11 Bands Who Single-Handedly Launched Genres
How certain genres of music start can be a mystery. Usually, a body of bands at a specific time begin experimenting with certain similar sounds or themes, and they either begin influencing one another and touring together (metalcore) or the media lumps them together into a single movement (grunge). Once the genre is established, fans then spend years arguing about who really started it, or which band epitomized that scene.
But every so often, a band with either clarity of vision or a unique take on a classic sound can launch a genre all by themselves. Something about their aesthetic or sonic profile makes thousands of fans turn their heads and say, ‘Oh, cool — I want to do that.’ Sometimes, these bands are filling a void, bringing together influences from other genres in ways that no one had stumbled upon before. But many of them are hardworking acts whose specific approach went shunned or unfairly unnoticed early on in their careers, until one day everyone began to wonder how a band like that one inspired so many others.
Here are 11 bands who single-handedly launched genres of rock:
Before the Misfits, ‘horror punk’ just wasn’t a thing. There were punk acts in a lot of make-up, and bands who used horror movie imagery, but that complete dedication to hardcore drenched in grindhouse schlock wasn’t around yet. With all-in attitude, a unique look, and giant singalong songs about alien sex and werewolf murder, the boys from Jersey instantly gave birth to what is now a fundamental pillar of punk rock. Anytime you hear a song about zombies with huge WHOAs in it, there’s only one band to thank.
A Day To Remember
Pop-punk meets hardcore — it seems like an obvious combination in hindsight. After all, in the mid- to late-2000s, the fanbases for both genres looked very similar, and most pop-punk kids were going to hardcore shows when they wanted to branch out into tougher territory. But it was only with Florida’s A Day To Remember and their own patented mixture of inspiring melody and crushing heaviness, that people saw the benefit of joining these two styles. And while other bands were experimenting with this idea at the time, it’s hard to argue the fact that the whole current scene stems from these guys’ fresh approach.
Cronos is famous for constantly reminding everyone that Venom came up with the term ‘black metal,’ thus creating the genre. What he should have emphasized was how the band’s style was the basis for the entire art form — that extreme, Satan-obsessed brand of graceless street metal more interested in pure attitude than technicality or bravado. Venom did it all first, from the spiked bondage leather to the animal skulls to the spiny thrash tunes about fucking corpses while Baphomet watches. Though later bands like Bathory and Hellhammer quickly picked up the torch, black metal truly owes everything to the boys from Newcastle. Lay down your souls.
The minute most fans heard about deathcore, they also heard about Suicide Silence. Even though it was looked down upon by much of the metal world, the instant it became popular, deathcore was momentarily the most exciting new genre in extreme music, and that was specifically tied to the raw power of this Californian quintet. Sure, bands like The Red Chord were hugely influential to the scene, but it was Suicide Silence’s total lack of hesitation on their first two albums — 2007’s The Cleansing and 2009’s No Time To Bleed — that made even cynics take note of deathcore’s undeniable strength. This is part of the heartbreak behind founding frontman Mitch Lucker passing away so young in 2012 — the loss of an innovator, the first of his kind.
There were plenty of bands playing catchy, mainstream-acceptable punk rock in the ‘90s. But though they made punk that was radio-friendly, Green Day and The Offspring weren’t exactly ‘pop-punk’ — not yet, anyway. blink-182, on the other hand, were pop-punk defined: fun and overdriven, self-deprecating to a hilarious fault, and totally unconcerned with being punk enough or fitting in with the mohawked purists. The band took infectious punk out of ‘alternative’ and stood it on its own two feet, inspiring countless fans to don their cargo shorts and skank like mad.
Today, a huge chunk of goth metal is comprised of romantic, synth-heavy opera buffs, and that’s all thanks to Finland’s Nightwish. What the band did differently was remove or alter many of the sexy modern elements that bands like Lacuna Coil focused on, and embraced power metal’s shameless sturm und drang. Not only did they coin this specific (and extremely popular) niche of heavy metal, but they also took over the world with it while no one was looking, especially with the release of 2004’s Once. One minute, these Finns are an underground phenomenon; the next, everyone on earth wants to see them live, and hundreds of imitators are popping up across the globe.
Given how bizarre Korn were to the rock world at the time, it’s only fitting that they launched their own genre: nu-metal. Not rap-rock like Rage Against The Machine, or mall-goth like Coal Chamber, but straight-up nu-metal: heavy metal with all the ruffly bullshit removed and the angst turned up. It was only with Korn’s specialized mixture of eeriness, vulnerability, and disgustingly heavy kinetic power that the genre was truly defined. And like a concentrated pill of sonic ugliness, their music hit the American melting pot and changed the chemical make-up of rock forever.
Many of the bands in the murky new wave of cavernous death metal — Gatecreeper, Outer Heaven, Tomb Mold — have become more widely recognized than Portal, but none of them would be here without the Australian five-piece. The slimy, echoing, misanthropic extreme music found on albums like 2007’s Outre and 2013’s massive Vexovoid was both heavier and more beautifully enthralling than anything people had ever heard at the time. It also inspired fans and musicians to look into the darker corners of underground metal, to those acts who leaned on atmosphere and oppressive madness rather than just speed and volume. A terrifying pioneer, to be sure.
Synthwave was definitely a genre bubbling below the surface of rock for a while, born out of a unique brand of ‘80s nostalgia that worshipped John Carpenter more than, say, Devo. But it was French dark-futuristic act Perturbator that gave the genre its identity by mixing metal’s energy and lack of self-consciousness with the blazing synths of ‘80s gore flicks and video games. While bands like Kavinsky and Justice focused on making pop music with synthwave-ish racks, Perturbator mastermind James Kent was writing the laser-bathed soundtrack to the workout montage in your dreams. Push it to the limit.
Today’s modern reinvigoration of nu-metal is a terrifying beast, and Code Orange are the band to thank for it. Their sludgy, acerbic approach to street-level extreme music gave the entire metal scene a hard shot in the arm, announcing to the world that the sheer punch of ‘90s nu-metal and the grinding sounds of the modern hardcore scene made perfect sense together. The band’s early incarnation, as hardcore act Code Orange Kids, laid solid groundwork for their musical development. But it was the albums they released when dropping the ‘Kids’ from their name to simply become Code Orange — 2014’s I Am King and 2017’s gigantic Forever — that revealed them for the cage-rattlers we now know them to be.
It’s amazing to consider how widely acknowledged it is that Black Sabbath single-handedly created heavy metal. Sure, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC did their part, but there’s always a vague understanding that they influenced metal, but weren’t metal themselves. Sabbath, on the other hand, were undisputedly the first metal band, and it’s from their distinct, syrupy riff style that every other heavy metal subgenre stems. All it took was one guitarist’s disfigured hand, drums like artillery, bass like a boa constrictor, and the scariest singer on earth!
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