10 non-metal artists that metalheads love
There are plenty of acts that appeal to metalheads without being truly metal, but could be easily lumped in with heavier or more extreme bands. Most everyone is aware that Soundgarden and Alice In Chains veer their grunge closer to the heavy realm, while the technical ability of progressive rockers like Rush and King Crimson could impress even the most stoic of heshers. Goth rock is also an obvious sibling in the shadows, as is its close cousin post-punk. Meanwhile, punk itself is about as close as one can get, especially as it gets more and more hardcore. Metal pre-cursors such as Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple have metal’s earliest DNA in their sounds, while noise rock shares the aggression inherent in making harsh, dramatic music.
That said, there are a handful of artists who, whether due to their technical ability, dark lyrical themes, or proximity to extreme music, the majority of metal fans will give a pass, and occasionally even get firmly behind. Here are 10 bands or musicians who metalheads nod in appreciation of across genre lines…
The vocals of Tech N9ne are the blast beat of the hip-hop world: incessant and percussive. The Kansas City MC has “tech” in his name and Canadian technical death metallers Archspire even pay homage (read:“blatantly ripped off”) to Stamina in the intro to Calamus Will Animate. His appeal extends beyond that subgenre, though, as Aaron Yates has worked with mainstream metal mavens such as Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, System of a Down’s Serj Tankian and Ross Robinson, even releasing a full nu metal EP called Therapy. However, his side-project in that style, K.A.B.O.S.H. (Killing America’s Beliefs On Society’s Hoods), is currently on hold.
Even when they were a bratty pop-punk pack, Sum 41 wore their heavy metal upbringing on their (record) sleeves. Joke hair metal alter-ego Pain For Pleasure appeared on the Canadians’ first three releases – Half Hour of Power; All Killer, No Filler; and Does This Look Infected? – but it was on the latter where it truly bled into their main sound. Hell Song, Over My Head – Better Off Dead and Still Waiting all ripped hard, while Thanks for Nothing featured a bona fide breakdown. Follow-up Chuck went even harder, with a bleaker feel, System of a Down-inspired salvo in We’re All to Blame (co-written by No Warning’s Ben Cook, no less) and a song that could break into Metallica’s Battery at any time with The Bitter End.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
With jet black hair slicked back and a few buttons undone on his shirt, Nick Cave looks like a character that could be either villainous or a harsh anti-hero good guy. His music is similar in that even when it’s on the pretty side, it’s dark. Where The Wild Roses Grow, which features Kylie Minogue, is achingly beautiful but feels less like a flower in full-bloom than one wilting – not a huge surprise given it comes from an album called Murder Ballads. On the other hand he can get downright nightmarish, as he does on the likes of the title track from the Bad Seeds’ debut LP From Her to Eternity. The likes of Cannibal’s Hymn from 2004’s excellent double LP Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus split the difference and are all the better for it.
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Phil Elverum’s black metal “aha!” moment was hearing Xasthur’s Subliminal Genocide album, though both lo-fi acts’ careers are essentially mirrors of each other. While Malefic (Scott Conner) began with oppressive suicidal depressive black metal before switching to neofolk following a five-year hiatus, Mount Eerie began in the folk realm before incorporating black metal influences, especially on 2009’s Wind’s Poem. What’s more impressive, though, is the bleakness that comes through in his softer side, such as on Forest Fire from 2017’s A Crow Looked At Me. That level of oppressive bleakness has made the band much appreciated within the metal scene, even as they remain firmly folkish.
Oddly enough, Chelsea Wolfe’s middle name is Joy, but you’d never know it from her ominous doom- and gloom-laden folk. She’s steadily incorporated more and more of her metal side, especially on 2017’s devastating Hiss Spun, but LP Birth Of Violence was a return to her stripped-down roots. Even then, metalheads will no doubt continue to eat up her tender pondering, driven by her inky sense of darkness and stark humanity. Given collaborations with members of Converge, Isis, Russian Circles and more, it’s clear Chelsea hasn’t just earned the respect of heavy music fans but some of its most exciting creators, too.
With Muse, Matt Bellamy and co. took space rock to the stratosphere. Planet Muse is definitely in the alt.rock solar system, and it’s orbited by prog, electronic and art rock moons, all of which enable them to get pretty damn heavy. The opening to Stockholm Syndrome from 2004’s Absolution could be a Lamb of God outtake, while Cave from 1999 debut Showbiz gets pretty dissonant and includes some wailing ghosts in the background. Though certainly too poppy to ever be considered metal, the band’s galactic scope and driving riffs will always make them a vacation moon for headbangers who need a respite from the sonic wars.
Math rock is a close cousin to prog metal. Polyphia somewhat effortlessly walk the line where the two collide, and do so with the kind of over-the-top identity that plenty of hair metal bands only wished they’d cultivated in the ’80s. But even they’ve whipped out a cheeky death metal logo in recent times, the Texan quartet have never gone entirely over the edge into metal; their riffs have always been a bit too elaborate and chunky to fully embrace that syrupy Sabbathian. Their technical prowess and appreciation for aesthetic chaos, though – see the mind-melting video for Look But Don’t Touch above – make them darlings of the metal scene.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Post-rock is theatrical in nature, full of sweeping melodies and swelling movements. As such, it isn’t that far removed from the atmospheric elements of black metal or the epics of doom metal. Godspeed You! Black Emperor add an otherworldly experimental nature to post-rock, making their soundscapes more expansive than an already seemingly limitless genre. Besides, 2012 effort Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! won the Polaris Music Prize (an award for the best Canadian LP as voted by jurors), but the Montreal collective took their moment in the spotlight to rally against the absurdity of hosting a gala “during a time of austerity and normalized decline”. They donated their prize money to prisoners in their native province of Quebec, and that’s pretty metal.
Dance With The Dead
Honestly, we could probably do a full list of synthwave acts that appeal to metalheads, such as Perturbator and Carpenter Brut. While the former used to play in black metal bands and the latter is joined live by members of prog metallers Hacride, special attention needs to be drawn to Dance With the Dead. The duo, also former members of metal bands, could turn their songs into melodic death metal bangers with little-to-no effort. The opening to Diablolic is a bona fide riff, and they increased their cred by collaborating with As I Lay Dying guitarist Nick Hipa on latest LP Loved to Death.
As essentially the metal of EDM music, plenty of dupstep is heavy; Sumerian Records even had Borgore on their label at one point. Though Bassnectar ain’t exactly the darkest of his comrades, he has more metal cred in the tips of his fingers than any of them; the DJ born Lorin Ashton filled in on bass for Exhumed in the 1990s. That’s a pretty big leap from remixing household names like Metallica (Seek and Destroy) and Deftones (My Own Summer), but he’s also dug into more extreme music with his versions of songs by Sepultura (Attitude) and even Agalloch (Limbs).
Now that they’ve been mercifully ousted from their position as most-hated rock band by Imagine Dragons, it’s time to talk about Nickelback. The Canadian rockers were named the best-selling group of the 2000s by Billboard, but what’s more impressive is they did it with the occasional metallic edge. No, you don’t have to ‘look at this photograph’, but the brief mosh part in S.E.X. (complete with an ‘ough’) is undeniably hard, while Because of You brings to mind Pantera. Their connection with the ’90s biggest metal band doesn’t end there, though, as Side of a Bullet is a tribute to late guitarist Dimebag Darrell, complete with outtakes from solos from Far Beyond Driven and Vulgar Display Of Power. Admit it: there’s one song of theirs that you kind of love.
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Tomahawk have released a NSFW video for Dog Eat Dog that is also “served up with a healthy dose of slapstick humour”.