the enourmous web has spread so far. We have thrash mixing with death and satanism, giving us black metal, which then mixes with folk music, which then forms folk/viking black metal, which then mixes with shoegaze, creating folk blackened gaze prog… you get the point.
These microgenres have been complained about by some, people saying that, “it’s all music man, don’t try to compartmentalize it” which I’m not sure is such a good idea. Labeling is such a paradox, a double edged sword. On the one hand calling Nortt(Den) “pure depressive black funeral doom metal”, as crazy as the title is, describes the band perfectly. Trust me, if you were ever going to say a band within that complex of a genre description was described by it perfectly, it’s definitely Nortt. On the other hand when you spend so much time classifying every riff, every solo, every blast beat, you forget that you should be enjoying the music.
I find all of this detailed subgenre framework very interesting myself. I always say, “there’s a metal band for everyone”, and I truly believe it. Give me anyone. Your Hollister wearing little sister, your craft show attending mother, or even your high school principal, I GUARANTEE I can find them a band or two they would love. Try me. You can believe me when I tell you I have found more than one raw black metal band influenced by country and bluegrass.
Even now, as I sit here listening to “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” by Metallica, I can hear waves from past bands carried through the music. Misfits, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, it’s all there. Believe it or not, it’s not hard to hear Metallica in a band like Torture Killer.
My question now, for you, the reader, is whether this construct of inbreeding will ever get to a point where we run out of subgenres? Will it get to a point where the music has to have ridiculous mixtures of jazz and black metal? Oh wait, theres already a band like that called Shining (the Norwegian band, not the Swedish DSBM band). I personally cannot say whether that is true or not, but I would say that if there were ever a time that that could happen, now would be it. Who knows, maybe the last subgenre of metal, has already been forged. In all reality, I don’t know if this can happen. This sort of unlimited creation is what keeps it interesting. If Metallica and Slayer hadn’t thought to mix punk with old school heavy metal, we would still be stuck listening to bands like Rush and Led Zepplin, which some of you may be okay with, not I.
For those of you that are the anti-compartmentalizing, I say this: we need to label our bands. This cross genre multiplying is what keeps the creative juices flowing. I honestly would have never even thought you could mix viking metal with 70’s prog but Enslaved figured out a way to do it, and do it right. There are probably many combinations still to create.
I guess that’s it for this post, if anyone has thoughts on what I have said here, go ahead and leave me a comment, I’m curious to know your feelings on the matter of microgenres.