How to Differentiate Between Rock and Metal (Music)

Rock and Metal are what we call ‘borderline genres’ which means that one phases into the other. Genres like Electronic and House/Techno are also borderline but less borderline than rock and metal. Friends of mine have often asked me what the difference between Rock Music and Metal Music is, and so in this article, I will try to differentiate them as best as I can.

Of course, rock and metal are both characterized by heavy vocals, reliance of guitars and drums and also have very similar compositions. In fact, they can be seen as sister genres. The following is an enumeration of some of the basic differences between them.

  1. Rock is an ‘acceptable’ genre. Rock is a genre of music that anybody can listen to. Rock music focuses on love stories, human drama, stories of adventure, heartbreak and such similar themes. Rock is a genre that can be categorized as ‘emotional’; there can be slow rock, soft and mild that appeal to gentle individuals. A good example of soft rock is Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head album.
    Metal on the other hand is ‘aggressive’ and ‘machismo’; the content of Metal music is usually very ‘angry’ or aggressive, filled with tales of despair and woe, destruction and the not so occasional ‘blasphemy’ as is seen in the band Opeth’s hit song The Devil’s Orchard (whose chorus is more or less a repetition of the words ‘God is dead’). An example of a tale of woe and despair is Draconian’s album Arcane Rain Fell which closes with the song Death, Come Near Me.
  2. Rock as a genre is not characterized by speed. Rock songs aren’t always fast i.e. why we have slow rock and soft rock. Occasionally, Rock can be confused for Soul or Indie (which is an offshoot of Rock in a way). An example of a slow Rock song is Linkin Park’s Shadow of the Day while an example of a fast Rock song is Slash’s Carolina.
    Metal as a genre is characterized by fast progressions. Speed is key in Metal, if the vocals are not fast then the drums or guitars will be. An example of a fast Metal song is Savage Messiah’s Vigil of the Navigator.
  3. Rock music usually uses regular vocals and does not always include screams and growls. In the instances where a Rock band’s vocalist decides to scream, the screams are characterized by being high-pitched and melodic. Rock can be said to have ‘Power Screams’; if you’re wondering what those sound like, Linkin Park’s Lies, Greed, Misery is a good example.
    Metal is characterized by what we refer to as ‘Death Growls’; throaty and aggressive vocals which are usually (but not always) hard to understand. Having a whole Metal album without having at least one death growl is almost unseen except in some mainstream bands like Avenged Sevenfold. The death growls are a part of what gives Metal its aggressive nature. An example of a song with an abundance of death growls is Opeth’s Ghosts of Perdition and Amon Amarth’s Deceiver of the Gods.
  4. Length: Rock songs are like regular songs and so range between 3 minutes and 5 minutes from start to finish and hardly ever have ‘extended’ versions. It is rare to find a rock song above 6 minutes.
    Metal songs are extreme. They can be very short as seen in Carach Angren’s Al Betekent Het Mijn Dood (If It Means My Death) (1:07) or extremely long as seen in Draconian’s Death Come Near Me (15:22).
  5. Instrument solos: Not many Rock songs have instrument solos. Instrument solos are a time during a song when only the instruments play (this doesn’t include the short time before the song begins or when it ends).
    Metal songs almost always have guitar or drum solos for as long as 30 seconds or even 1 minute as heard in Avenged Sevenfold’s Dancing Dead.

There are so many other distinctions between Rock music and Metal and they are actually difficult to describe. The truth is that with time your ears get to know the difference. Some Rock bands make borderline Metal music (like Three Days Grace’s I Hate Everything about You) and some Metal Bands make Rock Music (like Dream Theater’s On the Backs of Angels).

We hope this article has helped you realize some differences between Rock and Metal. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog for latest updates via email.

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One Response

  1. Joachim 2 years ago

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