Extreme Metal
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Extreme Metal

Extreme metal is a loosely defined umbrella term for a number of related heavy metal music subgenres that have developed since the early 1980s. It has been defined as a "cluster of metal subgenres characterized by sonic, verbal and visual transgression".[1] The term usually refers to a more abrasive, harsher, underground, non-commercialized style or sound associated with the speed metal, thrash metal, death metal, black metal and doom metal genres.[2] With the exception of doom metal, all of these genres are characterized by fast tempos, attesting to their roots in hardcore punk, which has also fused with extreme metal in the forms of crossover thrash, crust punk, grindcore, sludge metal and metalcore. Though many extreme sub-styles are not very well known to mainstream music fans, extreme metal has influenced an array of musical performers inside and outside heavy metal.


"Extreme" can be meant to describe any of the following musical elements: instrumentation (whether it is intended to be faster, more aggressive, abrasive or "heavier" than other metal styles), lyrics (dealing with darker, more sensational topics and themes), vocals (which often use guttural, harsh or abrasive singing), or appearance and stage demeanor (using corpse paint, Satanic or occult imagery). The "extreme" label is most commonly applied to bands whose music is extreme; for example, few would consider Kiss or Alice Cooper to be extreme metal, though they could be considered to employ extreme elements in their appearance and stage demeanor for their time.

"Extreme metal's sonic excess is characterized by high levels of distortion (also in the vocals - grunting or screaming), less focus on guitar solos and melody, emphasis on technical control, and fast tempos (at times, more than 200 beats per minute). Its thematic transgression can be found in more overt and/or serious references to Satanism and the darker aspects of human existence that are considered out of bounds or distasteful, such as death, suicide and war."[3] "Visual transgression [can include] ... medieval weaponry [and] bloody/horrific artwork."[3]

According to ethnographer Keith Kahn-Harris,[4][page needed] the defining characteristics of extreme metal can all be regarded as clearly transgressive: the "extreme" traits noted above are all intended to violate or transgress given cultural, artistic, social or aesthetic boundaries. Kahn-Harris states that extreme metal can be "...close to being...formless noise", at least to the uninitiated listener.[4]:33 He states that with extreme metal lyrics, they often "...offer no possibility of hope or redemption" and lyrics often reference apocalyptic themes. Extreme metal lyrics often describe Christianity as weak or submissive,[4]:40 and many songs express misanthropic views such as "kill every thing".[4]:40 A small number of extreme metal bands and song lyrics make reference to far-right politics; for example, the Swedish black metal band Marduk has an obsession with the Nazi Panzer tank, which can be seen in works such as Panzer Division Marduk (1999).[4]:41

Given the vagueness of existing definitions and considering the limitations such definitions, as there are many subgenres of extreme metal, there are many artists for whom the usage of the term "extreme metal" is a subject of debate.[4][page needed] However, Kahn-Harris also notes that many musicians and fans see such debates over style and genre as useless and unnecessary, or at least as given undue attention.

Extreme metal genres

Venom were significant to the development of speed metal into thrash metal into black metal.

Primary genres

Subgenres of primary genres

Fusion genres

Fusions between primary genres

Fusions with hardcore punk

Fusion with rock styles

Fusions with various other musical styles


Genres influenced by extreme metal but usually not considered extreme themselves:


  1. ^ Julian Schaap and Pauwke Berkers. "Grunting Alone? Online Gender Inequality in Extreme Metal Music" in Journal of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. Vol.4, no.1 (2014) p. 101
  2. ^ K. Kahn-Harris, Extreme Metal: Music and Culture on the Edge (Berg Publishers, 2007), ISBN 1-84520-399-2, p. 31.
  3. ^ a b Julian Schaap and Pauwke Berkers. "Grunting Alone? Online Gender Inequality in Extreme Metal Music" in Journal of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. Vol.4, no.1 (2014) p. 103
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Kahn-Harris, Keith, Extreme Metal: Music and Culture on the Edge, Oxford: Berg, 2007, ISBN 1-84520-399-2.
  5. ^ Wolf-Rdiger Mhlmann: War Black Metal: Die Extremsten der Extremen. Was bleibt, ist Schutt und Asche. In: Rock Hard, no. 279, p. 71-73.
  6. ^ Hayes, Craig. "Pallbearer - Sorrow And Extinction Review". About.com. Retrieved 2012. 
  7. ^ Newshound, Terrorizer. "ITALIAN BLACKENED DOOMSTERS FORGOTTEN TOMB PLAN RELEASE review". Terrorizer Online. Retrieved 2009. 
  8. ^ Marsicano, Dan. "Ordo Obsidium - Orbis Tertius Review review". About.com. Archived from the original on 23 June 2012. Retrieved 2012. 
  9. ^ Brown, Jonathon (2007-09-06). "Everything you ever wanted to know about pop (but were too old to ask)". London: The Independent. Retrieved . 
  10. ^ Purcell, Natalie J. (2003). Death Metal Music: The Passion and Politics of a Subculture. McFarland. p. 24. ISBN 0-7864-1585-1. Retrieved . 
  11. ^ "The Nu Metal Revival Is Officially Upon Us". NuMetalMessiah.net - The Number One Resource For All Things Nu Metal. 2017-04-21. Retrieved . 
  12. ^ Huey, Steve. "Eyehategod". Allmusic. Retrieved . 
  13. ^ Williams, Rhys (29 December 2011). "2011 in Review: The Year in Black 'n' Roll". Invisible Oranges. Retrieved 2015. 
  14. ^ "Vreid: 'The Reap' Video Released". Blabbermouth.net. 12 February 2013. Retrieved 2015. 
  15. ^ Whelan, Kez (17 September 2013). "Incubate Preview: Khold". Terrorizer. Retrieved 2015. 
  16. ^ Kelly, Kim (14 August 2014). "Hell Awaits: Disemballerina, Khold, Heavydeath and more". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2015. 
  17. ^ Howells, Tom. "Blackgaze: meet the bands taking black metal out of the shadows". the Guardian. Retrieved . 
  18. ^ Cosmo Lee. "Stylus magazine review". www.stylusmagazine.com. Archived from the original on 2008-06-17. Retrieved . "Death 'n' roll" arose with Entombed's 1993 album Wolverine Blues ... Wolverine Blues was like '70s hard rock tuned down and run through massive distortion and death growls.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  19. ^ Prato, Greg (16 September 2014). Primus, Over the Electric Grapevine: Insight into Primus and the World of Les Claypool. Akashic Books. ISBN 978-1-61775-322-0. 

Further reading

  • Crocker, Chris (1993). Metallica: The Frayed Ends of Metal. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-08635-0. 

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