Map of Metal

April 11th, 2011

A little over a month ago, thedude sent me the link to a site called Map of Metal knowing that I am a huge fan of metal music.  Needless to say I was not only intrigued, but excited to see what it was all about.  What I found was a very cool graphic way to look at metal music – it’s influences, genres and various sounds.  So I sought out the maps creators, graphic designer Patrick Galbraith and metal historian Nick Grant, and they were kind enough to give me a walk through how they developed this incredible interactive map of metal’s history.

Figment News:  Let’s kick this off with the million dollar question….why?

Patrick: Basically I thought it was a good idea and I just felt the need to do it. Thinking about it now I find it interesting how changing the way you present information visually can impact the experience. In other words if I just made a table of every genre, the experience would be very different. It is my hope that some younger people who are only into modern bands can come to appreciate influential early bands and vice versa. Hopefully also people who don’t know metal at all can come to appreciate it a bit more and might be interested to dig deeper into it.

FN:  Are you guy’s big metal fans?  If so, what are some of the metal bands that inspired this project?

Nick: Of course we are! I personally listen to underground metal in the death/black/doom genres and of course the classics. Some bands that inspired the map are probably memorable figures such as Maiden, Candlemass, Celtic Frost/Hellhammer, Bathory, Darkthrone and Black Sabbath, but then again, most bands we listen to are inspirational in some way or other.

Patrick: Yes! Visually it would have to be bands like Iron Maiden, Motorhead, and many others that brought the imagery and fantasy elements into it through artists such as Frank Frazetta, Derek Riggs, Joe Petagno… just flip through a bunch of albums and you’ll know what I mean.

FN:  Why did you decide on a “map” as your diagrammatic representation of metal music?

Patrick: The very first version was just a basic flow chart but the original plan was always to make it into a map of some kind. I like it when metal is combined with a mythic style. The first design I did the style was more like an old worn pirate’s treasure map. However I thought it lacked visual interest especially up close it needed more texture so I had the idea of making it out of clothing and found objects. After that the visual style came together pretty quickly.

FN:  Was it hard deciding on the various genres that you would include?  How did you decide on the various related genres that you felt influenced metal’s development?

Patrick: There isn’t any formula. We just made all the connections we could think of and slowly sorted it all with research. The trick was removing a lot of connections and finding ways to simplify rather than complicate the map. It would be easy to draw up a ridiculously complex (more accurate maybe) chart, or simplify it down into more generalised areas but that wasn’t what we were aiming for. The focus was more on getting something that showed the progression of the music.

Nick: The map doesn’t discriminate different genres, it more or less casts a light over all genres and sub genres of metal and allows people to see which genres helped spawn the more modern sounds that have developed over the years.

FN:  What is your favourite metal “land”?

Nick: My personal favourite metal land is probably the darker areas of black/death and doom!

Patrick: I’m guessing by land you mean regions of the map. Developing the site forced me to be even more open minded to a number of genres so right now it’s too hard to choose. Originally there was going to be more separation for example Doom metal and its offshoots from Power metal etc. but the amount of crossover made it too difficult and it didn’t sit right. Design wise… the inverted hello kitty… also I like the Punk Rock Island with the bloodied union jack, which is a reference to Vivienne Westwood.

FN:  What kind of feedback have you gotten from fellow metal heads on the Map of Metal?  Anyone take issue with it and/or request a cartographic change?

Patrick: A lot of people asked for a zoom function, which I will probably add in at some point. I left it out because I wanted people slowly discover the connections and to see all the design details but I guess that is a bit self indulgent. Occasionally someone emails with something along the lines of “wheres metallica you fail”, and I have to point them to thrash. Generally speaking though the feedback has been really positive and the suggestions from the community have been great. I’m working on plans to leverage the community more in the future with something akin to uservoice, but which directly links to the site, but that’s all I can say about it at the moment.

FN:  Do you think the Map of Metal represents all of the genres that make up Metal or do you think the music will continue to grow and inspire more offshoots?

Patrick: In short, no it doesn’t list every genre, this is for a couple of important reasons. Firstly when you look at genres and the categorization of music different outcomes will require a different approach. In other words if I was categorising music for a music database or library I would do it very differently. However with the Map of Metal I wanted it to be more along the lines of a story about how the genres and styles have progressed and therefore I focused on using common everyday labels for the genres. Also the map no doubt has an America/UK bias to it in regards to how the genres have progressed and their labelling; people from other parts of the world would likely see things differently.

Will it continue to grow? Absolutely metal will continue to live on for a long time. However I can’t see it being possible for it to become less diverse that is just the nature of any form. Bands will continue to fuse metal with other genres spawning new sub-genres, micro-genres and so on… it is likely the internet will play a role in this too.

Nick: Metal is not bound by genres in any way, but I suppose it’s easier to define them as this or that. I think in the future many more strange kinds of genre mixes will appear, some better and some worse. The map is more of a guideline as to the differences in sound for people who are uneducated in the matter or curious to discover more.

FN:  Any plans to add a new country, principality or People’s Republic of Metal?

Patrick: New genres, yes. However at the moment I’m focusing on building other features. But after that who knows.

FN:  Do you think Axl Rose needs your map to find his way back to metal?

Patrick: You can always try sending him the link to find out.

FN:  If you could create your own metal genre what would it be called and what would be its roots?

Nick: Hiking metal; a mix between early Viking metal (Bathory) and hiking in the forests at night!

FN:  If you could form your ultimate fake metal band what would you name it?

Patrick: Placental Expulsion; hints to the name of a local dish here in Australia; it’s a combination of kebab meat on a bed of fries and smothered with ketchup and tzatziki, yum.

2 Responses to “Map of Metal”

  1. poppinfresh Says:

    Very interesting!

  2. theHoseman Says:

    O.K. this was a royal blast. I just spent about an hour scrolling around sampling bits of songs and reading about the different sub-genres.

    I’m not the most knowledgable Metal guy, so I learned some stuff. Though in all honesty I spent a large chunk of my time on Punk Island…alot of which I was already familiar with. Nice to see a Hüsker Dü song included…but, no Replacements? Oh well.

    I definitely confirmed that some of these sub-genres hold no appeal to me, but It also opened my eyes to some stuff that surprised me. I liked some things that I probably wouldn’t have ever listened to if not for scrolling around on the map.

    Very well done site. I’ll have to spend some more time there to go through the rest of the material.

Leave a Reply