How Many Types of Heavy Metal Music Are There?

Metal music originated during the British Invasion with bands like Steppenwolf and Blue Cheer; by 1968 however, Black Sabbath had come to define heavy metal as a genre.

Black metal originated as an act of resistance against Christianity, mixing Satanic imagery and imagery from pagan beliefs with high-pitched raspy vocals. Power metal is melodic in style and often features keyboardists.


Heavy metal began as an music genre in the early 1970s, pioneered by iconic bands such as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Heavy metal incorporates powerful guitar riffs with aggressive drumming, deep vocals and elements from hard rock music; other subgenres of metal such as glam metal power metal and thrash metal are popular subgenres of heavy metal; it may even draw influence from punk rock or grunge music genres.

Heavy metal music combines dark themes and supernatural imagery to evoke feelings of power, darkness and the supernatural. It may be seen as an attempt to convey foreboding and apocalyptic fear while transcending reality is seen as its strength. Heavy metal’s core components include guitar distortion, bass lines and drum beats which often derive their sound from blues sources; although each band takes different approaches when creating heavy metal songs.

Heavy metal’s development has been greatly shaped by many influences. One song that stands out as being particularly influential is “Helter Skelter” by The Beatles; using distortion effects to conjure images of car chase and bloody massacre. Furthermore, Jimi Hendrix’s guitar playing and Led Zeppelin’s dark music can also be considered precursors of metal music.

Black Sabbath are widely recognized as pioneers of heavy metal music in 1970. Their dark and doom-filled sound combined with their dark lyrics helped pioneer this style and later copied by other metal bands; Lead singer Ozzy Osbourne – better known by fans as Prince Darkness – played an essential part in popularizing this subgenre.

Heavy metal bands were once almost exclusively male until recently; today there are now many women playing heavy metal music, particularly within symphonic and power metal subgenres. Female musicians are especially prevalent within symphonic and power metal subgenres; many heavy metal performers have also dabbled in other genres like pop and alternative rock; bands like Soundgarden and Alice in Chains have even been classified as metal by some, despite having rock or grunge influences in their sound.


At first, newcomers to metal may find it dauntingly complex to navigate the genre’s vast variety of subgenres and start listening. From party anthems of 1980s glam metal bands like Motley Crue and Poison to macabre themes found in death metal and black metal to traditional metal with its emphasis on fear, paranoia and anger, each subgenre offers something different musically as well as visually (t-shirts and leather jackets are iconic elements of heavy metal music).

Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, two pioneers of heavy metal music, helped lay its foundation with their guitar-driven sound and sleazy image. Metal music also has an outlandish quality expressed through outlandish lyrics that often deal with loss and depression; thus making for an effective cathartic form of expression.

Progressive metal is an intriguing hybrid genre of music that blends the sounds of prog rock with heavy metal, often creating longer songs with intricate arrangements and key changes, along with guitar solos showcasing artists’ technical skill. Notable bands in this subgenre include Dream Theater, Savatage and Opeth.

Thrash metal is a subgenre of heavy metal influenced by hardcore punk music and typically played at a faster tempo. Vocalists may either sing harsh or clean vocals and lyrics often feature rebellious themes and politics – Metallica, Slayer and Sodom are among its early champions.

Doom metal is a subgenre of heavy music characterized by slow tempos and dramatic, melancholic themes. Vocalists can perform either melodic or screamed vocals; keyboards often accompany this genre. Sludge metal, another offshoot of doom metal that features faster songs that tackle drug abuse and human depravity more directly, is another offshoot; notable bands in this genre include Cryonic Temple, Hammerfall and early Lost Horizon.

Power metal is another metal genre fusing prog rock with metal, typically featuring fast songs featuring complex riffs and rhythmic structures. Bands who specialize in this style include Manowar, Dragonforce and Dream Theater.


Heavy metal music can be defined by loud and distorted guitars, powerful bass and drums, and shouted vocals. This genre explores dark themes and has numerous subgenres with distinct visual aesthetics. Heavy metal’s roots lie in blues rock and hard rock; Black Sabbath are widely credited with pioneering metal in the early 1970s.

Black Sabbath pioneered heavy metal music with their use of dark themes, distorted guitar tones and fast, complex compositions – which eventually would lead to its recognition by other pioneering bands like Metallica, Slayer and Iron Maiden. These early pioneers led the way to many subgenres like thrash, power and death metal becoming widely popular today.

These metal subgenres share many of the defining features associated with traditional heavy metal, yet each often focuses on different emotions or themes. For instance, thrash metal emphasizes aggression and speed while power metal embraces melodies and complexity; death metal stands out with its high levels of distortion and growling vocals.

Over time, heavy metal has seen its popularity fluctuate significantly with numerous bands making an impactful mark in its evolution. Today’s version of heavy metal features numerous subgenres and fan bases; progressive metal has even gained significant traction within recent years thanks to bands such as Nightwish and Delain that have established themselves within it.

Heavy metal has grown through its own evolution while remaining true to its core principles and remaining popular today. Boasting an enthusiastic fanbase and numerous new bands embracing its legacy, heavy metal music will remain relevant well into the future. Loud guitars and heavy drumming remain key ingredients of any successful metal band, though more diverse elements like female vocalists and acoustic instruments have found their way into this genre’s lineup. Heavy metal bands frequently combine elements from other genres into their sound, including funk, jazz and classical. Even though heavy metal’s music features dark themes and aggressive tones, its fans typically view it as positive music that inspires them; its underlining message being: life can be tough but anything is achievable with determination and courage.


Heavy metal has had an immense effect on other genres. Black Sabbath became pioneers of heavy metal when they took blues, rock, and psychedelic influences to extreme levels, creating an influential style which has since given birth to various subgenres. Later bands such as Deep Purple and Iron Maiden joined them, leading to what is known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). This period also witnessed the birth of Glam Metal music which focused more on fashion than sound.

Thrash and death metal subgenres push the limits of intensity and speed. Bands from this era typically employ shouted vocals and distorted guitars to emphasize the power and aggression of their music, while many thrash bands feature complex song structures with palm muted guitar riffs and double bass drumming.

Heavy metal draws inspiration from other world cultures, leading to symphonic metal’s development with orchestrations and keyboards added into its compositions. Other styles, like folk metal, take more traditional approaches that include cultural aspects from various regions.

Tech advancements have also had a dramatic effect on the sound of heavy metal music. Digital effects and improved recording techniques allow bands to achieve a more refined and polished sound; leading to an upsurge in progressive metal, which blends progressive styles like Rush with loud, aggressive metal music.

Even though some of the genre’s early bands have faded from popularity, a number of current groups continue to uphold its legacy – from grunge bands that ruled in the 90s, to Disturbed, Slipknot, Bring Me the Horizon Parkway Drive and While She Sleeps.

Other contemporary metal subgenres include melodic power metal, which features fast songs and keyboards. This genre draws influence from symphonic rock bands such as Nightwish and Symphonic Metal of Finland that adopt more classical-influenced sounds; other bands have found success by mixing different genres together such as thrash metal with funk or jazz music.