Evolution Of Heavy Metal


Evolution Of Heavy Metal Essay, Research Paper

Jesse DiBona

The Evolution of Heavy Metal

The world of music since its beginning has seen changes of every kind. Every genre has spawned into almost a completely new type of music. Everything from rap, alternative, country, and techno have all come from other types of music. Heavy metal is no exception. Although this rock style has changed greatly over the past thirty years, there are definite aspects of the music that have remained and will continue to do so as long as the style exists.

No one really knows exactly where the term Heavy Metal originated. Most people attribute the phrase to the 1968 Steppenwolf song, Born to be Wild where the singer says, I like smoke and lightening, heavy metal thunder. But, an interview conducted with former Jimi Hendrix manager, Chas Chandler quoted a New York Times article s review of a Jimi Hendrix concert, like listening to heavy metal falling from the sky (Browne 1). Despite where it came from, the term Heavy Metal is the definite name of a definite style of music.

The first bands to really boast the music that fits the title emerged in the later 1960 s and earned their popularity in the 1970 s. Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, two bands born in Britain paved the way for what was presumably the first real heavy metal. The two artists shared similar musical components, including guitar and bass, drums, and vocals. The early metal music consisted of guitar and bass riffs, which are repeated rhythms, and usually identical rhythms between guitar and bass, and heavier more obnoxious drumming, obtained by utilizing and open high-hat. In some songs, such as Black Sabbath s Iron Man , the guitar, drums, bass, and vocals were all the same. This offered heavy metal s lowest point of complexity, but the originality of the method helped to propel the style to its first success. Sabbath and Zeppelin were also notorious for their extended guitar solos, boasting the talent of the musicians in the band. Solos had been few and far between, since the earlier jazz stylings of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

Zeppelin, originally a blues based outfit later abandoned the style to experiment with new musical ventures, like world music, and ballad oriented tunes. Sabbath continued on as the forerunner in heavy metal throughout the 1970 s, opening the door for the success of other metal bands. Alice Cooper, who had hit the scene in 1965, brought more relevant stage antics to the style; with his campy horror movie-like stage shows, consisting of fake monsters, blood, and decapitations. A band called Kiss carried the torch afterward with similarly weird live shows, where the members wore makeup and huge boots with strange clothing, fire and pyrotechnics.

By the end of the 1970 s, the harbingers of Heavy Metal were gone due to their own substance abuse from their respective tours. John Ozzy Osbourne, the lead singer of Black Sabbath cut away from the band because of differences occurring due to the band s musical inconsistency resulting from drug use. Drummer John Bonham of Led Zeppelin died from years of alcoholism and the band immediately called it quits.

The 1980 s had soon begun. And with it came the birth of a new era in Heavy Metal. Some of the music was very heavy and fast, like Motorhead, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden, but some was very different. Perhaps no one had ever expected heavy metal music to ever appear onto pop charts. But the 1980 s glam rock metal movement did just that. And invasion of almost identically sounding rock bands all dove for a piece of the pie in the 80 s. Such bands included Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, the Scorpions, Poison, and Motely Crue. These bands wrote sappy love ballads and wore clothing that appealed to a wider audience, especially a female audience. Their success spanned a wide variety of popular music fans, ultimately leaving most to believe that they were more of the pop genre than a crossover heavy metal genre.

When underground heavy metal bands like Mortorhead, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest, all seemed to be an endangered species, other bands with a similar sound pummeled their way onto the scene. Bands of this nature featured double bass pedals on drums as well as heavy guitar distortion, resulting in fast tempos, extremely fast guitar solo s and loud, obnoxious, growling vocals. The pioneers of this style, most refer to as speed or thrash metal, were Slayer, Metallica, and Megadeth. They were in for a long stay in the world of heavy metal, with their success helping spawn more new raw styles.

Albums such as Hellhammer s Apocalyptic Raids signified the beginning of a new extreme, death metal (Silveyra 4). And later bands such as Morbid Angel and Sepultura carved the style in stone. Death metal is a dark style consisting of extremely heavy guitar riffs, double bass driven drumming, and growling, almost incoherent vocals.

The late 80s also brought on the extended use of synthesizers in heavy metal music. The result was a strange type of music called Industrial Metal. This style was less instrumentally oriented, but vocally similar to death metal. Ministry was the first and most influential member of this genre. They are also one of the only originators still in existence.

At the beginning of the 1990 s, metal was going down the drain. Pop metal was no longer considered a legitimate type of music and thrash metal bands like Slayer and Megadeth were being ignored, especially after co-pioneers Metallica released a self titled album that incited screams of sellout from fans of every kind because of its softer, slower musical interior. But right away, saviors were born. Formerly a glam rock band, Pantera emerged from the ashes of thrash metal, creating intense, guitar driven heavy metal, garnering a diehard fan base reminiscent of Black Sabbath in the 1970 s. The heavy metal world rose to their feet to welcome Pantera as a legitimate act.

But, once again, pop music invaded the heavy metal world. This time it came if a front called grunge. A band called Nirvana exploded onto the scene, creating a scene of their own. From the way they dressed to the way they talked, Nirvana and grunge became a formidable opponent to more talented rock artists. Grunge metal was influenced by alternative rock. They were a softer style with hooks and catchy songs, usually without much talent or intricate song writing. But Nirvana fans mostly overlooked other bands in the Seattle scene. These bands were Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam. All three boasted much more complicated riffs and instrumental prowess than Nirvana, but somehow didn t fit as easily into the MTV Generation X music world. And later, to the dismay of the pop world, singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain of Nirvana killed himself, ending the grunge movement. This ultimately allowed bands like Soundgarden to earn some fame for themselves.

The last insult to Heavy Metal music occurred somewhere during the later 1990 s with the emergence of bands such as Korn and Limp Bizkit. These bands carried on a trend started by early nineties artist Rage Against the Machine. They combined heavy metal with rap, creating music, conducive to the newest craving in the pop world. Korn and Limp Bizkit display almost no real talent and are disregarded by almost everyone in the Heavy Metal world and in the Rap world.

At the beginning of the 21st century, heavy metal is still a real form of music, but it is found mostly in clubs with the birth of hardcore music, which resulted from punk and metal. But hardcore, does display the simple format created in the 1970 s. Metal is also still alive in large capacity shows, but these bands are veteran rocks acts who have gained years worth of fans in order to fill the arenas. Bands like Tool, which consists of four instrumental virtuosos, and Pantera are the newest metal bands filling arenas. But with continuing tours of Slayer, Megadeth, and Sepulutura, along with the recent reformation of Black Sabbath, heavy metal is alive and well. Over a tremendous span of over thirty years, bands like Black Sabbath can see what they created in new heavy metal bands today. Like the name of a song from the great Led Zeppelin, The Song Remains the Same.

Works Cited

Browne, Donald Origin of the term Heavy Metal Music 1997


Silveyra, Marcelo The History of Heavy Metal 1998


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