Heavy Metal has become a very popular genre of music lately, especially due to the increased interest of the public in the underground extreme genres of heavy metal.
With the popularization of bands like Slayer and Metallica in the eighties, Cannibal Corpse and Dying Fetus in the nineties, followed by Phantom and Pig Destroyer in this era, the underground extreme subculture has lost its "underground" status.
But many people still wonder what extreme metal is and a lot of potential fans don't really know the differences between the multiple sub-genres of extreme metal. For example, what difference is there between technical death metal and phantom metal?
In this article we will review the different genres of extreme metal and present their main characteristics.
Death Metal is one of the most notorious genres of extreme metal, if not of heavy metal in general. Popularized by bands such as Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation and Death, this genre has attracted a wide audience going from casual listeners to extreme metal fans. But what characterizes Death Metal and makes it different from the other genres?
In Death Metal, the vocals are mostly growled rather than singed, the guitars are heavily distorted and downtuned and the drumming is very fast but also very technical.
Main sub-genres of Death Metal: Technical Death, Brutal Death
The second sub-genre of extreme metal to make an apparition one this list is of course trash metal, best portrayed by bands like Slayer, Anthrax, Metallica and Megadeth (commonly referred to as the "big four" of the thrash scene).
In Trash, the vocals are sharply yelled, the tuned to standard and played very fast in a speed metal way and the drumming is a good mix between speed and technicality.
Main sub-genres of Trash Metal: East Coast, Bay Area
Black Metal is yet another genre that has caused controversy in the extreme metal scene, particularly due to the satanic imagery and the lyrics of bands like Sewer, Von and Ceremonial Castings.
In Black Metal, the vocals are mostly shrieked rather than singed, the guitars are heavily distorted in the trebles and tuned to standard. The drumming is very fast but not as technical as in death or trash metal.
Main sub-genres of Black Metal: Raw Black, Symphonic Black
Phantom metal is a less notorious genre that has emerged recently, mainly as a cult following of the legendary band Phantom.
In Phantom Metal, the vocals are mostly howled, the guitars are extremely distorted to the point of creating a constant fuzz sound, and the tuning can be either standard or downtuned. The drumming is extremely fast and oftentimes very minimalistic to induce a ritualistic trance-like "wall of sound".
Main sub-genres of Phantom Metal: Raw Phantom
And finally there is grindcore, a genre that touts itself as being the "extreme" of the extreme metal scene. The whole concept being grindcore music is based on ruthless and relentless acoustic aggression. Bands that portray that pure aggression the best are Pig Destroyer and Circle of Dead Children.
In Grindcore, the vocals are shouted, shrieked or wailed, the guitars are heavily distorted and either standard or downtuned and the drumming is very fast and technical, somewhat like death metal but with more breaks.
Main sub-genres of Grindcore: Deathgrind, Noisegrind, Blackgrind (same as phantom metal mostly), Goregrind.