HEAVY METAL MUSIC WHAT IS HEAVY METAL MUSIC? Heavy metal (often referred to simply as metal) is a genre of rock music that developed in between 1968 and 1974 , largely in the United Kingdom and the United States. With roots inblues-rock and psychedelic rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness. Heavy metal lyrics and performance styles are generally associated with masculinity and machismo.
The first heavy metal bands such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple attracted large audiences, though they were often critically reviled, a status common throughout the history of the genre.
In the mid-1970s Judas Priest helped spur the genre’s evolution by discarding much of its blues influence; Motorhead introduced a punk rock sensibility and an increasing emphasis on speed. Bands in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal such as Iron Maiden followed in a similar vein. Before the end of the decade, heavy metal had attracted a worldwide following of fans known as “metalheads” or “headbangers”.
In the 1980s, glam metal became a major commercial force with bands like Motley Crue and Ratt. Underground scenes produced an array of more extreme, aggressive styles: thrash metal broke into the mainstream with bands such as Metallica and Megadeth, while other styles likedeath metal and black metal remain subcultural phenomena. Since the mid-1990s, popular styles such as nu metal, which often incorporates elements of grunge and rapping; andmetalcore, which blends extreme metal with hardcore, have further expanded the definition of the genre.
Heavy metal is traditionally characterized by loud distorted guitars, emphatic rhythms, dense bass-and-drum sound, and vigorous vocals. Metal subgenres variously emphasize, alter, or omit one or more of these attributes. New York Times critic Jon Pareles writes, “In the taxonomy of popular music, heavy metal is a major subspecies of hard-rock—the breed with less syncopation, less blues, more showmanship and more brute force. ” The typical band lineup includes a drummer, a bassist, a rhythm guitarist, a lead guitarist, and a singer, who may or may not be an instrumentalist.
Keyboard instruments are sometimes used to enhance the fullness of the sound. The electric guitar and the sonic power that it projects through amplification has historically been the key element in heavy metal. The lead role of the guitar in heavy metal often collides with the traditional “frontman” or bandleader role of the vocalist, creating a musical tension as the two “contends for dominance” in a spirit of “affectionate rivalry”. Heavy metal “demands the subordination of the voice” to the overall sound of the band. More information about the outsider creative writing.
Reflecting metal’s roots in the 1960s counterculture, an “explicit display of emotion” is required from the vocals as a sign of authenticity. Critic Simon Frith claims that the metal singer’s “tone of voice” is more important than the lyrics. Metal vocals vary widely in style, from the multioctave, theatrical approach of Judas Priest’s Rob Halford and Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson, to the gruff style of Motorhead’s Lemmy and Metallica’s James Hetfield, to the growling of many death metal performers, and to the harsh screams of black metal.
The prominent role of the bass is also key to the metal sound, and the interplay of bass and guitar is a central element. The bass guitar provides the low-end sound crucial to making the music “heavy”. Metal basslines vary widely in complexity, from holding down a low pedal point as a foundation to doubling complex riffs and licks along with the lead and/or rhythm guitars. Some bands feature the bass as a lead instrument, an approach popularized by Metallica’s Cliff Burton in the early 1980s. The essence of metal drumming is creating a loud, constant beat for the band using the “trifecta of speed, power, and precision”.
Metal drumming “requires an exceptional amount of endurance”, and drummers have to develop “considerable speed, coordination, and dexterity… to play the intricate patterns” used in metal. A characteristic metal drumming technique is the cymbal choke, which consists of striking a cymbal and then immediately silencing it by grabbing it with the other hand (or, in some cases, the same striking hand), producing a burst of sound. The metal drum setup is generally much larger than those employed in other forms of rock music. In live performance, loudness—an “onslaught of sound,” in sociologist Deena Weinstein’s description—is considered vital.
In his book Metalheads, psychologist Jeffrey Arnett refers to heavy metal concerts as “the sensory equivalent of war. ” Following the lead set by Jimi Hendrix, Cream and The Who, early heavy metal acts such as Blue Cheer set new benchmarks for volume. As Blue Cheer’s Dick Peterson put it, “All we knew was we wanted more power. “A 1977 review of a Motorhead concert noted how “excessive volume in particular figured into the band’s impact. ” Weinstein makes the case that in the same way that melody is the main element of pop and rhythm is the main focus of house music, powerful sound, timbre, and volume are the key elements of metal.
She argues that the loudness is designed to “sweep the listener into the sound” and to provide a “shot of youthful vitality. ” MUSICAL LANGUAGE * Rhythm and tempo The rhythm in metal songs is emphatic, with deliberate stresses. Weinstein observes that the wide array of sonic effects available to metal drummers enables the “rhythmic pattern to take on a complexity within its elemental drive and insistency. ” In many heavy metal songs, the main groove is characterized by short, two-note or three-note rhythmic figures—generally made up of 8th or 16th notes.
These rhythmic figures are usually performed with a staccato attack created by using a palm-muted technique on the rhythm guitar. Brief, abrupt, and detached rhythmic cells are joined into rhythmic phrases with a distinctive, often jerky texture. These phrases are used to create rhythmic accompaniment and melodic figures called riffs, which help to establish thematic hooks. Heavy metal songs also use longer rhythmic figures such as whole note- or dotted quarter note-length chords in slow-tempopower ballads. The tempos in early heavy metal music tended to be “slow, even ponderous. By the late 1970s, however, metal bands were employing a wide variety of tempos. In the 2000s, metal tempos range from slow ballad tempos (quarter note = 60 beats per minute) to extremely fast blast beat tempos (quarter note= 350 beats per minute). An example of a rhythmic pattern used in heavy metal * Harmony One of the signatures of the genre is the guitar power chord. In technical terms, the power chord is relatively simple: it involves just one main interval, generally the perfect fifth, though an octave may be added as a doubling of the root.
Although the perfect fifth interval is the most common basis for the power chord, power chords are also based on different intervals such as the minor third, major third, perfect fourth, diminished fifth, or minor sixth. Most power chords are also played with a consistent finger arrangement that can be slid easily up and down the fretboard. * Typical harmonic structures Heavy metal is usually based on riffs created with three main harmonic traits: modal scale progressions, tritone and chromatic progressions, and the use of pedal points. Traditional heavy metal tends to employ modal scales, in particular the Aeolian and Phrygian modes.
Harmonically speaking, this means the genre typically incorporates modal chord progressions such as the Aeolian progressions I-VI-VII, I-VII-(VI), or I-VI-IV-VII and Phrygian progressions implying the relation between I and ? II (I-? II-I, I-? II-III, or I-? II-VII for example). Tense-sounding chromatic or tritone relationships are used in a number of metal chord progressions. The tritone, an interval spanning three whole tones—such as C and F#—was a forbidden dissonance in medieval ecclesiastical singing, which led monks to call it diabolus in musica—”the devil in music. Because of that original symbolic association, it came to be heard in Western cultural convention as “evil”. Heavy metal has made extensive use of the tritone in guitar solos and riffs, such as in the beginning of “Black Sabbath”. Heavy metal songs often make extensive use of pedal point as a harmonic basis. A pedal point is a sustained tone, typically in the bass range, during which at least one foreign (i. e. , dissonant) harmony is sounded in the other parts. LYRICAL THEMES Black Sabbath and the many metal bands they inspired have concentrated lyrically “on dark and depressing subject matter to an extent hitherto nprecedented in any form of pop music,” according to scholars David Hatch and Stephen Millward. They take as an example Sabbath’s second album Paranoid (1970), which “included songs dealing with personal trauma—’Paranoid’ and ‘Fairies Wear Boots’ (which described the unsavoury side effects of drug-taking)—as well as those confronting wider issues, such as the self-explanatory ‘War Pigs’ and ‘Hand of Doom. ‘” Nuclear annihilation was addressed in later metal songs such as Iron Maiden’s “2 Minutes to Midnight”, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Killer of Giants”, Megadeth`s “Rust In Peace…
Polaris”, and Metallica’s “Fight Fire With Fire”. Death is a predominant theme in heavy metal, routinely featuring in the lyrics of bands as otherwise widely different as Slayer and W. A. S. P. The more extreme forms of death metal and grindcore tend to have aggressive and gory lyrics. Deriving from the genre’s roots in blues music, sex is another important topic—a thread running from Led Zeppelin’s suggestive lyrics to the more explicit references of glam and nu metal bands. Romantic tragedy is a standard theme of gothic and doom metal, as well as of nu metal, where teenage angst is another central topic.
Heavy metal songs often feature outlandish, fantasy-inspired lyrics, lending them an escapist quality. Iron Maiden’s songs, for instance, were frequently inspired by mythology, fiction, and poetry, such as Iron Maiden’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, based on the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem. Led Zeppelin lyrics often reference Lord of the Rings as well as other mythology and folklore, such as in the songs “The Battle of Evermore”, “Immigrant Song”, “Ramble On”, “No Quarter”, and “Achilles Last Stand”.
Other examples include Black Sabbath’s “The Wizard,” Megadeth’s “The Conjuring” and “Five Magics,” and Judas Priest’s “Dreamer Deceiver”. Since the 1980s, with the rise of thrash metal and songs such as Metallica’s “… And Justice for All” and Megadeth’s “Peace Sells”, more metal lyrics have included sociopolitical commentary. Genres such as melodic death metal, progressive metal, and black metal often explore philosophical themes. The thematic content of heavy metal has long been a target of criticism.
According to Jon Pareles, “Heavy metal’s main subject matter is simple and virtually universal. With grunts, moans and subliterary lyrics, it celebrates… a party without limits…. [T]he bulk of the music is stylized and formulaic. ” Music critics have often deemed metal lyrics juvenile and banal, and others have objected to what they see as advocacy of misogyny and the occult. During the 1980s, the Parents Music Resource Center petitioned the U. S. Congress to regulate the popular music industry due to what the group asserted were objectionable lyrics, particularly those in heavy metal songs.
In 1990, Judas Priest was sued in American court by the parents of two young men who had shot themselves five years earlier, allegedly after hearing the subliminal statement “do it” in a Priest song. While the case attracted a great deal of media attention, it was ultimately dismissed. In some predominantly Muslim countries, heavy metal has been officially denounced as a threat to traditional values. In countries including Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, and Malaysia, there have been incidents of heavy metal musicians and fans being arrested and incarcerated.
Relationship with classical music Robert Walser argues that, alongside blues and R;B, the “assemblage of disparate musical styles known… as ‘classical music'” has been a major influence on heavy metal since the genre’s earliest days. He claims that metal’s “most influential musicians have been guitar players who have also studied classical music. Their appropriation and adaptation of classical models sparked the development of a new kind of guitar virtuosity [and] changes in the harmonic and melodic language of heavy metal. The Grove Music Online states that the “1980s brought on … the widespread adaptation of chord progressions and virtuosic practices from 18th-century European models, especially Bach,Wilhelm Richard Wagner and Vivaldi, by influential guitarists such as Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads and Yngwie Malmsteen”. Although a number of metal musicians cite classical composers as inspiration, classical and metal are rooted in different cultural traditions and practices—classical in the art music tradition, metal in the popular music tradition.
As musicologists, Nicolas Cook and Nicola Dibben note, “Analyses of popular music also sometimes reveal the influence of ‘art traditions. ‘ An example is Walser’s linkage of heavy metal music with the ideologies and even some of the performance practices of nineteenth-century Romanticism. However, it would be clearly wrong to claim that traditions such as blues, rock, heavy metal, rap or dance music derive primarily from ‘art music. ‘” More extreme variants of metal tend to reject the song structures and tonalities typical of popular music, and lean more towards classical ideas.
Death metal, for example, makes extensive use of cyclical and narrative song structures, as well as chromaticism. The classical concept of the motif is employed by many of the genre-defining extreme metal bands, such as Bathory, Morbid Angel, and Burzum. IMAGE AND FASHION Kiss performing in 2004, wearing their famous makeup As with much popular music, visual imagery plays a large role in heavy metal. In addition to its sound and lyrics, a heavy metal band’s “image” is expressed in album sleeve art, logos, stage sets, clothing, and music videos.
Some heavy metal acts such as Alice Cooper, Kiss, Lordi, and Gwar have become known as much for their outrageous performance personas and stage shows as for their music. Down-the-back long hair, according to Weinstein, is the “most crucial distinguishing feature of metal fashion. ” Originally adopted from the hippie subculture, by the 1980s and 1990s heavy metal hair “symbolised the hate, angst and disenchantment of a generation that seemingly never felt at home,” according to journalist Nader Rahman. Long hair gave members of the metal community “the power they needed to rebel against nothing in general. The classic uniform of heavy metal fans consists of “blue jeans, black T-shirts, boots and black leather or jeans jackets…. T-shirts are generally emblazoned with the logos or other visual representations of favorite metal bands. ” Metal fans also “appropriated elements from the S&M community (chains, metal studs, skulls, leather and crosses). ” In the 1980s, a range of sources, from punk and goth music to horror films, influenced metal fashion. Many metal performers of the 1970s and 1980s used radically shaped and brightly colored instruments to enhance their stage appearance.
Fashion and personal style was especially important for glam metal bands of the era. Performers typically wore long, dyed, hairspray-teased hair (hence the nickname, “hair metal”); makeup such as lipstick and eyeliner; gaudy clothing, including leopard-skin-printed shirts or vests and tight denim, leather, or spandex pants; and accessories such as headbands and jewelry. Pioneered by the heavy metal act X Japan in the late 1980s, bands in the Japanese movement known as visual kei—which includes many nonmetal groups—emphasize elaborate costumes, hair, and makeup.
PHYSICAL GESTURES Many metal musicians when performing live engage in headbanging, which involves rhythmically beating time with the head, often emphasized by long hair. The corna, or devil horns, hand gesture, also widespread, was popularized by vocalist Ronnie James Dio while with Black Sabbath and Dio. Gene Simmons of Kiss claims to have been the first to make the gesture in concert. Attendees of metal concerts do not dance in the usual sense; Deena Weinstein has argued that this is due to the music’s largely male audience and “extreme heterosexualist ideology. She identifies two primary body movements that substitute for dancing: headbanging and an arm thrust that is both a sign of appreciation and a rhythmic gesture. The performance of air guitar is popular among metal fans both at concerts and listening to records at home. Other concert audience activities include stage diving, crowd surfing, pushing and shoving in a chaotic melee called moshing, and displaying the corna hand symbol. FAN SUBCULTURE Deena Weinstein argues that heavy metal has outlasted many other rock genres largely due to the emergence of an intense, exclusionary, strongly masculine subculture.
While the metal fanbase is largely young, white, male, and blue-collar, the group is “tolerant of those outside its core demographic base who follow its codes of dress, appearance, and behavior. ” Identification with the subculture is strengthened not only by the shared experience of concert-going and shared elements of fashion, but also by contributing to metal magazines and, more recently, websites. The metal scene has been characterized as a “subculture of alienation”, with its own code of authenticity.
This code puts several demands on performers: they must appear both completely devoted to their music and loyal to the subculture that supports it; they must appear disinterested in mainstream appeal and radio hits; and they must never “sell out”. For the fans themselves, the code promotes “opposition to established authority, and separateness from the rest of society. ” Musician and filmmaker Rob Zombie observes, “Most of the kids who come to my shows seem like really imaginative kids with a lot of creative energy they don’t know what to do with” and that metal is “outsider music for outsiders.
Nobody wants to be the weird kid; you just somehow end up being the weird kid. It’s kind of like that, but with metal you have all the weird kids in one place. ” Scholars of metal have noted the tendency of fans to classify and reject some performers (and some other fans) as “posers” “who pretended to be part of the subculture, but who were deemed to lack authenticity and sincerity. ” ETYMOLOGY The origin of the term heavy metal in a musical context is uncertain. The phrase has been used for centuries in chemistry and metallurgy.
An early use of the term in modern popular culture was by countercultural writer William S. Burroughs. His 1962 novel The Soft Machine includes a character known as “Uranian Willy, the Heavy Metal Kid. ” Burroughs’s next novel, Nova Express (1964), develops the theme, using heavy metal as a metaphor for addictive drugs: “With their diseases and orgasm drugs and their sexless parasite life forms—Heavy Metal People of Uranus wrapped in cool blue mist of vaporized bank notes—And The Insect People of Minraud with metal music. Metal historian Ian Christe describes what the components of the term mean in “hippiespeak”: “heavy” is roughly synonymous with “potent” or “profound,” and “metal” designates a certain type of mood, grinding and weighted as with metal. The word “heavy” in this sense was a basic element of beatnik and later countercultural slang, and references to “heavy music”—typically slower, more amplified variations of standard pop fare—were already common by the mid-1960s. Iron Butterfly’s debut album, released in early 1968, was titled Heavy. The first recorded use of heavy metal is a reference to a motorcycle in the Steppenwolf song “Born to Be Wild”, also released that year: “I like smoke and lightning/Heavy metal thunder/Racin’ with the wind/And the feelin’ that I’m under. ” A late, and disputed, claim about the source of the term was made by “Chas” Chandler, former manager of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. In a 1995 interview on the PBS program Rock and Roll, he asserted that heavy metal “was a term originated in a New York Times article reviewing a Jimi Hendrix performance,” in which the author likened the event to “listening to heavy metal falling from the sky. A source for Chandler’s claim has never been found. The first documented use of the phrase to describe a type of rock music identified to date appears in a review by Barry Gifford. In the May 11, 1968, issue of Rolling Stone, he wrote about the album A Long Time Comin’ by U. S. band Electric Flag: “Nobody who’s been listening to Mike Bloomfield—either talking or playing—in the last few years could have expected this. This is the new soul music, the synthesis of white blues and heavy metal rock. ” In January 1970 Lucian K.
Truscott IV reviewing Led Zeppelin II for the Village Voice described the sound as “heavy” and made comparisons with Blue Cheer and Vanilla Fudge. Other early documented uses of the phrase are from reviews by criticMike Saunders. In the November 12, 1970, issue of Rolling Stone, he commented on an album put out the previous year by the British band Humble Pie: “Safe As Yesterday Is, their first American release, proved that Humble Pie could be boring in lots of different ways. Here they were a noisy, unmelodic, heavy metal-leaden shit-rock band with the loud and noisy parts beyond doubt.
There were a couple of nice songs… and one monumental pile of refuse. ” He described the band’s latest, self-titled release as “more of the same 27th-rate heavy metal crap. ” In a review of Sir Lord Baltimore’s Kingdom Come in the May 1971 Creem, Saunders wrote, “Sir Lord Baltimore seems to have down pat most all the best heavy metal tricks in the book. ” Creem critic Lester Bangs is credited with popularizing the term via his early 1970s essays on bands such as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.
Through the decade, heavy metal was used by certain critics as a virtually automatic putdown. In 1979, lead New York Times popular music critic John Rockwell described what he called “heavy-metal rock” as “brutally aggressive music played mostly for minds clouded by drugs,” and, in a different article, as “a crude exaggeration of rock basics that appeals to white teenagers. ” Coined by Black Sabbath drummer, Bill Ward, “downer rock” was one of the earliest terms used to describe this style of music and was applied to such acts as Sabbath and Bloodrock.
Classic Rock magazine described the downer rock culture revolving around the use of Quaaludes and the drinking of wine. Later the term would be replaced by “heavy metal. ” The terms “heavy metal” and “hard rock” have often been used interchangeably, particularly in discussing bands of the 1970s, a period when the terms were largely synonymous. For example, the 1983 Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll includes this passage: “known for its aggressive blues-based hard-rock style, Aerosmith was the top American heavy-metal band of the mid-Seventies. ” HISTORY * Antecedents: mid-1960s
While heavy metal’s quintessential guitar style, built around distortion-heavy riffs and power chords, traces its roots to the late 1950s instrumentals of American Link Wray, and the Kingsmen’s version of “Louie, Louie” (1963), which made it a garage rock standard, but the genre’s direct lineage begins in the mid-1960s. American blues music was a major influence on the early British rockers of the era. Bands like The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds developed blues-rock by recording covers of many classic blues songs, often speeding up the tempos. As they experimented with the music, the UK blues-based bands—and the U.
S. acts they influenced in turn—developed what would become the hallmarks of heavy metal, in particular, the loud, distorted guitar sound. The Kinks played a major role in popularizing this sound with their 1964 hit “You Really Got Me”. “Ticket to Ride” (1965) written by John Lennon (credited to Lennon/McCartney) of The Beatles has been suggested as the first ever heavy metal song, given the droning bassline, repeating drums, and loaded guitar lines. Arthur Brown performing alongside his group The Crazy World of Arthur Brown; wearing a burning metal helmet
A significant contributor to the emerging guitar sound was the feedback facilitated by the new generation of amplifiers. In addition to The Kinks’ Dave Davies guitarists experimenting with feedback included The Who’s Pete Townshend and the Tridents’ Jeff Beck. Where the blues-rock drumming style started out largely as simple shuffle beats on small kits, drummers began using a more muscular, complex, and amplified approach to match and be heard against the increasingly loud guitar. Vocalists similarly modified their technique and increased their reliance on amplification, often becoming more stylized and dramatic.
In terms of sheer volume, especially in live performance, The Who’s “bigger-louder-wall-of-Marshalls” approach was seminal. Simultaneous advances in amplification and recording technology made it possible to successfully capture the power of this heavier approach on record. * Origins: late 1960s and early 1970s In 1968, the sound that would become known as heavy metal began to coalesce. That January, the San Francisco band Blue Cheer released a cover of Eddie Cochran’s classic “Summertime Blues”, from their debut album Vincebus Eruptum, that many consider the first true heavy metal recording. 76] The same month, Steppenwolf released its self-titled debut album, including “Born to Be Wild”, which refers to “heavy metal thunder” in the lyrics. In July, another two epochal records came out: The Yardbirds’ “Think About It”—B-side of the band’s last single—with a performance by guitarist Jimmy Page anticipating the metal sound he would soon make famous; and Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, with its 17-minute-long title track, a prime candidate for first-ever heavy metal album. In August, The Beatles’ single version of “Revolution”, with its redlined guitar and drum sound, set new standards for distortion in a top-selling context.
The Jeff Beck Group, whose leader had preceded Page as The Yardbirds’ guitarist, released its debut record that same month: Truth featured some of the “most molten, barbed, downright funny noises of all time,” breaking ground for generations of metal ax-slingers. In October, Page’s new band, Led Zeppelin, made its live debut. The Beatles’ so-called White Album, which also came out that month, included “Birthday” and “Helter Skelter”, then one of the heaviest-sounding songs ever released by a major band, and has been noted for its “proto-metal roar”.
The Pretty Things’ rock opera S. F. Sorrow, released in December, featured “proto heavy metal” songs such as “Old Man Going. ” In this period the Detroit garage band the MC5’s raw distorted style has been seen as a major influence on the future sound of both heavy metal and later punk music. In January 1969, Led Zeppelin’s self-titled debut album was released and reached number 10 on theBillboard album chart. In July, Zeppelin and a power trio with a Cream-inspired, but cruder sound, Grand Funk Railroad, played the Atlanta Pop Festival.
That same month, another Cream-rooted trio led byLeslie West released Mountain, an album filled with heavy blues-rock guitar and roaring vocals. In August, the group—now itself dubbed Mountain—played an hour-long set at the Woodstock Festival. Grand Funk’s debut album, On Time, also came out that month. In the fall, Led Zeppelin II went to number 1 and the album’s single “Whole Lotta Love” hit number 4 on the Billboard pop chart. The metal revolution was under way. Led Zeppelin performing in Montreux in March 1970
Led Zeppelin defined central aspects of the emerging genre, with Page’s highly distorted guitar style and singer Robert Plant’s dramatic, wailing vocals. Other bands, with a more consistently heavy, “purely” metal sound, would prove equally important in codifying the genre. The 1970 releases by Black Sabbath (Black Sabbath and Paranoid) and Deep Purple (In Rock) were crucial in this regard. Black Sabbath had developed a particularly heavy sound in part due to an industrial accident guitarist Tony Iommisuffered before cofounding the band.
Unable to play normally, Iommi had to tune his guitar down for easier fretting and rely on power chords with their relatively simple fingering. Deep Purple had fluctuated between styles in its early years, but by 1969 vocalist Ian Gillan and guitarist Ritchie Blackmore had led the band toward the developing heavy metal style. In 1970, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple scored major UK chart hits with “Paranoid” and “Black Night”, respectively. That same year, two other British bands released debut albums in a heavy metal mode: Uriah Heep with Very ‘eavy… Very ‘umble and UFO with UFO 1.
Budgie brought the new metal sound into a power trio context. The occult lyrics and imagery employed by Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep would prove particularly influential; Led Zeppelin also began foregrounding such elements with its fourth album, released in 1971. Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourneof Black Sabbath onstage in January 1973 On the other side of the Atlantic, the trend-setting group was Grand Funk Railroad, “the most commercially successful American heavy-metal band from 1970 until they disbanded in 1976, [they] established the Seventies success formula: continuous touring. Other bands identified with metal emerged in the U. S. , such as Dust (first LP in 1971), Blue Oyster Cult (1972), and Kiss (1974). In Germany, Scorpions debuted with Lonesome Crow in 1972. Blackmore, who had emerged as a virtuoso soloist with Deep Purple’s Machine Head (1972), quit the group in 1975 to form Rainbow. These bands also built audiences via constant touring and increasingly elaborate stage shows. As described above, there are arguments about whether these and other early bands truly qualify as “heavy metal” or simply as “hard rock. Those closer to the music’s blues roots or placing greater emphasis on melody are now commonly ascribed the latter label. AC/DC, which debuted with High Voltage in 1975, is a prime example. The 1983 Rolling Stone encyclopedia entry begins, “Australian heavy-metal band AC/DC… “Rock historian Clinton Walker writes, “Calling AC/DC a heavy metal band in the seventies was as inaccurate as it is today…. [They] were a rock ‘n’ roll band that just happened to be heavy enough for metal. The issue is not only one of shifting definitions, but also a persistent distinction between musical style and audience identification: Ian Christe describes how the band “became the stepping-stone that led huge numbers of hard rock fans into heavy metal perdition. ” Though Judas Priest did not have a top 40 album in the U. S. until 1980, for many it was the definitive post-Sabbath heavy metal band; its twin-guitar attack, featuring rapid tempos and a nonbluesy, more cleanly metallic sound, was a major influence on later acts. While heavy metal was growing in popularity, ost critics were not enamored of the music. Objections were raised to metal’s adoption of visual spectacle and other trappings of commercial artifice, but the main offense was its perceived musical and lyrical vacuity: reviewing a Black Sabbath album in the early 1970s, leading critic Robert Christgau described it as “dull and decadent… dim-witted, amoral exploitation. ” * Mainstream: late 1970s and 1980s Punk rock emerged in the mid-1970s as a reaction against contemporary social conditions as well as what was perceived as the overindulgent, overproduced rock music of the time, including heavy metal.
Sales of heavy metal records declined sharply in the late 1970s in the face of punk, disco, and more mainstream rock. With the major labels fixated on punk, many newer British heavy metal bands were inspired by the movement’s aggressive, high-energy sound and “lo-fi”, do it yourself ethos. Underground metal bands began putting out cheaply recorded releases independently to small, devoted audiences. Motorhead, founded in 1975, was the first important band to straddle the punk/metal divide. With the explosion of punk in 1977, others followed.
British music papers such as the NME and Sounds took notice, with Sounds writer Geoff Barton christening the movement the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal”. NWOBHM bands including Iron Maiden, Saxon, and Def Leppard reenergized the heavy metal genre. Following the lead set by Judas Priest and Motorhead, they toughened up the sound, reduced its blues elements, and emphasized increasingly fast tempos. In 1980, the NWOBHM broke into the mainstream, as albums by Iron Maiden and Saxon, as well as Motorhead, reached the British top 10.
Though less commercially successful, other NWOBHM bands such as Venom and Diamond Head would have a significant influence on metal’s development. In 1981, Motorhead became the first of this new breed of metal bands to top the UK charts with No Sleep ’til Hammersmith. The first generation of metal bands was ceding the limelight. Deep Purple had broken up soon after Blackmore’s departure in 1975, and Led Zeppelin broke up following drummer John Bonham’s death in 1980. Black Sabbath was routinely upstaged in concert by its opening act, the Los Angeles band Van Halen.
Eddie Van Halen established himself as one of the leading metal guitar virtuosos of the era—his solo on “Eruption”, from the band’s self-titled 1978 album, is considered a milestone. Randy Rhoads and Yngwie Malmsteen also became famed virtuosos, associated with what would be known as the neoclassical metal style. The adoption of classical elements had been spearheaded by Blackmore and the Scorpions’ Uli Jon Roth; this next generation progressed to occasionally using classical nylon-stringed guitars, as Rhoads does on “Dee” from former Sabbath lead singer Ozzy Osbourne’s first solo album, Blizzard of Ozz (1980).
Iron Maiden, one of the central bands in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Inspired by Van Halen’s success, a metal scene began to develop in Southern California during the late 1970s. Based on the clubs of L. A. ‘s Sunset Strip, bands such as Quiet Riot, Ratt, Motley Crue, and W. A. S. P. were influenced by traditional heavy metal of the earlier 1970 and incorporated the theatrics (and sometimes makeup) of glam rock acts such as Alice Cooper and Kiss. The lyrics of theseglam metal bands characteristically emphasized hedonism and wild behavior.
Musically, the style was distinguished by rapid-fire shred guitar solos, anthemic choruses, and a relatively pop-oriented melodic approach. The glam metal movement—along with similarly styled acts such as New York’s Twisted Sister—became a major force in metal and the wider spectrum of rock music. In the wake of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and Judas Priest’s breakthroughBritish Steel (1980), heavy metal became increasingly popular in the early 1980s. Many metal artists benefited from the exposure they received on MTV, which began airing in 1981—sales often soared if a band’s videos screened on the channel. 108] Def Leppard’s videos for Pyromania (1983) made them superstars in America and Quiet Riot became the first domestic heavy metal band to top the Billboard chart with Metal Health (1983). One of the seminal events in metal’s growing popularity was the 1983 US Festival in California, where the “heavy metal day” featuring Ozzy Osbourne, Van Halen, Scorpions, Motley Crue, Judas Priest, and others drew the largest audiences of the three-day event. Between 1983 and 1984, heavy metal went from an 8 percent to a 20 percent share of all recordings sold in the U.
S. Several major professional magazines devoted to the genre were launched, including Kerrang! (in 1981) and Metal Hammer (in 1984), as well as a host of fan journals. In 1985, Billboard declared, “Metal has broadened its audience base. Metal music is no longer the exclusive domain of male teenagers. The metal audience has become older (college-aged), younger (pre-teen), and more female. ” By the mid-1980s, glam metal was a dominant presence on the U. S. charts, music television, and the arena concert circuit. New bands such as L.
A. ‘s Warrant and acts from the East Coast like Poison and Cinderella became major draws, while Motley Crue and Ratt remained very popular. Bridging the stylistic gap between hard rock and glam metal, New Jersey’s Bon Jovi became enormously successful with its third album, Slippery When Wet (1986). The similarly styled Swedish band Europe became international stars with The Final Countdown (1986). Its title track hit number 1 in 25 countries. In 1987, MTV launched a show, Headbanger’s Ball, devoted exclusively to heavy metal videos.
However, the metal audience had begun to factionalize, with those in many underground metal scenes favoring more extreme sounds and disparaging the popular style as “light metal” or “hair metal. ” One band that reached diverse audiences was Guns N’ Roses. In contrast to their glam metal contemporaries in L. A. , they were seen as much rawer and more dangerous. With the release of their chart-topping Appetite for Destruction (1987), they “recharged and almost single-handedly sustained the Sunset Strip sleaze system for several years. The following year, Jane’s Addiction emerged from the same L. A. hard-rock club scene with its major label debut, Nothing’s Shocking. Reviewing the album, Rolling Stone declared, “as much as any band in existence, Jane’s Addiction is the true heir to Led Zeppelin. ” The group was one of the first to be identified with the “alternative metal” trend that would come to the fore in the next decade. Meanwhile, new bands such as New York’s Winger and New Jersey’s Skid Rowsustained the popularity of the glam metal style. Underground metal: 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s Many subgenres of heavy metal developed outside of the commercial mainstream during the 1980s. Several attempts have been made to map the complex world of underground metal, most notably by the editors of Allmusic, as well as critic Garry Sharpe-Young. Sharpe-Young’s multivolume metal encyclopedia separates the underground into five major categories: thrash metal, death metal, black metal, power metal, and the related subgenres of doom, gothic and stoner metal. * Thrash metal
Thrash metal emerged in the early 1980s under the influence of hardcore punk and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, particularly songs in the revved-up style known as speed metal. The movement began in the United States, with Bay Area thrash metal being the leading scene. The sound developed by thrash groups was faster and more aggressive than that of the original metal bands and their glam metal successors. Low-register guitar riffs are typically overlaid with shredding leads. Lyrics often express nihilistic views or deal with social issues using visceral, gory language.
Thrash has been described as a form of “urban blight music” and “a palefaced cousin of rap. ” The subgenre was popularized by the “Big Four of Thrash”: Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth, and Slayer. Three German bands, Kreator, Sodom, and Destruction, played a central role in bringing the style to Europe. Others, including San Francisco Bay Area’s Testament and Exodus, New Jersey’s Overkill, and Brazil’s Sepultura, also had a significant impact. While thrash began as an underground scene, and remained largely that for almost a decade, the leading bands in the movement began to reach a wider audience.
Metallica brought the sound into the top 40 of the Billboard album chart in 1986 with Master of Puppets; two years later, the band’s … And Justice for All hit number 6, while Megadeth and Anthrax had top 40 records. Though less commercially successful than the rest of the Big Four, Slayer released one of the genre’s definitive records: Reign in Blood (1986) was described by Kerrang! as the “heaviest album of all time. ” Two decades later, Metal Hammer named it the best album of the preceding twenty years.
Slayer attracted a following among far-right skinheads, and accusations of promoting violence and Nazi themes have dogged the band. In the early 1990s, thrash achieved breakout success, challenging and redefining the metal mainstream. Metallica’s self-titled 1991 album topped the Billboard chart, Megadeth’s Countdown to Extinction (1992) hit number 2, Anthrax and Slayer cracked the top 10, and albums by regional bands such as Testament and Sepultura entered the top 100. * Death metal Thrash soon began to evolve and split into more extreme metal genres. Slayer’s music was directly responsible for the rise of death metal,” according to MTV News. The NWOBHM band Venom was also an important progenitor. The death metal movement in both North America and Europe adopted and emphasized the elements ofblasphemy and diabolism employed by such acts. Florida’s Death and the Bay Area’s Possessed are recognized as seminal bands in the style. Both groups have been credited with inspiring the subgenre’s name, the latter via its 1984 demo Death Metal and the song “Death Metal,” from its 1985 debut album Seven Churches (1985).
Death metal utilizes the speed and aggression of both thrash and hardcore, fused with lyrics preoccupied with Z-grade slasher movie violence and Satanism. Death metal vocals are typically bleak, involving guttural “death growls,” high-pitched screaming, the “death rasp,” and other uncommon techniques. Complementing the deep, aggressive vocal style are downtuned, highly distorted guitars and extremely fast percussion, often with rapid double bass drumming and “wall of sound”–style blast beats.
Frequent tempo and time signature changes and syncopation are also typical. * Recent trends: mid–late 2000s Metalcore, an originally American hybrid of thrash metal and hardcore punk, emerged as a commercial force in the mid-2000s. It is rooted in the crossover thrashstyle developed two decades earlier by bands such as Suicidal Tendencies, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, and Stormtroopers of Death. Through the 1990s, metalcore was mostly an underground phenomenon.
By 2004, melodic metalcore—influenced as well by melodic death metal—was popular enough that Killswitch Engage’s The End of Heartache and Shadows Fall’s The War Within debuted at numbers 21 and 20, respectively, on the Billboard album chart. Bullet for My Valentine of Wales broke into the top 5 in both the U. S. and British charts with Scream Aim Fire (2008). In recent years, metalcore bands have received prominent slots at Ozzfest and the Download Festival. Lamb of God, with a related blend of metal styles, hit the Billboard top 10 in 2006 with Sacrament. The success of these bands
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