Heavy metal music is a subgenre of rock music. Fans are known as metalheads. Heavy metal is part of an underground subculture that follows specific behavioral and clothing codes.
Heavy metal music was widely held responsible for crime, violence and mental illness in the 1980s; however, its supporters contend it’s not to blame.
Hard rock bands such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple began using distorted guitar sounds to set themselves apart from blues-based rock music in the late 1960s. Additionally, these bands introduced heavy drums and bass with mystical lyrics from Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin or Ozzy Osbourne of Sabbath; vocal styles ranged from high-pitched whines from Led Zeppelin or Ozzy Osbourne for Sabbath to lower pitched whines from Osbourne for Sabbath; quickly becoming popular worldwide by 1980 – heavy metal had become an international phenomenon!
Three major events played a pivotal role in heavy metal’s development as an accessible musical form: Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, and Saxon’s founding of a “new wave of British heavy metal” in the mid 1970s; shock rock bands such as Alice Cooper and Kiss helping create raw, sleazy sounds associated with glam metal; and flashy guitarist virtuosity led by Eddie Van Halen helping create its arena rock genre were three pivotal events that helped form what we know today as heavy metal music today.
American bands Judas Priest, Motorhead and Helloween added speed to metal music in the early 1980s with power metal. This genre features fast tempos with unpolished production that includes distorted guitars and double bass blast beats on drum kits; heavy keyboard presences as well as melodic lead guitar lines distinguish it.
Gothic metal was introduced into popular culture during the 1990s by bands such as Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Anathema. It blends elements from both thrash and death metal genres with gothic themes to form its dark sound; typically performed with two guitarists, one bass player and one or more vocalists performing together; usually four piece configurations are utilized by most groups performing gothic metal music.
Black metal, which first emerged in the 1980s, has often been described as “anti-Christ music”. It often features extremist anti-Christian and Satanic themes and artists such as Venom often use pseudonyms to protect their identities. Their music typically involves fast, distorted guitar riffs played using techniques such as palm muting or tremolo picking. Plus musicians frequently wear corpse paint and engage in other acts of desecration!
Nu metal is a short-lived subgenre of heavy metal which gained widespread acclaim during the early to mid-1990s. Bands such as Korn, Limp Bizkit, Living Colour, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains all made nu metal an iconic mainstream phenomenon.
Heavy metal has evolved into multiple subgenres that vary in sound, tempo and lyrics. Some styles, such as black metal and death metal, have attracted criticism from both mainstream media outlets and academics; others, like power metal and groove metal have broader appeal and have even had an influence over other genres of music. Guitar heaviness is key component to all forms of heavy metal; guitar distortion often adds intensity while overdriven drumming techniques can enhance rhythm while vocal styles range from high-pitched screams to clean singing with occasional rasp.
Thrash metal was one of the main innovations within rock music during the 1980s, popularized by bands like Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax. This genre can be identified by fast tempos, harsh vocal and guitar timbres as well as aggressive or critical lyrics. Thrash bands often employ complex scales or intervals like tritone and diminished which add an element of musical complexity that differentiates it from standard rock music.
Groove metal is an eclectic hybrid genre fusing elements of hard rock and punk music with heavy metal. It first gained widespread attention during the 1990s thanks to bands like Living Colour, Faith No More and Soundgarden who popularized the style. Groove metal bands tend to feature more melodic arrangements than their counterparts like Thrash or Death Metal while keyboards can add harmonic complexity for extra melodic effect.
Kreator, Destruction and Sodom were among the pioneering European thrash metal bands of the mid-1980s that developed this style, typically considered more aggressive than American and Canadian versions with songs featuring screaming vocals and heavily detuned guitar riffs.
Black metal is an extreme variation of death metal music. Performers wear corpse paint and wear symbols like inverted crosses and pentagrams to exude feelings of horror and evil; its musical style blends death metal’s aggressiveness and high-pitched growling with elements from 1970s hard rock such as Led Zeppelin’s music or Deep Purple/Black Sabbath’s mysticism, to produce its unique sound. Some bands have taken this genre further by adapting its sound for religious use by creating unblack metal subgenre.
Heavy metal has drawn influence from several musical genres. Bands such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Motorhead featured upbeat tempo songs with power chords and melodic vocals at fast upbeat tempos, featuring guitar players like Ritchie Blackmore, Randy Rhoads, and Yngwie Malmsteen who introduced rock guitar virtuosity into heavy metal genre that was previously defined by rhythm guitar parts only. Heavy metal guitar players used techniques derived from Baroque models – such as chord progressions and figuration – in their compositions to influence heavy metal guitar players’ compositions.
Alternative metal is a subgenre created by bands who blend heavy metal with other genres, like Faith No More and Jane’s Addiction with their respective funk rock backgrounds being among the first pioneers of this style. Soundgarden formed by musicians from hardcore punk scenes was another early proponent.
These bands, such as Slayer and Metallica, were later known as thrash metal. This subgenre of heavy metal employs fast tempos and harsh vocal and guitar timbres; often featuring critical or sarcastic lyrics. Black Sabbath and Megadeth also played more progressive metal music characterized by progressive song structures with longer guitar solos and acoustic passages.
Black Sabbath and Celtic Frost have had a considerable influence on doom metal music, which features slow tempo songs with complex and dramatic arrangements. Mercyful Fate and Sacred Steel, on the other hand, are considered pioneers of symphonic metal (a type of crossover between classical music and metal music).
Some bands such as X-Girl and The Damned have used elements of horror and gore in their music – this genre of metal is known as death metal – while other bands, like Antestor and Morbid Angel have incorporated religious themes. Additionally, National Socialist Black Metal promotes Nazi ideology. Artists such as Varg Vikernes of Norwegian black metal band Antestor have promoted this ideology with lyrics and imagery melding neo-Nazism with ethnic European paganism – this style of metal has come to be known by critics as NSBM.
Metal music has seen many contributors. Drummers such as Van Halen and Yngwie Malmsteen revolutionized hard rock drumming; guitar players like Ritchie Blackmore, Randy Rhoads, and Angus Young developed groundbreaking levels of guitar virtuosity. Genres evolve over time as social and cultural influences shift. Experimentation with differing styles may not always please everyone but can create new forms of musical expression.
Heavy metal first made its debut in Steppenwolf’s 1968 song “Born to be Wild”, and by the 1970s bands such as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath had made heavy metal part of mainstream rock culture with its trademark combination of distorted power chords, faster rhythms, mystical or mythological themes, distorted power chords and fast rhythms – an innovative combination reflected by such names as Def Leppard, Iron Maiden and Saxon as part of what would later become known as the “new wave of British heavy metal”.
While many metal bands have integrated elements of blues or psychedelia into their sound, others have focused on heavyweight sounds instead of speed. This trend led to thrash bands such as Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax becoming prominent. Thrash bands heightened this heavyness factor through complex rhythms and guitar solos while their vocalists often sang or screamed with raspy voices to heighten the heaviness factor even further.
Other groups have integrated classical elements into their metal music. Some bands have even performed arrangements and performances of classic pieces like Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Tchaikovsky’s 182 Overture, and Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King! Classically trained singers can often be heard performing lyrically-voiced metal songs that include orchestras.
Some metal artists have championed contentious political ideologies, such as National Socialist Black Metal (NSBM). This genre combines neo-Nazi and far-right politics with ethnic European paganism and Satanism. Other bands use their music to advocate religious beliefs such as Norwegian black metal band Gorgoroth or German symphonic death metal group Watain; both of these bands often stage performances featuring props like impaled animal heads, mock crucifixions, medieval weaponry or members dousing themselves with animal blood!