Who Made Heavy Metal Music?

Heavy metal music has always been one of the most powerful genres to capture public imagination, yet who initiated and developed it?

Scholars tend to name Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple as early pioneers of heavy metal music from the late 60s-early 70s; but an expanded genealogy includes Blue Cheer, Cream, Jimi Hendrix and Steppenwolf (who coined the “heavy metal thunder” line from Born to Be Wild).

Black Sabbath

Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin had already laid down distortion, riffs, and solos on an audience already immersed in folk and early psychedelia, but four 20-something men from Aston, Birmingham’s working-class area gave heavy metal its definitive sound. Beginning their self-titled debut in 1968 followed by Paranoid in 1970 and Master of Reality the next year, Black Sabbath founded their genre (and many subgenres of it) along with many subgenres.

Geezer Butler’s fascination with occultism and horror movies fed into Black Sabbath’s early work; on songs such as “Wicked World,” his lyrics seem drawn directly from an episode of Twilight Zone set against squalling guitars and thunderous drums.

Tony Iommi’s riffing and chord progressions were heavily influenced by blues, as well as boogie-woogie, swing, and other American musical traditions. Indeed, drummer Bill Ward’s crisp hi-hat intro for “Paranoid” seems inspired by figures played by Count Basie’s band in the 1930s.

Lyrically, Butler and Iommi explored themes of war, social chaos, the supernatural, and the timeless battle between good and evil. Black Sabbath’s dark, bleak music served as a direct response to hippie culture during the late 1960s; its dark themes of darkness, evil, and power offered an antidote against happy-ending pop music such as that of Beatles or Rolling Stones. As such, Black Sabbath had an enormous influence in shaping subsequent evolutions of metal.

Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin, established in 1968, paved a path that ultimately gave heavy metal its wide appeal. Through their groundbreaking use of distorted amplification and integration of diverse musical styles into their soundscape, they quickly rose to become one of rock music’s influential forces. Guitarist Jimmy Page earned widespread respect as his intricate yet powerful style set an example for other metal guitarists of that era; furthermore incorporating blues and folk guitar riffs that provided deeper atmosphere into heavy metal music genre.

John Bonham helped pioneer metal’s high-paced, power-chord style as a drummer. The band’s self-titled debut album released in January 1969 blended rock, blues and newfound aggression, featuring both acoustic and electric instrumentation for one of the earliest heavy metal albums ever made. Their group’s powerful vocals, intricate harmony layers and complex guitar work further helped define metal as an artform.

Metal’s originators, the three British bands who founded metal are widely acknowledged. Other groups have since refined its meaning to become more accessible for wider audiences. Sandy Pearlman of Blue Oyster Cult famously coined the phrase “heavy metal” to describe their hard rock music which included references to the occult. Their image and music helped give metal its more serious, apocalyptic tone – later used by Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, and Iron Maiden among others to create distinctive rock styles within their own unique rock styles.

Deep Purple

Heavy metal can trace its roots back to three bands from the late ’60s: Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Although these three have strong claims to being pioneers of heavy metal music, other bands should not be overlooked when discussing its history.

Iron Butterfly, Blue Cheer, Cream, Jimi Hendrix and Vanilla Fudge all had heavy elements to their music, with many sharing themes and sounds similar to Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.

Black Sabbath distinguished themselves from other rock bands with their heavy sound and dark lyrics, using distorted electric guitars for an audaciously heavy sound that helped define heavy metal music as its own genre.

Deep Purple’s Mark II lineup, comprised of singer Ian Gillan and drummer Roger Glover, had an enormous effect on heavy metal music’s development. They were one of the first bands to combine rock with classical elements – something which later became key features of both neoclassical and progressive metal styles.

Perfect Strangers was another showcase of the band’s heavy metal influences in 1984. “21st Century Schizoid Man,” using dissonant guitar tones and an intense solo, is a song which uses heavy metal music to portray humanity as dangerously psychotic; further cementing this theme through artwork depicting an injured figure depicting darkness as well as giving early metal an early aesthetic feel.

Jimi Hendrix

While Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple may have pioneered late 1960s/early 1970s heavy metal music in equal measures, other bands also deserve mention as originators. Hendrix for example brought rock influences into metal by using guitar effects and exploring sound in search of ways to express core emotions; his 1968 double album Electric Ladyland went on to become one of the best-selling records that year and remains an influential work today.

Hendrix’s intense emotions and electrifying guitar solos were major catalysts of heavy metal’s birth, along with bands such as the Rolling Stones, Animals, and Yardbirds who played major roles. Additionally, Hendrix was greatly influenced by psychedelic musical influences which further contributed to metal’s development.

Scholars consider Iron Butterfly an early heavy metal band as well. Their 1967 debut LP Heavy Metal took an eclectic approach by mixing blues and rock influences together. Furthermore, many early metal pioneers also integrated classical composition and technique into their music, adding grandeur and complexity that perfectly complemented heavy metal’s dystopic themes.

Heavy metal was created as a response to the 1960s “peace and love” hippie culture, exuding darkness, power and the threat of an impending apocalypse.

The Who

The Who weren’t responsible for founding metal music, but they certainly helped shape its development. Their 1970 album Who Are You had a heavy rock sound with lyrics exploring issues related to drugs, alcohol and war – quite a departure from their previous album Tommy which had featured flower power pop. Many critics found Who Are You distasteful; The band also appeared at Monterey Pop and Isle of Wight festivals during this time, an era during which other British bands such as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath began adopting non-traditional approaches to blues standards such as using effects like distortion.

Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and Jefferson Airplane were heavily influenced by American psychedelic musicians like Jimi Hendrix who pioneered amplified blues rock guitar. These artists incorporated these influences into their music often mixing elements from rock, folk as well as heavier arrangements into it.

Black Sabbath are widely acknowledged to be one of the defining bands of metal music. Established in 1968 by Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward and Ozzy Osbourne; Black Sabbath used darker themes, heavier guitar riffs with downtuned tuning and distorted effects that created their signature heavy sound, later inspiring numerous subgenres of metal music genre. They were heavily influenced by British blues music as well as early hard rock; with songs such as Paranoid Massacre Dead Man’s Shoes that laid the groundwork.

The Kinks

The Kinks were among the first British bands to experiment with heavy guitar instrumentation, and their 1968 album You Really Got Me is widely considered one of the earliest metal albums. Influenced by American blues musicians – in particular Muddy Waters – their chunky riffs may even have inspired Bill Ward (later to join Black Sabbath).

In the 1960s, rock music quickly progressed from garage rock and acid rock into heavier sounds, which eventually culminated in the creation of heavy metal by bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple – although its identity as an artistic genre cannot be denied without heavy guitar riffs that define this subgenre.

Heavy metal music was strongly influenced by industrial, working class areas of Britain where factories produced metal products (primarily steel). This can be seen in its lyrics which often explore themes of oppression and injustice.

Heavy metal was first coined by beatnik counterculture members during the early ’60s to describe rock music that was more serious and profound than standard pop fare. It quickly gained traction among bands like Blue Cheer, Steppenwolf and Iron Butterfly (who released their debut album Heavy in 1968), who are often credited with helping shape its sound that later evolved into shock rock/party rock offerings from Alice Cooper/Kiss/Van Halen.