Jun 092013

(Here’s a guest post by long-time NCS supporter Utmu, who’s looking to kick off a discussion.)

Hello, all. Utmu here again for the first time in a few months–in article form, anyway. I’ve been having some discussions with my friends Helm (of Poetry of Subculture) and Dane Prokofiev, and through them, I’ve really gotten into certain concepts that are applicable to our beloved music genre, metal.

These past few days my head has been abuzz with these ideas, and others like them, and I thought I may actually have a drive with which I can fuel some writing. I’m a lazy writer, as some of the writers of this, and other blogs, may know.

I’ve recently started the widely reviled Composition class (for anyone overseas who may have a different word for it, it’s basically a class centered on writing a research paper or papers), and I think I may enjoy myself. After I finish this engagement paper I will be focusing on an analytical paper, which then leads into the research paper itself. I’ve been so enraptured by the ideas I’ve been fed by Helm that I’ve decided to write a paper about them (credit also should go to Dane, because he’s given me a few ideas that I can use to examine music, and he helped elucidate the concepts I was taught about by Helm). I would like to send it into Islander–this probably will not be until early August, and that’s provided I get over some hurdles.

“Reflections in the Void” could be (operative word being “could”) a column of my very own. However, I’m making no promises. My interest in writing probably isn’t the most stable thing ever; my interest in anything isn’t that stable, for that matter. But I’ll give it a go and see if anything comes of this venture. Additionally, I’ve also wanted to ask questions of you all for a quite some time, much akin to MetalSucks’ “Question of the Week”, although mine may have different concerns. So why not combine the concepts I’ve learned and my desire for surveying and start a dialogue?

I can’t say these questions are something unlike what MetalSucks would ask, and they aren’t exactly influenced by what I’ve learned recently, but screw it, I’m asking them anyway because I want to write something.

Before I ask the questions, I’d like to give special thanks to Helm for teaching me about these concepts, and Dane for conversing with us about them, and I’d like to thank them both for inspiring me to think and write about them! Without further ado…

What is heaviness? Why do we like it?

What, to you is the heaviest form of heavy metal? Why?

Objectively speaking, is there a subgenre that could be described as the heaviest subgenre?

Is there something outside of metal that is arguably heavier than metal?


  1. I’d like to explain that when the piece says “I can’t say these questions are something unlike what MetalSucks would ask…”, I mean the questions in this op-ed specifically. Generally I’ll be asking questions that aren’t as accessible as MS.

  2. For me the atmosphere generated by each band determines heaviness. For example i might find The Monolith Deathcult extremely heavy or the latest Katalepsy record, but then again I’d find early day Eyehategod and Sleep to an extent heavy as well. But most of all i guess Heaviness is a very relative term. Some people for instance find the guitar tone to be heavy, as in one of my friends likes the band Ektomorf, they have a beefy tone but thats about it. I on the other hand very much hate the band for being what they are. generic. Also this way most of all old school records may get discounted as they do lack a beefy record tone. Which in this case holds true as well. .

    As to why we like it? Well it sort of hits us with a wow factor that confounds our brain’s preset song predicting systems. Although this can count in progressive or out of the ordinary moments as well. But some times a riff catches you off guard by its sheer hard hitting nature (duh that is heaviness again). Well i guess anything that sets of a headbang much like a knee jerk reaction.

    • Damn i guess i made atmosphere the reason for one and the riff to be other. Well its a bit of both i guess. Looking forward to your column!

    • I LOVE the idea of atmosphere being a determining factor for heaviness. I love it because when I think “atmosphere”, I think “black metal”, and black metal is rarely described as “crushing” or “brutal”; more like “harrowing”, “mournful”, “tortured”, or “anguished”.

      But this certainly isn’t the case, is it? Doom metal and death metal both have loads of atmosphere. Take for instance Morbid Angel’s “Where the Slime Live”, when I first heard that, I thought it was really heavy, and not just because of the sweet down-tuned riff that carried the song and created the feeling of sloshing around in muck, you also had that effect on David Vincent’s voice that really stood out.

      But for a more recent example, look at Aevangelist’s music, or Ordnance’s, those sound heavy largely because of the atmosphere they bring to the table.

      I too also find heaviness to be relative, because there are so many ways to make something heavy, you have heaviness in the more “in-your-face” sense like that of Devourment or Suicide Silence based on breakdowns or slams and grooves, but then you have a riff like Morbid Angel’s “Where the Slime Live”. Again you could look at doom or sludge metal riffs and you could completely forget the riff itself and simply point to the fuzz and rough production value that so many bands (more recently, purposely) have in their music, for instance Black Sheep Wall’s “Agnostic Demon”. One Facebook commentor said that his personal heaviest subgenre would be grindcore because of its “noise”, “chaos”, and abruptness.

      And yes, we must not discount the old for the new, because without the old, there would be no new.

      Thank you for the comment, and I look forward to writing the column!

  3. Funeral Doom is the heaviest sub-genre of heavy metal, and there really isnt any room for debate on that. Its use of extremely slow tempos and heavily beefed up low end give it an overwhelming sense of crushing atmosphere. No other sub-genre is as accurately described with words like “crushing”, “plodding”, or “suffocating”

    The only other sub-genre that would come close is death metal, but thats always at its heaviest when it incorporates some form of doom metal into its sound..otherwise its more accurately described as “brutal” which is not necessarily the same as “heavy”

    • I haven’t listened to that much funeral doom. But yeah, it’s a really heavy genre! However I do feel that bands in the vein of Mitochondrion, Aevangelist, and Ordnance and brutal death metal bands could be described as just as heavy.

      Even though I agree with heaviness not equally brutality, I wrote this article with heaviness as a generic term for both words. I probably should’ve clarified that. :/

      • I get what your saying now. Im still going to disagree with you though because I think its a distinction worth noting.

        Bands like Mitochondrion and Aevangelist are certainly pummeling and chaotic..and yes even heavy, but I wouldnt say theyre the heaviest because quite often I think the weight of the music gets swallowed up in the wall of thunder that those bands create…the pace is so quick it loses some of the heaviness (hence why I think tempo is so important). Brutal death can be heavy because it tends to have a thick low end, but again..I think death metal is at its heaviest when it brings in elements of doom to give weight to the music.

        Now going back to your clarification…if you are asking what the most hardcore sub-genre of heavy metal is, Id argue that hands down its “War Metal” styled blackened death (Bestial Black Metal). Im talking about bands like Revenge, Diocletian, Wrathprayer, etc…The combination of extremely raw production, chaotic rhythms with little to no groove, complete absence of melody make it the most inaccessible genre of heavy metal out there. Fans of this style of metal tend to joke about how “Only those who are trve may enter”..but theres definite truth in that saying

        • I came here with the goal of contributing something different to the discussion, but I find that I have little to add to this particular thread other than: I agree with you. I’m a relative latecomer to the more funereal side of doom, but newer bands like Bell Witch, Lycus, The Howling Void, Aldebaran, and Ea have really ensnared me. I like the points you made in your last 2 paragraphs too.

          • …and One has even less to say: “I agree with your agreement to their statements.” :/

            That said, One doesn’t really consider War Metal heavier than Funeral Doom or Death/Doom because the chaos in the music doesn’t seem to have a purpose other than to be chaotic. Or it sounds like it really is chaotic ad-libbed noise, albeit with limits on the timbre; rather than something off Strapping Young Lad’s “Alien” or Mitochondrion’s “Parasignosis”, which sounds orchestrated, although still noisy.

            • Who said War Metal was heavier than Funeral Doom? The whole point of my original comment was that Funeral Doom is by far the heaviest sub-genre of metal

              …but War Metal IS the most brutal/hardcore/extreme form of metal being created right now.

              • Well… “heavier/more brutal” or whatever.

                • So youre arguing that Funeral Doom is a more extreme style of metal than War Metal?

                  ..even though Funeral Doom sacrifices any sense of brutality (because of the slow tempo) in order to achieve that sense of heavy weight to the music.
                  Not too mention that it has a far stronger sense of groove and even uses melody at times..making it far more accessible for people to listen to.

                  ..Sorry man..I just dont see it

                  • Hmm. You’re right… One probably shouldn’t have compared War Metal to Funeral Doom, and instead just said that the chaos of it seems boring to One quite often. One shall go listen to some Diocletian now to be sure.

        • Very good points. I find them hard to disagree with; so much so that I don’t really have anything to say to them! Tempo is extremely important, as you note.

          Maybe hardcore was what I was going for… my definition of “heaviness” is quite broad.

  4. Heaviness, to me, is an ominous weight and density of the music, regardless of tempo or complexity. I like it because I’m drawn to the dark sinister atmosphere of horror movies combined with strong, abrasive percussion.
    I’m not sure what the heaviest form of metal is. Cannibal Corpse is like a relentless beating, The Acacia Strain is slow lurching almost nightmarish and perverted in nature. Portal pulses and throbs in waves of crackling distortion. Arsis screams and swirls around your head like some kind demonic twister. For me it’s nearly impossible to pick one that’s heavier than the other, as each possesses a kind of heaviness that the others don’t.
    as far as something outside the genre that is heavy, I would suggest that this would have to be something that carries an emotional weight and would be intensely personal and specific for each person to whom the question is posed.

    • When you say “density” do you mean something that has a lot going on within it? Say for example Portal, or maybe Deathspell Omega?

      • I was referring to the sense of the instruments creating a thick, unified wall, or slab of sound. Density may not have been the best choice of words.

    • Im going to disagree with you here..tempo has everything to do with it. Portal may be extremely chaotic, but compare them to a band like Ahab (for example). Chaos is pummeling..its like being in a whirlwind…but it dosnt plod..it dosnt steamroll.

      Ahab’s whole schtick is about the crushing heaviness of the depths of the ocean..I think the fact that they chose to convey this using the slow beats of funeral doom shows how important tempo is to creating a sense of weight in your music

      • I wouldn’t say that any one tempo is heavier than another. Doing an entire album in one basic tempo dulls the impact. But the contrast of fast and slow beats within a song can make each one seem heavier and more intense.

        • Tempo in and of itself is not heavy, but its extremely important in creating a sense of heaviness in the music. Its the slow tempos combined with an emphasis on the low end that give weight…Thats basic film scoring technique

          Theres variation in Funeral Doom…its not just one monotonous beat, but it rarely if ever gets past a mid-tempo…and if it does it dosnt stay there long. When done properly, it should create a sense of extreme heaviness in the music..like youre being ground under an extreme weight. Weaving a slow beat into faster music may make the slow beat itself seem heavier, but thats because the music by comparison has less weight.

  5. I can’t remember where I heard it, but I find I agree with the axiom ‘Metal should be hard, Rock&Roll should be heavy” more often than not. It’s just more a taste thing though than a qualitative judgment of hardness over heaviness, It’s good to hear different takes on it though. Though I’m not a fan of doom in general, I do enjoy adding some slower bands like Mouth of the Archetype into rotation. I think Batillus is probably the “heaviest” thing I own at the moment.

  6. Crowbar.

  7. What is heaviness? Why do we like it?

    My operational definition for it would be a loud, distorted and overwhelming guitar tone (aka Iommi’s trademark playing) or a ‘wall of sound’ type of production style like Devin Townsend’s. I think people who like it do so because it appeals to some kind of hidden sadism or sociopathic disposition that they are not willing to manifest into actions.

    What, to you is the heaviest form of heavy metal? Why?

    Funeral death/doom metal. It’s quite self-evident.

    Objectively speaking, is there a subgenre that could be described as the heaviest subgenre?

    I take it “objectively” here is used loosely, and going by this assumption, I would say that right now, funeral death/doom metal is the heaviest sub-genre.

    Is there something outside of metal that is arguably heavier than metal?

    No, if there is something outside of metal that could be argued to be heavier than metal, it should logically already have been part of metal all along, and you have only just discovered it.

    • What do you mean by “and you have only just discovered it.”?

      • Assume you discover music like that of Author & Punisher, but through the latest album. Perhaps there has never been music like his before, or no metalhead has listened to any album of his before this one. It isn’t really metal, but it certainly is heavy – as are the earlier albums. So, it counts as having been metal before having been discovered by you “only just discovered it”, at least the way Happy Metal Guy puts it.

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