When heavy metal leaks into other disparate genres, incredible things can occur…
Metalheads are well aware of heavy metal sometimes crossing over into other genres of music, such as its gelling with rap, electronic, blues and more. However, not enough gets said for those artists who have already established a core following in one type of music, only to surprisingly delve into heavier styles of music. If you’ve got friends who aren’t fans of metal or heavy music in general, you’ll know how divisive it can prove to be to those who don’t necessarily “get it.”
It takes a lot of courage for, say, a pop act to adopt a more metal-tinged sound because it’s not a genre that is loved by everyone. Typically, you either love heavy music or you hate it. It’s rare that there’s an in-between point, so when a group takes the risk to enter heavier realms, they should be applauded for putting themselves on the line for a style of music that they aren’t normally associated with.
This list includes those music acts who are brave enough to represent heavier genres of music, even at the expense of losing segments of their fan base in the process. You might not necessarily click with every track here, but you should be able to appreciate their attempts at bringing a hard-edged sound to an audience that probably wouldn’t otherwise engage with heavy metal or hard rock. These are 10 times unlikely non-metal acts got heavy.
10. Tech N9ne – Public School
So, you’re the biggest independent rapper in the world and you’ve got a die-hard hip-hop following. What do you do? Surely you don’t risk everything by incorporating heavy metal into your sound at the expense of alienating a portion of your fanbase? Well, try telling that to the verbal machine gun Tech N9ne – an artist who wears his metal influence like a badge of honor. He’s collaborated with Corey Taylor, Serj Tankian, Hed PE, among others, but he really went full-on heavy for the 2013 Ross Robinson-produced EP Therapy. Just check out the crunching rap-metal banger “Public School” if you don’t believe us. His main styles may be rap and hip-hop, but don’t be surprised to see some metal moments pop up in his work from time to time…
9. Sum 41 – Pain For Pleasure
Ontario, Canada four-piece Sum 41 certainly cut their teeth in the pop punk world, but weirdly, they took a detour for the quick metal blast “Pain For Pleasure.” Clad in glam metal outfits, the group seem to be parodying hair metal bands more than anything else, but surprisingly, it’s actually quite an effective track considering how short it is and the fact that it’s a spoof. Clocking in at just one minute, 22 seconds – the track hits a throttling pace from the get-go, utilizing power chords, twin-guitar harmonies, and a hammed up performance on lead vocals. Sure, it’s a pop punk outfit taking a stab at metal, but it’s better than even the band probably thought it would be. It might be a bit gimmicky, but chances are this gimmick will be stuck in your head longer than you would have expected…
8. Arctic Monkeys – Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair
They may have started out as a lighthearted indie rock group who sang about high school sweethearts and teenage nightlife, but by album number four, British four-piece Arctic Monkeys had made a decision to delve into much darker territories. Cue the feedback-drenched thumper “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair” – the lead single from their fourth LP Suck It and See. Sounding more Alice In Chains than The Beatles, the track finds the band laying waste to everything in their wake thanks to a sinister riff, a booming bassline, and a thunderous drumbeat. Throw in a scorching guitar solo and a heavy as hell outro, and you’ve got a song that will have you headbanging in a way you never thought possible with an indie rock band before.
7. Pink Floyd – The Nile Song
There’s a good reason why “The Nile Song” by Pink Floyd is considered one of the heaviest tracks the group ever recorded. Released in 1969, this song differs from the meandering instrumentation that the band is best known for, thanks to one hell of a riff. Despite being known for more “out there” soundscapes, Pink Floyd inject some real roaring qualities into this one – ending up with a sound that walks a very thin line between hard rock and heavy metal. Of course, there are some acid rock and psychedelic elements at play, but the fuzzed-out distortion which envelops the guitars here delivers a serious wallop to the listener’s senses. A clobbering display behind the drum kit helps to hammer the song into shape, with David Gilmour’s restrained screams playing over the top. Make no mistake about it – Pink Floyd can get heavy with the best of them.
6. Beck – Minus
There’s very few musical styles in existence that eclectic artist Beck hasn’t had a crack at. Hip-hop, pop, rock, country, folk, rap – you name it, he’s done it. He also turned his hand towards heavy metal with a blistering cut from his award-winning 1996 LP Odelay, entitled “Minus.” The song finds the “Loser” performer summon his inner Melvins and Mudhoney influences, fleshing out their sounds to create an explosive composition that speeds along at a breakneck pace. There’s even a careering guitar solo, and to top it off, an almost death metal-esque yelp from the singer to close the song out. However, it’s the sinister bassline that underpins the track which really gives this one a heavy vibe. Now, if only we could get a full metal album from the musical maestro!
5. Cypress Hill – Rock Superstar
Before the release of “Rock Superstar,” there really weren’t many examples that Cypress Hill would delve into heavy territories, but alas, that’s what ended up transpiring. Yes, the 2000 nu-metal tune sees the hip-hop outfit address the shallow nature of the music business, with scathing lines being spat by both leading MCs of the group. But what really gives this one a fierce drive is the pummeling instrumentation that provides the musical backdrop to the track. With some crashing cymbals, quiet/loud dynamics from verse to chorus, and a crunching riff refrain, “Rock Superstar” is a good example of rap-metal at its finest. They’ve even got Chino Moreno on the track, and former Coal Chamber bassist Nadja Peulen performing in the video to the song, just in case anyone would question their metal credentials. Of course, their later involvements in Prophets of Rage and Powerflo further confirmed their love of the genre.
4. Blur – Song 2
Lead singer Damon Albarn of ‘90s Britpop act Blur was “feeling heavy metal” on this iconic banger. Yes, despite the genre being famous for its strong pop leanings, Blur discarded those traits for two minutes of pure adrenaline-pumping noise. Incredibly, the song was intended to be a knock on the grunge movement at the time, with the group writing it as a parody of the popular musical style. Still, that didn’t stop the track from becoming one of the band’s most successful ones to date – and it’s not hard to see why. From its deeply distorted bassline to its driving drumbeat – “Song 2” delivers the heavy goods by sheer force alone. It also doesn’t hurt when you’ve got as infectious a vocal refrain as the “Woo-hoos” that permeate this thumping cut.
3. Queen – Stone Cold Crazy
Queen have flirted with the heavier end of the musical spectrum before (the crescendo to the epic “Bohemian Rhapsody” for example), but they never got too wild with it. Well, that’s if you discount “Stone Cold Crazy” – a 1974 cut that was pretty much thrash metal before such a thing existed. Yes, with its off-the-rails structure, its finger-peeling riffage, and it’s frighteningly fast tempo – “Stone Cold Crazy” runs along at blistering speeds without looking back. Add in supreme frontman Freddie Mercury’s stunning vocal range and a killer guitar solo, and it’s hard to argue with this one’s metal-inspired sound. Of course, Metallica felt the same way, choosing to cover it in 1999. However, Queen’s version is certainly the more essential of the two.
2. Michael Jackson – Dirty Diana
Who knew the “King of Pop” and singer of such songs as “She’s Out of My Life” and “The Girl is Mine” would take a stab at heavy metal in the late ‘80s? It certainly seemed unlikely for the pop sensation, but it did transpire on the scintillating single “Dirty Diana.” The main components of the track revolve around Jackson’s impactful vocals and a spine-tingling guitar line. Sure, when all’s said and done the song probably falls into the hard rock camp rather than the heavy metal camp, but there’s no denying the numerous elements of the latter in the song. There’s even a wailing guitar solo courtesy of Billy Idol alumni Steve Stevens, and it has to be said, he tears it up in a way that goes beyond just edgy pop. It might not be your idea of what heavy metal should be, but there’s no denying the clear metal inspiration from which the song draws from.
1. The Beatles – Helter Skelter
Of course, what list such as this one would be complete without this proto-metal track courtesy of “The Fab Four?” Yes, it’s “Helter Skelter” by The Beatles – a track which paved the way for heavier styles of music going forward. It’s no surprise that “The Prince of Darkness” Ozzy Osbourne was such a huge fan of the band, because on “Helter Skelter,” there’s a very noticeable hard-hitting sound to it, thanks in part to one of the most bone-shaking basslines you’ll ever hear. What makes it even better is how unlikely it was for a band like The Beatles to put out a track like this, especially considering how relatively digestible their work prior to its release was. In fact, Paul McCartney has stated that it was a reaction to the misconception that the four-piece only did ballads. It’s fair to say that on this raw cut, he silenced the critics and then some.
What non-metal acts would you say took a surprising turn for the heavy? Let us known in the comments!