Heavy metal has come possibly the longest way from its humble origins since the term was first coined as "heavy metal thunder" in Steppenwolf's 1968 biker anthem "Born To Be Wild." Metal's riffs are evil, its fans are legion, and its categories are myriad, with thrash, death, black, doom, and hardcore metal being the most prominent. Innovative sub-genres are being created, destroyed, and transformed with every new album release.


Mixing hardcore punk and death/thrash with staggering doses of speed, grindcore is frenetic, furious, and faster than any of its metal kinfolk. Growly or screamy vocals (usually unintelligible) abound, and chord progressions are absolutely manic, often attracting death acts like Nile or Malevolent Creation and power-violence bands like Benumb or Spazz.

Traditional pioneers: Bolt Thrower, Exit-13, A.C., Blood Duster, Earache Records

Defining moments: Napalm Death Scum (Earache, '86); Carcass Symphonies Of Sickness (Earache, '89); Brutal Truth Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses (Earache/Relativity '92)
Current torchbearers: Discordance Axis, Agathocles, Soilent Green, Cephalic Carnage, Nasum, Relapse Records


Throbbing drum machines, repetitively shredding riffage, and mechanised sound samples comprise industrial metal. Light years beyond the primitive electronics of Skinny Puppy and Throbbing Gristle in aggression, but kissing cousins to the techno-destructo death/thrash of Mortician and Agoraphobic Nosebleed, industrial has over the years waned in sheer numbers of bands, but not in the passion of attacking delivery.

Traditional pioneers: Killing Joke, Godflesh, Soulstorm, Old, Malhavoc, Circle Of Dust, Dead World, Skrew

Defining moments: Godflesh Streetcleaner (Earache, '89); Ministry Psalm 69 (Sire, '92); Fear Factory Soul Of A New Machine (Roadrunner, '92)
Current torchbearers: Inner Thought, the Berserker, Apollyon Sun, Strapping Young Lad, Pitch Shifter


Building on King Crimson's jazzy excess and Yes's chordal fluidity, technical metal — or simply "prog" — is truly a thinking man's metal (with the occasional death vocals) as Rush and ELP were in the '70s and '80s. Prog employs astounding displays of guitar virtuoso, metronomic percussion, and algebraically head-spinning tempo changes.
Traditional pioneers: Queensryche, Voivod, Anacrusis, Watchtower, Atheist

Defining moments: Fates Warning Parallels (Metal Blade, '91); Sadus A Vision Of Misery (Roadrunner, '92); Cynic Focus (Roadrunner, '93)

Current torchbearers: Meshuggah, Spiral Architect, Control Denied, Dream Theater, Gordian Knot, Magna Carta Records


Often considered "true" heavy metal, power metal is reminiscent of the classic '80s, dual-guitar-assault acts like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, played by bands who consistently and fervently uphold the musical values therein. Songwriting normally centres around epics/concepts, and vocals are usually full-bodied and soaring, with the intermittent falsettos or death growls. Power metal is often referred to as Eurometal, due to that continent's overwhelming appreciation for such things.

Traditional pioneers: Ozzy Osbourne, Dio, Mercyful Fate, Saxon, Savatage, Yngwie J. Malmsteen
Defining moments: Manowar Hail To England (Music For Nations, '84), Accept Metal Heart (Portrait, '85); Helloween Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I (Noise, '87)

Current torchbearers: Demons & Wizards, Iced Earth, Jag Panzer, HammerFall, Steel Prophet