Rants: Why Metal Sub-Genres Matter

There’s a good chance you’ve seen this kind of comment if you’ve been foolish enough to scroll down on Youtube or click on the comments on Facebook. It’s usually posted when the video/posts subject surrounds a certain sub-genre of metal, be it something as simple as good old fashioned power metal through to the combos of blackened death metal and so on. The comment is usually along the lines of “we don’t need sub-genres, it’s all metal maaaaan” and other clichéd bollocks. Perhaps they go on to show off their expansive music taste from jazz through to rap, bemoaning those who don’t like the same amount of music they do, but that’s a different rant.

This type of person in polite society is often known as a silly person, but around these parts we like to call them fucking morons. The notion of sub-genres not mattering is as stupid as insisting all potato products are simply known as potatoes despite being crisped, chipped or roasted.

I’ll happily concede some sub-genres can be ridiculous, especially those that combine about five other genres into the name and only have about two bands that fit into the category. Yet when you have people laughing at the concept of calling death metal death metal, that’s when my head starts to shake.

If I’m sitting listening to a band like Korpiklaani and think, “I’m enjoying this accordion nonsense, another!” I want to be able to jump on Spotify or Youtube and search “folk metal” and bask in the results. Now these days I’m quite well versed with folk metal and can happily jump between related artists, but back when I heard Wooden Pints for the first time I was lost in a brave new world. I knew of Finntroll by name and I was aware of Turisas, but I couldn’t have told you a song. One Google trip later I had a list of folk metal bands to look into and I was off and running.

If, however, I had the misfortune of living in the world of “it’s all metal maaaaan” (because let’s face it, the guys an arse), my quest for accordions would have been so much harder. Once I had weeded my way through the big guns of Iron Maiden and Metallica on Youtube and waded into the smaller “underground” bands, I would still have a world of searching before I found a similar band to Korpiklaani. I might find Behemoth, very enjoyable but not what I want. I might find Devin Townsend, still not the droids I’m looking for. I might even find Korpiklaani, but bands like Waylander and Heidevolk would forever be a mystery to me.

Living in the actual world though, typing Folk Metal into Spotify brings up plenty of playlists featuring these bands and more that are a mere click away (I just found a band called Beer Bear for example, and I’m very happy about that). Cutting out subgenres would just make finding your new favourite band a complete pain in the hole, and no one enjoys having a pain in any hole.

A pleasing find

There’s a counter argument to be raised here though. The journey to Korpiklaani included Behemoth, Devin Townsend etc which surely promotes discovering new artists outside of your comfort zone. It’s a fair argument, and frankly one of the only arguments that holds any ground. Yet bands on the outskirts of your chosen genre are good for discovery. From Korpiklaani you might find Finntroll, you might discover you enjoy death metal vocals through them and then you’re open to exploring a new genre. Which can be easily done by searching “death metal” I should add.

The best reason for sub-genres doesn’t relate to finding bands though. The best reason is finding sub-genre buddies. The feeling of meeting some random stranger at a festival who enjoys some ridiculous niche genre of metal by far surpasses the feeling of meeting a t-shirt buddy (one who wears the same/same band shirt) on the street.

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