Saturday, August 6, 2011

Show Me Your Mettle: Exploring the sounds of metal music

In this multipart series I’m going to shed light upon some of the more well-established sub-genres of metal, as well as share with you my favorite metal acts within them. You may be surprised by the diversity in tempo, song structure, vocal style, and instrumentation within the metal genre, and hell, you may even come to discover that you too like metal!

I like metal.

Not that kind of metal.

No, those are medals.

Those are no good, meddling kids. I certainly don’t like no good, meddling kids.

Limp Bizkit


Fucking Ridiculous

Err…Well…Hmph. At least now we are finally in the musical realm, but I said I like metal, not shit. Kidding aside, I understand your misconstruction, Imaginary Reader Who Enables Me To Write In Second-Person Narrative (I’ll just call you Irwem for short). Metal is a very broad, expansive genre Irwem, but also one that receives relatively little recognition and even less appreciation from the general public (at least here in the states). This is not your fault. It is mostly an issue of exposure. It is rare for you to hear metal in everyday life; It is not played on the radio, in TV adverts, movie soundtracks, hotel lobbies, diners (Enya is played in diners), etc. If you are exposed to metal, it is probably because the douche-bag with truck nuts on his Dodge Ram is blaring Nu-metal (shit) with his windows down at the intersection you’re stopped at (and now you’re regretting that you didn’t run the yellow). So I understand why you may have a general aversion to metal. But if you are thinking, “You know what Michael, I honestly can’t say that I have actively explored this deep, complex, and powerful genre of music before,” Then I’d say to you, “Irwem, turn up your speakers and show me your mettle! Let’s delve in deep and explore some metal!”

Melodic Death Metal/Melodeath Metal/The Gothenburg Sound

Melodic death metal or melodeath metal is a subgenre of death metal that emerged in Europe in the early 1990’s. The style rose to prominence in Scandinavia with Gothenberg, Sweden acting as the epicenter of the musical scene. In fact, Gothenburg was such a hub for this style of death metal that before it was classified as melodic death metal, it was referred to as “The Gothenburg Sound” or “Gothenburg Metal”.

In Gothenburg, the North Sea is so cold
women wear Uggs to  the beach.
Although I don’t listen to as much melodeath metal as I used to, I still hold a special place for it in my cold, dark, metal-loving heart because melodeath was the first and only sub-genre I enjoyed when I started exploring metal. And by exploring metal I mean accidentally stumbling upon it. I will never forget the level of peculiar wonder I felt when my Pandora player inexplicably cued Dark Tranquility’s “Lost to Apathy”. What was this ruckus, I thought? I didn’t know metal could sound like that. It was unique, intense, yet complex and subtly beautiful. I was piqued. I had to hear more. From there I found fellow Swedish acts; In Flames, Arch Enemy, and Soilwork. Eventually my audial lust exceeded the corporeal  bounds of "The Gothenburg Sound", but I could never forget or abandon my first metallic love. You do understand how it is with first loves Irwem, don't you?

Is this music or math?
Melodic death metal distinguishes itself from traditional death metal in that – you guessed it – it is more melodic in nature. Some of its more melodic characteristics include the use of guitar harmonics and melodies over the heavy guitar riffs of traditional death metal, the occasional use of acoustic guitars and keyboard, and the interspersion of cleanly sung vocals among higher-pitched screamed or growled vocals as opposed to exclusive use of low-pitched growls found in traditional death metal. The melodic nature often makes melodeath metal more accessible and appealing to those not as accustomed to the dissonant, heavy sounds of traditional death metal. It worked on me. I hope you give it a chance. Who knows, maybe you’ll find it interesting too. Or even like it!

“Lost to Apathy” by Dark Tranquility. This was my first ever exposure to death metal. To be fair, I didn’t like it right away. Because I couldn’t wrap my head around it! I was not conditioned to handle sounds like that. But it blew my mind and I was intrigued by it. I wanted more intriguing of said blown mind.

“Reroute to Remain” by In Flames. Another Swedish progenitor of melodeath metal, In Flames has a classic, melodic, “Gothenburg” sound. This track is a good example of the mix between sung, screamed, and growled lyrics, as well as melodic guitar work.

"My Apocalypse" by Arch Enemy. Arch Enemy doesn't utilize clean vocals but I think their guitar work and bridges are classic melodic death metal and their lead singer is a super cool badass (i.e. hot). “My Apocalypse” is really heavy. Straight-up, it's demon-worshiping music. The bridge at 1:56 is awesome.

More Angela Gassow:

Look so pretty, sound so scary.


“They Will Return” by Kalmah. Hailing from Finland, Kalmah blends melodeath and power metal. Fast tempo and blazing guitar work is the name of the game here.

So Irwem, I hope you found this post and the sounds contained in it somewhat interesting. I love when people share new things with me, and it sounds like you are not too familiar with metal, so I hope I got to share a new experience with you. Let me know what you thought, or if you actually liked any of it!

Coming in future installments of Show Me Your Mettle:

-Viking Metal
-Doom Metal
-Progressive/Alternative/Technical Metal

And more?

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