Heavy metal

From New World Encyclopedia
Judas Priest Retribution 2005 Tour at the Mark of the Quad Cities, Moline, Illinois.

Heavy metal is a sub-genre of rock music that emerged as a defined musical style in the 1970s. Its roots are firmly entrenched in hard rock bands, which between 1969 and 1974, mixed blues and rock music, creating a thick, heavy, guitar-and-drums-centered sound characterized by the use of highly-amplified guitar sound distortion.[1] Heavy metal performances are characterized by flamboyant, pyrotechnical guitar solos and boundary-defying, defiantly counter-cultural stagecraft. In song lyrics, bands such as MegaDeth, Black Sabbath, Slayer, Nine Inch Nails, and others often dwell on imagery of violence, death, unrestrained hedonism, and occult practices, while mocking religious symbols, faith, and conventional themes of love. While many heavy metal bands are far more socially conscious and avoid these extremes, the impact of such lyrics has been debated in the context of shocking outbreaks of violence among youth.

Out of heavy metal, various sub-genres later evolved, many of which are referred to simply as "metal." As a result, "heavy metal" now has two distinct meanings: Either the genre and all of its subgenres, or the original heavy metal bands of the 1970s style, sometimes dubbed "traditional metal," as exemplified by the bands Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath. Heavy metal continues to have a large world-wide following of fans known by terms such as "metalheads" and "headbangers."

Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Janick Gers and Adrian Smith during an Iron Maiden show in Barcelona
Dream Theater - Bologna


Heavy metal is typically characterized by a guitar-and-drum-dominated sound, strong rhythms, and classical, blues-like, or symphonic styles. However, heavy metal sub-genres have their own stylistic variations on the original form that often omit or alter many of these characteristics. There is a wide variety of sounds and styles within the genre of heavy metal.


The most commonly used line-up for a heavy metal band is a drummer, a bass guitarist, a rhythm guitarist, a lead guitarist, and a singer (who may or may not be an instrumentalist). Keyboards were popular with early metal bands (especially the organ and occasionally the mellotron), but were gradually used less and less frequently. Today they are used by some styles and shunned by others, though as different subgenres develop, they have begun to become more popular. The guitar and the sonic power that it projects through amplification, however, is the key element in heavy metal music.[2] Distortion of the guitar sound is used to create a more powerful, heavier sound. Later, more intricate solos and riffs became a big part of heavy metal music. Guitarists use sweep-picking, tapping and other advanced techniques for rapid playing, and many sub-genres praise virtuosity over simplicity. Also, as technology has developed, new methods of altering the guitar's sound have been adopted.

Heavy metal vocals vary widely in style. Vocalists' abilities and styles range from the multi-octave operatic vocals of Judas Priest's Rob Halford and of Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson, to the intentionally gruff vocals of Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead.

In terms of the live sound, volume is often considered as important as anything.[3] Following the precedence set by Jimi Hendrix and The Who (who once held the distinction of "The World's Loudest Band" in the Guinness Book Of World Records), early heavy metal bands set new benchmarks for sound volume during shows. Tony Iommi, guitarist in heavy metal pioneer Black Sabbath, is just one of the early heavy metal musicians to suffer considerable hearing loss due to the music's loud volume. Detroit rocker Ted Nugent and guitarist Pete Townshend of The Who are nearly deaf. Heavy metal's volume fixation was mocked in the "rockumentary" spoof This Is Spinal Tap by guitarist "Nigel Tufnel," who revealed that his Marshall amplifiers had been modified to "go up to eleven."

In the early part of the 1970s, bands with two lead guitarists began to emerge. Wishbone Ash, The Allman Brothers Band, the Scorpions, Thin Lizzy, and Judas Priest all made notable use of dual leads and harmonies. Many bands, such as Iron Maiden, would follow this pattern of having two guitarists share the role of both lead and rhythm guitar.


As is common in popular music, strong visuals and images are part of heavy metal. Album covers and stage shows are as much a part of the presentation of the material as the music itself, though seldom exceeding the music in priority. Thus, through heavy metal, many artists collaborate to produce a menu of experiences in each piece, thus offering a wider range of experiences to the audience. In this respect, heavy metal becomes perhaps more of a diverse art form than any single form dominated by one method of expression. Whereas a painting is experienced visually and a symphony is experienced audibly, a heavy metal band's "image" and the common theme that binds all of its music is expressed in the artwork on the album, the set of the stage, the tone of the lyrics, and the clothes of the band, in addition to the sound of the music.

Rock historians tend to find that the influence of Western pop music gives heavy metal its escape-from-reality fantasy side through outlandish and fantastic lyrics. At the same time, heavy metal's deep roots in blues rock contribute a more realistic, cathartic quality, focusing on loss, depression, and loneliness.

If the aural and thematic components of heavy metal are predominantly blues-influenced reality, then the visual component is predominantly pop-influenced fantasy. The themes of darkness, evil, power, and apocalypse are language components for addressing the reality of life's problems. In reaction to the "peace and love" hippie culture of the 1960s, heavy metal developed as a counterculture, where light is supplanted by darkness and the happy ending of pop is replaced by the naked reality that things do not always work out as planned. While some fans claim that the medium of darkness is not the message, critics have accused the genre of glorifying the negative aspects of reality.

Heavy metal themes are typically more grave than the generally light pop from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, focusing on war, nuclear annihilation, environmental issues, and political or religious propaganda. Black Sabbath's "War Pigs," Ozzy Osbourne's "Killer of Giants," Metallica's "…And Justice for All," Iron Maiden's "2 Minutes to Midnight," and Accept's "Balls to the Wall" are examples of contributions to the discussion of the world's alleged state of affairs. The commentary tends to become over-simplified because the poetic vocabulary of metal deals primarily in dichotomies of good vs. evil, not leaving room for more complex "shades of gray."

Classical influence

The appropriation of "classical" music by heavy metal typically includes the influence of Baroque, Romantic, and Modernist composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Niccolò Paganini, Richard Wagner, and Ludwig van Beethoven. In the 1980s, heavy metal appropriated much of its speed and technique from early eighteenth century "classical" influences. For instance, classically-inspired guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen's technical prowess inspired a myriad of neo-classical players including Michael Romeo, Michael Angelo Batio, and Tony MacAlpine.

Several music experts and metal musicians have noted the role of the tritone in heavy metal,[4] a dissonant interval comprising a root note and an augmented fourth/diminished fifth, for example, C and F sharp, which ostensibly results in a "heavy," "evil" sound, so much so that its use was supposedly banned in medieval composition as Diabolus in Musica ("the devil in music"). The evocative tritone, which was exploited by Romantic composers and is definitive to the blues scale, is part of metal's heritage, and fundamental to its solos and riffs, as in the beginning of the eponymous Black Sabbath CD.

The late Baroque era of Western music was also frequently interpreted through a gothic lens. For example, "Mr. Crowley," (1981) by Ozzy Osbourne and guitarist Randy Rhoads, uses both a pipe organ-like synthesizer and Baroque-inspired guitar solos to create a particular mood for Osbourne's lyrics concerning the occultist Aleister Crowley. For the introduction to 1982s "Diary of a Madman," Rhoads borrowed heavily from Cuban classical guitar composer Leo Brouwer's "Etude #6." Like many other metal guitarists in the 1980s, Rhoads quite earnestly took up the "learned" study of musical theory and helped to solidify the minor industry of guitar pedagogy magazines (including Guitar for the Practicing Musician) that grew during the decade. In most instances, however, metal musicians who borrowed the technique and rhetoric of art music were not attempting to "be" classical musicians.

Composer Johann Sebastian Bach is known for being able to "write musical equivalents of verbal ideas, such as undulating a melody to represent the sea."[5] Progressive rock bands such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer and the band Yes had already explored this dynamic before heavy metal evolved. As heavy metal uses apocalyptic themes and images of power and darkness, the ability to successfully translate verbal ideas into music is often seen as critical to its authenticity and credibility. An example of this is the album Powerslave by Iron Maiden.[6] The cover is of a dramatic Egyptian scene and many of the songs on the album have subject matter requiring a sound suggestive of life and death, including a song titled "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," based on the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.


The term "heavy metal"

Tony Iommi, Black Sabbath guitarist

The origin of the term "heavy metal" in relation to a form of music is uncertain. The phrase had been used for centuries in chemistry and metallurgy and is listed as such in the Oxford English Dictionary. An early use of the term in modern popular culture was by counter-culture writer William S. Burroughs. In the 1962 novel, The Soft Machine, he introduces the character "Uranian Willy, the Heavy Metal Kid." His next novel in 1964, Nova Express, develops this theme further, "heavy metal" being 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[7]

The first recorded use of "heavy metal" in a song lyric is the phrase "heavy metal thunder" in the 1968 Steppenwolf song "Born To Be Wild."

I like smoke and lightning

Heavy metal thunder
Racin' with the wind

And the feelin' that I'm under

The book The History of Heavy Metal states the name as a take from "hippiespeak." The word "heavy," meaning serious or profound, had entered beatnik counterculture slang some time earlier, and references to "heavy music" which were typically slower, more amplified variations of standard pop fare, were already common. When the band Iron Butterfly first started playing in Los Angeles in 1967, their name was explained on an album cover as, "Iron—symbolic of something heavy as in sound, Butterfly—light, appealing and versatile…an object that can be used freely in the imagination." Iron Butterfly's 1968 debut album was titled Heavy. The fact that Led Zeppelin (whose moniker came partly in reference to Keith Moon's jest that they would "go down like a lead balloon") incorporated a heavy metal into its name may have sealed the usage of the term.

In the late 1960s, Birmingham, England was still a center for manufacturing and given the many rock bands that evolved in and around the city, such as Led Zeppelin, The Move, and Black Sabbath, some people suggest that the term Heavy Metal may be related to such activity. Biographies of The Move have claimed that the sound came from their "heavy" guitar riffs that were popular among the "metal midlands."

Allen Lanier in the middle, Eric Bloom on the left, and Buck Dharma on the right, members of Blue Öyster Cult.

Sandy Pearlman, original producer, manager, and songwriter for the Blue Öyster Cult, claims to have been the first person to apply the term "heavy metal" to rock music in 1970. In creating much of the band's image, which included tongue-in-cheek references to the occult, Pearlman came up with a symbol for the group which was similar to the use of a symbol Iron Maiden later included on its album cover artwork, the alchemical symbol for lead, one of the heaviest of metals. Pearlman put forth this term to describe the type of music that Blue Öyster Cult played.

A late, but disputed, hypothesis about the origin of the genre was brought forth by "Chas" Chandler, a manager of the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1969, in an interview on the PBS TV program Rock and Roll in 1995. He states that "…it [heavy metal] was a term originating in a New York Times article reviewing a Jimi Hendrix performance," and claims the author described the Jimi Hendrix Experience "…like listening to heavy metal falling from the sky." The precise source of this claim, however, has not been found and its accuracy is disputed.

The first well-documented usage of the term "heavy metal" referring to a style of music, appears to be the May 1971 issue of Creem Magazine, in a review of Sir Lord Baltimore's Kingdom Come. In this review readers are told that "Sir Lord Baltimore seems to have down pat most all the best heavy metal tricks in the book".[8] Creem critic Lester Bangs subsequently has been credited with popularizing the term in the early 1970s for bands such as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.[9]

"Heavy metal" may have been used as a jibe initially by a number of music critics but was quickly adopted by its adherents. Other, already-established bands, such as Deep Purple, which had origins in pop or progressive rock, immediately took on the heavy metal mantle, adding distortion and additional amplification in a more aggressive approach.

Origins (1960s and early 1970s)

American blues music was highly popular and influential among the early British rockers. Bands like the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds had recorded covers of many classic blues songs, sometimes speeding up the tempo and using electric guitars where the original used acoustic steel-string guitars. Similar adaptations of blues and other African American music had formed the basis of the earliest rock and roll, notably that of Elvis Presley.

Such powered-up blues music was encouraged by the intellectual and artistic experimentation that arose when musicians started to exploit the opportunities of the electrically amplified guitar to produce a louder and more dissonant sound. Where blues-rock drumming styles had been largely simple, such as shuffle beats on small drum kits, drummers began using a more muscular, complex, and amplified style. Similarly, vocalists modified their technique and increased their reliance on amplification, often becoming more stylized and dramatic in the process. Simultaneous advances in amplification and recording technology made it possible to successfully capture the power of this heavier approach on record.

The earliest music commonly identified as heavy metal came out of the United Kingdom in the late 1960s when bands such as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath applied an overtly non-traditional approach to blues standards and created new music often based on blues scales and arrangements. These bands were highly influenced by American psychedelic rock musicians such as Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix, who had pioneered amplified and processed blues-rock guitar and acted as a bridge between African American music and European rockers.

Other oft-cited influences include the band Vanilla Fudge, that had slowed down and "psychedelicized" pop tunes, as well as earlier British rock groups such as The Who and The Kinks, that had created an opening for heavy metal styles by introducing power chords and more aggressive percussion to the rock genre. Another key influence was the band Cream, which exemplified the power trio format that would become a staple of heavy metal.

The Kinks' 1964 tune "You Really Got Me" has even been cited as one of the very first "heavy metal" songs. It was perhaps the first to use a repetitive, distorted, power-chord riff as its basis.

By 1968, heavy blues sounds were becoming commonplace and many fans and scholars point to Blue Cheer's January 1968 cover of Eddie Cochran's hit "Summertime Blues" as the first true heavy metal song. Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" (released in January 1968), and the Yardbirds' single, "Think About It" (recorded January 1968; released March 1968) should also be mentioned. The latter employed a similar sound to which Jimmy Page would employ with Led Zeppelin. These were soon followed by Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" (July 1968).

Beatles scholars cite in particular the song "Helter Skelter" from the Beatles album more commonly known as The White Album (November 1968) and the single version of the song "Revolution" (November 1968), which set new standards for distortion and aggressive sound on a pop album. Dave Edmunds' band Love Sculpture also released an aggressive heavy guitar version of Khachaturian's "Sabre Dance" in November 1968. The Jeff Beck Group's album Truth (August 1968) was an important and influential rock album. Released just before Led Zeppelin's first album (January 1969), leading some (especially British blues fans) to argue that Truth was the first heavy metal album.

Progressive rock band King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man" from their debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King (1969), featured most of the thematic, compositional, and musical characteristics of heavy metal. The album featured a very heavily distorted guitar tone and discordant solo by Robert Fripp with lyrics that focused on what is wrong with the twenty-first century human. Passing singer Greg Lake's vocals through a distortion box contributed to creating the dark mood featured in the song.

The 1970 releases by Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple defined and codified the genre that would be known as heavy metal.[10] Many of the first heavy metal bands—Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, and UFO, among others—are often now called hard rock bands by the modern metal community rather than heavy metal, especially those bands whose sound was more similar to traditional rock music. In general, the terms "heavy metal" and "hard rock" are often used interchangeably, in particular when discussing the 1970s. Indeed, many such bands are not considered "heavy metal bands" per se, but rather as having donated individual songs or works that contributed to the genre. Few would consider Jethro Tull a heavy metal band in any real sense, but few would dispute that their song, "Aqualung" was an early heavy metal song. Another group that early on crossed the murky lines between psychedelic and heavy metal was Hawkwind, with songs like "Master of the Universe" (1971) that enjoyed a cult following.

Many of the proto-metal bands are also considered protopunk, like The Stooges, the MC5, The Who, the New York Dolls, Alice Cooper, The Troggs, and Blue Cheer.

Classic heavy metal (late 1970s and early 1980s)

The late 1970s and early 1980s history of heavy metal music is highly debated among music historians. Bands like Blue Öyster Cult achieved moderate mainstream success and the Los Angeles, California glam metal scene began finding pop audiences—especially in the 1980s. Others ignore or downplay the importance of these bands, instead focusing on the arrival of classical influences—which can be heard in the work of Randy Rhoads. Others still highlight the late-1970s cross-fertilization of heavy metal with fast-paced, youthful punk rock (e.g., Sex Pistols), culminating in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal around the year 1980, led by bands like Motörhead and Iron Maiden.

Some followers, including Heavy Metal musicians of prominent groups, believe that the foundations of the definitive style and sound of pure heavy metal were laid down by Judas Priest with three of their early albums: Sad Wings Of Destiny (1976), Sin After Sin (1977), and Stained Class (1978).

The band Rainbow is also sometimes cited as pioneering pure heavy metal. This claim can also be made about the later albums of Deep Purple such as Burn and Stormbringer, but these bands are generally considered to be "hard rock" bands. Beginning with Judas Priest, metal bands quickly began to look beyond the almost exclusive use of the blues scale to incorporate diatonic modes into their solos. This more complex approach has since spread throughout many sub-genres of metal and the main contributions were made by European classical music and jazz (via progressive rock) to the metal genre.

Guitar virtuosity was brought to the fore by Eddie Van Halen, and many consider his 1978 solo on "Eruption" (Van Halen (album) 1978) a milestone. Ritchie Blackmore (formerly of Deep Purple), Randy Rhoads (with Ozzy Osbourne and Quiet Riot), and Yngwie Malmsteen went on to further virtuoso guitar work. In some cases, classical nylon-stringed guitars were played at heavy metal concerts and on heavy metal albums (for example, Rhoades' "Dee" on Blizzard of Ozz). Classical icons such as Liona Boyd also became associated with the heavy metal stars in a newly diverse guitar fraternity where conservative and aggressive guitarists could come together to "trade licks."

Mainstream dominance (1980s)

The most popular subgenre of heavy metal emerged in the United States. Coming from glam metal bands of the 1980s, the epicenter for this explosion was mostly in the Sunset Strip of Los Angeles, California. The first wave of glam metal included the likes of Mötley Crüe, Ratt, W.A.S.P., Dokken, and Twisted Sister. Early glam metal groups were influenced by heavy metal acts such as Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, incorporating guitar solos into the majority of their songs. Bands such as Mötley Crüe and W.A.S.P. expanded on the foundations laid by Alice Cooper and the band KISS in regards to stage show, often venturing into shock rock territory. In one form or another, glam metal would dominate the mainstream airwaves from the early 1980s until the early 1990s. At times the likes of Dio, Ozzy Osbourne, and Judas Priest experimented with glam metal style in their music.

The genre caused a divide in the evolving metal community of the 1980s, largely due to the glam metal bands' image, especially that of the more feminine-looking bands such as Poison and Bon Jovi.

Underground metal (1980s, 1990s, and 2000s)

Many subgenres of heavy metal developed during the 1980s.[11] Several attempts have been made to map the complex world of underground metal, most notably by the editors of the online All Music Guide, as well as critic Gary Sharpe-Young. Sharpe-Young's multi-volume metal encyclopedias separate the underground into five major categories: Thrash metal, death metal, black metal, power metal, and, lastly, the related sub-genres of doom metal, goth metal, and stoner metal.

In a move away from metal's hard rock roots, a genre heavily influenced by hardcore punk emerged in the 1980s as thrash metal. The genre's sound was much louder, faster, and more aggressive than the original metal bands or their glam metal contemporaries, and the guitar work was often more technically complex. This subgenre was popularized by the "Big Four Of Thrash," Anthrax, Megadeath, Metallica, and Slayer.[12]. Bands such as San Francisco's Testament and Exodus, New Jersey's Overkill and Brazil's Sepultura also made an impact. With the exception of Metallica, which sold consistently in the millions and even appeared on the Billboard magazine's chart at #6 with "…And Justice for All" during the 1980s, thrash metal remained underground in terms of sales and media coverage, compared to more popular subgenres. During the 1990s, sales of thrash metal improved, particularly sales of the "big four."

In the early and mid 1990s, thrash began to evolve and split further into more extreme metal genres such as death metal and black metal. Many death metal bands would eventually showcase levels of speed and technicality that were previously unheard of, and while skilled guitar work remained highly valued (as in most metal genres) death metal also featured a more prominent role from skilled, versatile, and fast drummers. Death metal vocals are typically harsh and involve guttural growling, high-pitched screaming, and other such atonal vocalizations that are usually not found in other genres of music. Complimenting the deep, aggressive vocal style are downtuned, highly distorted guitars and extremely fast drums that make use of rapid bass drum and double bass drumming and syncopation. Frequent tempo and time signature changes are not uncommon. Death metal (a term probably originating from Possessed's song "Death Metal," off their Seven Churches album), led by Possessed and Death, would evolve into various sub-genres and would produce many notable bands, such as Nile and Suffocation.

Black metal is an extreme metal genre that began in Europe and is perhaps one of the most underground metal genres (although some symphonic black metal bands such as Dimmu Borgir have become very popular). Satanic and Pagan themes are common in the genre. Black metal (a term coined by Venom, from an album titled Black Metal) eventually produced an "inner circle" of bands that would become associated with considerable violence in 1990s. Black metal can vary considerably in its production quality and style, although most bands make use of shrieked and growled vocals, highly distorted guitars and emphasize a "dark" atmosphere. Denmark's Mercyful Fate are often considered the originators of the corpse paint that is common to Black Metal. Bathory (generally considered one of the first black metal acts although they later involved more Viking themes), Celtic Frost, and Mayhem were key bands early on, and one of the most well known and technically proficient black metal bands is Emperor.

From the 1980s and into the 1990s power metal, especially in Europe, evolved in an opposite direction from death metal and thrash by keeping the speed, anti-commercial mentality, and intensity of heavy metal, but focusing on upbeat and epic themes and melodies. Power metal usually involves high pitched "clean singing" similar to that of NWOBHM vocalists, such as Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson, instead of death grunts. Traditional power metal bands such as Manowar and Hammerfall have a sound very close to classic heavy metal while more modern power metal bands such as Nightwish, Dragonforce, and Rhapsody of Fire often have a strong keyboard-based symphonic influence, sometimes using orchestra and opera singers. Power metal has gained a strong fanbase in South America and Japan.

At a time when thrash ruled the metal underground, a new genre known as doom metal (beginning in the 1980s with such bands as Saint Vitus) took the opposite approach. Instead of emphasizing speed, doom bands slowed the music down to a crawl. The themes, style, and approach of the genre were deeply indebted to Black Sabbath, and have remained so to this day.

Progressive metal, a fusion of the progressive styles of bands such as Rush, King Crimson, and heavy metal began in the 1980s behind innovators such as Fates Warning, Queensrÿche, and Dream Theater, which enjoyed substantial mainstream acceptance and success in the glam metal era.

Alternative metal and nu metal (1990s and 2000s)

The era of metal dominating the mainstream came to an end with the emergence of Nirvana and other grunge bands that signaled the popular breakthrough of alternative rock.[13]

With this breakthrough, bands active since the 1980s began to become more widely known and achieve mainstream attention. In particular, bands that had fused alternative rock and heavy metal styles began to gain momentum and formed the fusion genre called alternative metal. This included a wide variety of acts, including the grunge-based band Alice in Chains, the goth-influenced Jane's Addiction, the noise rock-infused White Zombie, and groups influenced by a wide variety of other alternative genres. Red Hot Chili Peppers infused their alternative rock with punk, funk, hip hop, and metal, Danzig continued Glenn Danzig's progression from punk, through deathrock (with Samhain) and into metal, Ministry began incorporating metal into their industrial music, and Primus combined elements of funk, punk, thrash metal, and experimental music.

As alternative metal achieved wider mainstream success, more notable bands from the genre, including Fear Factory, Helmet, Marilyn Manson, Rage Against the Machine, and Tool, influenced a new wave of rock bands. These bands were not the preceding fusion of alternative rock and heavy metal, but a new genre derived from it, and came to be known as nu metal. Korn, Papa Roach, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Slipknot and P.O.D. are among the most prominent nu metal bands. Nu metal gained mainstream success through heavy MTV rotation and the 1996 formation of Ozzy Osbourne's Ozzfest metal music festival, which led the media to talk of a resurgence of heavy metal.[14] Much debate has arisen over nu metal's massive success and whether or not it is metal in the conventional sense, with fans of extreme metal genres (itself the subject of debate by purists) often insisting it is not. In recent years, Ozzfest has had many metalcore bands playing and has helped the genre gain popularity. Some see this style as nu metal's successor, while others believe that it will become popular and fashionable in the same way as nu metal.

Pantera was a key formulator of the groove metal (post-thrash) distant subgenre of heavy metal music. Slower, eerier metal became more prominent as more bands left commonplace influences for the bluesy, deep sound of the original heavy metal groups like Led Zeppelin. The most prominent group of this first-wave metal revival was arguably Type O Negative, which claimed influence by Black Sabbath and even the later work of The Beatles. This led to a surge in the popularity of doom metal, as well as a resurgence of interest in early heavy metal bands.

Recent trends (mid 2000s and 2010s)

Although many genres of metal are considered to be fairly underground, metal in all of its forms is still very alive and well, which is likely due to the extremely dedicated fanbases of the various metal scenes. The late 1990s and 2000s produced many bands that have built on and progressed from the work of their predecessors, and this has resulted in the evolution of unique and distinctive styles for bands such as Gojira, Strapping Young Lad, Nile, and Mastodon.

In the 2000s, an extreme metal fusion genre known as deathcore emerged. Deathcore incorporates elements of death metal, hardcore punk, and metalcore. Deathcore features characteristics such as death metal riffs, hardcore punk breakdowns, death growling, "pig squeal"-sounding vocals, and screaming. Deathcore bands include Whitechapel, Suicide Silence, Despised Icon, and Carnifex.

In the mid 2000s, a traditional heavy metal revival of sorts began to emerge, with bands being influenced and playing music in the style of the original 1970s pioneers of the genre; such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple.

These new bands, sometimes called "retro-metal," included Wolfmother, The Illuminati, Witchcraft, The Sword, Witch, and Irish band The Answer. These bands gained recognition in popular music media recently such as Revolver, Kerrang!, Guitar World, and in particular Classic Rock, which voted The Answer as "Best New Band 2005." At the same time, Wolfmother reached #25 in the United Kingdom album charts and #22 on the United States Billboard chart in 2005.

In addition, several reunions helped regain some lost interest in the classic metal style and in the process caused new developments in the sound of metal. Black Sabbath's reunion with their original vocalist in 1997, Judas Priest's reunion with their original vocalist in 2003, as well as many others, turned younger audiences on to older bands. These bands usually begin with the idea of doing a one-off tour; however, most of the time, the bands decide to stick together for the long run.

By the early 2010s, metalcore was evolving to more frequently incorporate synthesizers and elements from genres beyond rock and metal. The album Reckless & Relentless by British band Asking Alexandria (which sold 31,000 copies in its first week), and The Devil Wears Prada's 2011 album Dead Throne (which sold 32,400 in its first week) reached up to number 9 and 10, respectively, on the Billboard 200 chart. In 2013, British band Bring Me the Horizon released their fourth studio album Sempiternal to critical acclaim.

Also in the 2010s, a metal style called "djent" developed as a spinoff of standard progressive metal. Djent music uses rhythmic and technical complexity, heavily distorted, palm-muted guitar chords, syncopated riffs, and polyrhythms alongside virtuoso soloing. Another typical characteristic is the use of extended range seven, eight, and nine-string guitars. Djent bands include Periphery, Tesseract, and Textures.

Cultural impact

The loud, confrontational aspects of heavy metal have led to friction between fans and mainstream society in many countries. The controversy results from the fact that public perception, especially in conservative societies, thinks of heavy metal subculture as a promoter of hedonism and occasional anti-religious sentiments. In Jordan, for example, all Metallica albums, past, present and future, were banned in 2001. In Europe and America, the fan base for heavy metal consists primarily of white males in their teens and twenties—many of whom are attracted to heavy metal's overtly anti-social yet fantastical lyrics and extreme volume and tempos. Hence, the stereotype of the adolescent headbanger venting his rebellious urges by listening to loud, morbid music emerged.

The influence of popular entertainment on behavior continues to be debated. A 2006 study by the RAND Corporation, for example, found that 12- to 17-year-olds who frequently listen to music with sexually degrading lyrics were almost twice as likely to engage in sexual activities within the next two years as peers who rarely or never listen to such songs. Many anecdotal accounts have also implicated immoderate exposure to extreme heavy metal as contributing factors to acts of criminal violence.

In 1993, for example, a 15-year-old Houston teen killed his mother while listening to Megadeth's "Go to Hell." The following year, an Ohio man stabbed and killed his father after a 10-hour metal binge that included Metallica's Kill 'Em All. In 1995, 15-year-old Elyse Marie Pahler was tortured, raped and murdered in a satanic ritual imitating lyrics of a Slayer song. Then, two teen fans of Marilyn Manson committed suicide (separately) in 1997. The father of one of the victims spoke at a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing, saying, "I failed to recognize that my son was holding a hand grenade, and it was live, and it was going to go off in his mind." Other cases in Europe have linked black metal (a specific subgenre focusing on intensely anti-Christian messages) with church burnings in Norway and satanic ritual murders in Italy. Few argue that violent, angry lyrics, or pervasive violence in other popular entertainment, are a direct cause of violent acts, yet the impact of such pervasive messages on developing youth remains a serious concern for social scientists and mental health professionals.

Aspects of Heavy Metal culture have become a common sight at many rock concerts; for instance, the "corna" hand sign resembling devil horns popularized by vocalist Ronnie James Dio during his time with Black Sabbath and his solo band Dio). During the 1970s and 1980s, flirtation with occult themes by artists such as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, KISS, Mercyful Fate, Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin, Mötley Crüe, Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, and W.A.S.P., led to accusations of "Satanic" influences in heavy metal by fundamentalist Christians. One popular contention, not necessarily true, was that heavy metal albums during that period featured hidden messages urging listeners to worship the Devil or to commit suicide.

Related styles

Hard rock, as mentioned earlier, is closely related to heavy metal (and often the terms overlap in usage), but it does not always match the description of what purists consider the definition of heavy metal. While still guitar-driven in nature and usually riff-based, its themes and execution differ from those of the major heavy metal bands listed earlier in this article. This is perhaps best exemplified by The Who in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as well as other 1970s and 1980s bands that have had a large influence on heavy metal music, such as Queen, AC/DC, Aerosmith, KISS, Thin Lizzy, and the Scorpions.

Glam rock (or glitter rock)—a short-lived era in the early 1970s, relied on heavy, crunchy guitars, anthemic songs, and a theatrical images. T. Rex, David Bowie (particularly in his incarnation as Ziggy Stardust), and Alice Cooper are among the more popular standard examples of this sub-genre.

Some cross-influence has occurred between punk rock and heavy metal. Motörhead's band leader Lemmy Kilmister spent time in punk band The Damned, and attempted to teach Sid Vicious how to play bass guitar.

Alternative rock, particularly grunge, sometimes is influenced by heavy metal. Some grunge bands such as Soundgarden and Alice in Chains were marketed as metal before alternative became a viable commercial force.


  1. Deena Weinstein, Heavy Metal: The Music and its Culture (New York: DaCapo, 2000, ISBN 0306809702).
  2. Weinstein, 23.
  3. Weinstein, 23.
  4. Sam Dunn, Metal: A Headbanger's Journey IMDb, 2005. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  5. Johann Sebastian Bach "The Fifth Evangelist" Christianity Today. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  6. Steve Huey, Iron Maiden Powerslave Allmusic.com. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  7. William S. Burroughs, Nova Express (New York: Grove Press, 1964, ISBN 0802133304), 112.
  8. Deena Weinstein, Just So Stories: How Heavy Metal Got Its Name—A Cautionary Tale Rock Music Studies 1(1) (2014): 36-51. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  9. Weinstein, 19.
  10. Robert Walser, Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music (Wesleyan University Press, 1993), 10.
  11. Weinstein, 21.
  12. Walser, 14.
  13. Ian Christe, Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal (HarperCollins, 2003), 304-306.
  14. Christe, 324.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Burroughs, William S. Nova Express. New York: Grove Press, 1964. ISBN 0802133304
  • Christe, Ian. Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal. HarperCollins, 2003. ISBN 0380811278
  • Walser, Robert. Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music. Wesleyan University Press, 1993. ISBN 0819562602
  • Weinstein, Deena. Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology. Lexington, 1991. ISBN 0669218375

External links

All links retrieved November 22, 2020.


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