What is Zen Metal?

An elegant, Powerful & Mysterious genre

Overview:

Zen Metal is a sub-genre of folk metal music, a fusion of heavy metal with symphonic and folk elements (primarily traditional Japanese and Chinese folk). While it has an epic quality and feel about it, similar to that of it's related genres of Symphonic Metal and Power Metal, Zen Metal places emphasis on atmosphere and experience with lyrics often related to reflection and introspection or meant to evoke emotion.  

The genre gets its name from the term "Zen," a Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism emphasizing the value of meditation and intuition to give insight into one's true nature.  The name was adopted as a result of the strong introspective and reflective aspects of the music.  

 

Musical Characteristics:

The main musical influences on zen metal are Japanese visual kei, traditional Japanese and Chinese folk music, glam metal, symphonic metal and orchestral music.

On its heavier side, zen metal occupies a place somewhere between glam metal and power metal and could be considered a sub-genre of symphonic metal.  Much like the related genre of Celtic Metal, the lighter side of Zen Metal can be extremely stripped down, even to something as simple as an acoustic guitar and flute.  The genre has been referred to as "toned-down power metal" as well as "epic glam metal."  Overall it has a highly melodic, epic quality with an emphasis on elegance, beauty and thought.

Symphonic instruments are often incorporated into the sound such as flute, violin, harp, pipe organ or choir, traditional instruments like the xiao or shinobue, and shred-style guitar solos are almost always featured in the heavier songs.  Vocals have an operatic quality, yet not to the extent or high pitch as those of power metal.  The genre is known for moving from heavy songs into ambient acoustic pieces.

Lyrics cover a broad range of topics.  Songs or albums can revolve around a story, yet not so much the pure fantasy worlds of power metal but rather more inspired by the worlds of science fantasy, a mixture of sci-fi and fantasy elements.

 

Visual Characteristics:

Zen Metal generally borrows heavily from visual kei and glam metal with use of costumes and make-up to portray a certain image or character.