Metal music is a genre originating from rock music. It was introduced between the late 1960s to 1980s majorly in the United Kingdom and the United States (Brake, 1990; Cope, 2010). It has roots in psychedelic rock, electric blues, and blues-rock. Typical music instruments are bass guitar, electric guitar, drums, and vocals. The bands that created metal music in the late 1960s developed a thick, massive sound that consists of a highly intensified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and general loud sounds (Elovaara, 2014). Subgenres usually alter or distort one or two of the above qualities. Performance and lyric styles are frequently associated with aggression, machismo, and masculinity (Brake, 1990). Metal music includes genres such as heavy metal (sometimes used to refer to metal), power metal, black metal, thrash metal, boom metal, and death metal. This paper focuses on the bands that pioneered and impacted the metal music genre in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
Contrary to bands of the 1960s, a new approach of audio productions and songwriting was pioneered by the Black Sabbath in the late 1960s which laid the background for the metal genre. Although the group was not the first metal band, it made great strides in the development of the metal genre and gathered wide audience making it be regarded as the pioneer of the metal genre in the 1960s (Iron Skullet, 2017).
Before 1969, the Black Sabbath under the band name Earth played bluesy hard rock accompanied by the intense distorted guitar sound. In 1969, under the Black Sabbath Moniker, the band revamped their conceptual themes as well as sound focusing on the grinding and instrumental distortion leaden sound they had developed recently (Iron Skullet, 2017). The band pioneered the first four albums "Black Sabbath" and "Paranoid" released in 1970, "Master of Reality" in 1971 and "Vol. 4" in 1972. The albums were formative of doom metal than heavy metal (Iron Skullet, 2017). The Black Sabbath would go ahead to release more albums of the decade like the "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" in 1973 and "Sabotage" in 1975. They gained more popularity associated with the band choosing to drop their trademark gloomy style with a "more fanciful, acid-washed rock sound with the experimental use of synthesizers and a return to bluesy, jam-style instrumental sections" (Iron Skullet, 2017).
Later in 1976, the Black Sabbath released "Technical Ecstasy" and in 1978 "Never Say Die." These two releases drew much debate whether they were metal music due to their softness and dreamy spaces, missing energy common in other previous albums (Brake, 1990; Iron Skullet, 2017). Despite the growing debate, innovative releases by the Rainbow and Judas Priest redefined the metal music in the late 1970s by discarding much of the blues influence.
As the Black Sabbath dropped the true metal, other bands such as Rainbow and Judas Priest played a different style of music, and in the second half of the 1970s, their releases were a direct and immediate precursor to real metal. The Rainbow released "Rising" in 1976 and a follow-up "Live Rock 'n' Roll" in 1978 while the Judas Priest released "Stained Class" and "Killing Machines" in 1978. These two bands produced an innovative and exciting sound (Iron Skullet, 2017). The bands focused on more energetic songwriting and tighter instrumentation than all previously released hard rock including early recordings of the Black Sabbath. They used a more direct and assertive approach as they dropped nearly all the blues influences. Rainbow and Judas Priest "recordings embraced an upbeat, rollicking sound driven by power chords, invigorating guitar solos, and catchy vocal hooks, all packed into accessible pop song structures" (Iron Skullet, 2017).
In the late 1970s, other notable bands included Scorpions presenting vigorous sound. The Scorpion released "Lovedrive" in 1979 blending hard rock and heavy metal (Iron Skullet, 2017). However, all the above pioneers of the 1970s, except Judas Priest would later adopt lighter, hard rock in the 1980s.
As the other bands such as the Black Sabbath and the Rainbow adopted soft and lighter sounds and hard rock in the 1980s, The Iron Maiden seized the opportunity of retaining the look of the metal genre although they had not made any formal release in their name (Iron Skullet, 2017). They brought with speed and energy, quickly attracting the audience from "disenchanted fans roaming a fractured British punk music scene" (Elovaara, 2014). Although they were determined to retain the aggressiveness and energy in the sound, the self-titled debut of Iron Maiden made in 1980 consisted the lightest sound. However, the energy and the attitude of the music had no traces of blues and far detached from hard rock (Iron Skullet, 2017). The Iron Maiden was considered the true heavy metal band in 1982 when they released "The Number of the Beast." However, their two initial copies were retained as focal creations at the beginning of the new musical style.
After much struggles to keep the originality of the metal music in the 1980s and early 1990s, the mid-1990s witnessed further expansion of metal genre definition from popular styles. Bands such as Pantera played groove metal associated with extreme metal and hardcore punk (Kahn-Harris, 2007).
Brake, M. (1990). Heavy metal culture, masculinity, and Iconography. In Frith, Simon; Goodwin, Andrew (eds.). On Record: Rock, Pop and the Written Word. Routledge. Pp. 87-91.
Cope, A. L. (2010). Black Sabbath and the Rise of Heavy Metal Music. Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 130.
Elovaara, M. (2014). Chapter 3: Am I evil? The meaning of metal lyrics to its fans". In Abbey, James; Helb, Colin (eds.). Hardcore, Punk and Other Junk: Aggressive Sounds in Contemporary Music. Lexington Books. p. 38.
Iron Skullet. (2017, October 30). The history of heavy metal part I: The difference between metal and heavy Metal. Retrieved from: https://ironskullet.com/synthwave-review-archive/
Kahn-Harris, K. (2007). Extreme Metal: Music and Culture on the Edge. Oxford: Berg, ISBN 1-84520-399-2. p. 28
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