Metal vs. Punk Rock

By Bridgette Redman
Metal and punk focus on fast tempos, bass drums and amplified guitars.

An alienation from the mainstream and popular culture sparked two genres of music that took wildly different forms of rebellion. Metal and punk rock created highly amplified music with power chords and anti-establishment lyrics. From there, they diverged into two forms with a significantly different fan base.

Rhythm of Cruelty: Musical Technique

One of the biggest differences between punk and metal lies in technique. Punk is almost anti-technique, lacking in instrumental solos and focusing on power chords, speed, volume and attitude. Instrumental prowess takes a back seat to self-expression. Pioneers such as the Ramones, New York Dolls and Sex Pistols displayed only rudimentary musical skills. They are, however, noted for lyrics that are intellectual, often political and anti-establishment. Punk songs are short, averaging two minutes or less, although they still have a verse-chorus structure. Metal music was very much about precision and deployed the music with an almost military discipline. The sound was thick and massive with strong beats always played highly amplified. Solos featuring individual skills were as essential to metal as they were anathema to punk. Lyrics get characterized as being heavily masculine, macho and nihilistic in nature. Metal songs are longer, averaging seven minutes.

Seek and Destroy: Antecedents and History

Punk is a people's music almost folk in tradition. It might be described as garage rockabilly in a way that is stark or minimalist. It first burst onto the scene with the Sex Pistols in 1976. Metal may be seen as a logical development from the heavy bands of the '60s -- the Who, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple -- evolving out of the blues and psychedelic rock. Ozzy Osborne, whom Metal Rules! Magazine dubs the undisputed "God of Heavy Metal," was the frontman for Black Sabbath and historians label the band as the first proto-metal band that created a combination of extreme rock and horror-movie music. Metal musicians drew lyrical inspiration from intellectuals and writers such as as Lovecraft, Tolkien, Nietzche, Burroughs, Blake and Milton.

Hallowed Be Thy Name: Vocal Styles

In keeping with the rebellion against musical technique, punk artists are not known for great vocal ability. They are, according to Sonic Scoop, "usually raspy, raw and nasally." Punk rockers are more interested in lyrics and showmanship than they are in vocal quality. Metal rockers have full sounds, and some shriek or bellow. They have huge voices that can be characterized as operatic. Like punkers, thrash metal rockers added bark to their vocals, with examples being vocalists from Slayer and Metallica. Most metal bands make use of some form of extreme vocal technique, whether it be falsetto screams, growling or barking.

Dog Eat Dog: Band Makeup

Punk bands typically have four members -- a lead singer, a lead guitarist, a bassist and a drummer -- but also are known for power trios that have a drummer, a bassist and one other instrument. The bassist is one of the most crucial members to achieve the punk sound. Metal needs at least four members: drummer, lead guitarist, rhythm guitarist and bassist.

Victim of Changes: Branching Out

Both punk and metal have branched out into several subgenres. Punk now encompasses new wave, post-punk, anarcho-punk, pop punk, emopunk, screamo, New York Hardcore and queercore. Metal subgenres include glam rock, grunge metal, death metal, thrash metal, black metal, power metal and doom metal.

About the Author

As a professional writer since 1985, Bridgette Redman's career has included journalism, educational writing, book authoring and training. She's worked for daily newspapers, an educational publisher, websites, nonprofit associations and individuals. She is the author of two blogs, reviews live theater and has a weekly column in the "Lansing State Journal." She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Michigan State University.