Nowadays everyone likes to pigeonhole bands into specific genres instead of the all-encompassing ‘heavy metal’ tag, so we’ve taken a look at some of the more specialist areas of metal – from pirates to dinosaurs.
Ragga-metal: Skindred – Pressure
The much (and deservedly) celebrated kings of the metal crossover genre, Skindred have spent the last 18 years feeding their gnarly reggae-soaked, dub-come-lately punk to the rabid metal masses. Their explosive back-catalogue has become the perfect fodder for one of metal’s consistently elevating and brilliant live shows, due in-part to founding member and vocalist Benji Webbe’s immersive mix of emotional delivery and rallying calls-to-dance. The ragga-metal tag might now be common parlance in the metal dictionary, but Skindred’s honing of their Dub War lineage and nu-metal leanings were visionary in creating this hybrid monolith.
Blackjazz: Shining – Fisheye
Not to be confused with the Swedish black metal band of the same name, or even that Jack Nicholson film (not As Good As It Gets, FYI), Shining are responsible for coining the phrase Blackjazz to describe their molten concoction of sharp, dissonant saxophone and Enslaved-like atmospherics. Their fifth studio album of that name picks up where the likes of experimentalists King Crimson left off, introducing a caustic and unexpectedly exhilarating strand of heavy music to a scene plagued by desolate Immortal offshoots.
Dinosaur Metal: Hevisaurus – Räyh!
Hevisaurus, a Finnish heavy metal band who dress as dinosaurs and play for children, formed in 2009. The mind boggles that 39 years after Black Sabbath’s opening, iconic bell toll heralded the start of an era of heavy metal, only then did somebody think about marrying the genre with everybody’s favourite extinct reptiles. Six years in, and seven albums deep, Hevisaurus are something of an institution in Finland. Their music may be a blunted pastiche of power metal and Barney-style singalongs, but they’ve got their own mobile app, and a film is due for release later this year. What a time to be alive!
Pirate Metal: Alestorm – Wenches & Mead
Drunkenly sailing onto the scene in 2004, Battleheart (who would become Alestorm), bought into the cultural fervour generated by films like Pirates Of The Caribbean, to start a sub-genre characterised by the rum-addled antics of their favourite swashbucklers. Although the quality of their music has seemingly always played second fiddle to their ludicrous, but fully-immersed pirating activities, they’ve released four albums sliced through with tales of mead, squids and wenches, set to the sound of keytar.
Beer Metal: Tankard – A Girl Called Cerveza
Beer might be the universally acknowledged lubrication-of-choice for easing out over-worked m0sh muscles, but for some, it’s so much more. Frankfurt-based Tankard have spent over 30 years paying homage to the foamy nectar, continuing to prop up the German thrash scene in the bleak nineties and early noughties with malted classics like Kings Of Beer. When we caught up with frontman Gerre last year, following the release of their sixteenth full-length titled R.I.B. (Rest In Beer), he kindly gave us an insight into How To Drink Better. Much obliged, sir!
Jazz-metal: Trepalium – Moonshine Limbo
Whilst the deep south drawl of bands like Pantera, Corrosion Of Conformity and Black Stone Cherry evokes images of stagnant, creeping bayous thrumming with mosquitos, Trepalium’s homage to the southern states of America is somewhat more overt. As a French band, their music glows with a post-colonial jazz heritage bound to cities like New Orleans, sliced through with fat, groovy riffs. Their latest offering, Damballa’s Voodoo Doll, is the greatest affirmation of this jazz allegiance yet, including feigned bar-fights and a veritable reek of moonshine.
Cello Metal: Apocalyptica – I’m Not Jesus
Four Finnish lads at uni start a band with the intention of playing Metallica covers. Welcome to the early nineties; any young bucks hoping to wash the drear of grunge or the interminable tedium of Britpop out of their ears were doing the same. Apocalyptica booted it up a gear, using their classical training and love of the heavy stuff to create a cello outfit in thrall to the dark lord. Over the next two decades, Apocalyptica have gained some serious metal credentials, releasing albums featuring the likes of Corey Taylor and Gojira’s Joe Duplantier, underpinning some of modern metal’s trademark anthems with mesmerising, menacing string compositions.
Goblin Metal: Nekrogoblikon – No One Survives
Sure, people can feel conned and annoyed by the notion of a gimmick, especially if it seems like there’s a joke to be had at their expense. At the same time, the artistry surrounding a conceit might warrant artistic appreciation in itself. Nekrogoblikon walk this fine line between credibility and mockery. You see, they are a metal band who sing about goblins. Not only this, they are a metal band who sing about goblins, have their own goblin mascot (John Goblikon, in case you were interested) and are set on upheaving ‘elitism’ across the genre. They also have a music video with a porn star in. Metal reformers or green-skinned gobshites? You decide.
Samurai Metal: Whispered – Jikininki
Finland’s third entry on this list (proving that there must be something in the water) categorise themselves as a ‘melodic death metal band with Japanese folk elements’. We prefer the ‘Samurai Metal’ moniker. Whispered, despite not being able to speak any Japanese themselves, are indebted to the folklore of the country, and create fast-paced, bombastic, if not a tad superficial music, that sound like Ensiferum playing the score of an Akira Kurosawa film. Last year they released Shogunate Macabre, a horror story pockmarked with huge classical swells and ripping riffs.
J-Pop Metal: Babymetal – Gimme Chocolate
Babymetal were the band you loved to hate in 2013. And 2014. And possibly for the rest of time. A fiendishly catchy mix of sickly sweet J-Pop insanity, throbbing EDM and big, polished riffs fronted by three schoolgirls, there’s no real explanation for how this hellish entity was ever dreamed up. Well, actually, they’re a manufactured group, so there’s yer explanation. The big question, though, is WHATTTTTT?!?!!! For everyone affronted by their existence, there are ten times as many people losing their shit to Gimme Chocolate. Pick a side.