What makes metal more virtuoso-centered than other music genres?

The answer to the title of the article is actually pretty straightforward.

Virtuoso-centered music

The answer to the title of the article is actually pretty straightforward. Metal music has to play really fast and with a tremendous amount of emotional impact. Now a lot of people might think that it is a perfect recipe for hardcore punk. Well, you would be absolutely correct for a relatively small historical window in the early 1980’s, when hardcore metal and hardcore punk pretty much overlapped.

However, both genres have quickly evolved past that point of convergence. On the one end, heavy metal has focused on really intricate guitar solos and really heavy layering of guitars, drums, and vocals. This put a lot of pressure on guitarists to really know their stuff.

Hardcore, on the other hand, moved to the other direction, which is to pay less emphasis on melody and more on sincerity, authenticity and a deep, heavy, and very apparent sense of urgency. So the more amateurish you sounded, the more legit you were. If you have a band wherein everything is so polished and it was a filtered and sanitized by a very skilled producer, you would run the risk of being called a poser or worse, being called a “corporate punk band”.

So as punk became rougher around the edges, metal became smoother, compact and well-polished. It really is quite interesting because a lot of people would love to dismiss heavy metal fans as essentially a bunch of morons. When you watch Hollywood movies depict heavy metal fans, it’s not very flattering. Either they are wigged out on marijuana or other drugs or they are just mindless consumers of essentially generic music.

Nothing could be further from the truth. A lot of these people are very intelligent. A lot of these people are very discriminating in their music, and most importantly, they speak the truth to power.
Not all musical genres are like that.

In certain music genres, you only need to score one hit and your fanbase will basically kiss your butt and never question you. It is not so with metal. Metallica caught a lot of flack when they would pivot and changed their style dramatically. when they tried to change direction to appeal to a wider base, they caught hell. And they were hardly alone.

So this focus on virtuosity is really part of what makes metal distinctive. You really have to know how to play the guitar, the drums, and the base. You really have to know how to sing. Now, a lot of people think would say, “Well, with death metal, it’s not like you’re really singing. It’s more like you’re making these croaking sounds with your throat.” But that also requires a tremendous amount of discipline.

So you have to understand the direction of the music and what it truly reflects the personality of the fanbase. They are not dumb. They are not sheep. They definitely are not stupid. So accordingly, they demand virtuosity. It’s great if you have a lot of friends and you know how to play the guitar a little bit. You love playing old Black Sabbath riffs, but that’s not going to make it if you want to be in a serious band.

You have to practice. You have to evolve. Most importantly, you have to come up with really polished, tight music.