Is Nirvana Metal?

Published by admin on August 3rd, 2011

is nirvana heavy metal?Let’s get this out of the way quick: Grunge is not a kind of music. It’s a crap term that music executives coined in the early 1990s to classify a sound that originated in Seattle. It more described the way bands like Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden dressed than the music they played. So-called grunge bands played hard music, but they didn’t wear make-up or designer clothes like their 80s predecessors nor did they deploy traditional guitar solos.

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.

So, is Nirvana metal?

Our verdict: Yes.

But more importantly, what do you think? Is Nirvana heavy metal? Vote and comment below!

 



13 Responses

  1. Joe says:

    NIRVANA WAS ALT. ROCK, GARAGE ROCK, PUNK ROCK AND ALT. METAL. OH THE GUILT, BIG CHEESE, SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT, PAPERCUTS ARE METAL SONGS. BUT MANY PEOPLE ARE TOO DUMB TO REALIZE THIS BY LABELING NIRVANA “GRUNGE”. SINCE WHEN THOSE 9 “WHAT A DENIAL” AND THOSE HEAVY SCREAMED CHORUS IN TEEN SPIRIT AREN’T METAL?

  2. Chance says:

    I absolutely agree with this. They definitely are a lot more metal than people give them credit for.

    • Inessa says:

      This is fantastic group, tgeother with a few others russian hard/heavy groups.Many parties passed with this inspirationl musuc.Viva Russian Heavy Metal.Greeteings from Bulgaria.

  3. Marco says:

    A better example to make the case for Nirvana being metal would be to put up Negative Creep. I think Negative Creep was Nirvanas closest song to Thrash Metal. That song was about as heavy as early Metallica.

    • Raquel says:

      My favourite band of all time!Fantastic pthoos Steve, and you’re right a band can still be legendary and not have to sell out stadiums! Although I am looking forward to AC/DC

    • Saim says:

      I am sorry but Smells Like Teen Spirit does not belong in the top 50 songs of the 90 s. Nirvana was a very uneetantld band given the exception of Dave Grohl. Not to mention a lot of their songs sounded exactly the same.Blast it if you will but I believe the best song of the 90 s was Shine Collective Soul

  4. Deverick says:

    there is absolutely nothing metal about this bullshit fuckin stoner band.

    nirvana is only a band people like to be cool in hipster circles- there they talk about how to stop big government and Joseph Kony.

    • Carolin says:

      folk rock/metal? What the heck does that sound like? Well, If you;re looking for some hacdrore Folk music, then I suggest Don Ross when he’s pigeonholed to define his music, he often calls it heavy wood. It’s probably not first on your list, but some of his songs are just insane the guy can play the hell out of an acoustic guitar. Check out these songs on youtube: Loaded Leather Moonroof, Michael Michale Michael, Tight Trite Night, Afraid To Dance, Robot Monster, Elevation Music, Dracula and Friends Part One (and Two). Good stuff!

    • Jamaluddin says:

      Am I missing soiethmng where is Smells Like Teen Spirit?Not only does that song define Grunge to me it is one of my top 10 of the 90s.I’m sure people will say that this is not pure grunge or that it is far too main stream but its just a great 90s Song

  5. Da Truth says:

    Not metal. How about this classification, genre, marketing segment, blah, blah, … Fucking Rock n Roll!!! If you wanna go metal, compare to Kill Em All. Raw energy, pure and undeniable … timeless, Nirvana will live forever similar to “The Baby Jesus”.
    Peace,
    1moremeatbag

  6. Lijalem says:

    folk rock/metal? What the heck does that sound like? Well, If you;re looking for some hacordre Folk music, then I suggest Don Ross when he’s pigeonholed to define his music, he often calls it heavy wood. It’s probably not first on your list, but some of his songs are just insane the guy can play the hell out of an acoustic guitar. Check out these songs on youtube: Loaded Leather Moonroof, Michael Michale Michael, Tight Trite Night, Afraid To Dance, Robot Monster, Elevation Music, Dracula and Friends Part One (and Two). Good stuff!

  7. Elvan says:

    Amon Amarth! Probably get Oden instead of Twilight of the Thunder God.Lamb of God, Pantera The two most inlfientual metal bands of my life.My top 5 are;PanteraLamb of GodSlayerMetallicaIron Maiden.Check em out ;P

  8. De Angelo says:

    Okay to me Nirvana wasn’t metal when you compare them to Maiden. But when you look at songs like Negative Creep or School that is more metal than anything Def Leopard has done. @Saim: How can say Shine was better than Teen Spirit, maybe Teen Spirit isn’t the best song to define Nirvana but it was certainly better than anything Post-Grunge has done.


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