Aside from that, though, they weren’t that far removed from early heavy metal acts like Black Sabbath and Iron Butterfly. Noted bands that influenced Nirvana, the leaders of the grunge movement, include Sabbath, Celtic Frost, Kiss, Melvins and Black Flag, as well as softer acts such as Sonic Youth and R.E.M. Drummer Dave Grohl has collaborated with undisputable metal artists like Cronos from Venom, Snake from Voivod, King Diamond and Max Cavalera for his side project, Probot. Not only was Nirvana heavily influenced by metal, they also inspired a generation of emerging hard rock and metal bands. So, can Nirvana be considered a metal band itself? On to the debate.
Nirvana released three studio albums: Bleach (1989), Nevermind (1991) and In Utero (1993). As everyone knows, the band’s career was cut short when singer Kurt Cobain killed himself in 1994 at age 27. Check out this song from the Bleach album called “School.” It’s definitely on the heavy side, perhaps slightly lighter than what the Melvins were doing at the time.
The album that everyone bought in the 90s was Nevermind. Since everyone’s familiar with its hit singles – “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “In Bloom,” “Come As You Are” and “Lithium” – let’s listen to one of the deep cuts. “Territorial Pissings” is a good example of a heavy and loud Nirvana track. It’s one of Nevermind’s least radio friendly songs; second to the hidden track “Endless Nameless.” Check it out below.
“In Utero” is probably Nirvana’s darkest album, which makes sense because Cobain was close ending his life while writing it. I remember the album’s lead single, “Heart Shaped Box,” being played on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball when it was released. Traditional metal was going through a dry period at the time, so the Ball used to play so-called alternative rock – alternative to what? – to fill the gaps. The imagery in the video could definitely be seen in an all-out heavy metal video. It’s the kind of video Death would’ve done if they had the budget. For a song that got incessant radio play at the time, it’s pretty heavy.
What’s the difference between Nirvana and bands that everyone considers metal? Marketing. The kind of clothes a band wears does not define the music it plays. Nirvana dressed and sounded a helluva lot like Black Sabbath did in the 1970s, and most everyone would agree that Sabbath is metal. A lot of people are gonna think I’m crazy, but I’m standing by this.