With the genre classification system in music being somewhat rigid, it’s difficult to pinpoint where alternative metal began. It is often an umbrella term for all the subgenres of heavy metal, including hardcore punk, post-punk, grunge rock and industrial rock with strong influences from hip hop and electronica.
Alternative metal’s release of one of its earliest entries, Faith No More’s The Real Thing, in 1989 is a true example of the genre. The title track and “From Out of Nowhere” are known for their heavy metal riffage and hip-hop influenced beats. Faith No More’s 1990 follow up, The Real Thing was highly acclaimed by critics and listeners alike. In 1992 they released Angel Dust, which received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Heavy Metal Performance. In 1994, the band released their eighth studio album King for a Day…Fool for a Lifetime. Though not as successful as their previous albums, it still did well and helped establish them as one of the more popular metal bands of the early 2000’s.
Perhaps one of the most influential bands of alternative metal are Rage Against the Machine. Their first album was released in 1992 and became a big success on rock radio and MTV. The album’s title track inspired two songs in Guitar Hero: Rock Band. Rage Against the Machine is one of the few bands that also presents strong influences from hip-hop and rap, including several samples from old R&B records. Their well known songs “Killing in the Name” and “Bulls on Parade” are well regarded as some of the more powerful songs to be heard.
Almost simultaneously with Rage’s release, Tool was also making a name for themselves with their album Undertow in 1993. Tool’s album is heavily bass-driven and influenced by country music, with hints of funk, jazz and rock. Their cover of the Beatles song “Paranoid” was a huge hit on MTV and wildly inspired many of their other songs. Tool also has one of the more subdued guitar riffs in metal, which can be heard in songs like “Flood” and “Pushit.”
On another note, Korn is a band that brought more light to alternative metal with their 1994 album, Korn. Their style of alternative metal is heavily influenced by heavy metal bands from the 1980’s. The only difference is that it has a heavier sound and more aggressive vocals. The band’s front man Jonathan Davis, also known for his unique appearance, created a unique sound for the band by incorporating sounds from country music and the blues.
Slipknot helped to establish the alternative metal genre with their album, Iowa, in 1996. The album is perhaps their most successful and has sold over 25 million copies worldwide. Slipknot is known as one of the most powerful bands in the alternative metal genre. Their heavy drums and guitar riffs also help create an unsettling tone.
Every now and then, a band comes along and makes an album or song that surprises you. In the case of Sepultura, the band’s 1995 album, Roots was an extremely powerful album. The band brought Latin music and heavy metal together to create a sound that was incredibly unique. Even if it is not as popular as bands such as Korn, Slipknot or Rage Against the Machine, Sepultura has created some of their own unique music that will continue to be appreciated.
As we continue to enjoy the new and old in rock music, Alternative Metal will continue to be one of the most popular genres. Bands such as Linkin Park, Deftones, and System of a Down have brought influences from post-hardcore and rap music. Some bands have also continued to include influences from industrial rock in their music. In recent years, the genre has broadened its sound even further by including more diversity amongst its subgenres.
Alternative Metal has influenced millions of people to listen to mainstream radio and explore independent rock. Alternative Metal bands have created their own unique style of hair metal, rap rock, post-hardcore and alternative rock. Today, it’s a huge source of inspiration for new musicians that want to make something that is as big as this genre.