The Link-Up Spell: Which are your favorite non-metal acts and influences from metal musicians?


When metal is injected by other musical influences, we all win.

You already know the standards. The sinister trichords, the double pedaling commanding fast drums, the plucked four string bass and the obscure vocalizations. If we can narrow the metal genre into a common behavior, those can be some patrons to tailor this musical flag. Take for example the legendary Black Sabbath beginnings, their iconic debut laid down multiple foundations to this monolith to ignore their ghastly shadow.

Tony Iommi’s insanely dark riffing was toe-to-toe with folk and blues, so since the very beginning, metal music was probably meant to get influenced by other vacant planets.

Of course, this obsession with the left hand, with liberty and the evocative side of life was a cornerstone for some people since the end of the 60’s. But, the status quo and the rigidity formed the right path too, and the numerous subgenres spawned from this foul beast chained movements and artists on rigid paradigms.

Paradoxically, I always saw metal as a rabid black dog wanting to be unleashed, that sometimes bite his own lash and, broken, bleeding, escapes from time to time to enchant or kill. I bring this spiritual representation to our humble forum because this duality can be contemplated every week on all the content we share with you all. The Old Ways of metal refuses to die and the New Ways of metal keep spawning. We embrace them all, but from time to time we find these are two polar opposites and, as everything in the human experience, innovation is always (and should be) the rarest.

For some gifted musicians, metal, as most of every genre conceived, is a restrictive box of thoughts to play with at the time of composition and arrangements. What made metal “metal” is both a blessing and a curse, based on this argumentation. But, some musicians in the genre proved since the early years of infancy that the genre can also be a very malleable one. In their extremity, a lot of clever composers mixed the distortion and the metal attitude with foreign styles, even to the outcry of some conservative groups that pushed to repeat aesthetic patterns.

Like some of our fellow readers, I developed my musical taste thanks to following and paying close attention to the little details of certain authors. When I started into more extreme music, Michael Amott, from Arch Enemy, served as an ambassador of different sound palettes for me to enjoy with his side-project Spiritual Beggars. As I already wrote about this guitarist in a previous article, Amott’s influences from classic rock and early metal opened new horizons to me, like it happened with Scorpions, Candlemass, Trouble or Dio to name a few of a huge list. The carefully planned melodic aspect of the albums I listened from that time still survives on my constant playlists, and that unexpected aspect of his work made me realize there could be other disparate influences.

Then, with Death and Cynic this aspect was way more accentuated. These progressive combos went from metal to so many disparate genres that this diversity introduced me to technical death metal, fusion music, jazz, post-rock, ambient and old-school prog in equal parts. Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert incursion into their alternative rock outfit Aeon Spoke developed my taste into more stripped down music. Meanwhile, the Pestilence album Spheres and the Atheist record Elements were in huge rotations, two great pieces that let me enjoy new and mysterious moods or lyrical contents, completely different to the traditional fantastic lettering.

With that, many more artists went to my rotation that developed different side-projects away from metal that I continuously celebrate; the cross-pollination between metal and many different genres is a celebration of music that opens the path to new listeners towards our dark halls. Enslaved, Ihsahn, Opeth, Dan Swâno, Leprous or Neurosis are some of the names we have discussed in this blog that explored new genres and succeeded by bringing novelties on their other projects, meanwhile helping listeners and fans to enjoy other facets of art and life.

We also tend to laugh a little at people like David Vincent (A.K.A. Vncle Morbid) or Nergal (A.K.A. the guy with the big head from Behemoth), but that is the completely opposite today.

My stance with the Toilet ov Hell since the first months made me realize we have so much to discover and I am so grateful to share different genres and music every week over here along with our writer panel and our faithful community. These years completely changed some of my points of view of music, and even life. When art is served to your being nearly on daily basis, there is a constant transform of, at least, a tiny piece of our existence.

So, this opinion piece is for you, my friend. Which metal artists opened your mind to non-metal goodness? Which are your favorite side-projects from metal musicians? I am more than eager to read your responses at the comments to get new names and styles to enjoy.

Photo cover: VÌA


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  • TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs

    I want to mention The Gathering, who were an okay death/doom band that became truly great when they started listening to too much Portishead

  • I am glad you are well, Link. Given the challenges your country is currently facing, it is good to see a positive side to it. Given your positivity, I was confused this morning when I read a news article saying the US was going to invade Venezuela. ? Maybe your president is looking for a culprit to blame?

    To answer your question, I am not sure I am a fan only a metal artist that opened my mind to non metal goodness. Expect maybe IN FLAMES, AMIRITE????


    • Hey, GL!

      The Trump goverment has imposed sanctions to the Venezuelan oil trades, but nothing else. I don’t really think US is going to invade out country anyways. Maduro (and, of course, Chávez) have their whole goverment period blaming the US for everything that happens over here (and I am not exagerating), that’s a constant segment of the goverment speeches; but most people over here just ignore that. People here is having such a hard time that politics are starting to be more ignored than ever.

    • Óðinn

      Trump is also looking for somebody to blame. Maybe they can blame each other. 😉

      But seriously, the last thing the Venezuelan people need right now is a Trump invasion.

  • Howard Dean

    “Nergal (A.K.A. the guy with the big head from Behemoth).”

    I nearly choked on my coffee. Hahahaha. Well done, Link-san (on both the article and the joke).

  • JWG

    I am quite sure much of the metal in my collection come from guys with non-metal influences in addition to metal ones, but I couldn’t really say who those are specifically because I’ve never paid direct attention to interviews where the bands namedrop specific influences.

    …other than the ones posted in TovH interviews.

    Those I’ll try to store in memory, but I still tend to near-immediately forget the names they mention if I’m not prepared to be totally invested in the band and their influence.

    • TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs

      You can tell which non metal influences musicians have without reading interviews. Just listen to they playing style. Like the blues influences in Iommi’s playing, or bluegrass for Brent Hinds

      • JWG

        Oh, I can figure out genre influences. But I meant specific individuals.

        I can figure out when someone has [genre] as an influence, but I’m not quite musically sophisticated enough to be able to identify their influence as [person known for playing in genre] unless it’s blatantly obvious they learned by exactly emulating [person with a distinct style].

        • TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs

          Oh, okay, I see what you mean. Yeah, you’d have to be a master musicologist with an encyclopedic knowledge of all genres to be able to do that based on listening alone

          • JWG

            I think it might be a tiny bit easier for people who aren’t also challenged by “playing by ear”. But I am.

            I need sheet music with at least the relative notes (the way western medieval music was written – relative notes, but absolutely no guidance on how long to hold each), or I’m lost.

    • Interview reading is another favorite of mine, it’s pretty cool when musicians opens their personal tastes.

      • TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs

        Reading thank you notes on CD liner notes was another great way to find out about bands in the old days. They often felt compelled to thank all their peers and influences on their albums

  • Metal or metal artists haven’t really opened me up to other genres; I’ve pretty much always liked most types of music. I’m by far most passionate about metal but I like, and have liked since my formative music years (i.e. teenage years when you have gobs of free time for music consumption), everything from 50s country to 60s British Invasion to 70s prog and punk to 80s new wave and indie rock and gangsta rap to 90s grunge and shoegaze to (etcetera; kinda running out of decade-associated music here).

    My parent’s massive vinyl collection was hugely influential on me, and vinyl is still how I buy and listen to most non-metal/older music.

    There’s honestly SO MUCH good music in the world, both old and new, popular and underground, chugga-chugga and non-chugga-chugga, it’s fucking impossible to keep up with it all.

  • Al Bvndy

    That Ivor Bjornson & Einar Selvik song is amazing. Also, I think this is one of the only blog posts I’ve read that has positive things to say about Pestilence – Spheres, which is a personal favourite of mine.

    Speaking of side projects that introduce new influences, I dare say that Hardingrock made me aware of the existence of Folk/Prog metal.

    • Hey, this is sounding very good. It’s that the Ihsahn we know from Emperor? Thanks for the rec.

      • Al Bvndy

        The very same. Him, Knut Buen and starofash.

    • BobLoblaw

      Something as obscure as Hardingrock made you aware of folk metal (which its not really a part of)? I smell bullshit.

      • Al Bvndy

        Straight up I swear. I like Emperor, ihsahn is in Emperor, Hardingrock features Ihsahn, Hardingrock gets something like 3 K’s in Kerrang, I buy it and like it. At the time, I was listening to Marilyn Manson, Maiden, G n R and entry level second waive Black Metal (not a lot of folk in Deathcrush and Welcome to Hell). So, yeah. Hardingrock was the band.

        • BobLoblaw

          I just dont see how Ensiferum or Finntroll went under your radar but one obscure release with no label support in 2007 by Hardingrock got your attention.

  • TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs

    Since we are on the topic of non metal endeavors of metal musicians, I’ll share this song co-written by Ben Ash from Carcass

    • That video was clearly shot in Arizona, not Indiana. Noobs.

      • Brutalist_Receptacle

        My mom was reared in Indiana. Numerous times.

    • Wow, didn’t knew Ben Ash made this kind of music. It doesn’t sound bad, I think.

      • TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs

        I actually think is better than anything Lana Del Rey has ever done

  • Note: Sorry about the lack of The Link-Up Spell the last week. Had several issues to correctly upload the work to WordPress, but we are preparing more surprises and goodness for you on this column and our regular content.

    Thanks a lot for everyone. Your support means a lot to me and our writing team 🙂

  • The Tetrachord of Archytas

    For me, it’s more non metal artists that have exposed me to metal. I think I was 15 when coheed used to bust out the trooper in the middle of their song everything evil which led me to immediately buy piece of mind and somewhere in time.

    Edit: Ben from Dillinger wrote something about Kimbra that I read that made me jump on thy band wagon.

    • TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs

      I often ponder if anyone has actually gotten into Maiden because of Lady Gaga

      • The Tetrachord of Archytas

        I’m sure lots of people would want to get locked in an actual Iron Maiden after hearing lady gaga

        • TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs

          Not me, I like Lady Gaga

          • The Tetrachord of Archytas

            Ah haha. I think I’d appreciate her songwriting more if it were produced in a more eclectic environment, but for me female pop artists like bat for lashes are more my jam

          • embrace me

          • This is a legitimately great tune that manages to please both hemispheres of my brain simultaneously.

          • yas i have seen this several times, it’s very well crafted. i also show this to many frands in hopes it will get them just a wee bit interested in her music. AND she likes heavy metal. she’s a winner.

          • GrumpDumpus


  • Here’s a strange ritual folk/drone project from various members of the Icelandic black metal scene.

    • It also has another unpronounceable name!

      It sounds very obscure. Nice. Not to keen on the drone part, but it sounds interesting.

      Thanks, Richter!

      • Nyith, maybe? Or maybe the name is an initialism?

  • When Ulver turned away from metal, it opened my ears up to a whole lot of new sounds I might not have found otherwise–or at least not until later. After absorbing the shock of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and Metamorphosis I became more interested in ambient and electronic music.

    Specifically, I found out about Coil from an interview with Tricky G. and have been a huge Coil fan ever since.

    • Zeke

      my first thought was ulver as well

  • Hubert

    Metal has both gotten me into into folky music and Synthy music, which is a testament to how diverse the genre is I guess.

  • Guppusmaximus

    I don’t know if this long diatribe will actually answer the question presented in this great article, but, here we go:

    When I was a kid I was surrounded by all types of music so I can’t
    really pinpoint if it was a Metal musician that opened my mind to other
    genres or if it was just my love of music that led me to Metal.
    I initially fell in love with the Carpenters as my mom used to play their 8-track tapes in her Ford LTD as we drove to her place of work. As I got older (not much by my recollection), I started spending a lot of time with the headphones connected to my father’s Akai listening to reels he brought home from the radio station which had a ton of late 70s early 80s easy listening (John Lennon’s “Starting Over” & Bee Gees / Barbara Streisand “Guilty” comes to mind). Soon enough my brother introduced me to Iron Maiden (Killers) & DIO (Holy Diver) which was the ultimate epiphany.

    Fast forward and somewhere in the late 80s / early 90s after being raised on NWOBHM, Thrash, Death Metal (The first CD I bought was “Spirtual Healing”) and the Prog essentials like RUSH & Yes that I stumbled upon Mr. Bungle’s S/T (thanks to FNM fame), The Dolphins “Malayian Breeze” (managed to acquire one from a radio DJ stationed outside a Strawberries),IronChrist “Getting The Most Out of Your Extinction” and Christopher Parkening’s “Tribute to Segovia. Oddly enough,just around the corner came Dream Theater, Atheist, reconnecting w/ Death (ITP – don’t ask me how I lost touch with that band aka pre-internet was a bitch) and just finding out about Watchtower (yup, again pre-internet was a bitch) thanks to Coconut Records & Tapes. Looking back now though I think King Diamond kinda helped me as well with odd, not quite traditional Metal ventures because Andy Laroque was bitchin with his semi-classical acoustic abilities.

    Anyways, having such a weird foundation and the advent of the internet has led me to find all sorts of amazing non-Metal acts / bands / musicians. Here’s a recent favorite track:
    {thanks for reading my tl;dr}

    • Doc Torluv

      I think it gets lost nowadays that the internet hasn’t always been there. We used to rely on magazine reviews, word of mouth, and, if lucky, the rare record store that had designated listening stations for new music. Ah, the bad old days…

      • Guppusmaximus

        So true, my friend. Sometimes I wonder how I managed without it. Those listening stations were the only redeemable quality (especially the ones with the barcode scanner) once the record stores stopped playing actual records and went to those horrendous corporate radio, pre-recorded loops. *ugh*

    • Thanks for sharing your background, Guppus. Now I kinda understand more the bands you post over here, it all resonates with your history 😉

      A fellow musician said me once that being opened to new genres is like discovering new moons, and the thrill of discovering is such a personal experience that it defines how you view your world. I don’t know if that thing is so profound, jajaja, but just wanted to share that with you!

      Btw, the tune is bangin’, nice finding.

      • Guppusmaximus

        You’re welcome. I’m just glad that it resonated with someone. Your friend’s spot on and his words are profound because Music is so much more than mere entertainment. I think too many people forget that Music is an art, language & education as well as entertainment all wrapped into one.

        I believe it is one of the few experiences that activates the whole brain not just one side. And, playing Music is like having a full body workout where memories are tagged more accurately than most other activities. When you realize just how powerful it is especially on an emotional level then there is no doubt that it can shape your world-view. For me, it was life at one point.

        I hope to pass the ability to fully grasp and understand music onto my son. Not necessarily so that he will become a musician, just so that he appreciates it beyond its short-lived entertainment value.

  • Iamin Cognito

    In the late 80’s, I listened almost exclusively to metal. Someone gave me a cassette copy of Speak English or Die b/w The Vandals – Peace Thru Vandalism. Despite being super into Anthrax at the time, I didn’t know who was in S.O.D. until months later. Initially that tape got me to check out punk and hardcore, genres I’d never really given a chance prior, and beyond that definitely opened my eyes and ears to “…hey, there’s lots of music out there I’m not giving any chance…” which led to me checking out and enjoying a number of other genres.

    tl/dr – Scott Ian got me into Grouper.

  • Hans

    I sometimes try to trace back how my appreciation of a certain band or genre came to be, but I seldom get very far; it all seems so tangled. Seems like stuff can sometimes sort of germinate for years.

    Anyhoo, cool that you put Trouble in here. I’d never really listened to them before and am quite taken. Thanks!

    • Thanks to you for passing by. Also get Psalm 9 and Manic Frustration, please!

    • Óðinn

      Be careful Hans. Trouble is Christian “Metal”. That’s disqualifying from my perspective.

  • Max

    I can’t say there’s any direct line I’ve taken from metal to other genres, but every now and then I’ll read an interview with a metal artist where they rave about non-metal influences and curiosity gets the better of me. On that score I’ve investigated power electronics, prog rock (of course), ambient, electronica, world music and a few other things – the usual, really.

    I think it’s taught me more about the artists themselves than it has about my own tastes. What I’ve learned is this: The significant fore-runners in any extreme metal genre very seldom seem to spend much time listening to their peers. They mainly listen outside of their genre; and that’s probably what gives them their creative advantage – even if what they’re listening to DOESN’T NECESSARILY SHOW UP IN THEIR OWN MUSIC.

    Put it this way: Carcass apparently spent much of the writing period for Necroticism listening to Guns’n’Roses, Red Kross, and a lot of NWoBHM. They certainly weren’t listening to Suffocation. Necroticism doesn’t sound like an awful crossover of death metal and butt-rock; it just sounds like a progressive Carcass record. But I do believe, fervently, that their wider listening habits are the reason it doesn’t sound like Symphonies of Sickness – no matter how obtuse the influencing process.

    So when you’re young, it might be a little disconcerting reading an Entombed interview where all Nicke Andersson wants to talk about is KISS rather than Dismember; but – well, that’s why Dismember wasn’t Entombed. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Dismember, of course!)

    • Thanks for your opinion, Max. Is always a pleasure to read you.

      And, Necroticism freaking riiipppppsssss, I need to write something about that album soon, always planned to, but never did the thing.

  • A fine article!
    For me, metal introduced me to two major discoveries in my late adolescence.
    When reading my monthly scholarly metal journal (Metal Maniacs, RIP), I would take the opportunity to purchase many works of music based on reviews and interviews alone. Cathedral would be one such example, a fine metal band whose nearly silly Earache years incorporated a lot of musical freedom and levity into their tunes. But more importantly, some trusted reviewer of the day made an offhand remark to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue being some sort of ‘essential listen’. Right he was, and right he is! That coupled with Naked City and other friend recommendations along with my own pernicious desire for rhythmic complexity would lead me to the world of jazz at large.
    The second was a friend of a friend was very much enamored with cars with large diameter speakers and hip hop, and it must have been the late 90s when Tech N9ne’s Absolute Power came out. For those who have not heard, it is not metal, but the backing songs and production very closely imitate the hard-hitting and dark musical density of metal, and so I immediately latched on to that particular album. Thus, my introduction to the world of hip hop, which is every bit as fascinating in my humble view.
    To the twisted path of curiousity, I raise my glass of sherry in toast! And to you too, fine Adventurers of the Commode!

    • Doc Torluv

      Earache. What a label. Carcass to Lawnmower Deth, I bought up all dat shit.

    • Reading your experience was super cool. Cathedral is a great band, and you’re right about those early kicking ass Earache Records.

      I jammed a lot of Kind of Blue when I discovered Cynic, Death, Atheist and Pestilence. I was trying to understand why those bands were doing those “weird solos and weren’t kicking it out with the power chords”. It really opened my mind for different textures on melodies, unlike you that were more inclined for rhythms 🙂

      Hails fellow adventurer!

  • Eliza

    Folk metal acte, like Agalloch and Bucovina for example, have made me curious about folk and traditional music.

    • <3 Folkyfolk is love and life!

    • Pagliacci is Kvlt

      This. Agalloch got me listening to Nest, Sol Invictus, and Musk Ox.

  • Óðinn
  • Óðinn

    I like a few non-Metal bands (Pink Floyd, Tragically Hip, etc.). I don’t really like some of the 80s false metal/glam rock poser shit that some people get into (Motley Crue, Guns N’ Roses, etc.).

  • Doc Torluv

    EXCELLENT article, Link! Bonus points for the lead photo of JPT – a bona fide bass beast and downright lovely human.

    For many years I was MetalMetalMetal having found my way into heavyland through a breadcrumb path laid (semi-chronologically) by Sweet, Foghat, Sabbath, Aerosmith, UFO, Accept, Priest, Maiden, and Queensryche. I remember skipping out of high school on the first “Senior Ditch Day” in late ’83 and going to the mall. I bought Metallica’s “Kill ‘Em All” and Oz’s “Fire in the Brain” because of the covers(!) and my life was changed when I got them home and needle hit vinyl.

    Fast forward a dozen years or so as I waded the waters of speed, thrash, Candlemass, and SWEDISH DEATH, I pop in a free cassette sampler from Century Media. Not only did it introduce me to Devin Townsend (via ‘Punky Bruster’, no less) and Stuck Mojo (fuck you all, those guys had their shit together in the mid-90’s), but The Gathering.

    Cutting short what could be a thesis, I’ll just say the the first song led me, eventually, to the others listed, cementing my passion for what my son calls “Euro Chick Music”.

    I’m still primarily into stupid caveman (no offense, Gorak) death metal, but I give Anneke Van Giersbergen and the guys in The Gathering the credit for (re)opening my mind

  • Guppusmaximus

    Just in the spirit of Non-Metuhl /m /m

  • Link, what a great conversation starter! these are some of my favorite articles, because i’m a chatterbox and enjoy getting to know folks.
    my parents raised me on soft rock like The Eagles, Tom Petty, and a little bit of Grateful Dead. i thought it was just okay, and yearned for something more. in high school i hung with the skater bois who turned me onto NIN, Marilyn Manson, and Korn. but i sought heavier music and soon thereafter discovered actual heavy metal. after listening to heavy metal for about a decade (on a continual quest to find heavier music than what i previously enjoyed) i started to investigate classic rock bands about which many metalheads considered inspiration: Rush, Pink Floyd, Genesis, [early] Queen, Deep Purple, Yes, etc.

    essentially i went in reverse, since i didn’t enter into the world of heavy metal in the same fashion as most other people around these parts. my parents still love the fuckin’ Eagles but had come to terms with the heavy shit that i started pursuing in high school. it’s funny, they know there isn’t an angry bone in my body and could never understand why i enjoy angry music.