|Stylistic Origins||Alternative rock|
|Cultural Origins||mid - late 1980s, United States|
|Typical Instruments||vocals - guitar - bass - drums - keyboards|
|Mainstream Popularity||Some in early 1990s, particularly grunge. Large among nu metal, and recently, metalcore circles.|
|Derivative Forms||Groove metal rap rock Post-grunge NWOAHM Post-metal|
Alternative metal (also know as Alt-metal, Hard alternative Heavy alternative, alternative punk, alternative progressive, or indie metal) is an eclectic form of heavy metal that gained popularity in the early 1990s alongside grunge. It is characterized by some heavy metal trappings (most notably heavy riffs), but usually with a pronounced experimental edge, including unconventional lyrics, odd time signatures, unusual technique, a resistance to conventional approaches to heavy music and an incorporation of a wide range of influences outside of the metal music scene.
The term is used as a very loose categorization, but is usually used to describe artists playing a style of rock music which is considered either a unique approach to heavy music, normally not based in heavy metal, or difficult to define as strictly metal .
Heavy metal is an essential component of the music, but it was very different from the thrash underground of the 1980s. Initially alternative metal appealed mainly to alternative rock fans since virtually all 80s alt-metal bands had their roots in the American Rock underground scene. Alt-metal bands commonly emerged from hardcore punk (Corrosion of Conformity), post-punk/noise rock such as Big Black and Sonic Youth along with others such as Helmet and White Zombie, grunge (Alice in Chains, Soundgarden), industrial rock (Ministry, Nine Inch Nails). These bands never formed a distinct movement or scene; rather they were bound by their incorporation of traditional metal influences and openness to experimenting with the form, usually by way of their eclectic influences and uncommon approaches. For example, Jane's Addiction utilized performance art and a bohemian aesthetic, Corrosion of Conformity, The Melvins and the now defunct grunge band Soundgarden had a fondness for subverting '70s metal, and Faith No More injected funk and rap music into their brand of alternative metal, while Primus, Evanescence, Faith No More and Screaming Trees incorporates an obscure The Residents-esque touch in their form of the genre.
The grunge movement of the early 1990s helped increase the audience for such bands, and these artists were as comfortable playing to alternative rock fans on various Lollapalooza line-ups (itself founded by Jane's Addiction frontman Perry Farrell) as they were opening for metal bands like Metallica. With the changing of the musical landscape by the popular breakthrough of alternative rock, "alternative metal" became a new phrase used to describe bands in the early 1990s who managed to make relevant era music that was "heavy without necessarily being metal". Newer bands emerged in this era with their distinctive takes on metal: Nine Inch Nails, Deftones and Ministry started the industrial wave, combining punk-influenced electronic music and heavy guitars, Tool immersed itself in progressive rock influences, Rage Against the Machine was as informed by hip hop and post-punk agitprop such as Gang of Four as it was by metal, and Helmet molded a background in jazz and noise-rock/post-hardcore influences into a highly influential strand of intense rock music.
As the 90s progressed, alternative metal's sound became more standardized as newer bands drew inspiration for the same collective set of influences that included Rage Against the Machine, L7, AFI, Korn, The Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, and Helmet. Korn in particular, with its downtuned riffs and aggressive dissonance, created the sonic template for this new movement, which became known as nu metal.
Subgenres and derivative forms
As the term alternative metal is used to refer to bands with a unifying characteristic despite their tendency towards different sounds, subgenres of alternative metal were assigned to bands who adopted similar styles. These labels were often nearly as vague as the term alternative metal itself, but gained use in common parlance to distinguish between bands having different influences within the broader genre.
Beginning in the mid-nineties, bands such as Papa Roach, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Cold, P.O.D. and Korn took influences from the more popular alternative metal artists as well as grunge, groove metal and hip hop and derived a genre known as nu metal, a distinct rock genre itself with much more uniformity within the sound and its own distinct scene . In the late nineties and early 2000s Nu Metal became extremely popular, with bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit, Slipknot, and Linkin Park becoming especially popular.
- allmusic ((( Faith No More > Overview )))
- Christe, Ian (2003), Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal, HarperCollins. p222-226.