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Alternative metal

Alternative metal (also known as alt-metal[3] or hard alternative[4]) is a style of rock music that usually combines elements of heavy metal with influences from its parent-genre alternative rock,[5] and other genres not normally associated with metal.[5][6] Alternative metal bands are often characterized by heavy guitar riffs, melodic vocals, sometimes harsh vocals, unconventional sounds within other heavy metal genres, unconventional song structures and sometimes experimental approaches to heavy music.[6] The term has been in usage since the 1980s,[7] although it came into prominence in the 1990s.[8] It has spawned several subgenres, including rap metal[6][9] and funk metal, which have both influenced another prominent subgenre, nu metal, which expands the alternative metal sound, commonly adding influences from hip hop, groove metal,[10] grunge, and sometimes industrial metal.


  • History 1
  • Characteristics 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Sources 5
  • External links 6


Influential alternative metal band Helmet performing in Melbourne in 2008

The origins of the genre can be traced back to funk rock music of the early to mid-1980s, when alternative bands like Fishbone, Faith No More and the Red Hot Chili Peppers started mixing heavy metal with funk, creating the alternative metal subgenre funk metal.[11] Other early bands in the genre also came from hardcore punk backgrounds.[12] Bands such as Faith No More, Jane's Addiction and Soundgarden are recognized as some of the earliest alternative metal acts, with all three of these bands emerging around the same time, and setting the template for the genre by mixing heavy metal music with a variety of different genres in the mid to late 80s.[6][13][14][15][16] During the 1980s, alternative metal appealed mainly to alternative rock fans, since virtually all 1980s alt-metal bands had their roots in the American independent rock scene.[6]

The emergence of grunge as a popular style of rock music in the early 1990s helped make alternative metal more acceptable to a mainstream audience, with alternative metal soon becoming the most popular metal style of the 1990s.[6] Several bands associated with the genre denied their status as metal bands.[17][18] Helmet drummer John Stanier said "We fell into the whole metal thing by accident, we always hated it when people mentioned metal in conjunction with us.”[18] The alternative music festival Lollapalooza conceived by Jane's Addiction singer Perry Farrell, helped bands associated with the movement such as Tool, Rage Against the Machine, Primus, Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains gain exposure.[6] The progressive rock-influenced band Tool became a leading band in the alternative metal genre with the release of their 1993 debut album Undertow; Tool's popularity in the mid-'90s helped kick off an era of bands with alt-metal tendencies also classified in other genres like industrial (Nine Inch Nails) and rap rock (Rage Against the Machine).[3] Many established 1980s metal bands released albums in the 1990s that were described as alternative metal, including Metallica.[19]

In the mid-1990s, a second wave of alternative metal emerged. In this wave, an alternative metal genre called nu metal developed[6] and went on to become a very popular genre of music. Nu metal often relied more on thrash metal,[6] groove metal[10] and hip hop[6] influences, as opposed to the influences of the first wave of alternative metal bands, with this style subsequently becoming more popular than standard alternative metal.[3][6][20] It resulted in a more standardized sound among alternative metal bands, in contrast to the more eccentric and unclassifiable early alternative metal bands.[6] During the late 1990s and early 2000s, nu metal was mainstream with bands such as P.O.D., Korn, Papa Roach and Linkin Park, and still having an underground scene pushing boundaries such as Karnivool, who has progressive and alternative rock elements to their nu-metal sound, and Deftones, who incorporated rap, pop, dream, and heavier styles.[21][22]

Joel McIver believes Tool to be important in the development of this genre and wrote in his book Unleashed: The Story of Tool "By 1996 and '97 the wave of alternative metal spearheaded by Tool in the wake of grunge was beginning to evolve into nu-metal." However, lead singer Maynard James Keenan was quick to separate himself from this movement saying "I'm sick of that whole attitude. The one that puts Tool in with [nu] metal bands. The press... can't seem to distinguish between alternative and metal."[17] Other alternative metal bands considered influential to the nu metal genre such as Helmet have also tried to distance themselves from the movement.[23][24]

Some bands associated with the nu metal movement such as System of a Down, Karnivool,[25][26] and Deftones[27][28] are still classed as alternative metal, due to being closer in sound to alternative rock.[29][30]


Sample of "Man in the Box" by Alice in Chains, from the album Facelift. Although widely associated with grunge, Alice in Chains are also noted for their alternative metal sound as demonstrated with this sample.

Sample of "Prison Sex" by Tool, from the album Undertow. Tool are known for combining alternative metal with a wide variety of progressive structures.

Sample of "Well Enough Alone" by Chevelle, from the album Vena Sera. This sample displays the alternative metal style of music which Chevelle plays.

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The genre has been described as part of alternative rock and heavy metal.[5] Bands tend to feature clean singing,[3] influenced by those of alternative rock, in contrast to other heavy metal subgenres. However, more recent bands have also incorporated vocal styles like growls and screaming.[5][31][32][33] It features aggressive guitar riffs as well.[34]

Jonathan Gold of the Los Angeles Times wrote in 1990 "Just as rock has an alternative, [left] wing-bands like the Replacements and Dinosaur Jr.-so does metal. Alternative metal is alternative music that rocks. And alternative metal these days can reach 10 times the audience of other alternative rock. Jane's Addiction plays an intense brand of '70s-influenced arty metal; so does Soundgarden. In fact, the arty meanderings of Sab and the Zep themselves would be considered alternative metal."[35] Houston Press has described the genre as being a "compromise for people for whom Nirvana was not heavy enough but Metallica was too heavy."[36]

The first wave of alternative metal bands emerged from many backgrounds, including hardcore punk (Bad Brains, Rollins Band, Life of Agony, Corrosion of Conformity), noise rock (Helmet, The Jesus Lizard, White Zombie), Seattle's grunge scene (Alice in Chains, Soundgarden), stoner rock (Clutch, Kyuss), sludge metal (Fudge Tunnel, Melvins), alternative melodic metal (Heart-Shaped Scars -, gothic metal (Type O Negative) and industrial (Ministry, Nine Inch Nails).[6][20][37][38][39][40][41] These bands never formed a distinct movement or scene; rather they were bound by their incorporation of traditional metal influences and openness to experimentation.[6] Jane's Addiction borrowed from art rock[35] and progressive rock, Quicksand blended post-hardcore and Living Colour injected funk into their sound, for example,[6][42] while Primus were influenced by progressive rock,[6] thrash metal[43] and funk[44] and Faith No More mixed progressive rock, R&B, funk and hip hop.[45] Fudge Tunnel's style of alternative metal included influences from both sludge metal and noise rock.[39][46]

See also


  1. ^ Grow, Kory (2013-03-20). "Not a Downer: Tool's Adam Jones Talks 'Opiate' Reissue, New Material | SPIN | Q & A". SPIN. Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  2. ^ "Industrial Metal".  
  3. ^ a b c d Grierson, Tim. "Alternative Metal - What Is Alternative Metal - Alt-Metal History".  
  4. ^ Joel McIver. Unleashed: The Story of Tool. Music Sales Group. p. 108.  
  5. ^ a b c d Henderson, Alex. "Sourvein Will to Mangle".  
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Alternative Metal".  
  7. ^ Crean, Patricia. Alice' will rattle some chains"'". Spokane Chronicle. Retrieved 2013-02-03. 
  8. ^ "Jesters of Destiny". Allmusic. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  9. ^ "Rap-Metal".  
  10. ^ a b Tompkins, Joseph (2009). "What's the Deal with Soundtrack Albums? Metal Music and the Customized Aesthetics of Contemporary Horror". Cinema Journal 49 (1). 
  11. ^ Funk M; et al. "Funk Metal : Significant Albums, Artists and Songs, Most Viewed". AllMusic. Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  12. ^ Punk M; et al. "Punk Metal : Significant Albums, Artists and Songs, Most Viewed". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  13. ^ Sharpe-Young, Garry (2007). Metal: The Definitive Guide. London, England: Jawbone Press. p. 482. ISBN 1-906002-01-0.
  14. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Faith No More - Music Biography, Credits and Discography".  
  15. ^ Grierson, Tim. "Soundgarden Biography".  
  16. ^ Prato, Greg. "Nothing's Shocking - Jane's Addiction : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  17. ^ a b Unleashed: The Story of Tool - Joel McIver - Google Books. Retrieved 2013-02-14. 
  18. ^ a b Christe, Ian (2003). Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal. HarperCollins. Chapter 13 Transforming the 1990s: The Black Album & Beyond.
  19. ^ Relative, Saul (August 21, 2008). "New Metallica -- 'The Day that Never Comes' Has Arrived".  
  20. ^ a b Stoner M; et al. "Stoner Metal : Significant Albums, Artists and Songs, Most Viewed". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-01-28. 
  21. ^ D'Angelo, Joe. "Nu Metal Meltdown".  
  22. ^ D'Angelo, Joe. "Nu Metal Meltdown (Part 2)".  
  23. ^ comments policy  155  comments posted. "Helmet: We're Better Than 99.9% Of The Other Bands Out There | News @". Retrieved 2013-02-14. 
  24. ^ Weatherford, Mike (15 October 1999). "Mr. Bungle serving up pop music from Mars".  
  25. ^ Berelian, Essi. The Rough Guide to Heavy Metal. p. 349.  
  26. ^ Christe, Ian (2004). The Sound of the Beast. Allison and Bubsy. p. 329.  
  27. ^ Udo, Tommy (2002). Brave Nu World. Sanctuary Publishing. pp. 112–123, 236.  
  28. ^ McIver, Joel (2002). "Deftones". Nu-metal: The Next Generation of Rock & Punk. Omnibus Press. p. 46.  
  29. ^ Deftones To Headline Next Year's Taste of Chaos Tour 2005-10-24. Retrieved on 2013-02-14.
  30. ^ Thomas, Stephen. "System of a Down - Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-02-14. 
  31. ^ Thomas, Stephen. "Deftones - Deftones : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-02-14. 
  32. ^ "The Beginning of All Things to End - Mudvayne".  
  33. ^ "Violence - Nothingface".  
  34. ^ "System of a Down - System of a Down".  
  35. ^ a b "Los Angeles Times: Archives - Alternative Metal Bands Follow Zeppelin Lead Records: New releases by Mind Over Four, Warrior Soul, Prong and Flotsam and Jetsam". 1990-05-26. Retrieved 2013-02-02. 
  36. ^
  37. ^ Begrand, Adrien. "Clutch: Robot Hive / Exodus". PopMatters. Retrieved 2013-02-02. 
  38. ^ Rivadavia, Eduardo. "Monster Magnet - Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-01-28. 
  39. ^ a b Rivadavia, Eduardo. "Fudge Tunnel - Music Biography, Credits and Discography".  
  40. ^ Prato, Greg. "Quicksand - Music Biography, Credits and Discography".  
  41. ^ Goth M; et al. "Goth Metal : Significant Albums, Artists and Songs, Most Viewed". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-02-14. 
  42. ^ "Night Life". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2013-01-28. 
  43. ^ Dunham, Elisabeth. "Roll Over Manilow: Thrash funk is here". Lawrence Journal-World. Retrieved 2013-01-28. 
  44. ^ Gore, Joe (August 1991). "New Rage: The Funky". Guitar Player via Retrieved April 11, 2012. 
  45. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "((( Faith No More > Overview )))".  
  46. ^ "Blame Nirvana: The 40 Weirdest Post-'Nevermind' Major-Label Albums | SPIN | Discover | SPIN Lists". SPIN. 2013-01-08. Retrieved 2013-02-26. 



External links

  • 10 Essential Alternative metal singles
  • Silver Dragon Records: Alternative Metal
  • Alternative metal - Nuclear Blast
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