|Cultural origins||Mid-1980s, United States|
|Derivative forms||Nu metal|
Funk metal (also known as thrash funk or punk-funk) is a fusion genre of funk rock and alternative metal which infuses heavy metal music (often thrash metal) with elements of funk and punk rock. It was prevalent in the mainstream during the late 1980s and early 1990s, as part of the alternative metal movement. The genre has been described as a "brief but extremely media-hyped stylistic fad".
Characteristics and origins
According to AllMusic, funk metal "takes the loud guitars and riffs of heavy metal and melds them to the popping bass lines and syncopated rhythms of funk". They go on to state "funk metal evolved in the mid-'80s when alternative bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone began playing the hybrid with a stronger funk underpinning than metal. The bands that followed relied more on metal than funk, though they retained the wild bass lines." In spite of the genre's name, the website categorises it as a style of alternative rock rather than heavy metal music.
The self-titled 1984 debut album from the Los Angeles-based Red Hot Chili Peppers has been cited as the first funk metal or punk-funk release. Faith No More, another Californian group who gained popularity in the mid-1980s, have been described as a funk metal band that also dabbled in rap-metal. Rage Against the Machine's mix of funk and metal not only included rap, but also elements of hardcore. Certain bands not from a punk/alternative background, such as glam metal groups Bang Tango and Extreme, have also frequently incorporated funk into their musical style. Bands such as Primus and Mordred emerged from the thrash metal underground. Primus, a band that crosses many genres, has been widely described as funk metal, though bandleader/bassist Les Claypool dislikes the categorization. Claypool has stated "We've been lumped in with the funk metal thing just about everywhere. I guess people just have to categorise you". Living Colour have been cited by Rolling Stone as "black funk metal pioneers." Entertainment Weekly noted in a May 1991 article that "Despite the rise of black rockers like Living Colour, the American funk-metal scene is predominantly white."
The funk metal sound was most prevalent in the West Coast of the United States, particularly in the state of California, although it managed to gain some international recognition through foreign acts such as British group Scat Opera and Super Junky Monkey, an all-female funk metal/avant-garde band from Japan.
Mainstream popularity and decline
The success of Faith No More's early 1990 single "Epic" helped heighten interest in the genre. It had reached a commercial peak by late 1991, with funk metal albums such as Blood Sugar Sex Magik (by Red Hot Chili Peppers), Sailing the Seas of Cheese (by Primus) and Mr. Bungle's self-titled debut attaining critical acclaim from the mainstream music press. Mark Jenkins of The Washington Post claimed in a 1991 article that "much of it sounds like art rock".
By the latter part of the 90s, the genre was represented by a smaller group of bands, including Incubus, Sugar Ray, Jimmie's Chicken Shack and 311. Bands from other genres such as nu metal (Korn, Primer 55, and Bloodhound Gang ) and punk ( Snot, Zebrahead) also incorporated elements of funk metal into their sound during the late 90s and early 2000s. Popular 80s and early 90s acts such as Faith No More, Mr. Bungle and Red Hot Chili Peppers had largely abandoned the sound in favor of other styles by this point. AllMusic suggests the genre was "played-out by the end of the decade".
During 2001, Alien Ant Farm released a hugely successful funk metal cover of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal", an electro funk song. Bands from the 2000s and 2010s described as funk metal include Psychostick, Twelve Foot Ninja and Prophets of Rage (a supergroup featuring members of Cypress Hill, Public Enemy and Rage Against the Machine).
In 2016, Vice Magazine referred to funk metal as "a mostly-forgotten and occasionally-maligned genre". Mr. Bungle guitarist Trey Spruance mentioned his fondness for the genre in a 2007 interview. When asked if he thought it would make a comeback, he stated "Fuckin' revisionists probably won't think its cool enough... they'll go straight for the flannels and heroin."
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