A Brief History of Heavy Metal Music

Heavy metal is a controversial genre of music. It is a love it or hate it style, with some people saying it is nothing but noise, and others feeling it is energizing and driving. Renowned musicians like Tom Hess have been inspired by it, while others feel the exact opposite. To understand heavy metal, you must begin to understand that its roots lie in rock and roll, but that it is influence by the psychedelic and blue sounds of the sixties. It added power chords and distortion, which created hard rock. At the start, bands like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin created something truly new, which has to date still not been completely defined. But then bands like Black Sabbath developed during the 1970s, and true heavy metal was born, in which “swinging” music was truly replaced with “headbanging” music instead.

A Brief History

A new sound was truly born in the 1970s, and it was everywhere. Jethro Tull climbed to world fame, and Boris Karloff used the style for all of his movies. Heavy metal seemed to be linked closely to horror and darkness, which really divided it from regular rock. The lyrical content was also completely different. Rock was all about peace, romance, and happiness. Heavy metal, by contrast, took reality more seriously. In fact, it is said to be influence by Dennis Wheatley, and other occult writers.

Throughout the seventies, other new bands started to define the genre. Thin Lizzy, Motorhead, Kiss, Budgie, Def Leppard, Alice Cooper, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, AC/DC, and Van Halen all developed music that set the standards for others, including Tom Hess. By 1978, however, the “Metal” genre was truly confirmed.

Metal wasn’t only defined by its sound, however. Judas Priest started to introduce the look as well, wearing leather and studs. This became known as “metal fashion” and it took on. In the late seventies and early eighties, the Sunset Strip of Los Angeles scene further developed this look, introducing hairbands, encouraging men to grow their hair long and netted, wear tight jeans, and leather. And, suddenly, eyeliner became hugely important. This was the birth of so called “Glam Metal”, which many fans tried to emulate.

While Glam Metal developed, so did Speed Metal. This was more about musical excellence. Pantera was the main driver behind this. Trash metal quickly followed this, pioneered by “the big four” (Anthrax, Slayer, Megadeth, and Metallica). They set themselves apart by attacking “the establishment”.

Metal has developed tremendously since then. It is now subdivided into genres like black metal, grindcore, death metal, black metal, and more.  Each of these styles had its own specific elements, such as different vocal styles. In 1993, Korn released their debut album, and this was the birth of Nu-Metal, combining alternative metal and thrash metal. Nu-metal became huge, but then it quickly lost popularity again outside of a niche market. That said, some people continue to love this type of metal, and other forms are still being developed as well.