why do people listen to less and less extreme metal music over time?

Fueled by interesting discussions with several friends, I wanted to dive into why people stop listening to extreme metal music. This applies to completely dropping extreme metal, but also the gradual transition to softer and different listening habits. I’ve had my own weird, musical journey in terms of this, and this is my take. I’d love to hear yours!

About me – deathdoom.com, music and more

Stefan Nordström - metal musician and content creator
  • Stefan Nordström
  • Musician, songwriter, content creator, digital freelancer
  • Stockholm, Sweden
  • Bands: Desolator, Soliloquium, Ending Quest, Ashes of Life, Trees of Daymare, The Ashen Tree
  • Social: Facebook | Instagram | YouTube

Extreme metal listening

I’d like to start out with saying that there are all kinds of extreme metal listeners. Some are casual or open-minded from the start, while others are very rigid about extreme music. I’m in no way generalizing things, this is just my perspective as a death/thrash metal kid who started exploring other styles, and how I wound up with the gloriously schizophrenic music taste I have today.

Since I wanted to get a general pulse, I did some #science and polled my Instagram followers.

Poll - do you listen to less and less extreme metal music over time?

46% listen to less extreme metal music over time, while 54% say they’re keeping at it. If I would’ve been a tad smarter, I would’ve also included the opposite option of listening to more and more extreme music over time. Around 110 people voted in total, only 50 votes less than my poll on pineapple/banan/bacon/peanut pizza. Awesome target group!

What happened in my case?

But let’s get into the rant all this has been leading up to; I think I listen to extreme metal less and less for four main reasons. No, one isn’t selling out, but I suppose #1 and #4 are borderline.

Part 1: exploring new music styles

For the last ten years or so, I’ve listened to less and less extreme metal. I’ve started seeing music in a different light, far beyond riffs and aggression. Bands like Deftones, Vola, Alice in Chains and many more bring other musical variables to the table, and that’s bound to impact how I listen to extreme metal as well.

This new interest in melody, rhythm and expression simply lowered my interest in the almighty riff. It’s a natural development that simply makes me explore less death metal and thrash metal than before. Maybe it’s wrong to say it raised the bar, but it certainly changed the bar.

On a positive note, some bands can push both the riff-lord buttons and fulfill my more recent expectations at the same time, such as Cattle Decapitation and Rivers of Nihil. When that happens, I’ll gladly listen to extreme metal all day.

Part 2: saturation

Musical saturation - boo hoo, no one listens to my obscure extreme metal band

There’s so much music out there, and a lot of it is great. Many albums go undiscovered and underplayed, both by me and others. This is a natural effect of how music has become a commodity rather than art. It usually gives the music you encounter less repeated listens.

Over time, I think most just develop a higher standard, too. For established extreme metal bands, in my case, this usually means I won’t listen as much to their new album, even if it’s great. If it’s a long-running extreme metal band, it’s likely that I’ve decided on my old school favorites already.

As a bedroom musician with a whole different professional career, I am a part of the saturation, but also affected by it. It can be frustrating to put in hours and hours of work for something that gets a 30-second spin and a week or two of scene attention. This is why it’s paramount to focus on your own creative process and ignore the outside reactions, if you’re an underground musician.

Part 3: hasn’t it all been done?

What I often fall back on, especially regarding death and thrash metal, is that everything has already been done. Remember, this is my take. I know many people who disagree with me here, and I see where they’re coming from.

However, I won’t blast solid death metal album after solid death metal album all day anymore. It needs to be something truly special to warrant repeated listens. Also, I think the recent trends haven’t been helping. Beatdown deathcore, tech wankery, 70’s pants retro, sci-fi Chthulu monster bands and other things that’s been going on just don’t do it for me.

Not that I wasn’t the first to jump on the old school death metal bandwagon around 2010, when the trend fit my current scope. But I also have a hard time seeing something similar happen today. A few bands release great albums that are right in my wheelhouse – I just don’t listen to them enough anyway. An exception here is the black metal scene, which definitely keeps being interesting. And just to clarify, I’d love to get existed about the extreme metal scene again.

Part 4: resonance and personal development

18 years old and extreme metal AF
18 years old and metal AF

In 2007, I was happy if the riffs were loud and the choruses were catchy. I wasn’t particularly concerned with deeper meaning, which I suppose also tells a lot about my personality back then.

As I bring up in my post about death metal lyrics, this has changed. Preferably, I need something more than loud riffs and obnoxious screams. Sure, these things are nice, but when it’s coupled with the intense personal connection of Misery Index or Cattle Decapitation, it’s something else. I need it to cut down to the bone. Hit me where it hurts.

And I think this has become a hygiene factor rather than a bonus for a long time. That means that bands like Septic Flesh, Primordial, Nile, Sulphur Aeon and many others where I can’t resonate with the concepts and content simply are out. I can still listen to it, but it often becomes a novelty or near-novelty.

How does it affect my music and content?

For me, listening to less extreme metal impacts both my music and my content. First off, it’s very hard to be a metal recommendation guru when all you do is listen to Slowdive, Sleep Token and Deftones. That’s why I’ve decided to make a single 2024 music post, instead of genre-specific ones I fail to update. Sucks, but what can you do? Secondly, it makes it even harder to say what the hell Soliloquium even is. Yeah, fuck genres and all, truly, but it’s still way easier to promote a band that stays reasonably in one lane.

My songwriting feels more like Vola or The Ocean in a progressive death/doom shroud than an extreme metal band at this point. Personally, it’s great and exactly what I want to do, but I’m sure there are plenty it won’t resonate with. And fans and tastes change and come and go, nothing weird with that.

At this stage, it feels like it’s my technical limitations (clean vocals and melody arrangement), rather than my creative scope that is the limit. Far away from the days when Soliloquium was just “I want to sound like October Tide, please”. Not that October Tide isn’t kickass, but I’ll never be as good as them at being them, so to speak.

What about those who don’t stop?

Personal experiences aside, it’s also interesting to consider the opposite; what is it that make some people never stop? My feeling is that they are often into metal as a full lifestyle, both socially and conceptually. It’s a huge theme in their life that keeps them going. Some, not all, of those people also choose to not dive into the vast world of non-metal music.

I haven’t counted myself among those people in a long time, if ever. I’m a pretty disloyal music fan, and an irrational one, too. I like what I like, if the song/album is good. If the same band releases a turd, I’ll gladly admit it and react accordingly.

This is also why I don’t think age and sheer lack of energy is a factor. Many old school death and thrash metal fans sure keep blasting metal and attending shows, no matter age and similar factors. However you see it, being deeply in the scene socially and conceptually is a strong part of staying on the extreme metal path – at least that’s my conviction.

The case of nostalgia and metal music

There’s also the aspect of nostalgia in the mix. Many people focus on their old favorites, as their interest in exploring new music wanes over time. This of course makes them miss out on new extreme metal music, good or bad.

So many of my 30+ friends listen to 2005-2010 favorites, completely ignoring the band’s newer output, good or bad. And I can see why; other interests have taken over, and it might also be the reported 30+ dip in researching new music? I suppose this also opens the door for the extreme metal dip to just be an overall music discovery dip.

For, me this has another way of impacting how I see metal music, my (maybe ex-?) favorite band Katatonia being a prime example. When I listen to them, it’s usually the last few albums. The classic albums are mostly nostalgic memories at this point, rather than something I actively listen to. Does it mean I prefer “The Fall of Hearts” to “Last Fair Deal Gone Down”? I have no idea!

This also becomes painfully clear when it comes to preparing and attending festivals. Bands like Dismember and Testament are among my all-time favorite bands, but it’s not like I listen to them more than once or twice per year. I do, however, often love watching this category of bands live, if they still deliver.

Summary – why do people stop listening to extreme metal?

So.. what do I actually want to say with this? I suppose I just find it interesting, as people have completely different musical trajectories, and views on extreme metal. Also feels like I planted the seeds for at least five more blog posts. Hopefully, it has been enlightening, rather than a drag. My main idea was to create discussion on the topic, as I found it interesting to dissect.

Do you like my metal blog content? Give my music a shot!

Soliloquium - Soulsearching, progressive death doom metal, 2022

If you enjoy how I write, maybe you like my art, too? Give my progressive death/doom metal band Soliloquium a shot, and see how my extreme metal journey affected my songwriting. Oh, and if Soliloquium is sellout shit, listen to my old school death metal band Desolator instead. It should be brutal enough.


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *