The Great Debate: Metal vs The Subgenre
Written By: George Archibald
I pose to all of you a challenge; please define the type of music each of these bands are: Suicide Silence, Periphery, Carcass, Black Sabbath, and Napalm Death for example. Many of you would name off a list of different varying types of metal. Now try to define them without these various descriptors, seems almost impossible, right? This is where the great debate occurs, how do you describe your favorite bands without tagging them with the wrong terminology? This has been the backbone of many online battles between those being called Elitists. Over my time interviewing many bands that play along all the spectrums of what is metal, many of these bands have rather decided that they rather not be defined by a subgenre description, but rather to use the term Metal very loosely.
On one hand, it is great to just toss all separation aside and be just Metal. It comes with this all-inclusive notion, which many fans of this great genre of music want. Most metalheads can remember their first time going to a concert, and being accepted by their peers just because they were a fan of the music. By a band saying they are Metal, it drops all the boundaries and takes the proverbial line in the sand out of the equation altogether. It is about unity here, and what happens to help a band out more than having a broad array of listeners to check them out. You really aren’t sure what to expect, but you know it’s going to have the fundamentals of Metal. Electric guitars, powerful vocals (clean, or harsh, or a combination of both), big sounding drums and thunderous bass, make the basis of any metal band. Where things go off track is when you add playing and performance stylings into the mix, along with other musical elements.
This brings me to the subgenre. The subgenre was brought forth, to describe and break down this huge palate of Metal into something more definable to its listener. The variance can be subtle, or be vast between these subgenres in the way of styling and listenability. Take for instance, Death Metal vs Deathcore; both have aggressive playing styles, but when hardcore breakdowns are added into the stylings you get two different subgenres. If you want to take this to an extreme, take Power Metal vs Grindcore. These two styles of metal clash completely with vocals, playing style, and stage performance of the bands that fall into these categories. The subgenre does have boundaries, but isn’t to exclude members from joining the ranks of fandom of any band that is a part of them. The subgenre rather defines the style of music quickly as to be able to be identified by its listeners own preference. So why are bands so fast to take off these descriptors for their music.
One can argue that as music matures, and bands grow stylistically, they tend to jump subgenres in their playing, or abandon subgenres altogether as they progress. Thus, the debate of what is this band, comes to play between older fans and newer fans. To curb this divide in fan base, many bands rather prefer a neutral calling of just plain Metal. Also as time goes by and one subgenre gains popularity and another falls out of favor among listeners, many bands try to shed this subgenre tag due to the backlash surrounded with it. Just like when Nu Metal fell out of favor, and now Djent is taking heat. As to many bands emerge in that subgenre, thus watering down the uniqueness of the bands that originally became synonymous with the name.
So again, I pose to you which do you prefer? A basic title in which everyone is included, and has been sound for over 50 years, or individual tags which eventually could lead to separation amongst fanbase but also help to identify what the music style is before listening to it. The debate has, and will continue to go on as styles change, as fast as bands change. As a band, I would want as many people as possible to listen to my music, and would want my fans to feel included. Where it gets muddy is when people stick to one style without being openminded of others. Which do you prefer?