Everybody has a different taste in music. While some may prefer a classic and soothing rhythm, others may lean towards a pounding beat of a drum. If you are one of those who are fascinated by the heavy metal music genre, perhaps it is about time to get your hands into its beat.
Reset your views
The first step to get into heavy metal music is by re-aligning your views regarding this genre. In the past years, heavy metal music was stereotyped as a loud noise with lyrics full of profanities, being generated by a band composed of guys who wore all black. On the contrary to this thinking, heavy metal music is melodic but very technically challenging. Most heavy metal bands are composed of musicians playing an electric guitar, bass guitar, drums, and vocal lead. Others may even have an additional electric guitar player or a keyboard. While most heavy metal bands stick to rhythms and melodies, limiting the lyrics, others opt to write about more aggressive or controversial topics. There are even heavy metal bands that produce religious music. There is also a wide range of vocals involved in this genre, mostly requiring the lead vocal to growl, shriek, or scream. While it is initially an avenue for a lot of male performers, the heavy metal scene already saw a lot of successful female leads.
Consider your preferences
The next step after re-assessing your views towards the genre is to assess yourself in terms of your music preferences. Try to look in the past and consider the type of music you have grown to love. This is a very good basis in determining the specific heavy metal music you may be inclined to. Heavy metal music is such a wide genre that there are several types of melodies produced in this genre, depending on the particular instrument used.
By far, heavy metal is known to be more aggressive than rock. It is characterized by guitar solos, sometimes rhythm, other times bass guitars, without any growling in the vocals. Another branch of heavy metal is Goth metal, which typically features goth lyrics and a dark atmosphere.
Contrary to the melodic guitar solos of the basic heavy metal, thrash metal features guitar shredding with aggressive vocals. It is a fast-paced music with influences from punk. Over the years, thrash metal has been dominated by ‘the big four’, which are bands eloquently playing this music. These are Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax. A branch of thrash metal music is crossover thrash or thrashcore that leans more on punk rock.
Power and Speed Metal
Power metal, usually have a melodic streak in terms of soaring vocals and guitar shreds. The music is commonly about fantasy and mythology, which are more melodic compared to thrash metal. On the other hand, speed metal is extremely fast and considered as the most demanding heavy metal music form in terms of technicality.
Black, Doom, and Death Metal
The song structure of black metal has a wide range. It can be anywhere from complex to raw, with distorted guitars and shrieking vocals. Black metal sounds usually are set in a cold and dark atmosphere. On the other hand, doom metal sound is made up of either clean vocals or a growl. It is usually slow in pace, with a lyrical theme revolving around doom and despair. In contrast to doom metal, death metal is fast-paced with a complex song structure. It incorporates heavy growling. Death metal with more complex rhythmic patterns are often referred to as technical death metal. Conversely, death metal with a slower pace that incorporates the use of keyboards or piano is also known as melodic death metal.
Progressive Metal, Metalcore, and Mathcore
The progressive metal subgenre of heavy metal music is guitar-driven with some of the most unusual signatures such as dynamic shifts and complex playing of progressive rock. Progressive metal that infuses the sound of the piano or keyboards are often referred to as djent. Metalcore, on the other hand, is a combination of hardcore punk and extreme metal, which incorporates extreme vocals. Metalcore infused with more harmonies and vocal ranges from screaming, growling, and singing is known as melodic metalcore. Odd time signatures are apparent for Mathcore, coupled with various complexities.
Take time to listen
Once you choose a certain type of heavy metal music to listen to, take time to actually indulge in paying attention to it. Heavy metal music needs focus and attention, and there is a great possibility that you will not be able to appreciate it if you will just play it in the background. Apart from familiarizing yourself with the vocals, try to have an open ear for each of the instruments being played. Unlike mainstream pop or rock, heavy metal music doesn’t offer a groove or a beat that will instantly make you remember. It entails the need for you to listen to it a couple of times before you uncover each layer of instrument and melodic rhythm. Don’t be discouraged if at first you will not be able to understand the music at all. The appreciation for heavy metal music grows over time, but while it doesn’t happen frequently, sometimes it can be that you fall in love with it the first time.
For beginners though, here are some of the top albums that you can listen to:
Metallica’s self-titled album in 1991. This is considered the best heavy metal album to date, considering that most contemporary heavy metal bands emerged because they were inspired by this album. Some of the most popular songs in this album, which are truly easy to digest for those novice in heavy metal are “Enter Sandman”, “Sad but True”, “Wherever I May Roam” and “Of Wolf and Man”.
‘The Number of the Beast’ album released by Iron Maiden in 1982. Heavy metal enthusiasts all claim that all the songs in this album are written perfectly, from the opening drums of the first song to its closing tracks.
Black Sabbath’s Paranoid album released in 1970. Apart from paving the way for the heavy metal music scene, Black Sabbath’s Paranoid album is a testament to its popularity. The perfect guitar pieces towards the end of the album will surely be an inspiration for you to lift up your guitar and strum some of those strings.
Slipknot’s self-titled album in 1999. This album paved the way for modern metal with all songs deemed as favorites by most heavy metal enthusiasts.
Rage Against the Machine’s self-titled album in 1992. This band opened the doors for heavy metal to delve into politics and socialism through their well-crafted and socially-enlightened lyrics.
Take time to watch
Apart from indulging your ears to listen to heavy metal music, it is also a good idea to take time to watch a concert, a show, or a performance of a band into heavy metal music. This is a good way to get into this type of music because you will have the opportunity to bask in the music scene atmosphere. While it is better if you do actually go into an actual live performance, you may also watch shows online. Look at how each band member put in the effort to create heavy metal music with their respective instruments. This will give you an idea of the effort they put in, and on how much effort is needed from your side if you decide to play the instrument yourself, or if you are already playing one.
Take time to play.
Try to enjoy the heavy metal music by playing your own instrument. While going to live performances and being thrown in a mosh pit sounds inviting, heavy metal music is best appreciated when you play an instrument yourself. Apart from listening into its rhythm and melody, it is best if you create your own too.
Here are some of the common instruments played to generate heavy metal music:
The electric guitar itself has many variations. While there is the typical 6-string instrument, there are also seven or eight-string guitars that offers a wider note range. However, for heavy metal, an electric guitar with high amplification is preferred. In most bands, two musicians often play the electric guitars, with one being the lead guitarist playing the guitar solos, and the other playing the general melody or rhythm. Heavy metal music also incorporates guitar shredding techniques such as finger tapping and fast scales. Guitarists who perform a guitar shredding technique usually use a guitar amplifier. On the other hand, double-cutaways in a guitar allows a musician to easily access high frets.
In contrast to the strumming of an electric guitar, the bass guitar is normally played by slapping or thumping its strings. It is made up of only four strings compared to the six to eight strings making up the electric guitar. However, like with the electric guitar, it is often played through an amplifier. The bass guitar forms the rhythm section, especially when played in conjunction with the rhythm guitars and drums, or keyboards if present. Usually, bass guitars for metal play a definitive role in the entire melody, so much so that it is often up for solos. The lower vibrations of a bass guitar will tend to move your soul. Hence, the bass guitar is and should always be present in heavy metal music because it is used to play the low-end sound that is essential to make the sound seem heavy, thus, the term heavy metal music. Like with the electric guitars, there are also a wide range of bass lines that musicians use, depending on the subgenre of heavy metal music.
The third element of a heavy metal music is the beat of a set of percussion instruments, which is normally the drums. In the past, the tone of the drums is generally not set, but over the years, musicians already learned to tune the drums in a medium or low tuning to give way to the pitch of the other instruments. Additionally. The drum sets seen today are the enhancement of the basic drum set used back in the day. More often than not, the drums set the beat and the speed of the music, along with its mood. In heavy metal music, the drums are the key in giving the overall sound a feel of aggressiveness through rapid double bass drumming.
While not a man-made instrument, the human vocals have a key role in heavy metal music. The vocal sounds can darken the mood of the entire sound and the vocalist who specializes in doing so is often referred to as the screamer. The lyrics of the song are often sung through various scream levels. There are different types of scream such as the pig squeal which is a high-pitched scream, the death growl, which is a low pitched growl, and the normal singing voice.
While still generally deemed as an optional instrument in heavy metal music, the keyboards can offer a good twist. A keyboard will allow for a more dramatic sound effect in the total melody.
Do your research.
Music is ever evolving and so is the heavy metal genre. To continuously get into the heavy metal music groove, take time to do your research and continuously learn about its history, in order to find ways on how to make this genre better. If you are equipped with more knowledge about this music genre, then there is a greater possibility that you will be able to appreciate it more and be good at it too.
Music comes in a variety of forms and several genres. The preferences of one may greatly differ from another. Nevertheless, there is one common benefit that one gets from listening to music, and generating it. Heavy metal music is a form of self-expression. Thereby, feel free to express your mood or your emotion, or just practice your skills, through the art of music. Pick up those sticks and beat that drum or get your guitars ready for a strum.