A Brief History of Heavy Metal Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


A look at the history of heavy metal music and how it has evolved over the years.

Origins of Heavy Metal

Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It has its roots in blues rock and psychedelic rock, and is often characterized by a distorted, high-pitched guitar sound, aggressive vocals, and bass-heavy rhythms.

Hard Rock and Psychedelic Rock

Origins of Heavy Metal
Hard rock and psychedelic rock were the two main influences on the development of heavy metal. Hard rock, which was pioneered by groups such as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath, is a heavier and more aggressive form of rock that is characterized by distorted guitars and thunderous drums. Psychedelic rock, meanwhile, is a genre that emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s and is characterized by its use of mind-altering drugs, Mellotrons, and electric guitars.

British Blues Boom

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a British Blues Boom was taking place, with bands such as the Rolling Stones, The Animals and The Yardbirds gaining popularity in Britain and later finding success in the United States. These bands were heavily influenced by American blues musicians such as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, but they also injected their own hard-edged style into the music. This British Blues Boom would lay the foundations for what would eventually become heavy metal.

Development of Heavy Metal

Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Standard heavy metal lyrics have been described as focusing on Rocks, beer, and sex. While the genre is most closely associated with hard rock, some bands followed in the footsteps of earlier proto-metal and blues-rock bands.

Early Heavy Metal Bands

The first heavy metal bands began to form in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with Black Sabbath and Deep Purple being two of the most influential. These bands took the existing hard rock sound and made it heavier, with distorted guitars, pounding drums, and often dark or violent lyrics. Other early heavy metal bands include Judas Priest, Alice Cooper, UFO, and Motorhead.

Heavy metal became its own distinct genre in the 1970s, with bands such as Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, and Aerosmith helping to pioneer the sound. The 1980s saw the rise of a new wave of heavy metal bands, including Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, and Exodus. These so-called “thrash metal” bands took the heaviness of metal to new levels, with fast tempos and aggressive lyrics.

The 1990s saw a decline in heavy metal’s popularity, but the genre rebounded in the 2000s with the help of “nu-metal” bands like Limp Bizkit and Korn. Today, heavy metal is more popular than ever before, with countless subgenres existing within the broad category of “metal.”

The New Wave of British Heavy Metal

The New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) was a musical movement that started in the late 1970s and peaked in the early 1980s. The term was coined by journalist Geoff Barton in a May 1979 issue of the British music magazine Sounds to describe the explosion of heavy metal bands that had sprung up in Britain since the release of Judas Priest’s Stained Class album in early 1978.

The NWOBHM is considered to be a major influence on the development of subsequent heavy metal subgenres and trends, such as speed metal, thrash metal, power metal, and groove metal. It also had a major impact on the development of popular culture, with bands such as Iron Maiden, Saxon, and Def Leppard becoming global superstars.

The Rise of Heavy Metal

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a new form of music was emerging. This music was louder and more aggressive than anything that had come before it. It was also more complex, with longer and more intricate songs. This music was called heavy metal.

Heavy Metal in the 1980s

In the early 1980s, Judas Priest helped spur the genre’s evolution by abolishing much of its blues influence; Motörhead introduced a punk rock sensibility and an increasing emphasis on speed. Bands in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal such as Iron Maiden followed in a similar vein. Before the end of the decade, heavy metal had been influenced by the extreme subgenres of hardcore punk, making it more aggressive and distorted.

Heavy Metal in the 1990s and 2000s

Heavy metal music continued to evolve in the 1990s and 2000s, with bands exploring new subgenres and sounds. In the early 1990s, a new style of heavy metal called “death metal” emerged, characterized by its extreme brutality and speed. Death metal bands such as Death, Obituary, and Morbid Angel became popular in the underground metal scene.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a new wave of so-called “nu-metal” bands emerged, blending heavy metal with various other genres such as hip-hop, alternative rock, and grunge. Nu-metal bands such as Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, and Slipknot enjoyed mainstream success in the early 2000s.

In the 2010s, heavy metal has continued to evolve, with many bands experiment with new sounds and subgenres. Heavy metal remains popular around the world, with both older fans and newer generations discovering the music.

Heavy Metal Today

Though it has its origins in the 1960s, heavy metal music has come a long way since then. Today, it is a vital and vibrant genre that is enjoyed by millions of fans around the world. If you’re new to metal, or just curious about what it’s all about, this article is for you. We’ll take a look at the history of the genre and explore some of the key elements that make it so unique.

Heavy Metal Festivals

Heavy metal festivals are a great way for fans of the genre to come together and celebrate their love of music. There are dozens of metal festivals held all over the world each year, ranging from small, local events to massive, multi-day extravaganzas. Some of the most popular metal festivals include Wacken Open Air in Germany, Download Festival in the UK, and Ozzfest in the US.

These festivals offer metalheads a chance to see their favorite bands perform live, as well as discover new music from up-and-coming acts. In addition to live music, most metal festivals also feature stalls selling merchandise, food and drink, and sometimes even camping facilities. For many fans, attending a metal festival is the highlight of their year.

Heavy Metal in Pop Culture

Since its inception in the 1970s, heavy metal has been one of the most popular genres of music. It has also been one of the most controversial, with its detractors claiming that it is too loud, aggressive, and misogynistic. Nevertheless, it has had a significant impact on popular culture, appearing in films, television, video games, and other media.

Heavy metal first gained widespread attention in the early 1970s with bands such as Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. These bands were often criticized for their dark and violent lyrics, as well as their use of occult imagery. In the 1980s, heavy metal became even more popular with the advent of “hair metal” bands such as Mötley Crüe and Guns N’ Roses. These bands combined the hard-rock sound of heavy metal with a more glamourous image, complete with teased hair and tight leather clothes.

While heavy metal has always been popular with young people, it has also found a place in pop culture. In 1992, Ozzy Osbourne was given his own sitcom, The Osbournes, which followed the everyday lives of the rock star and his family. Heavy metal has also been featured in several animated shows such as Beavis and Butt-head and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. In addition, many video games have incorporated heavy metal into their soundtracks in order to create an more immersive experience for players.

Despite its controversial reputation, there is no denying that heavy metal has had a profound impact on popular culture. It remains one of the most popular genres of music today and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

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