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Alternative Metal

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Alternative metal is... what the hell is it, anyway?

OK, let's try this... you know Alternative Rock? Stuff like R.E.M., Radiohead 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 and Primus. 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.

Today it is, alongside Metalcore, the most commercially profitable form of metal, and certainly the type that gets the most airplay on rock radio.

Depending on the band, alternative metal can either lean more towards alternative (Chevelle, Incubus, Primus, Three Days Grace, most of Seether, etc.), or more towards metal (Sevendust, Alice in Chains, latter-day Alter Bridge, 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.

Bands typically classed as alt-metal include:

Tropes that apply to the alternative metal genre:

  • Gateway Series: 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.
  • Hatedom: It's not as polarizing as its offshoot, but it's still often rejected by metal purists. For example, you won't find most of the bands listed above on the Metal Archives.
  • Nu Metal: Numerous bands fall under both genres (at least at some point in their careers), such as Korn, Deftones, Slipknot, Disturbed, Sevendust, Linkin Park, Godsmack, and Evanescence. Not surprising, since nu metal spawned from this genre.
  • Post-Grunge: Many bands were influenced by this genre in the '00s, such as Breaking Benjamin, Chevelle, Seether, Trapt, Godsmack, Stone Sour, Three Days Grace, 10 Years, and Red. It was to the point where it seemed like at least half of all alt. metal bands played post-grunge.

Alternative metal songs:


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Alt Metal



Disturbed is a four-piece Chicago Alternative Heavy Metal/Hard Rock band formed in August 1996. Released in 2000, their debut album The Sickness both shot them into stardom and earned them a devoted fanbase called the Disturbed1s. The band made a name for themselves after playing second stage of the Ozzfest tour in 2000, headlining the U.S tour in 2001 alongside the likes of Slipknot, Linkin Park and Marilyn Manson, and then again as a headliner in 2003. In 2001, they created their own tour (a small event at the time), the Music as a Weapon tour taken from a lyric in the song Droppin' Plates (abbreviated as MAAW), including acts throughout its existence such as Drowning Pool, Alter Bridge, As I Lay Dying, Chevelle, Flyleaf, Chimaira, Trivium, P.O.D., Nonpoint, Stone Sour, Lacuna Coil, In This Moment and Killswitch Engage. On September 17, 2002, they released their second album, Believe, which went straight to #1 (see below) and was lauded by critics as the album that broke them from the Nu Metal tag that plagued The Sickness. Years later in 2006, the single Down with the Sickness would be certified Gold, then Platinum in 2009.

The song example is "Immortalized."

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5 (3 votes)

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