The rhythm in metal songs is emphatic, with intentional stresses. Weinstein notes that the broad array of sonic impacts available to metal drummers allows the "rhythmic pattern to take on a complexity within its elemental drive and insistency". In several heavy metal songs, the key groove is featured by short, two-note or three-note rhythmic figures—typically built up of 8th or 16th notes. These rhythmic figures are normally performed with a staccato attack made by using a palm-muted method on the rhythm guitar.
Brief, detached and abrupt rhythmic cells are combined into rhythmic phrases with a unique, frequently jerky texture. The phrases are used to make melodic figures and rhythmic accompaniment known as riffs, which aid in establishment of thematic hooks. Heavy metal songs further use longer rhythmic figures like whole note- or dotted quarter note-length chords in slow-tempo power ballads. The tempos in initial heavy metal music inclined to be "slow, even ponderous". By the late 1970s, however, metal bands were utilizing a wide array of tempos. In the 2000s decade, metal tempos range from slow ballad tempos to tremendously fast blast beat tempos.