When I think of heavy metal, all that I can come up with is stereotypes. To me, it is not its own genre. Heavy metal is part of a group of genres that I’ve decided—probably unfairly—that I don’t like. Rock and Punk also fall are also in this group. The three genres really just blur together. The things that make one different from the others are very vague and unclear. Thus the things that I use to characterize Heavy Metal are very broad. Heavy Metal music is loud, hard to understand, and dark.
The volume is the most obvious characteristic of Heavy Metal. You can literally feel the music. If you’ve ever been to a live concert, you’ll know what I mean by feel the music. It is as if the sound if pumping from your body. The beat rocks you. The loudness comes from a combination of instruments—guitars, drums, vocals, etc. On top of the instruments, Heavy Metal music usually uses amplifiers to make its music even louder. In other genres of music the singer gradually gets louder, but in Heavy Metal, the music gets dramatically louder. Heavy Metal artists get louder by screaming and growling. Sometimes these screams and growls only briefly interrupt the song while other times they are the song. Heavy Metal is characterized as loud because of the screams, growls, and amplified instruments in its music.
Heavy Metal music is loud, but the volume does not make the music any easier to understand. Heavy Metal lyrics are notoriously hard to understand. Everything is distorted including the artist’s voice. Different songs are distorted to different levels, but at some level distortion is in almost all Heavy Metal music. The more distorted a voice is, the less important the lyrics become, because you cannot even understand them anyway. But lyrics are valued in Heavy Metal. They are what makes a song authentic. Also, lyrics take a really long time to write and mean something to the artist. So, it is hard to say why distortion is so common in Heavy Metal, but it definitely is an important characteristic of the genre.
Darkness is also a characteristic of Heavy Metal. I use the word darkness to be intentionally vague. I mean darkness in multiple senses including color and theme. Dark colors dominate Heavy Metal paraphernalia. Performers and audience members wear black clothes; album covers are usually black; band t-shirts are always black, etc. This is one point where Punk and Heavy Metal overlap. Dark clothing is also characteristic of Punk music. Dark themes in music are unique to Heavy Metal. Heavy Metal music is not happiness and sunshiny. The music has darker themes like death, power, rebellion, and hell. The theme, darkness is an essential component of Heavy Metal music.
Heavy Metal has never has never appealed to me, so I don’t know very much about it. I do know some characteristics of Heavy Metal. The Music is dark, loud, and very hard to understand. These are just stereotypes, and no stereotype is completely true, but these are mostly true throughout the genre.