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Table 2 Overview of subgenres (including derivative forms) of heavy metal music and some of their characteristics (compiled and modified from sources on Wikipedia; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heavy_metal_subgenres)

From: Heavy metal music meets complexity and sustainability science

Subgenres Origin Characteristics Derivative styles
Alternative metal Mid-1980s, USA Has influences from alternative rock and genres not normally associated with metal; characterized by heavy guitar riffs, mostly melodic vocals and clean singing, unconventional song structures; uses sounds of other heavy metal genres; takes experimental approaches to heavy music Funk metal (a fusion of alternative metal and funk) Nu metal (alternative metal blended with groove metal elements and other styles (e.g., grunge, industrial, funk and hip hop) Rap metal (institutes the vocal and lyrical form of hip hop; melodic singing and growling commonly associated with nu metal absent)
Avant-garde metal (avant-metal, experimental metal) Mid-1980s, USA, Japan, Switzerland Characterized by the use of innovative, avant-garde elements, large-scale experimentation, and the use of non-standard and unconventional sounds, instruments, song structures, playing styles, and vocal techniques. Evolutionary origins in progressive rock and extreme metal  
Black metal Early to mid-1980s, Europe Characterized by fast tempos, shrieking and/or growling vocal style, highly or heavily distorted guitars played with tremolo picking, raw (low fidelity) recording, unconventional song structures; artists often appear in corpse paint and adopt pseudonyms Ambient black metal (fusion genre of either dark ambient or normal ambient music and black metal) National socialist black metal (NSBM; melds Neo-Nazi beliefs with hostility to some religions (Islam, Judaism); promote ethnic European paganism, occultism, or Satanism) Red and anarchist black metal (promotes Marxist, socialist, communist or anarchist ideology); was created as a reaction to NSBM) Symphonic black metal (incorporates symphonic and orchestral (strings, choirs, piano, organs, percussion, keyboards) elements) Viking metal (characterized by a focus on Norse mythology, Norse paganism, and the Viking Age; Nordic folk-influenced black metal; slow paced and heavy riffing style, anthemic choruses, uses clean and harsh vocals; frequent use of folk instrumentation use of keyboards for atmospheric effect) War metal (an aggressive, cacophonous and chaotic style of black metal)
Cello metal 1970s, United Kingdom Characterized by the use of cellos and other bowed string instruments (violin, viola) as primary instruments, together with or replacing traditional rock instruments such as electric guitars, electric bass guitar, and drums  
Crust punk (Crust) Mid-1980s, United Kingdom Influenced by anarcho-punk, hardcore punk and extreme metal; songs with dark and pessimistic lyrics dwelling on political and social ills; sounds with strong bass component and distorted; often played at a fast tempo, occasional slow sections; grunting, growling and screaming vocals  
Death metal Mid-1980s, USA An extreme subgenre building on trash metal and early black metal; typically employing heavily distorted guitars, tremolo picking, deep growling vocals, blast beat drumming, minor keys or atonality, complex song structures, multiple tempo changes; often elaborates on the details of extreme acts, e.g. mutilation, dissection, torture, rape, cannibalism, and necrophilia Blackened death metal (combines death metal and black metal) Death ‘n’ roll (inspired by and incorporates rock and roll elements to its overall sound) Melodic death metal (combines death metal with elements of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, i.e. fast riffing and harmonic guitar lines) Technical death metal (characterized by fast, technically complex guitar and drum work, often including sweeping guitar solos)
Doom metal Early to mid-1970s, USA, United Kingdom An extreme form of heavy metal typically using slower tempos, low-tuned guitars and a much “thicker” or “heavier” sound than other metal genres; the music and the lyrics evoke a sense of despair, dread, and impending doom Death doom (combines the slow tempos and pessimistic/depressive mood of doom metal with the deep growling vocals and double kick drumming of death metal) Drone metal (largely defined notes or chords that are sustained and repeated throughout a piece of music (drones); electric guitar is performed with large amounts of reverb and feedback; vocals, when present, are usually growled or screamed; songs often very long and lack beat or rhythm in the traditional sense) Funeral doom (blends death-doom with funeral dirge music; played at a very slow tempo, places emphasis on evoking emptiness and despair; electric guitars heavily distorted; keyboards or synthesizers used to create dark ambient aspects; vocals in the background and consist of mournful chants or growls) Sludge metal (blends elements of hardcore punk and southern rock; generally slow and heavy songs with brief hardcore passages; some bands emphasize fast tempos; guitars heavily distorted and producing an abrasive, sludgy sound; drumming often with hardcore d-beat or double-kick elements during faster passages; vocals usually shouted or screamed; lyrics generally pessimistic in nature)
Folk metal Early to mid-1990s, Europe Blends heavy metal with traditional folk music, including the widespread use of folk instruments and, to a lesser extent, traditional singing styles; sometimes features soft instrumentation influenced by folk rock Celtic metal (fuses heavy metal and Celtic music) Pirate metal (blends metal music with classical pirate mythology, commonly combined with elements of Sea Shanties) Medieval metal (blends hard rock or heavy metal with medieval folk music)
Glam metal (hair metal, sleaze metal, pop metal) Late 1970s, USA Visual style of bands with artists styling their hair in teased-up fashion; combines elements of hard rock and heavy metal with punk rock and pop music, adding hooks and guitar riffs; borrows from the aesthetic of 1970s glam rock  
Gothic metal Mid-1990s, Europe Combines gothic rock with doom metal; lyrics generally melodramatic, fantasized, romantic, dark or sometimes gloomy; diverse range of vocal styles, including clean singing, growling and screaming, male and female singers  
Grind core Mid-1980s, England Fuses crust punk, hardcore punk, thrash metal and death metal; growling vocals, blast beats; very short songs (microsongs); very chaotic, lacks the standard use of time signatures; lyrics often focused on gore and violence, at times political Death grind (death-grind or death/grind; fuses death metal and grindcore) Pornogrind (porno grind, porno-grind or pornogore; blends grindcore and death metal, using lyrics with sexual themes) Goregrind (characterized by its preoccupation with pitch-shifted or extremely low vocals; uses gore and forensic pathology as its exclusive subject matter; often very fast tempo)
Industrial metal Mid-1980s, England, USA, Germany Blends industrial dance music, thrash metal and hardcore punk; repeating metal guitar riffs, sampling, synthesizer or sequencer lines, distorted vocals  
Latin metal Late-1970s, South America Has Latin origins, influences, instrumentation, and Spanish vocals; Latin percussion and rhythm (e.g., Salsa rhythm)  
Metal core Mid to late 1980s, USA Combines heavy metal and hardcore punk; uses heavy guitar riffs and solos, drummers frequently use hardcore blast beats and double bass drums; vocal style includes death growls and shouting. A distinguishing characteristic is the “breakdown” (song is slowed to half-time and the guitarists play open strings to achieve the lowest-pitched sound) Melodic metal core (combines sounds and traits from melodic death metal with hardcore punk, metalcore and at times emo; can have clean singing, growls and screaming; can feature harmonic guitar riffs, tremolo picking, double bass drums and metalcore-stylized breakdowns) Deathcore (combines death metal with metalcore or hardcore punk, or both; defined by an excessive use of death metal riffs, blast beats and use of hardcore punk breakdowns) Mathcore (not to be confused with math metal; rhythmically very complex with unusual time signatures; dissonant style of metalcore)
Neoclassical metal (Shred metal) Late 1970s, America, Europe Heavily influenced by classical music in its style of composition; uses a very technical style of guitar soloing called “shred guitar”, in which guitarists use cross-picking, sweep picking, and economy picking to play rapid scales and arpeggios; uses elements borrowed from classical music including instruments, scales and melodies  
New German hardness Mid 1990s, Germany A crossover style influenced by New German Wave, alternative metal and groove metal combined with elements from industrial, electronic and techno music; vocals (often in German) dominantly in deep, male, and clean voice; sometimes screaming and death growls  
Nintendo core Early 2000, USA Uses electric guitars, drum kits, and typical rock instrumentation; characterized by synthesizers, chiptunes, 8-bit sounds, electronically produced beats; stylistically very variable, including e.g. hardcore punk, post-hardcore, melodic metal core  
Post metal Mid 1990s, Sweden Similar to post-rock, but tends to include lower-tuned and distorted guitar(s), heavy atmospherics, gradual evolution of song structure to a crescendo or climax (or multiple ones within a song); minimal emphasis on vocals; often instrumental; lyrics frequently abstract (thematic or philosophical)  
Power metal Mid 1980s, Germany, Scandinavia, USA Takes influence from heavy metal and speed metal; often emphasizes clean, melodic, high-pitched vocals, fast pacing (double bass drumming), and melodic lead guitar; rhythm guitar defined by straight power chord progressions; harsh vocals used at times (backing vocals); lyrics based on fantasy themes; generally more upbeat than other metal genres, seeking to empower the listener and inspire joy and courage  
Progressive metal Mid 1980s, Australia, United Kingdom, North America Fusion between progressive rock and heavy metal; complex structure with unusual and dynamic time signatures, long compositions, skilled instrumental playing; vocals, if present, are melodic (at times unclean); lyrics often philosophical, spiritual, or political Djent (characterized by progressive, rhythmic, and technical complexity; features heavily distorted, palm-muted guitar chords, syncopated riffs and polyrhythms alongside virtuoso soloing)
Speed metal Late 1970s, Europe, America Extremely fast, abrasive, and technically demanding; usually less abrasive and more melodic than thrash metal; less influence from hardcore punk; faster and more aggressive than traditional heavy metal; inclination to virtuoso soloing and featuring short instrumental passages between couplets; uses highly expressive vocals, but lesser use of harsh vocals than in thrash metal  
Stoner metal (Stoner rock, desert rock) Early 1990s, California Combines elements of heavy metal, psychedelic rock, blues rock, acid rock, and doom metal; typically slow-to-mid tempo and features a heavily distorted, groove laden bass-heavy sound, melodic vocals, and “retro” production  
Symphonic metal Mid-late 1990s, Europe Influenced by early gothic metal, power metal and symphonic rock; includes elements of classical music (symphonic instruments, choirs, full symphony orchestra); keyboards often find a dominant place; classically trained female vocalists and a second vocalist performing growls are common  
Trash metal Early 1980s, USA, Europe Extreme subgenre with fast tempo and overall aggression; songs usually with fast percussive beats and low-register guitar riffs overlaid with shredding-style lead work; lyrics often deal with social issues using direct and denunciatory language; approach partially overlaps with the hardcore genre  
Classic (traditional) heavy metal Late 1960s, USA, UK Seminal genre from which today’s subgenres evolved and diversified; departs from the original blues roots of hard rock; characterized by mid-to-fast-tempo riffs, thumping basslines, crunchy riffs, extended lead guitar solos; vocals clean, often high-pitched, anthemic choruses; pioneering use of double lead guitar  
Umbrella terms
Christian metal Late 1970s, USA, Sweden An ideological umbrella form of heavy metal that comprises almost every subgenre of heavy metal music; defined by dedication to and using song lyrics based on Judeo-Christian traditions. Unblack metal (aka Christian black metal) refers to stylistically black metal which promotes Christianity in their lyrics and imagery)  
Dark metal   A loosely defined subgenre of heavy metal, with stylistic origins in gothic and extreme metal  
Extreme metal Early 1970s, Europe, USA Comprises a number of related heavy metal subgenres with a more abrasive, harsher, underground, non-commercialized style or sound associated with the thrash metal, black metal, death metal and doom metal genres, and sometimes speed metal. Despite being non-mainstream music, extreme metal has influenced an array of musical performers inside and outside of heavy metal  
Pagan metal Early 1990s, Northern Europe Fuses extreme metal with the pre-Christian traditions of a specific culture or region; uses specific thematic concepts, rustic melodies, unusual instruments or archaic languages; often associated with Viking metal and folk metal  
  1. Umbrella terms that encompass several genres are also shown. Note: This classification is subjective and at times incomplete but serves as a summarizing construct to show complex adaptive system dynamics in heavy metal. Given the subjectivity, there can be disagreement among artists, fans, and critics about membership of selected bands to these subgenres (Tsatsishvili 2011). This paper therefore refrains from giving examples to avoid bias