Last updated on 28 June 2017
Funk metal (also known as thrash funk or punk-funk) is a subgenre 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
, a member of the funk metal
, has said "We've been lumped in with the funk metal thing just about everywhere."
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". AllMusic has claimed that "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 self-titled 1984 debut album from Red Hot Chili Peppers has been cited as the first funk metal release.
Faith No More have been described as a funk metal band that dabbled in rap-metal. Rage Against the Machine's mix of funk and metal not only included rap, but also elements of punk rock. 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."
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 an 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, Snot) and punk (Bloodhound Gang, 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).
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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Primus' breakthrough 1991 album Sailing The Seas Of Cheese was for many their introduction to 'funk-metal', a genre Claypool has become synonymous with thanks to his frenetic, virtuosic combination of strumming, tapping and slapping, a style which and has spawned legions of imitators.
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...Primus proved part of that crossover between funk and metal, continuously and carefully reinventing it, bringing it into the 90s and far beyond.
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