(TheBRHM.com) Before I really dove back into heavy metal and hard rock between 2005-2006, I listened mostly to hip-hop. Anything that was produced in the South or featured Southern artists was my favorite. That was pretty much a period of 2000-2008 when I was really hunting mixtapes, commercial releases, and bootlegs out of Memphis, Houston, and Detroit.
While I was more of a lapsed fan of roughly two or three years before I really got back into rock, I think my approach to delving back in could work for newcomers.
Hip-Hop Into Metal and Rock
I mention that period of hip-hop because it helped a ton when I was getting rediscovering rock and metal music. See, the Southern hip-hop of the late 90s and early 00s was very regional. In New Orleans you had bounce, Atlanta had a mixture but by the early 00s, it had taken Memphis crunk and made it more commercial. That sound, atmosphere, and the lyrical content became trap and snap.
The Southern hip-hop I grew up on had a variety of tempos but what I was attracted to was the more aggressive, rough sound of Memphis and Atlanta pre-snap. Again, that was a very small window since everything that could happen to a subgenre did from formation to fading out of popularity and inspiring new subgenres.
So, How Do You Find What Genre Is Best for You?
So, I liked the harder, faster stuff out of Southern hip-hop but the slower Houston sound got a couple of listens. When I entertained rock later on, I had a base of what I liked musically. I knew I didn’t enjoy romantic themes since they didn’t interest me and I could appreciate something slower or that encouraged dancing.
Again, I wasn’t seeking anything slow or toe-tapping, I was just checking out what was out there. However, the stuff that stuck with me had similar traits and tempos to what I listened to out of hip-hop. Obviously, the themes were different for the between crunk and something like thrash or speed metal but the approach of driving often dark melodies mixed with aggressive and sometimes anthemic content simply worked.
This was the mix that was going to work for me.
What you, as a new fan should figure out is what exactly do you enjoy to hear, read, or watch. Music is mostly storytelling. What kind of stories do you enjoy? As we’ve gone into here on The Black Rock & Heavy Metal, metal’s subgenres tend to give you some indication of what to expect lyrically and even sonically in the name alone.
“Heavy metal” and “hard rock” are both extremely vague, of course. You can hear songs about epic quests, battling goblins, and so on in either heavy metal or hard rock. Thrash metal explored politics and rebellion in the 80s with speed and anger in the sound—modern hard rock and nu metal did the same.
As odd as it might sound, making a list of what kind of stories you enjoy might help as well. However, if you know you like military history, finding a band that does music about that such as Sabaton, Saxon, or Rebellion is possible.
Check Out the Hits and Best-Known Songs First
Music enthusiasts of any genre tend to know the more introductory tunes of an act but can tell you what B-sides, basement cuts, or studio cuts are better than the EP stuff.
“Better can often mean the material that the fans will appreciate whether they really enjoy it or it’s not what they want. At least they can see why it’s on the album. It’s the material that they will recommend in addition to some of the singles that they really enjoyed.
You want to come to your own conclusion about if you enjoy a band or what you enjoy from the band. It’s worth mentioning that fans or enthusiasts of an act or a genre tend to really know their sh**. I can guarantee that 90-percent of the time, they’re going to tell you stuff that you didn’t ask about in regards to a band or genre.
Simply look at that as having more information or references to research. I learned a lot about different bands and subgenres faster by listening to and reading fans who have been listening longer. Hell, some were listening before I was born and were fans through the hot periods and the downfall.
They would know the peaks and valleys of a band’s material.
Easier and probably more explorative than that is to just find the hits from different bands and listen to them. The hits are the tunes meant to hook potential new fans in or at least get releases some listens and the videos some watches. In the case of music videos, it’s often the other way around.
On that note, sometimes music video can sell you on a song or even checking out more from a band. Judas Priest’s music videos and videos of their live performances did this for me.
Learn About Subgenres Before Diving Really Deep
I spent a lot of time researching the subgenres and it helps in getting to know what to expect from similar sounding bands or bands that are contemporaries. Now, there are fans who will you to ignore genres and labels and just listen to whatever. That it’s “all rock.”
Those are people who just want to see the world burn, never mind order or organization. While metal and hard rock’s lyrics can be about anything, the subgenres’ names give you an idea of what to expect for the most part either sonically or lyrically.
If you already know what you’re looking for or what you’re interested in, that can give you fewer misses when checking stuff out. Let’s be honest, sometimes you get a miss when checking out an album and it can be a waste of time. You just dedicated 45 minutes or an hour to an album and it was just mid for the most part.
You could’ve listened to something you might like or chill with something you’ve enjoyed before. Sure, you’re not exploring anything new if you do but you know it’s an enjoyable waste of time. Subgenres can kill the random risk of exploring metal and rock and it gives you more calculated risks.
So, learn those subgenres and learn the best examples of those bands. A good way to do this is explore some of the acts recommended on Apple Music or Spotify—the same as you would for any artists you do now.
Staff Writer; M. Swift
This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.