Sunday, October 13, 2013

Rock Music and Its Genres

Rock music comes in a range of forms so the chances are good that everyone on this planet will be able to appreciate at least a few songs. Having said that, rock music is not a style that appeals to everyone. It can be a bit hard and loud for those who prefer their music light and airy. The lyrics can also be on the dark side and depending on the genre, a little depressing. Those who love rock have their particular genres and tend not to stray too much. Those who love soft rock for instance, won't spend much time or money on the punk rock or metal scene. Likewise, metalheads wouldn't be caught dead cruising the pop rock aisle. Alternative rock is a genre that encompasses many others, some of which are included below.

Punk rock is one of those fiercely anti-establishment music genres that your parents hate. It developed between 1974 and 1977, mainly in the US, UK and Australia. Punk rock moved away from mainstream 70s rock by stripping down the instrumentation, playing faster and harder and writing more political or nihilistic lyrics. Writing also confronts sex and relationships in a manner that was scandalous at the time for its anti-sentimentality. It struck a chord with rebellious youths of the time who adopted a particular style of dress and developed their anti-authoritarian philosophies. It was a scornful answer to the political idealism of the time and strongly rejected the flower-power hippie movement. Punk resulted in a total cultural revolution, which gradually led to the development of the alternative rock movement.

Alternative rock serves as an umbrella term for all underground music that has come about since the mid 80s. Its characterised by its rejection of mainstream culture and materialism. Those who feel cast aside by society or who feel like they don't fit in anywhere else often embrace it. It has no set musical style and ranges from grunge to gothic rock. Lyrics are often concerned with social issues like drug use and depression.

Pop punk combines punk rock and pop music and is thus known as a fusion genre. Pop influenced punk has been around since the 70s. It has a faster rhythm than hardcore punk, from which it mainly originated. Their approach is more positive and sarcastic than other punk genres and this is their distinguishing characteristic. Their brattiness also provided many punk fans with relief from the moodiness and nihilistic lyrics of the grunge and hardcore punk bands.

Heavy metal, or simply metal developed in the 60s and early 70s. Vocals vary widely from a multi-octave theatrical approach (Bruce Dickenson from Iron Maiden), to a gruff style (James Hetfield of Metallica), to screaming and growling and a phlegm-clogged, possessed style. Lyrics most commonly revolve around sex, violence, death and the occult. They also feature fantasy inspired themes.

Thrash metal emerged in the early 80s, with a sound that was faster and more aggressive than traditional metal bands. Lyrics dealt with social or political issues or were nihilistic in content.

Death metal came about as thrash evolved into more extreme genres. It is characterised by lyrics that emphasise blasphemy, aggression, violence and Satanism. Vocals tend to include guttural "death grunts", high-pitched screaming and various other hardcore techniques.

Emo is a sub-genre of hardcore punk. It began in the mid 90s and was used to refer to the indie scene. These days the term has expanded to include such a wide variety of bands that very few of them have anything in common. This expansion makes the term very difficult to qualify. It has become so broad, in fact, that many bands and fans of the bands have rejected the "emo" label as it does nothing to distinguish them from hundred of others. It merely lumps them into a single category because they may dress in a similar fashion to other bands, or some of their songs may be popular within the "emo" scene. However, those who identify strongly with the "emo" scene and label are severely offended when the term is applied loosely to so many bands that don't fit the profile. Guy Picciotto of Fugazi and Rites of Spring was once asked how he felt about playing an instrumental role in creating the emo genre. This was his reply, " I don't recognise that attribution. I've never recognised "emo" as a genre of music. I always thought it was the most retarded term ever. ... every band that gets labelled with that term hates it. They feel scandalised by it. But honestly, I just thought that all the bands I played in were punk rock bands. ..."

Some other famous rock stars have their say.

"We weren't too ambitious when we started out. We just wanted to be the biggest thing that ever walked the planet." -- Steven Tyler

"... I don't want you to play me a riff that's going to impress Joe Satriani; give me a riff that makes a kid want to go out and buy a guitar and learn to play- ..." Ozzy Osbourne

"We never thought of ourselves as a 'heavy metal band' we've always regarded ourselves as a rock band. The big difference we've always thought we had a lot more feel for rock, we always went out for songs, not riffs or heavy, heavy sounds. But every now and again it does come on like a sledge hammer." -- Angus Young, guitarist with AC/DC

"Whenever society gets too stifling and the rules get too complex, there's some sort of musical explosion" - Slash/Guns 'n Roses

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