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Become a Metalhead


You don't just wake up one day and start liking screamo music.

It's a slow progression… at first your mom is concerned, then you start wearing all black, then maybe ear gauges if you aren't concerned about your professional career.

I considered the theoretical question of how I would recommend one start their metal journey today. But first:

How I got into Metal

When you are young you generally listen to what your parents listen to. For me that was classic rock. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Guns N Roses, ACDC to name a few.

I started playing guitar around 10, and naturally tried to learn all of my favourite songs. I played Stairway to Heaven at my Grade 8 talent show (pic).

At the time I started to venture slightly into Metallica, which is the gateway band to metal for many. Metallica is approachable metal music, even some radio stations will play their songs. Learning to play those songs on guitar, I found they were generally faster, more fun to play, and difficult.

This sparked my path at the time down the road of metal, searching for more challenging and fun music to play.

You can’t even understand what they are saying!

Even after 15+ years of metal, I sometimes have no idea what they are saying (i.e. screaming).

But I’ll argue that it’s actually irrelevant.

I view the screaming in metal vocals more like another instrument in the band, as opposed to a deliverer of lyrics. The tone of screaming (regardless of the words) complements the overall sound, just like a bass or guitar would. Some examples of this will come later.

A Proposed Progression

I'm going to list 5 steps that take you from light to heavy. Included are other songs to try in the same 'level' if you found your taste.

Finally I'll mention that there are an insane amount of subgenres in metal. They all fall on some spectrum of heaviness, and even I avoid some of the more intense ones. What I've listed here generally falls in the Metalcore category... but even metalcore has subgenres. You can really go down a rabbit hole here, but just ignore the nomenclature and listen to what interests you.

Level Song Band Other Options
1 All Gas ⧉ Bilmuri Zero screaming. Did he raise his voice at me? 1 ⧉ - 2 ⧉ - 3 ⧉
2 Wayfinder ⧉ Kingdom of Giants Slightly harsh vocals mixed in. Faster intstrumentals. But still primarily clean singing and sing-along choruses. 1 ⧉ - 2 ⧉ - 3 ⧉
3 Skyline ⧉ Erra Faster again. More screaming here, eased in with soft vocals. 1 ⧉ - 2 ⧉ - 3 ⧉
4 Cloud Cascade ⧉ Invent Animate Now majority screaming but still clean (to me) chorus. Faster pace than everything so far. 1 ⧉ - 2 ⧉ - 3 ⧉
5 Hostage ⧉ Chelsea Grin What's he saying? Is that english? Fast and heavy. 1 ⧉ - 2 ⧉ - 3 ⧉


I would be remiss if I didn't discuss the best part of metal music (IMO), the breakdown.

Breakdowns are when the speed and tone of the song change somewhat abruptly. Usually it's a focused beat across all instruments, and can be with or without vocals.

Here are a few samples to give you an idea of what they are.

Song Band Listening Notes
Cursing Akhenaten ⧉ After the Burial No vocals during the breakdown, just a tight beat to get your head bobbing
Boneyards ⧉ Parkway Drive An example of a live show breakdown where the crowd goes insane. Heavy vocals included.
Maelstrom ⧉ Make them Suffer An extended breakdown with different ranges, finished by a filthy scream (at 3:13).
Recreant ⧉ Chelsea Grin Very heavy vocals, low and slow. Think of the screaming as another instrument alongside the groove.
Insects ⧉ Darko Faster paced high pitched screaming. Breakdowns aren't always slow and low.

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