is... what the hell is it, anyway?
OK, let's try this... you know Alternative Rock
? Stuff like REM
and They Might Be Giants
? Well, imagine alternative rock. Imagine all its weirdness, all its... "alternativeness
". Now, imagine that with the sonic amplitude of metal
, and you've basically got alt-metal.
Alt-metal started off in the mid-to-late-eighties as a response to Hair Metal
, which was the commercial darling of MTV and had in many people's eyes reduced (non-underground) metal to a watered-down pop movement; consequently, alt-metal bands sought to bring back metal's original fire. There was no specific "scene" for alt-metal bands, and not even a specific sound, but they were all united by experimental flourishes and influences from other genres.
The genre became popular in the late eighties/early nineties (around the same time that alt-rock got its big break) thanks to a few bands that are considered the founding members of the genre; these bands included Faith No More
. A couple of years later, Tool
took alt-metal and made it considerably darker
The genre is wide enough that bands will often have totally different sounds to each-other (compare Primus and Korn - do they sound the same?), which causes a fair bit of annoyance with people who like to categorise their bands. At the end of the day, though, alt-metal is a handy catch-all term for bands that are both arguably
metal and hard to classify.
Depending on the band, alternative metal can either lean more towards alternative (Chevelle, Incubus, Primus, Three Days Grace, etc.), or more towards metal (Sevendust, Alice in Chains, Mudvayne, Godsmack, etc.). Because of this, much like Nu Metal
, it's better to discuss the "metalness" of alt-metal on a case-by-case basis.
See also Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly
, a trope that many alt-metal bands possessed.
Bands typically classed as alt-metal include:
- 10 Years (also falls under Post-Grunge)
- Alice in Chains (Nominally Grunge/Heavy Metal. Definitely the most metal-influenced grunge band, to the point where numerous metalheads hate them being associated with grunge.)
- Alien Ant Farm (not normally considered a metal band, although some of their work definitely draws from the genre. Also falls under Alternative Rock, Nu Metal, Post-Grunge and Pop Punk).
- Alter Bridge
- Avenged Sevenfold
- Biohazard (fused with Rap Metal, Hardcore Punk, and Thrash Metal)
- Breaking Benjamin (Also counts as Post-Grunge)
- Breed 77 (uniquely overlaps with Spanish flamenco music)
- Chevelle (easily the most straightforward example, as they pretty much are a straight hybrid of metal and radio-friendly alternative rock)
- Clutch (mixed with Stoner Metal, Hard Rock, Funk Metal, and far too many other genres to list)
- Crush 40 (also Hard Rock and Heavy Metal)
- Danzig (mixed with Hard Rock and Heavy Metal)
- Demon Hunter (also Groove Metal and Metalcore)
- Dir En Grey (A rather extreme example)
- Dog Fashion Disco
- Dharmata ( Groove Metal and Metalcore inspired guitars with Alt Metal / Nu Metal styled vocals)
- Evanescence (also Gothic Metal and Alternative Rock)
- Fair To Midland (overlaps with Folk Metal and Progressive Metal)
- Faith No More (one of the few alt metal bands commonly enjoyed by true metalheads, along with Primus, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden; also count as Funk Metal)
- Fear Factory (mainly Industrial Metal and Groove Metal, but you can hear alt-metal elements like the melodies they use)
- Fozzy (they also have strong traditional Heavy Metal influences)
- The Gazette (also Alternative Rock, Nu Metal and Industrial Metal)
- Helmet (bordering on Noise Rock)
- Incubus (mainly their early material)
- Ill Nino (fused with Latin and Nu Metal music)
- Janes Addiction
- Katatonia (later)
- King's X (also falls under Hard Rock and Progressive Metal)
- L7 (also Grunge and Riot Grrrl)
- Lacuna Coil (later)
- Life of Agony
- Limp Bizkit (also Nu Metal, Funk Metal and Rap Metal)
- Living Colour (also Funk Metal)
- Machinae Supremacy (also Power Metal)
- Marilyn Manson (mainly Industrial Metal)
- Mastodon (recent material. mainly progressive/sludge metal.)
- Maximum The Hormone
- Mr. Bungle
- Mudvayne (also Progressive Metal)
- Mushroomhead (also Industrial Metal)
- Nine Inch Nails (mainly Industrial Metal)
- The Pretty Reckless
- Primus (overlaps with Funk Metal and Progressive Rock)
- Quicksand (example of alt-metal post-hardcore fusion.)
- Prong (also Industrial Metal and Thrash Metal early on)
- Rage Against the Machine (also Rap Metal and Funk Metal)
- Rollins Band (a band that never really had a clear genre. Also falls under Hard Rock, Funk Metal, Jazz and Post-Hardcore)
- Seether (also Post-Grunge)
- Sepultura (later, fused with Groove Metal)
- Skillet (later; their early material was Grunge and Industrial Rock)
- Slipknot (Also Nu Metal and Groove Metal)
- The Smashing Pumpkins (also influenced by Shoegazing, Progressive Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Dream Pop, Goth Rock and Alternative Rock - basically, think Deftones but with more nasal vocals, and you'd be reasonably close.)
- Soilwork (also Melodic Death Metal)
- Soulfly (early material, fused with Nu Metal / Groove Metal; later became Thrash Metal / Death Metal)
- Soundgarden (nominally Grunge, but heavy enough to fit here as well, like Alice in Chains)
- Staind (also Post-Grunge and Nu Metal)
- Sumo Cyco
- System of a Down (Perhaps the most commercially successful and popular alternative metal band, or even one of the most successful metal bands period.)
- Therapy? (yes, the question mark is part of the name)
- Three Days Grace (Also counts as Post-Grunge)
- Tool (Also Progressive Metal)
- Type O Negative
- White Zombie
- Warrior Soul
Tropes that apply to the alternative metal genre:
- Gateway Music - If you're a metalhead, and you're close to graduating college, you either got into metal through this or Nu Metal. More likely the latter, but the trope still applies to alt-metal.
- Heavy Metal
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness - Usually most bands under alt-metal tend to be in the 5-7 range, with a few bands getting up to 8. Due to its eclectic nature however, songs can be literally anywhere on the scale, for instance Dir In Grey and Slipknot are both capable of surpassing an 8.
- More Popular Spin-off - Nu-metal was this to the original alt-metal movement for a period.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly - Demonstrated by many bands in the subgenre, whether prominently (Faith No More, Primus) or subtly (Living Colour, Deftones).
- Post-Grunge - More or less half Post-Grunge bands are either also this or experiment with it. It goes far enough that the two are often falsely equated with each other.
- The Scrappy - Some more die-hard Metalheads hate the genre, in part due to its association with Grunge and Nu Metal, in part due to its perceived role in the watering-down and/or commercialization of Heavy Metal as a genre. And that is all we'll say about it.
- As mentioned above, some of the earlier and more 'metal' bands of this genre as quite popular among metalheads, like Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Faith No More.
- Trope Codifier - Primus.
- Trope Maker - Generally considered to be Faith No More.
- Ur Example - Possibly Mother's Finest.
- What Could Have Been - Nu Metal is perceived as being more commercial than Alternative Metal, and the current lack of commercial interest in Nu Metal has kept Alternative Metal from reaching or even eclipsing the popularity Nu Metal once had.