Simple Ways to Describe Metal Genres to Your Non-Metal Friends


Like many of you, I’m sure, I frequently find myself in a position where I have to try and explain heavy metal to someone who knows little-to-nothing about the genre. This already-difficult task becomes all the harder when I have to explain specific sub-genres. For someone so intimately familiar with this type of music, it can feel a little bit like trying to describe color to the blind.

So, finally, I decided to sit down and make myself a helpful, short list of ways to describe metal genres to non-metal friends, so I can just carry this around and reference it as needed, so I’ll never have to waste brain power on the issue again. And since I’m a giver, I’m sharing that list so that you can do the same.

Black Sabbath

“They were the first metal band and that dude who does ‘Crazy Train’ was their singer.”

Death Metal

Cannibal Corpse. Photo Credit: Dylan Duncan for MetalSucks

“It sounds like the Cookie Monster is screaming passages from Edward Lee while trying to give you a migraine headache.”


“Depressed dudes with mommy issues trying to be rock stars while avoiding cultural irrelevance in the face of hip-hop.”


“It’s like nu-metal with death metal lyrics.”

Black Metal

“It’s bands that look like Kiss but play music that you’d probably guess was death metal but the lyrics are all about how bad religion sucks and the screaming is croakier.”


“It’s metal with, like, computers n’ stuff.”

Power Metal

“It’s metal for people who like Lord of the Rings.”

Folk Metal

“It’s metal for people who like Renaissance fairs.”

Viking Metal

Amon Amarth. Photo Credit: Dylan Duncan for MetalSucks

“It’s metal for people who like Thor.”

Stoner Metal

“It’s metal for stoners.”

Doom Metal

“It’s metal for pessimistic stoners.”

Crust Punk + Sludge Metal

“It’s metal for stoners who don’t believe in deodorant.”


“It’s metal for depressed stoners.”

Symphonic Metal

“It’s power metal with an orchestra.”

Symphonic Death Metal

“It’s death metal with an orchestra.”

Symphonic Black Metal

“It’s black metal with an orchestra.”

Prog Metal

Photo Credit: Mark Maryanovich

“It’s like The Grateful Dead or Phish only for metal fans.”


“Some of it is screamed and some of it is sung.”



“It’s bands that make this sound: [make the ‘djent’ sound].”


“It’s poppy and made by kids who aspire to look like neon skunks.”


“Y’know that song ‘Breaking the Law’? That.”

Thrash Metal

“Y’know that band Metallica? That.”


“Y’know that shirt you have that says ‘Black Flag’ on it? That.” (Frequently also works with the Misfits.)


“It wouldn’t sound like music to you.”

Glam Metal

“It’s metal for people who don’t like metal.”

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