Nu metal as well as death metal bassists often use a five- or six-string bass (or a detuned instrument) with an extended lower range.The essence of metal drumming is creating a loud, constant beat for the band using the "trifecta of speed, power, and precision." A characteristic metal drumming technique is the cymbal choke, which consists of striking a cymbal and then immediately silencing it by grabbing it with the other hand (or, in some cases, the same striking hand), producing a burst of sound.
Bands in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal such as Iron Maiden and Motörhead followed in a similar vein, introducing a punk rock sensibility and an increasing emphasis on speed.
In the mid-1980s, pop-infused glam metal became a major commercial force with groups like Mötley Crüe.
New York Times critic Jon Pareles writes, "In the taxonomy of popular music, heavy metal is a major subspecies of hard-rock—the breed with less syncopation, less blues, more showmanship and more brute force." The typical band lineup includes a drummer, a bassist, a rhythm guitarist, a lead guitarist, and a singer, who may or may not be an instrumentalist.
Keyboard instruments are often used to enhance the fullness of the sound.
Metal vocals vary widely in style, from the multioctave, theatrical approach of Judas Priest's Rob Halford and Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson, to the gruff style of Motörhead's Lemmy and Metallica's James Hetfield, to the straight-out screaming and growling At the Gates' Tomas Lindberg, to the phlegm-clogged, possessed style of black metal singers such as Mayhem's Dead.
The prominent role of the bass is also key to the metal sound, and the interplay of bass and guitar is a central element.Underground scenes produced an array of more extreme, aggressive styles: thrash metal broke into the mainstream with bands such as Metallica, while other styles like death metal and black metal remain subcultural phenomena.Since the mid-1990s, popular styles such as nu metal, which often incorporates elements of funk and hip hop; and metalcore, which blends extreme metal with hardcore punk, have further expanded the definition of the genre.Heavy metal is traditionally characterized by loud distorted guitars, emphatic rhythms, dense bass-and-drum sound, and vigorous vocals.Metal subgenres variously emphasize, alter, or omit one or more of these attributes.Following the lead set by Jimi Hendrix and The Who, early heavy metal acts such as Blue Cheer set new benchmarks for volume.