Metal quest: looking for super-clear “studio” heavy metal

EDIT: Added technical guideline #11.

Ok, so I want to like heavy (thrash-like) metal, but after I started getting into it I realized that I don't actually like 99% of the metal out there.

Ultra TL;DR: Not looking for black/death/speed/sludge/goth/doom/stoner/glam/progressive metal or *core. Power metal likely not because of vocals.

Yes I HAVE listened to many of the major bands (Iron Maiden, Slayer, Motorhead, Kreator, Anthrax, Testament, Exodus, Overkill, Saxon, Sabaton, Nightwish, Panzer, Pantera, Rammstein). Some of them have newer stuff that I like (such as videos below) but their older stuff is muddy or with unintelligible vocals.

Other recommendations I've heard (and didn't like, for obvious reasons stated below): Gojira, Tool, Opeth, In This Moment, Dream Theater, Nevermore, SEX MACHINEGUNS, 3 Inches of Blood, Mercyful Fate, Ghost, King Diamond, Watain,Hammerfall, Manowar, Tyr

Before replying, a basic TL;DR and guidelines for suggestions:

  1. Don't make suggestions if you don't understand what I'm looking for and what my problem is!
  2. no cookie-monster metal, growling, plain yelling, or screeching
  3. no falsetto or smooth singing
  4. no long drum/chug lines. it gets too repetitive, and faster ones (speed metal-esque) put me on edge. Instrumentals should have original style/rhythm
  5. song-writing should be done by someone in/for the band and take into account what pitch the singer is using for that song... pauses in instrumentals should be used if needed
  6. in addition to other points, audio should not be 'muddy' ...that being when too much is being played at a high speed (especially at a close pitch and volume) that is all mushes together. vocals should be louder than the instrumentals!
  7. vocal style should be 'snarly'. An understandable yet throaty voice (sometimes higher than usual, but never too high or low... usually wider range of ups and downs), like some variety of madman
  8. enunciation should be clear. no slurring or mumbling. Along with the vocal volume, vocals should be recognizable over comfortable-volume speakers without concentrating on listening.
  9. looking for coherent style and consistent quality yet varied sound. This goes back to writing, every song should not sound the same
  10. little or no repetition (or slight repetition but with variations) is appreciated.
  11. more variance! Little or no reliance on fill patterns, more tone/mood/styles of songs, more possible instruments (and effects like pedals), etc. Should feel like the band has a dedicated writer who knows what they're doing, and should feel consistent enough to not feel like experimentation (see post 17 and 23 for more info)

Additional, less technical preferences:

  1. english
  2. no bands that frequently do long songs and instrumentals (no more than 5 minutes)
  3. not interested history, fantasy, or religious themed bands
  4. looking for bands with mostly good stuff, not something I have to pick through with albums or individual songs too much

Note: The first metal band I listened to was Metallica (I wasn't crazy for it sound length+instrumentals was what drove me away). After that, I decided to listen to Megadeth after seeing/hearing the name quite a bit, and I loved it! Sadly it seems most Thrash is nothing like Megadeth. So Megadeth is the best example of what I'm looking for.


Normally a power metal band, but this song is much different. Particularly after 00:40 and when the vocals come in, though I don't like many of their other songs:

Similar to above with power metal:

Old band resurfacing with clearer songs:


And yet again (although I dislike the x9 usage or 30 seconds worth of "Liiike a batter-ing RAAAAAAM"):

Fairly average until the 'drop' at 3:10 with a vocal change (to what I like, besides the falsetto glam scream endings):

Most of these examples are chosen because of vocal style and clarity... obviously I don't have much choice here on examples, and most are one-offs/rarities for certain bands that just for some reason do something majorly different and hit a really good vocal style they do for almost nothing else.

I left off a newer song by Annihilator because it's an extremely cynical view on modern society (and hey, at least other thrash is somewhat over-violence like something you might see on a gory cartoon). I also left off Iron Maiden off... because while the remaster effort of their old stuff is really cool (and the stuff can be pretty catchy, especially some of the licks) but sometimes the vocals still aren't clear enough (sometimes dialect/slurring, especially in combination with the loudest parts of instrumentals). Also I really want to like 'From Here to Eternity' (that lick, the vocals are decent) but the main chorus gets so repetitive (it's two lines repeated a dozen times-with 'hell' being said and emphasised on 27 times-remove or reduce the chorus and it'd be great)!

Most of these new songs released by old bands were through their record labels like it was a timed release (like 2 or 3 bands release clear songs on the label channel in the same month) so maybe this is a label push? Maybe they're pushing for new artists like this?

Again, no half-hearted suggestions please, with the 'rejected' list, guidelines, and examples it should be more than enough. If you're a huge metalhead who likes it all and has no idea what I'm on about, feel free to just browse this for anything people recommend (even If I don't like it, maybe you will).

One-offs are acceptable, particularly if disclosed as such. I really like some of them (even though I wish there was more), and at very least it's more examples.

How about metal with no vocals?

1 Like

Ok wait so you want thrash metal, but likely more modern (clean crisp recording) stuff and you don't like long songs or too many instrumental sections? Is that correct? (you are like my complete opposite haha!)

...or are you saying that you want really 'clean' vocals rather than muddy or dirty vocals?

I should be able to help here (thrash is my baby) but I just need some clarification :D

Well. Until I hear back from you, you can browse here I suppose . . .
Thrashology 101: The Joy of Thrash

Edit: just re-read your guidelines. IMO some of them are contradictory, but I'll start working on a list for ya :D

That bottom vid kinda has a crossover vibe between Animals & Leaders and Guthrie Govan.

Well no, that goes against my 'less technical preference' #4.

Vocals are a big part of what I like (needs good vocals AND good instrumentals).

Although the instrumentals aren't really to my taste, anyways. Well, the first one sounds too stereotypical patterning (it bothers me with the entire song being like that) the second one at the very least sounds like they at least tried to make something original... although the rapid parts are what's interesting yet gets old fast the other parts are actually more tolerable... repetition just isn't my thing, even with tinier elements. It probably wouldn't bother me with vocals over it.

You got it with the first part, hoss.

To clarify, I want snarly vocals that are easily understood, where both vocals and instrumentals are crafted in a way you hear them individually as you do in most genres. And a 'normal' pace, among other preferences :P

Although as stated, my step into Thrash (Megadeth) seems to differ from most Thrash, which seems much faster and to rely on repetitive beats/patterns.

Did you listen to any of the videos in the OP? They're good examples. When I say 'clean' I don't mean 'smooth' as in style (in fact, glam and power metal are listed as what I'm not looking for... save for power metal that has a harsher vocal style).

Hmm. Well, here's some thoughts that I'm trying to figure out.

This is a huge problem. In a lot of cases, thrash is the fastest (BPM) metal available. Also, traditional thrash drumming was taken from hardcore/punk beats and pacing, making it always very fast tempo and aggressive. You'll very typically have a snare hit on each beat at a very quick tempo (190-220+ BPM) for most of the track. 'Speed' metal is not faster than thrash in general. It is usually about the same speed or slower oftentimes. Speed metal just sounds quite different (a more classic, muddy, garage metal vibe) - hence the differentiation in sub-genre.

I'm assuming you just meant that throughout a track, the leveling should be correct, with higher volume for vocals when sung over the main sections. If there's an instrumental, then there'd be no vocals :D

Some repetition is ingrained in the thrash metal sound. You'll have the repetition of the chugging palm-muted galloping riffs and the hardcore-esque drums like I mentioned before.

Anywho, I'll just post a bunch of newer stuff and see if you like any of it :D

Again, Metallica and Megadeth derive from this a lot IMO, and they're half of the big four. Even when they DO use fast pacing, it's not a 1 line of drums and guitar going as fast as they physically can through the whole song without letting up. In fact, you might get songs that have little to no basic patterns (or it might even not have fast pacing).

I mean compare something like Overkill's Infectious or End of the Line to Megadeth's Sweating Bullets or Kingmaker they sound completely different, like not even the same genre.

Although when I said repetition in what you quoted I was referring more to lyrics. As in by 15-30 seconds of repeated lyrics I start getting tired of it.

Yes, I said instrumentals not instrumental solo. You can have instrumentals with vocals, otherwise solo wouldn't be needed to specify. Of course saying instrumental refers only to the instruments just like vocals to voice, but when you talk about them together they obviously aren't exclusive ;)

I think the issue (as I covered in the OP) is that many bands underestimate the needed volume when they're singing over the instruments especially in a similar pitch range. Whereas other genres actively make sure to have vocals in between instrumentals. And crappy sound recording back then... even now I don't think some bands adequately boost vocals, especially when lyrics are hard to understand in the first place because of dialect/style (or what substance they were on during the recording/concert, hahaha).

And heck, if there was/is a better word for the style I like than Thrash it'd be a lot easier. Again, example vids embedded right in the first post. This is like if sludge, doom, and gothic metal were lumped all under one subgenre.

^Assassin. Old German thrash band. Album from 2016.

^Havok. Newer thrash band. Album from 2013.

^Exmortus. Newer thrash band. Perhaps too technical. Album from 2016.

^Crucified Mortals. Newer thrash band. Album from 2016. Too growly on the vocals?

^Hellcannon. Newer thrash band. Album from 2014.

^Rigor Mortis. Classic thrash band. Mostly old stuff from late 80s and 90s. Album from 2014.

^Kreator is releasing a new album this month. Not my taste and I think its horrible compared to their original stuff, but meh.

^Terrifier releasing a new album this month. New thrash band with oldschool sound. Too much?

^Sadus's album from 2006. Old death metal band that had a number of sound morphs into this. Not nearly as good as their earlier stuff, but perhaps maybe ?

^Newest album from old thrash band Necronomicon.

^Newer thrash band, Fueled By Fire's 2013 album.

^Latest album from Cripper.

^Classic thrash band, Angel Dust's newest album from 2002. Quite different from their first album which is my favorite.

^Old thrash band, Tankard's newest from 2014.

^Old thrash band, Whiplash's newest album from 2009.

^New thrash band, Chronosphere's album from 2014

^Reactory's 2014 album.

^Alkoholizer's album from 2014.

^Meltdown's (renamed Mantic Ritual) album from 2009. Assuming this will be too much of a raw/garage thrash sound.

^Old thrash band, Meliah Rage's newest album from 2014. They went through some sound changes over the years, but have always had pretty clean vocals.

^Old thrash band, Hirax's newest album. Too yelly?

^Old thrash band, Hades's newest album.

^Old thrash band, Holy Moses's 2014 album.

^Violator's 2013 album.

^Old thrash/power band, Paradox's 2016 album.

^Old thrash band, Viking's 2015 album.

^Sodom? Here's their newest.

^Flotsam and Jetsam's 2016 album

1 Like

Well yeah Overkill is using the traditional crossover/thrash sound on Infectious, while Megadeth's sweating bullets is not what would be considered traditional thrash based on its sound - it has a more heavy metal vibe. I also wouldn't say that sweating bullets is typical of megadeth's sound - its more of an outlier imo. I wouldnt say that it doesnt have a basic pattern though - it has a very simple pattern/structure, but the guitar and bass are absent outside of the solo and chorus sections.


This is all semantics at this point , but an 'instrumental' is literally a piece of music without vocals. A 'solo' is when a single musician or instrument plays a melody either by itself, with all of the other musician's quiet, or over the rhythm being played by the other musicians. aka you can have a solo on an instrumental track.

Hmm. Well, based on the examples you posted, I think you'd mainly like heavy metal (a totally different sound than thrash metal) and power metal or simply just certain hard rock bands. Most doom metal is very different than what you've posted. The more bluesy doom rock/metal is somewhat in the same region as heavy metal, but the really heavy stoner/doom metal or funeral doom is much different. Sludge doesnt really fit either. A lot of sludge bands use screaming or very 'harsh' vocals and very muddy tone/sound (hence the name). Gothic or symphonic stuff might fit, but you didn't link any.

I'd suggest looking through some advanced search results on encyclopedia metallum:

search #1:
- genre: power/heavy
- only bands that have compilation albums (my thought here is that it will limit things to more established bands. This avoids hundreds of bands who only have 1 album, etc)
- compilation album released between 2000 and 2017

search #2:
Same thing but with power/symphonic genre.

These searches can be further defined with country of origin, etc if you want. Hope these help!

hmm... perhaps something like Sabaton fits your tastes? I'm not a huge fan of them so there's probably better examples than I can give here:

He mentioned them in the OP. I'm a bit stumped tbh. It appears that the goal is a more heavy metal/hard rock sound, but there's not a whole ton of modern bands that employ the old school sounds from these genres - and on top of that, we are trying to avoid old stuff due to the recording quality or the vocal quality O.o

Yeah... he says no growling so that takes out about half of all metal, then he said no clean vocals which takes out anything I'd suggest...

I'd say Paul Wardingham because Paul but no instrumentals... This is very difficult indeed...

Iron Savior maybe?


@insomniac_lemon perhaps take a look at these monthly threads that I make.
All of the threads from 2016 are linked at the top.

Check the 'Misc' sections on each thread. That's where I put all the heavy metal stuff (along with a bunch of other things). Interestingly, I've found that Italy and Greece seem to be cranking out a lot of today's old school heavy metal type stuff. Perhaps something to look into.

Similar-ish to Blind Guardians in the OP:

Have you tried Warpath? Older thrash band, but have good vocals in my opinion:

Amusingly enough I was listening to Batushka while reading this thread. Pretty much the exact opposite of what's desired.

It seems to me that Megadeth has experimented with different sounds ever since the 2nd album... more and more stuff that isn't as high tempo with each album and even so, still not as 'busy' as other Thrash bands. Like some of those you linked have... that tempo that sounds like it's the same guitar+drum combo that is used in tons of other metal songs.

And yeah, I didn't like any of the stuff that you posted :|

My point was that I'm referring to a layer of the track, just like saying vocals. If I talk about how the vocals and instrumentals mix I obviously don't mean them individually. Saying instruments doesn't sound good either because that would be like saying 1 note of the guitar sounded bad with the singer somehow, but no it's what's actually being played.

That was a figure of speech. Like saying "me not having a ride home is like a fish in a tide pool".

Both of those don't work because they rarely have a snarly vocal style (normal singing isn't uncommon). Power metal has a 'smooth' vocal style with no harshness at all. Also I don't actually like much else by Blind Guardian or Alestorm, like I said those are rarities for them.

The instrumentals are alright because they're... well... powerful.

Heavy metal/Hard rock also doesn't have the vocal style and doesn't always have as powerful of instrumentals.

So neither of those work because I still end up not liking 99% of the genre (many heavy metal bands are already on my 'do not like' list...

Not terrible. I'd say I like Marauder better (vocals, instrumentals, and content). Although TBH It's not my style and sounds like something that would play for the intro/outtro of an anime.

Completely different than the song I posted IMO, and like I said I don't like Blind Guardian itself. The other is too growly+stereotypical metal pattern.

Yeah. Megadeth tended to gravitate towards a pretty straightforward heavy metal and hard rock sound during their career after starting out as a heavier thrash band. There's a clear sound change when you get near the Cryptic Writings and Risk era. Then they swap back a bit to a heavier thrashier sound with their newesr stuff. This is why their genre is listed like this on encyclopedia metallum:

Speed/Thrash Metal (early/later), Heavy Metal/Rock (mid)

It sounds like you prefer the Megadeth of the late 90s.

There's other old thrash bands that didn't go nuts with the heaviness and dirty vocals, but I'm not sure if most of the older stuff will fit your criteria for the overall vocal/sound clarity.

Here's some examples. If these are still too thrashy, then you're definitely not looking for thrash.

Sacred Reich




Lääz Rockit


Mortal Sin

Still really confused by the way your are using this word lol. I've never heard anyone use it to mean anything other than a piece of music without vocals (or a collection of music without vocals since the quote is plural). I'd just say that the guitar/bass sound is powerful rather than saying the 'instrumentals are powerful'.

Regardless, you said that you do NOT like stuff without lyrics, right? I would link a bunch of great instrumental stuff, but I think you were trying to avoid that.

I figured that would be the case, but oh well. I'm a big thrash and thrash/death fan, so what you are looking for is a bit left field for me.

Notes: I rant in this, so if you don't want to read that or just can't help me, so be it.

I somewhat like (a bit of problem with repetition) a few of the slower songs by Overkill (like the Killbox 13 album) so I decided to look on metal-archives and it said they shifted to Groove metal which was a genre I didn't remember.

Wikipedia says it "takes the intensity and sonic qualities of thrash metal and plays them at mid-tempo" which sounds like what I'm looking for, but unfortunately sampling a bunch of different bands didn't hold that to be true (and I'm not sure how accurate genre is from the metal-archives search, especially with genre being a complex/erratic thing).

Maybe it's a regional (US) thing? I'm fairly sure it's not just me.

See 2: "relating to, composed for, or performed on a musical instrument"

I'm referring to ALL music played on instruments, including cowbell/piano etc. including the writing of the instruments, too.

If I did somehow pick that usage out of thin air, I still am referring to the instruments as 1 object so it really shouldn't be that confusing.


TBH I don't dislike them but not particularly stuff I would listen to. Mortal Sin is what I'd say I liked most, but it's just... well... boring.

Trying to figure out why I don't like almost all metal, at first I thought it was that I disliked the individual sounds many bands use (like an 'audio meme'... sort of like auto-tune in other genres) but there is actually much more to it than that. My problem is what I've said more than a few times in this thread: repetition.

The fills seem pretty basic most of the time, and the same instruments, similar tone ranges, and not using different effects. The result is that every song ends up sounding similar, if not the same, except for the tempo and some of the fill patterns. And then with so many bands doing this with basically the same settings and different tempo/fill changes with a few chords/licks added in it's not surprising if songs start to sound the same. This is one of the reasons I got tired of metalcore, although a bigger reason for that is because there was constantly noise so the songs basically all turn to mush.

Do you understand what I mean? Do I have to listen to power metal (with mostly inspiring-sounding songs) or go with no sub-genre Heavy Metal in order to get music that actually has variance to it and was written by someone in the band who seems like a good composer?

IF it turns out you want to listen to some power metal I have a thread on this here:

I haven't updated it in awhile... so no blind guardian, gamma ray, helloween, etc. on there yet (not that any of those bands would fit your bill... I'm pretty certain they wouldn't). Also I picked the bands that are on there because they have sounds that stand out in the power metal world. In any genre you're going to get a lot of bands that sound the same so you have to sift through them to find ones that stand out somehow.

You did say Marauder isn't bad and they technically fall under power metal (albeit more of a heavy/power metal subgenre) so that may be where you want to search on the encyclopedia metallum. The subgrenres on that site are pretty decent, not 100% accurate but I'd say 88% accurate? at least from the stuff I've found.

Mmkay. So I thought you mentioned nothing 'technical' in your OP, but if you are bored with the structure of traditional thrash (which can be quite simplistic at times) then it sounds like you'd like something more technical and complex. In that case I would have recommended progressive metal or more technical thrash stuff (ala Coroner, etc) from the get go.

The only problem for you with prog metal is that it is largely divided into 3 camps: (1) traditional prog metal with very clean/classical vocals - i.e. Dream Theater, (2) much heavier progressive death metal, or (3) instrumental prog with no vocals.

If you want, you can look through my prog metal thread. Perhaps you'll like something there.

Also, 'heavy metal' is a sub-genre under 'metal' really. Unfortunately the term became a catch all for all things 'metal' back in the day and a lot of people use the term incorrectly. You can seach for heavy metal bands on encyclopedia metallum and might find something you like. Just make sure to add whatever extra filters you want in order to cut down the list of results.

Here's a good visual representation of metal sub-genres and where they stem from and lead to. It does use 'Heavy Metal' as the net term for Metal but it still shows the branches to other sub-genres. Has music autoplay, player is at the bottom right if you want to mute it.

Map starts at the top-left and scrolls down, maybe you can find something on this just by clicking around?

I doubt you'll find something but maybe you'll be able to more clearly quantify your criteria into a specific set of sub-genres by browsing the ones on the map.