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Extreme music

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Extreme music

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Extreme music is a term used to describe a variety of musical styles including subgenres of metal, hardcore, industrial and electronic music and also some freeform jazz.



Extreme music is categorised as music that contains one or more elements that are abhorrent to the average listener (in some cases leading to debates as to whether certain artists can even be described as music). These may include: unusual tempos (very fast or very slow), unusual quantities of distortion or white noise, excessive volume, highly obscene, violent or nonsensical lyrics (often in combination with an unusual vocal style, such as screams, barks, growls or heavy glitch distortion), dissonant or atonal scales and unusual, often jazz-based time signatures, very rapid and jarring changes of tempo or even genre, highly unusual song structures and lengths etc., often in combination with each other.

In most peoples definitions, any sort of overt popular exposure (ie regular radio-play on commercial channels, appearance on MTV) will negate a genre or styles status as extreme, that term necessarily describing something that is beyond the scope of the current mainstream. An example of what was once deemed (or would have been deemed) extreme style that is no longer considered so is thrash metal, a stepped up version of which forms the foundation for much modern death metal, a style that is still, by and large, considered extreme.

'Common' extreme music styles

  • Avant-garde: Whilst not all Avant-Garde artists fall under the 'extreme music' blanket, many do, especially with the extension of the genre to include various post-black metal artists such as Sigh, Blut Aus Nord, ...and Oceans etc. Modern Avant-Garde is categorised mainly by either the jarring or subtle juxtaposition of often dissimilar genres. These can often include other genres of extreme music.
  • Breakcore: Breakcore is a loosely defined electronic music style which mixes together elements of jungle/drum & bass, hardcore techno, glitch and industrial music.
  • Drone doom: Drone doom is the slowest and most minimalistic variety of doom metal, usually built around heavily downtuned bass guitar. Riffs, of which there are few, are typically simple and extremely slow, occasionally lasting over a minute. As such, most drone doom songs last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes; a few songs last more than an hour and make up an entire album. Adding to its minimalistic nature, drone doom typically lacks vocals or even drums, although these elements are not unheard of. Such Bands include Sunn 0))) and Earth.
  • Extreme metal: Extreme metal covers multiple subgenres, such as black metal, death metal, sludge metal and the many sub-subgenres beneath them. Most extreme metal is categorised by extremes of tempo, often combined with heavy guitar distortion and guttural, sometimes indecipherable vocals. Guitar work can either be very simple or highly technical, with some bands (such as DragonForce) being acclaimed as 'extreme' simply through pure speed and virtuosity. Watered down elements of extreme metal have filtered into the mainstream in the form of the distorted guitars and vocals used by some nu metal acts, and debate runs high in the underground metal community as to whether certain bands are or are not still extreme, with those that are no longer thought of as extreme often being accused of 'selling out'.
  • Grindcore: Grindcore fuses heavily speeded up hardcore punk with varying amounts of influence from other genres such as extreme metal and jazz to create a very fast and violent form of music. Lyrics are sometimes delivered in a style that is totally indecipherable, being little more than a series of grunts or squeals, that can only be understood with the aid of a lyrics sheet. Songs are often very short, with tracks under a minute in length not uncommon. Napalm Death is the most well-known band within this genre and is often credited as its originator, but this distinction may fall to bands like Repulsion and DRI. The most critically acclaimed on the other hand are probably art-grind proponents Pig Destroyer, though genre elitists debate on whether they fall under grindcore's umbrella.
  • Mathcore/Jazzcore: These closely related styles are a fusion of hardcore punk and post-hardcore with free-form jazz. The genre is categorised by its aggressive style and screamed vocals coupled with highly technical jazz instrumentation which shifts tempo and time-signature in bizarre and often unexpected ways. Lyrics often make use of extended, overly subtle poetic allegories and surreal imagery that are often accused of being overly pretentious. This style has recently received a lot of critical attention due to the relative popularity of Dillinger Escape Plan.
  • Noise: related to experimental industrial music and drone, Noise music is a mainly electronic form that buries rhythms and melodies under shifting static and white noise, often deliberately using low-quality recordings or very high distortion settings to create a very distorted and often grating sound, often with little reference to conventions such as rhythm. Some noise and drone artists have received much praise from critics for their original and often subtle musical experimentation, but very few bands have any sort of widespread fanbase, with perhaps Merzbow being a minor exception.
  • Powerviolence: Strated in the late 80's/early 90's. Catorgrized by extermly fast tempos mixed exteremly slow tempos. Pionered by bands like Neanderthal, Infest, Crossed Out, Spazz, and Man Is The Bastard.
  • Speedcore: Speedcore is a subgenre of 1990s hardcore techno music which extols massively high bpm counts, normally taken to mean anything over 300 bpm (five beats per second). As with Grindcore, tracks are often very short.

Seminal extreme artists

These are some bands which are commonly agreed to have had some significant effect on the molding or shaping of what we now call extreme music. Many of these bands have since been left behind by what would commonly be called 'extreme' music:

  • Bathory: First three albums were crucial in the creation of the lo-fi, often very minimalist form of metal known as black metal. Later progressed to become key in the development of Viking and folk metal.
  • The Berzerker: The first band to attempt mixing extreme metal with speedcore.
  • Carcass: Created the Gore subgenre of death metal. Directly inspired countless other groups such as Cattle Decapitation and The County Medical Examiners.
  • Celtic Frost: Introduced the avant-garde to heavy metal.
  • Death: Normally credited with forging death metal from thrash, though some dispute that this distinction actually belongs to Possessed. Death certainly helped to introduce jazz-like levels of viruousity into the genre.
  • Knut: Widely forgotten, but highly influential in the formation of the genre known as Mathcore
  • Merzbow: One of the most innovative and influential, and certainly most well known, Noise musicians.
  • Napalm Death: Creators the grindcore genre and fused heavy metal and hardcore punk into a more extreme style of music.
  • Suffocation: One of the first bands to experiment with death metal to create more complex songs.
  • Throbbing Gristle: Founders of Industrial Records and coined the term "industrial music".
  • Venom: At the time of its release Black Metal was one of the most extreme records ever seen, and gave a name to a genre, as well as direction to the next twenty years of European extreme metal.
  • Venetian Snares: Produces experimental IDM, breakcore and glitchcore in non-4/4 time signatures (mostly in 7/4).

External links

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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