Funk Metal

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Funk Metal is a sub-genre of metal that came to be in the mid-late 80's with bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Faith No More, Living Colour, and Electric Boys. The genre reached its peak of popularity in the early 90's, after Faith No More’s hit single Epic from the album The Real Thing. Primus, Fishbone, 24-7 Spyz, Infectious Grooves, and Extreme were among the best well-known players of the genre, but funk metal included many short lived bands which remained underground.

Funk metal is a genre often characterised by slap bass and funky syncopation blended with various types of metal, as well as a sense of humour. One of the first bands to mix funk and metal, along with many other genres, was Washington DC hardcore/fusion band Bad Brains, although Red Hot Chili Peppers' self-titled debut was perhaps the biggest influence on the genre, with the track "Green Heaven" the earliest combination of funk and metal riffs.

Bands mixed funk with many different metal genres. Living Colour and Mindfunk focused primarily on combining funk with heavy metal, while Extreme and Electric Boys combined it with glam metal. The heavier end of the spectrum saw Mordred, Scatterbrain and Suicidal Tendencies side-project Infectious Grooves mix funk with thrash. Many more thrash metal bands incorporated funk metal elements in some of their 90's albums without becoming primarily funk metal. Death Angel included influences of funk metal on their 1990 album Act III and Suicidal Tendencies began incorporating the style on their Lights... Camera... Revolution! album of the same year.

A sense of humour can be seen throughout the entire genre, in various forms. Often the lyrics are comedic or surreal, Primus and Scatterbrain being two prominent examples, with song titles like “My Name is Mud” and “Don't Call Me Dude”. Faith No More sometimes included mini skits, such as in “Death March” from 1987's Introduce Yourself. Some bands like Extreme and Living Colour often had a more socio-political focus to their lyrics.

The genre had lost much of its popularity by the late 90's, as other trends in the metal scene, such as Nu Metal, were reaching their height. Some Nu-Metal bands made use of funk metal elements in their earlier material such as Powerman 5000, Sugar Ray and Sick Puppies. Incubus kept the funk metal genre alive during this time with their S.C.I.E.N.C.E. album (1997), although they switched to a more heavy alternative rock style by the end of the decade.

While few bands play funk metal anymore, bands like comedy metal band Psychostick incorporate elements of it, along with many other genres.

-Written by Unitron, 2017

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funk metal top albums

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LIVING COLOUR Stain Album Cover Stain
LIVING COLOUR
4.45 | 12 ratings
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FAITH NO MORE The Real Thing Album Cover The Real Thing
FAITH NO MORE
4.04 | 80 ratings
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EXTREME Extreme II: Pornograffitti Album Cover Extreme II: Pornograffitti
EXTREME
3.96 | 34 ratings
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INCUBUS (CA) S.C.I.E.N.C.E. Album Cover S.C.I.E.N.C.E.
INCUBUS (CA)
4.06 | 9 ratings
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PRIMUS Frizzle Fry Album Cover Frizzle Fry
PRIMUS
3.93 | 31 ratings
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PRIMUS The Brown Album Album Cover The Brown Album
PRIMUS
3.98 | 14 ratings
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PRIMUS Sailing the Seas of Cheese Album Cover Sailing the Seas of Cheese
PRIMUS
3.90 | 32 ratings
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INFECTIOUS GROOVES The Plague That Makes Your Booty Move... It's the Infectious Grooves Album Cover The Plague That Makes Your Booty Move... It's the Infectious Grooves
INFECTIOUS GROOVES
4.05 | 7 ratings
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INCUBUS (CA) Fungus Amongus Album Cover Fungus Amongus
INCUBUS (CA)
4.03 | 7 ratings
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LIVING COLOUR Time's Up Album Cover Time's Up
LIVING COLOUR
3.89 | 14 ratings
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PRIMUS Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People Album Cover Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People
PRIMUS
3.92 | 9 ratings
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PRIMUS Tales From the Punchbowl Album Cover Tales From the Punchbowl
PRIMUS
3.82 | 22 ratings
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FAITH NO MORE The Real Thing

Album · 1989 · Funk Metal
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SilentScream213
Faith No More make a bit of a leap on this one. They keep their weirdo funky Alt Metal sound and knack for variety and experimentation, and slap a heavy dose of consistency on top. Before, Faith No More produced about as many good songs as total duds in their search for a sound. Here they continue changing things up, but the quality remains very good across the entire album. The keys do a fantastic job of adding some grandeur to the otherwise very generic instrumentation. The vocals are hit or miss, not really my thing, but pretty unique at the time and employ a wide variety of techniques. Overall a great improvement without straying from their roots.

LIVING COLOUR Vivid

Album · 1988 · Funk Metal
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SilentScream213
Living Colour emerged with a highly original sound and conscious, politically charged lyrics that as of then had not been prominent in Metal. Simple yet extremely catchy and funky riffage carries the somewhat repetitive songs along as Glover’s fantastic voice and words drive them home. The subject matter ranges from razor sharp critiques of social injustice to introspective, passionate longing, all done very effectively. The album is rather eclectic, and the band showcases their ability to shift between hard hitting Metal anthems and slow, funky bluesy numbers, touching on numerous styles in between.

Vivid is effectively one of the first Funk Metal albums ever recorded, with only Faith No More’s Introduce Yourself coming earlier, though this album is a more fully realized representation of the genre.

FAITH NO MORE Introduce Yourself

Album · 1987 · Funk Metal
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SilentScream213
Very similar to their debut, Introduce Yourself has the same funky grooves, prominent keys and oddball lyrical delivery. The Funk influence is turned all the way up, and it even features some rapping (I assume from Chuck, but most of the members do backup/gang vocals as well). Overall, it’s more focused with better riffs and some good vocal melodies as well, but it’s no huge leap. Most of the material still sounds like an immature band trying to find itself. A very juvenile, mediocre Alternative Metal record, great for fun, but not so much to sit down and have a serious listen.

PRIMUS Sailing the Seas of Cheese

Album · 1991 · Funk Metal
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Unitron
Here Come the Bastards!

Sailing the Seas of Cheese in ways epitomizes funk metal, yet also Primus has such a unique sound that nobody else has managed to emulate them (at least not to my knowledge).

It's wacky, heavy, funky, it's everything that most of the best funk metal is. The whole album may as well serve as a best of for the band, there's just bop after bop after bop. The classic Jerry Was a Race Car Driver has one of metal's best breakdowns, and other classic Tommy the Cat has some of the most instantly catchy and insane bass riffs.

Some of the best stuff the band's ever done however comes in the deep cuts, particularly Sgt. Baker, Eleven, and Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers. Les Claypool is well respected for his bass skills, but I'd say his ridiculous vocals are just as important. There's so much personality coming from his vocal performance, especially on the aforementioned Sgt. Baker and Tommy the Cat. Eleven shows how great the band can be when they get more melodic, and Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers is such a heavy stomp of a song.

All the 90's Primus albums are classics in my book, but this stands above the rest as the best of the bunch.

LAUNDRY Motivator

Album · 1999 · Funk Metal
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tapfret
It took 5 years for Laundry to follow up their 1994 debut release, Black Tongue, with their second and final album, Motivator. The band's core of Tim "Herb" Alexander, Ian Varriale, and Tom Butler remained. The major difference was the departure of vocalist Toby Hawkins, whose duties were absorbed by "Herb", ultimately to his discontent. Varriale, while not necessarily changing his duties, slightly modified his string tapping stage presence by exchanging his Chapman Stick for a Warr Guitar.

Motivator is a slightly more refined production than Black Tongue. The overall recording has a similar tone but a cleaner mix. Musically, the album is decidedly more accessible than its predecessor. There is a far more pedestrian, groove oriented rhythmic consistency that was not apparent on Black Tongue. Compositionally, it has less complex passages and obscure instrumental interplay. While the overall dark hews of predominantly minor keys remain, there is less of an affinity for atonal passages, whole tones, or dissonance. The combination remains heavy with overdriven guitar sounds, but not crossing the heavy metal distortion barrier. Tim Alexander's vocals are in a higher register and use a significant amount of reverb compared to Toby Hawkins'. While competent and in tune, it is readily apparent that vocals are not his primary function. There is something intangible that makes the vocals less cohesive with the music. Perhaps it is only a listener preference issue. Despite the differences noted, it is readily apparent that this is the same band 5 years removed.

In general I find Motivator to be a good album, but the less enjoyable of the two. As stated earlier, its just a listener preference issue. And really, I can't identify any unappealing movements within the album, just nothing as outstanding as I found with Black Tongue. The album highlight for me is "So Mean", with its spacey bridge; probably the song with the most dynamic contrast. From a rating standpoint, I would call it a good but not essential 3 stars.

After the supporting tour for Motivator, Laundry would disband. "Herb" would go on to play in many more projects; including The Blue Man Group, A Perfect Circle, and eventually rejoining his old mates with Primus.

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