Metal, often referred to as heavy metal, is a genre developed from rock music. Now that might seem a little obvious, but the music itself goes a whole lot further than that. For those wondering what this is, “Heavy Metal: Faces Of The Genre and a Lifetime Of Work” is a definitive guide to metal, its genres, its sub-genres, its fusion genres, the pioneers of metal, idols in the industry and labels that work so hard to bring you your favorite music.
From the early 1960s, there has always been a hint of metal in mainstream music. What was considered “extreme” back then could only be considered the foundations, the building blocks of modern metal, and would see the birth of one of the most varied and massive genres to ever hit the world! It is noted that metal was originally conceived in the United Kingdom and America but from there, an industry was born and the world turned over. Despite the negative implications often associated with the genre at the time by parents, community and even the religious sector; Metal has stood strong and is continuing to grow, expand and gain influence on every continent of this earth. The genre has always been categorized by its overall loudness, beats, up-tempo passages, high gain to distorted amplifier sounds and the often ‘rough’ attitude from artists that wear the metal banner “loud and proud”.
So without further ado, let’s begin this journey of a lifetime.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s acts were noted for being the fathers of the metal genre, needless to say the genre’s stereotypes have changed a lot from then but acts like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath attracted large audiences, but often were put on the harsh end of the critic’s stick, which unfortunately came for most acts within the genre at the time.
Now in case you have been hiding out in some desert cave since the glorious 50’s these three bands are considered some of today’s biggest influence to modern groups but the ball didn’t just start with these three pioneering groups. There are others who hold the flag and represent what it meant to be “hard rock” or “heavy metal”. From the early days; The Who, Beatles, Cream, Rush, Journey and wit all honesty this list will go on and on. From acts that were originally knocked back by mainstream society, often accredited to being Satan/Devil worship to be some of the most well-known, prolific acts to ever hit the music industry, all in a matter of years. From the start, the genre proved that it was resilient, even when backed against the wall and frowned on by what seemed to be the world over.
The genre found its roots in the form of Memphis blues, yes, blues in the 1950’s. However, that doesn’t mean blues created metal in the 50’s instead it took almost a decade for the sound to develop and stand on its own accord. Think, the Rolling Stones. If there’s been a few names that have thus far stood the tests of time, the likes of The Rolling Stones are one of them.
So if the question was asked: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” My answer is simple; the egg came first in the shape of United Kingdom blues rock bands which in turn, influenced the American scene and from that egg, well… the chicken grew and grew. The tempos got faster, and the sound found itself “dirtier”. This is where the music itself became the building blocks for heavy metal. If there’s any other forces that made an impact on the metal scene it doesn’t take long to remember the likes of such seminal acts; The Who, Cream, and who could forget The Jimi Hendrix Experience! Hendrix’s virtuosity in technique would be emulated by many metal guitarists and the album’s most successful single, “Purple Haze”, is identified by some as the first heavy metal hit.
By the late 1960’s things moved towards a more approachable, modernly viewed metal sound. And their were a few candidates for the ‘first ever metal album’. Steppenwolf released their self-titled debut, which radio hit “Born To Be Wild” and coined the term, “heavy metal thunder” which sparked the flint to the hard rock/metal scene. In the same month, San Francisco band Blue Cheer released a cover ofEddie Cochran’s classic “Summertime Blues”, from their debut album “Vincebus Eruptum”, that many consider the first true heavy metal recording but it wasn’t until later in July, The Yardbirds’ “Think About It” (from the 1967 Yardbirds album Little Games)—B-side of the band’s last single—with a performance by guitarist Jimmy Page; and Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, with its 17-minute-long title track, which would be a prime candidate for first-ever heavy metal album.
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 energetically molten, barbed, downright unique sounds of all time,” which became a 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, at the time.
To the next chapter… Part Two.