Throughout the course we have learned about popular songs and music genres of the 20th century.
Going from Jazz to Hard rock, we have listened to many timeless songs, yet I kept feeling like one genre was ignored during the course, which to this day insists on surviving and even after over 50 years of existence still remains relevant AND keeps evolving into multiple fusion subgenres.
That genre is Heavy metal.
In my E-book we’ll take a quick plunge into the birth and evolution of Heavy metal from 1968, the year in which it is widely agreed that Heavy metal was created, ’till the late 70’s-Early 80’s when Heavy metal broke into the mainstream.
Before the dark times
But before we race to the point, lets see who the parents of this trouble child are.
The roots of heavy metal are found in the 60’s, the “flower power” hippie era, in which acid, psyhcedelic and blues rock were the top rock genres of the era, with acts of those genres headlining festivals, the biggest being Woodstock.
One of the biggest blues rock bands which had great influence on the creation of the Heavy metal sound:
Of course we can’t forget the heavy distortion guitars and smooth bluesy licks which are an inseparable part of the heavy metal sound. Bands and guitarists kept looking for a new sound, cranking the amplifiers and reaching the screeching evil sound we know and love.
One well known Psychedelic rock guitarist who post-mortem became the godfather of the metal guitar:
The birth of heavy metal
So where did it all start?
1968, Birmingham, England.
The polka tulk blues band, A heavy blues rock band, is formed.
Failing to find success in those times they had to find a new image. noticing the eagerness of people to watch scary movies and the money they are willing to spend made the band take a different path, changing their name to “Black Sabbath”.
In 1969, Black Sabbath released their self-titled debut album, which contained the first heavy metal song, which defined a whole new genre. Thanks to the misfortune of the band’s guitarist, Toni Iommi, who lost his ring and middle finger working in a metal sheet factory, had to use heavier guitar strings and lower tunings and using homemade thimbles as fingertips, creating a new sound never used before.
Using evil dark mystical lyrics, tritones and heavy distortion they created the evilest music known to that period of time (song and lyrics on the next page).
What is this that stands before me?
Figure in black which points at me
Turn ’round quick and start to run
Find out I’m the chosen one
Big black shape with eyes of fire
Telling people their desire
Satan’s sitting there, he’s smiling
Watches those flames get higher and higher
Oh, no, no, please, God, help me
Is it the end, my friend?
Satan’s coming ’round the bend
People running ’cause they’re scared
The people better go and beware
No, no, please, no
The evolution of metal and its rise to popularity
Black Sabbath were a great success, creating a new genre with a new sound. Bands were starting to form and follow this new musical formula, while the big bands of the era remained loyal to the Blues rock sound.
A new sub-genre emerged during that time called Speed Metal, a faster, heavier and dirtier type of music, which upgraded the original formula of heavy metal.
One of the most influential speed metal bands in history:
Metal’s first decade wasn’t its most successful, and its dark occult image didn’t help. The new wave of british heavy metal, a musical movement which paved the metal’s path to global popularity thanks to bands like Iron maiden and Judas Priest, which released music that was more “radio friendly”, a very important element with the rise in radio popularity and being the main source of music during those times. Using much more harmony and cleaner lyrics, these bands helped metal find mainstream popularity.
Other bands of the NWOBHM stayed loyal to the darkness and horror that metal has risen from, making their music much more evil and faster, what later led to the beginning Extreme metal and Thrash metal sub-genres and sub-cultures in the future, which to this day have a thriving, global underground scene.
The godfathers of extreme metal, Venom (1979):
Overseas, in the U.K.’s trans-atlantic cousin, America, the glam rock scene and punk rock are taking over the music industry along side disco and funk, using pretty simple music combined with eye-catching looks to climb to popularity.
One band that helped metal reach popularity overseas in the U.S. was Van Halen, which was a major influence for the hair/glam metal scene, which dominated the early 80’s, the point in history where metal has reached its peak popularity with bands like Motley Crue and Quiet Riot combining the mainstream scene of glam with the heavy shredding sound and shock value imagery of metal, thus creating the glorious clean looking dirty sounding sub-genre of glam metal.
Van Halen – Panama
Motley Crue – Live wire
By the end of the 1980’s traditional metal and its sub-genres up to that point started declining in popularity, but did not fade away.
To this day metal is still one of the most recognized musical genres around the world with a distinctive style and culture.
Metal festivals are held around the world anually, featuring new rising bands and celebrating the wise elders of metal, some of which still perform to this day.
Also the number of sub-genres within metal keeps growing as musicians want to create more fusions between metal and other musical genres, giving us genres such as funk metal, math metal, prog metal and the list keeps going on.
One example is Israel’s very own mid terranean-progressive fusion metal band, Orphaned Land:
Just so you can see what metal is today, Here’s a video of a live concert taken from the Wacken open air festival in Germany of extreme thrash metal band Exodus: