The Most Popular Subgenre of Metal, Ranked

Choose the subgenre you think is the most popular!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on May 22, 2024 06:52
Metal music boasts a rich tapestry of styles, each with its own unique characteristics and fan base. Determining which subgenre stands out the most can be a challenging task given the passionate and diverse opinions within the community. However, compiling user votes to rank these subgenres offers a dynamic snapshot of current preferences and trends, helping fans and newcomers alike understand the prevailing tastes. By participating in this voting process, fans contribute to a broader understanding of which styles resonate most powerfully within the metal scene today. This collective input not only influences which artists and subgenres gain visibility but also shapes the ongoing dialogue within the music industry about the evolution and impact of this genre. Your vote here matters, and every contribution helps paint a more comprehensive picture of metal's most celebrated styles.

What Is the Most Popular Subgenre of Metal?

  1. 1

    Heavy metal

    Black Sabbath
    This is the genre that started it all and is still one of the most popular subgenres.
    Heavy metal is a subgenre of rock music that emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is characterized by its aggressive and powerful sound, characterized by distorted guitar riffs, fast-paced drumming, and often dark and intense lyrical themes. Heavy metal is known for its high energy performances and often incorporates elements from other genres like blues and classical music.
    • Distinctive Guitar Style: Heavy use of power chords and palm muting
    • Vocal Style: High-pitched, powerful singing or aggressive growling
    • Double Bass Drumming: Fast and complex drum patterns using two bass drums
    • Guitar Soloing: Emphasis on shredding and virtuosic guitar solos
    • Lyric Themes: Often focused on mythology, fantasy, social issues, and personal struggles
    Heavy metal in other rankings
  2. 2
    With bands like Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth, thrash metal became one of the most popular subgenres of metal in the 1980s.
    Thrash metal is a subgenre of heavy metal music that emerged in the early 1980s. It is characterized by its aggressive and high-speed guitar riffs, rapid drumming, and often harsh vocals. Thrash metal is known for its intense and energetic sound, incorporating elements from punk rock and speed metal. The lyrical themes often revolve around social and political issues, as well as personal struggles.
    • Fast tempo: Thrash metal is played at a fast and frenetic pace, characterized by rapid guitar picking and double bass drumming.
    • Aggressive guitar riffs: Thrash metal focuses on heavy and aggressive guitar riffs, often utilizing palm muting and rapid alternate picking techniques.
    • Thrash beats: The drumming in thrash metal usually features rapid and powerful beats, emphasizing the snare and bass drum.
    • Harsh vocals: Thrash metal often employs harsh and aggressive vocals, including growls, shouts, and occasionally high-pitched screams.
    • Complex song structures: Thrash metal songs often have intricate and complex arrangements, including frequent tempo changes and extended guitar solos.
  3. 3
    Death metal
    S. Bollmann · Attribution

    Death metal

    Chuck Schuldiner
    Known for its growling vocals and aggressive guitar riffs, death metal has a dedicated following.
    Death metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music characterized by its aggressive, heavy, and dark sound. It emerged in the early 1980s, primarily in the United States and Europe, as a more extreme form of thrash metal. Death metal is known for its deep, growling vocals, fast and intricate guitar riffs, complex song structures, and often morbid and nihilistic lyrical themes.
    • Extreme Sound: Aggressive, heavy, and dark
    • Vocals: Deep, growling vocals
    • Guitar: Fast and intricate riffs
    • Song Structures: Complex and often unconventional
    • Lyrics: Morbid and nihilistic themes
  4. 4
    Black metal
    Rockman · CC BY 3.0

    Black metal

    Black metal is known for its fast tempos, shrieking vocals, and heavy use of blast beats.
    Black metal is a subgenre of heavy metal music known for its dark and extreme sound. It originated in the early 1980s, primarily in Norway, and has since spread globally. Black metal is characterized by its raw and aggressive instrumentation, high-pitched shrieking vocals, and eerie atmosphere. The lyrics often touch upon themes of darkness, mysticism, mythology, and anti-Christianity. Visually, black metal musicians typically adopt corpse paint, wear black clothing, and embrace a dark and theatrical stage presence.
    • Raw Sound: Black metal features a raw and lo-fi production, intentionally deviating from the polished sound of other metal genres.
    • High-Pitched Shrieking Vocals: Black metal vocals are characterized by their shrieking, raspy, and often incomprehensible nature.
    • Fast Tremolo-Picked Guitar Riffs: Black metal guitarists commonly employ rapid tremolo-picking techniques to create a dissonant and buzzing sound.
    • Blast Beats: The use of blast beats, a drumming technique characterized by rapid alternating between bass drum, snare, and hi-hat, is prevalent in black metal.
    • Satanic and Pagan Themes: Black metal frequently explores Satanic, pagan, anti-religious, and esoteric themes in its lyrics and imagery.
  5. 5
    Power metal
    Andreas Lawen, Fotandi · CC BY-SA 3.0

    Power metal

    Helloween (band)
    Power metal is characterized by its use of epic and uplifting melodies, clean vocals, and fantasy themes.
    Power metal is a subgenre of heavy metal characterized by its fast tempo, melodic vocals, and epic and uplifting themes. It emerged in the 1980s and gained popularity in Europe before spreading to other parts of the world. The music often features symphonic elements, including keyboards and orchestral arrangements, to create a grand and bombastic sound. The lyrics commonly deal with fantasy, mythology, historical events, and personal empowerment.
    • Fast tempo: Power metal is known for its fast and energetic tempo, often featuring rapid double bass drumming and fast guitar solos.
    • Melodic vocals: Power metal typically incorporates melodic and soaring vocal styles, with a focus on clean singing and impressive vocal range.
    • Epic and uplifting themes: The lyrics in power metal often revolve around epic and positive themes such as heroism, triumph over adversity, and the quest for personal power.
    • Symphonic elements: Power metal frequently incorporates symphonic elements, such as orchestral arrangements, choirs, and the use of keyboards to enhance the grandeur of the music.
    • Guitar-driven sound: Power metal places emphasis on guitar-driven melodies and harmonies, often featuring dual guitar solos, fast riffing, and neoclassical influences.
  6. 6
    Progressive metal
    dxburbuja · Public domain

    Progressive metal

    With bands like Dream Theater, Tool, and Opeth, progressive metal is known for its complex song structures, intricate instrumentation, and philosophical lyrics.
    Progressive metal, also known as prog metal, is a subgenre of heavy metal music that combines the elements of progressive rock with the intensity and aggression of metal. It emerged in the 1980s and has since become one of the most popular and influential subgenres of metal. The genre is characterized by its complex song structures, instrumental virtuosity, unconventional time signatures, and experimentation with various musical elements.
    • Complex song structures: Progressive metal songs often feature intricate arrangements with multiple sections and transitions.
    • Instrumental virtuosity: The musicians in progressive metal bands are highly skilled and often showcase their technical prowess through advanced guitar solos, intricate drum patterns, and complex basslines.
    • Unconventional time signatures: Progressive metal frequently explores irregular time signatures, such as 7/8 or 9/4, challenging traditional rhythmic patterns.
    • Experimentation with various musical elements: Progressive metal incorporates influences from various genres, including classical music, jazz fusion, and electronic music, resulting in a diverse and eclectic sonic palette.
    • Lyrically dense: Many progressive metal bands tackle complex and philosophical themes, often delving into introspective lyrics and conceptual storytelling.
  7. 7
    Combining elements of hardcore punk and metal, metalcore has become popular with younger audiences.
    Metalcore is a subgenre of heavy metal music that combines elements of hardcore punk and extreme metal. It is characterized by aggressive guitar riffs, complex and intricate arrangements, heavy breakdowns, and a mix of harsh screams and clean vocals. The genre often incorporates melodic and catchy hooks, as well as occasional use of electronic and industrial elements. Lyrically, metalcore often explores personal struggles, social issues, and emotional intensity.
    • Guitar Techniques: Highly aggressive and intricate guitar riffs, often featuring palm-muted chugging and fast-paced alternate picking.
    • Vocal Style: Blend of aggressive harsh screams (often referred to as growls or shrieks) and melodic clean vocals.
    • Breakdowns: Heavy breakdown sections with rhythmic precision and powerful impact, often creating moshpit-inducing moments during live performances.
    • Drumming: Fast and technically demanding drumming, combining elements of punk beats, double bass pedal work, blast beats, and intricate fills.
    • Melodic Elements: Incorporation of melodic guitar solos, harmonies, and clean sections to add contrast to the aggressive nature of the genre.
  8. 8
    Popularized in the late 1990s by bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Deftones, nu metal is known for its use of heavy riffs, hip-hop influences, and electronic elements.
    Nu metal is a subgenre of heavy metal that emerged in the late 1990s. It combines elements of alternative metal, groove metal, industrial metal, hip hop, and sometimes electronic music. The genre is characterized by its heavy and aggressive sound, often combining downtuned guitars, rapped or screamed vocals, and prominent use of samples and electronic effects. Nu metal also frequently incorporates elements of dissonance, angst, and introspective lyrics.
    • Downtuned Guitars: Use of lower guitar tunings, such as drop-D tuning and seven-string guitars.
    • Rapped or Screamed Vocals: Combination of aggressive screaming and rapping in the vocal style.
    • Incorporation of Hip Hop Elements: Frequent use of hip hop beats, turntable scratching, and sampling.
    • Industrial Influences: Inclusion of industrial metal elements, such as electronic sounds and distorted samples.
    • Aggressive and Heavy Sound: Powerful and intense sound characterized by heavy guitars, thunderous drums, and deep bass.
  9. 9
    Symphonic metal
    Svitogora · CC BY-SA 3.0

    Symphonic metal

    Combining metal with classical music, symphonic metal is known for its use of orchestral arrangements and operatic vocals.
    Symphonic metal is a subgenre of metal that combines elements of traditional heavy metal with orchestral and symphonic music. It is characterized by a grandiose and epic sound, featuring the use of orchestral instruments like strings, brass, and woodwinds, along with female operatic vocals or choirs. This genre often emphasizes a strong sense of melody and incorporates elements of classical music, giving it a theatrical and cinematic quality.
    • Metal influences: Heavy metal riffs, guitar solos, and aggressive drumming
    • Origin: Early 1990s in Sweden
    • Instruments: Guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, orchestral instruments
    • Vocals: Female operatic vocals, choirs
    • Themes: Fantasy, mythology, history
  10. 10
    Folk metal
    commons: Shannon5 Shannon5 real name: Konrad Wawrzkiewicz · CC BY-SA 2.5
    Folk metal combines traditional folk music with heavy metal, resulting in a unique sound that has gained popularity in recent years.
    Folk Metal is a subgenre of heavy metal that combines elements of traditional folk music with heavy metal. It often includes traditional instruments such as flutes, bagpipes, accordions, and violins, alongside typical metal instruments like guitars, bass, and drums. The lyrics of Folk Metal often focus on history, mythology, nature, and folklore.
    • Instruments: Combination of traditional folk instruments with typical metal instruments
    • Lyrics: Often centered around history, mythology, nature, and folklore
    • Rhythm: Varied tempos, incorporating both fast and slower-paced sections
    • Vocals: Can range from harsh growls to clean melodic singing
    • Themes: Celtic, Viking, and other folkloric inspirations

Missing your favorite subgenre?


Ranking factors for popular subgenre

  1. Commercial success
    The popularity of a subgenre can be measured by its commercial success, including record sales, concert attendance, and streaming numbers.
  2. Fanbase
    The size and loyalty of a subgenre's fan base can also be a good indicator of its popularity. This can be measured by factors such as social media engagement, online forums, and merchandise sales.
  3. Influence
    The impact a subgenre has had on the wider music industry can also be considered. This includes its influence on other subgenres, as well as its cross-over appeal into mainstream music.
  4. Critical reception
    The critical reception of a subgenre can be measured through reviews and awards.
  5. Historical significance
    The historical significance of a subgenre, including its origins and evolution, can also be taken into account.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most popular subgenre of Metal. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or subgenre is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 194 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each subgenre once every 24 hours. The rank of each subgenre is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.


More information on most popular subgenre of metal

Metal music is one of the most diverse and dynamic genres in the music industry. It's known for its heavy, distorted guitar riffs, pounding drums, and aggressive vocals. But within the world of metal, there are many subgenres, each with its unique sound and style. From thrash to death metal, black metal to power metal, and everything in between, there's something for every metalhead. But which subgenre of metal is the most popular? That's a question that's been debated by fans for years. Some might argue that classic heavy metal, with its iconic bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, is the most popular. Others might say that death metal or black metal, with its extreme vocals and dark themes, is the way to go. And then there are those who prefer the more melodic, symphonic sound of power metal. Whatever your preference, one thing is clear - metal is a genre that's here to stay. With its passionate fans, iconic bands, and ever-evolving sound, it's a genre that continues to push the boundaries of what's possible in music. So join us as we explore the world of metal subgenres and discover which one reigns supreme as the most popular among fans.

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