How Did Heavy Metal Music Start?

how did heavy metal music start

In the 1980s, Def Leppard and Iron Maiden pioneered a “new wave of British heavy metal”, surpassing glam bands such as Guns N’ Roses. Guitarists like Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore-Randy Rhoads duo along with Yngwie Malmsteen brought innovative guitar techniques and styles into this genre.

Glenn Danzig famously integrated metal into his gothic rock with Samhain, while Primus fused punk, funk, and hip hop into their metal sound. Electric guitar amplification plays an integral part in heavy metal.


Heavy Metal’s exact origin is debated, yet its roots can be traced to British industrial town Birmingham during the late 1960s and early 1970s during an economic decline when blue-collar factory jobs were scarce – at this time young men found solace in rock ‘n’ roll and heavy metal as it provided an outlet for their frustrations and angst. Punk also emerged at this time; yet Heavy Metal expressed similar anti-establishment feelings while offering more escapism and fantasy than did Punk.

Heavy metal bands initially combined elements from blues, classical, and rock genres into their music. Their style evolved around guitars and drums with distortion used to produce an oppressive sound. British groups such as Cream and The Kinks pioneered power trio format which would later define heavy metal, yet Black Sabbath became the band that would define and popularise it as the standard in their genre.

Heavy metal music’s hallmark characteristic is its use of repetitive, distorted power chords known as riffs. Vanilla Fudge were known for psychedelicizing pop songs while Emerson Lake & Palmer often employed this style when expressing musical ideas. Furthermore, acclaimed classical guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen has often been described as one of the pioneers of heavy metal as his technical skill and speed made an impressionful statement about what people were after in music terms.

Heavy metal lyrics tend to address themes of darkness, evil, power and apocalypse – concepts which contrast sharply with the popular “peace and love” hippie culture of the 1960s – which focused on peace and love. Heavy metal was therefore seen as a counterculture that focused on negative aspects of life while rejecting pop culture naivete. Some social and religious groups have criticised its themes; its genre has even been associated with drug abuse, violence, suicide attempts, Satanism and sexual perversion.

Heavy metal music evolved as an anagram of “heavy” and “metal,” coined in 1970 by Sandy Pearlman – founder, manager, and songwriter for Blue Oyster Cult – after their heavy distortion effects became part of their sound, taking influence from classic blues, hard rock, progressive styles of 70s-80s classical music, as well as punk. Since then, heavy metal has become the generic term for this genre of music.


Heavy metal music draws its inspiration from many sources that helped develop its early development and define its style. At its roots lies hard rock bands of the mid-1960s who blended blues and rock music to produce an unconventional but heavier form of guitar-and-drums music with heavy vocals ranging from Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant’s growls to Ozzy Osbourne’s growls to help define this musical genre.

Hard rock’s heavy and rhythmic power was an influence in heavy metal’s development, while psychedelic music provided it with an additional source of power, particularly its element of escape from reality through outlandish lyrics and fantastic imagery. While some metal bands such as Jethro Tull crossed over into this arena with songs such as “Aqualung,” most heavy metal was marked by its hard edged sound with harsh vocals shouted into its songs.

Progressive rock band King Crimson’s song “21st Century Schizoid Man” made an invaluable contribution to heavy metal’s development, featuring many key components like its distinctive guitar tone and discordant solo by guitarist Robert Fripp. Additionally, its lyrics – discussing what was wrong with humankind as well as referencing schizophrenic disorders – played an influential role in creating its dark melancholic tone.

Heavy metal was heavily influenced by other music genres, such as punk rock. Both genres shared an anti-establishment tone; however, punk evolved into its own genre that allowed more freedom for fantasy elements than punk did. Many musicians played both genres at one time – such as Mick Jagger who fronted both The Damned and Black Sabbath as well as being part of glam rock movement which relied on anthemic songs and theatrical imagery.

Heavy metal music developed out of these and other musical influences, such as jazz and classical music via progressive rock movement, but its primary influence remains improvisational guitar playing that uses techniques such as tapping, sweep-picking, and other advanced methods that celebrate virtuosity over simplicity. Early heavy metal was often considered controversial due to its loud volumes and often controversial lyrics criticizing religion, unrestrained hedonism, or sexual deviance, leading to numerous social problems both domestically and abroad – particularly among adolescents who listen excessively to such music.


Although the term heavy metal was first coined by Iron Butterfly in 1968 to describe their song ‘Infidel’, its roots go much deeper. Heavy metal emerged out of sixties rock and blues where musicians exploited amplified sound to create louder, discordant and more aggressive music styles such as Blue Cheer’s hit ‘Born to Be Wild’ or Yardbirds track ‘Think About It’ were considered heavy metal in their time – as was Steppenwolf’s iconic track ‘Smoke on the Water’.

As heavy metal evolved, its sound became more rhythmic than melodic with complex riffs played at breakneck speed, led by Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and their many imitators and spin offs. Thrash metal emerged during the mid to late 1980s pushing conventions further with vocal shouting and guitar virtuosity; many bands such as Yngwie Malmsteen and Megadeth utilize advanced techniques like tapping and sweep-picking for rapid playing.

Early heavy metal artists used themes of power, darkness and apocalypse in their lyrics as an in response to “peace and love” hippie culture which focused on more positive messages; additionally this served as a barrier against Neo-Nazism and Cold War ideologies.

Heavy metal music has had an enormous influence on other genres of music as well, from glam rock and hard rock to grunge and even pop music. Additionally, heavy metal has crossed over into psychedelic genres such as pop. Some bands such as Motorhead have their roots in short-lived glam rock era; also, David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust persona was an early heavy metal icon.

Modern heavy metal often incorporates elements of classical music, particularly from Baroque and Romantic composers like Johann Sebastian Bach and Niccolo Paganini, into its sound, often known as neo-classical metal. But there are numerous other ways in which classical elements have been blended with metal music; each genre can be defined by its unique qualities.


Black Sabbath first came into prominence during the late 1960s and early 1970s, using an aggressive sound influenced by blues music to tap into youths living on the edges of society and tap into their frustrations; their music also channelled an anti-establishment spirit while offering escape and fantasy.

Deep Purple were one of the leading groups to push heavy metal further. Their songs featured more intricate compositions and featured intricate guitar solos; furthermore, their use of amplifiers allowed them to play at much louder volumes than any previous band; this marked a huge advancement for heavy metal as it helped expand its audience reach.

At this point, many bands began adapting the heavy metal sound to suit their own styles and audiences, shifting its image away from that of its earliest pioneers such as Alice Cooper, Kiss and Aerosmith who used sleaze and spectacle to market their music to wider audiences – eventually giving rise to what became known as Hair Metal subgenre.

Overkill, a group from New Jersey that incorporates thrash metal into their sound, became one of the best-selling metal albums of all time after the release of Taking Over; other hits from Overkill include Vulgar Display of Power and Cowboys From Hell.

As heavy metal became more mainstream, its influence expanded across different regions. Bands from Europe like Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, and Judas Priest adopted more traditional musical approaches while maintaining the genre’s core sound.

Motley Crue and Poison became widely-acclaimed bands in North America by taking advantage of the more commercial aspects of rock. By using flashy clothing, hairstyles, and stage antics they were able to reach more audiences than their rivals in this genre.

Recent trends in metal music include its incorporation of ancient cultures and themes, particularly Brazilian band Sepultura who have used this approach to great effect, becoming one of the premier acts in groove, thrash and death metal genres. Their albums often include visual art or personal development stories which further highlight this aspect of diversity found within this genre.

Heavy metal has long been an integral part of musical culture since its origins in blues. But how did it begin?

Many believe the term “heavy metal” was first coined by rock critic Lester Bangs in his 1972 Creem Magazine article; others point to Steppenwolf’s song, Born to Be Wild or William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch as evidence for this claim.


Heavy Metal music began slowly over time; its name only officially appearing in 1970. At first, this term referred to any rock genre characterized by louder and amplified variations on standard pop songs such as blues-rock. Iron Butterfly were one of the first bands to take advantage of this new name; their 1968 debut album Heavy Metal bears its name perfectly well; explaining it away by saying: ‘Metal–heavy as in sound; Butterfly–light and appealing in form and versatility in imagination.”

Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin also took advantage of this trend by adopting new names. Both groups took inspiration from multiple sources – some more traditional than others, like blues – providing raw emotion and expressive guitar playing for metal music.

The 1960s psychedelic movement had an immense influence on metal music. Artists like Cream and Jimi Hendrix explored guitar effects and unorthodox song structures; classical composers like Beethoven and Chopin also left their mark; guitarists such as Ritchie Blackmore would later draw from classical techniques for compositions like Beethoven or Chopin when writing compositions themselves. Glam rock of early 1970s with tight clothing and theatricality also had an effect on metal while punk also helped push forward rock music with bands like Motorhead combining aspects of both styles of metal music in one voiced performance.

Black Sabbath from Birmingham set the pace for future metal musicians, pioneering its own darker sound within metal music. Droning riffs, evil vibes and themes that explored supernatural/occult themes proved influential as precursors for later subgenres like doom metal, stoner metal and sludge metal genres.

Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Judas Priest are often credited as being among the founding forces of heavy metal music, yet others like Blue Cheer, Cream, Jimi Hendrix and Vanilla Fudge should also be counted among its influences. Indeed, metal writers and fans who specialize in “underground” extreme subgenres like death metal sometimes omit “heavy” from its title in order to call their genre simply “metal.”


Heavy metal has developed over time into many subgenres, each with their own distinct sound and identity. From thrash metal’s aggressive soundscapes to progressive metal’s technical sophistication, heavy metal music has grown into one of the most beloved genres today.

Heavy metal music’s roots can be traced to British Invasion bands of the 1960s, which combined blues and country influences into their sound. These bands typically consisted of lead guitarist, bassist, and drummer; some even used distortion to give their music an aggressive sound.

Many bands formed in Birmingham, England – at that time an industrial city with a large working class population exposed to machinery all day and then hearing rock music played at local bars after work.

Black Sabbath was one of the earliest heavy metal bands to hit the scene during the early 1970s, led by Ozzy Osbourne and distinguished themselves through their unsettling themes, dark imagery, and evil vibes – setting an early standard for metal music. Their trademark distorted guitar riffs and down-tuned notes distinguished themselves from similar acts at that time.

Other influences on metal music often cited are Cream, which pioneered power chords; Led Zeppelin introduced mystique and depth into rock music; lead guitarist Jimmy Page in particular has had an incalculable effect through his unique playing style and innovative techniques.

Heavy metal may have its critics, yet its defiant spirit has inspired millions to challenge convention and express themselves freely – some even find solace or healing through its exploration of madness and horror.

Heavy metal has had an impactful influence on many other musical genres, from hard rock and punk through punk and pop. It has given birth to multiple subgenres such as glam and hardcore metal that continue to gain in popularity today; current artists such as Metallica and Guns N’ Roses continue their legacy through songs that incorporate elements of heavy metal music. Heavy metal music also inspired styles like rap, techno and electronica music genres.


Heavy metal music’s origins remain controversial; however, its roots can be found in blues and British Invasion styles that served as its cornerstones. Rock and roll was in an atmosphere of experimentation during the late 1960s as musicians explored amplified distortion and new sounds; this led to several bands that can be considered pioneers of heavy metal.

Black Sabbath are widely considered the pioneers of heavy metal music. Their 1970 album Black Sabbath laid the groundwork for what would later become this subgenre of music; their sound featured dark, sinister themes, down-tuned guitar riffs, distorted vocals and deep bass style from Geezer Butler that helped form its powerful sound; together with singer Ozzy Osbourne’s unnerving, dark vocals and lyrics dealing with the supernatural; Black Sabbath laid down its musical legacy that would later give rise to heavy metal genre.

Other early examples of “heavy metal” included The Beatles’ 1968 White Album and Jeff Beck Group’s 1969 Truth album; however, most agree that Black Sabbath’s eponymous debut in February 1970 and Paranoid were the first truly heavy metal albums.

Some historians attribute heavy metal’s influence on “peace and love” hippie culture at that time to Deep Purple and Rainbow’s neoclassical music and progressive rock style of Emerson Lake & Palmer as well as to heavy metal’s use of apocalyptic themes and images of power and darkness in heavy metal music. These styles were intended to counterbalance each other.

In the 1980s, several heavy metal bands such as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Queensryche became prominent. Alongside their musical influences, these bands became famous for their extravagant costumes and public personas that epitomized heavy metal’s rebellious spirit; these styles inspired millions to challenge social norms while finding comfort within their personal journeys. Many also believe this genre empowered women – evidenced by female metal acts such as Nightwish and Delain.


Heavy metal music’s foundation was established by many bands. In the 1960s, rock was in a period of creative ferment as musicians experimented with amplified distortion and created new sounds with their guitars; as a result, traditional rock became louder and discordanter than before; many adults considered this new style too offensive and inappropriate for children to listen to.

Though songs such as the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” and Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” may be seen as early metal songs, bands like Blue Cheer, Steppenwolf, and Iron Butterfly really pioneered this genre. Many early metal songs featured heavy blues influences; however their distinctive characteristics lie within the use of distortion on guitar as well as faster more intense styles which set these songs apart from others in their genre.

Black Sabbath was one of the earliest and most influential metal bands to emerge from Birmingham, England in 1970. Their debut album became a landmark moment in music history with Toni Iommi’s haunting guitar riffs and Ozzy Osbourne’s unnerving vocals — along with themes that explored occultism and supernaturalism — setting the foundation for metal as an independent genre.

Uriah Heep was another key force in the birth of metal music. Although they released their debut album in 1969, their true breakthrough came three years later with their distinct metal sound and lyrics inspired by mythology and fantasy themes. Additionally, Uriah Heep helped make metal an accessible musical form through theatrical rock shows.

Other bands, such as Alice Cooper, Kiss and Aerosmith modified the initial sound of metal into more approachable forms which appealed to a broad audience. By the 1980s Judas Priest, Motorhead and other bands had further refined metal’s sounds while also adding elements which helped define some of its subgenres; power metal, speed metal, thrash metal and death metal among them.