A Legacy of Metal

This week Adam gives us a heavy metal primer…

Metal is an undeniably massive force that cannot be reckoned with. There are many different types of metal, all defined based on the sound and overall theme of the music. One of the most common types is heavy metal. Heavy metal was started in the ’70s by Black Sabbath. Black Sabbath differed from the bands before them because they had a much darker, more ominous sound to their music.

At that time, rock bands such as Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones were staying with the classic rock elements. Other groups, such as Pink Floyd, incorporated a psychedelic rock aspect into their classic rock sound. Until Black Sabbath came around though, these bands were for the most part on the “safe side” of rock. When Sabbath released their first album, critics instantly accused them of being evil Satanists. This was due to front man Ozzy Osbourne’s gloomy lyrics about the occult. Another component was the use of the flat 5th in the song “Black Sabbath.” This note was always referred to as the “Devil’s note,” and it was even at one time believed that by playing it, one could summon the Devil. Black Sabbath uses this note time and time again in their self-titled track “Black Sabbath.” More bands would soon follow, such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Def Leppard. These groups were all British, so it is commonly stated that England is the birthplace of heavy metal.

RattOnce the movement hit America, it started undergoing changes. It began with a more pop-friendly commercial sound, which became known as glam metal. This genre was responsible for bands like Ratt (pictured at right), Poison (below left), and Mötley Crüe (below right). One of the common themes of this genre is the way the bands would dress. The members would wear feminine clothing and makeup; this is what started the name glam metal or glam rock. This look, mixed with the poppy lyrics about love and relationships, created a highly mainstream sensation. The music consisted of simple time structures with high pitched vocals. The guitars would sometimes offer good riffs and technical solos, but for the most part the appeal of the genre was lost on the metal fan base, who wanted something heavier.

Glam Rock

A lot of people got tired of the Glam scene and began craving a harder, heavier sound. It was out of this that speed metal was formed. The first band that revolutionized this movement was Metallica. People were instantly drawn to their heavy sound and musical integrity. Musical integrity means the integrity of the song writing and overall performance; it relies on the energy level of the song and its connection with the audience. The relationship between bands like Metallica or Slayer with their audience was much more aggressive and loyal than any other form of music up until that time. These bands played faster, heavier, and with more energy, and as a result made a much stronger connection with fans in the heavy metal scene. They gripped the heavy metal underground and quickly became legends. Soon to follow were Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax. These three bands, along with Metallica, became known as the Big Four.