What Wikipedia Can’t tell you about Musical Sub-Genres

By Adam “-A-Hole-“ McKinnon


I had a unique experience not long ago with a connoisseur of “extreme metal”. In this conversation, I commented on a song that came on over the speakers at a local club on “metal night.” It was Cannibal Corpse. I only recognized it because of the identifiable rhythm at the opening of their “smash” hit, “Hammer Smashed Face.” I was quite proud of myself for identifying the band to my acquaintance, as I am not a fan of this sort of music. The next song came on. I casually asked – “is this song from the same album as the last one?”

I was met with a look of extreme disgust accompanied by a short laugh, the sort of laugh that you might make when you see someone injure themselves doing something stupid.

This is not Cannibal Corpse…this is (insert forgettable death metal band name). They’re not even close, man. Can’t believe you could even think these songs were from the same album”

Well, that put me in my place. I got a good schooling in the diversity of different types of extreme metal. I was informed of thrash metal, death metal, black metal, blackened death metal, melodic death metal, progressive melodic death metal, progressive melodic blackened death metal, the list goes on.

I was getting a huge kick out of this, because I realized that to this guy these sub-genres were as different from each other as chicken and beef. The subtle differences between these styles of death metal were very pronounced to him, as they are to countless others. And why? Because he is completely immersed in it. I would stand no chance of ever truly appreciating the varieties and permutations of all this modern metal.

This encounter made me wonder…the same must exist elsewhere in the highly subjective world of music classification. I took stock of a few other metal sub-genre varieties that were fiercely defended by their associated hipsters:

Metal that isn’t fast:

Stoner Rock, Sludge Metal, Doom Metal, Slowcore, Psych Rock, etc

Metal that sounds noisy or complicated and has lots of screaming:

Noisecore, Experimental, Mathcore, Math Rock, Post-Metal, etc

Then I  remembered something from the daze that was 2 terms at a community arts college where I took an introductory music history class. I pulled out my treasured “History of Jazz” coffee table book. I pondered the fact that these metal aficionados would most likely consider many forms of jazz to all sound pretty much alike. Oh sure, there would be a few metal hipsters that would claim to like jazz, but only insofar as I could identify Cannibal Corpse as death metal.

Let’s see if the same applies to jazz….let’s start our sub genre list:

We’ve got Dixieland, Ragtime, New Orleans, Big Band, Swing, Latin, Afro-Cuban, Bebop, Hard Bop, Cool Jazz, Modal Jazz, Free Jazz, Jazz Fusion, Latin Jazz Fusion, Jazz Rock Fusion, Electric Latin Jazz Rock Fusion…

…and I think I’ll stop there, before we see Blackened Melodic Afro-Cuban Jazz Fusion Death Metal.

Which I’m positive exists somewhere.



My outlandish friends in the New Jacobin Club get a lot of flack for using “improper” genre descriptions of themselves – if you haven’t done so yet, click on the banner below and see what you think so you can set them straight:


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