Was Heavy Metal Once Folk Music?

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


We all know heavy metal is loud, aggressive, and sometimes even abrasive. But did you know that it has its roots in folk music? In this blog post, we explore the history of heavy metal and how it came to be the genre we know and love today.

Origins of Heavy Metal

It is often said that heavy metal was once folk music. This is because many of the early heavy metal bands took their inspiration from folk music. Folk music is a type of music that is passed down from generation to generation. It is usually passed down orally, but it can also be passed down through sheet music.

Where did heavy metal come from?

Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the United Kingdom and the United States. With roots in blues rock and psychedelic rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness. The genre’s lyrics and performance styles are sometimes associated with aggression and machismo.

In 1970, three new rock genres emerged that would eventually have a profound impact on heavy metal: hard rock developed from blues-rock with a heavier, distorted electric guitar sound, proto-metal emerged as a fusion of heavy blues-rock with psychedelic rock in the early 1970s, and glam rock stressed theatrics and visual excess. Glam metal combined those elements with pop music to produce a more commercialized sound.

The first heavy metal bands such as Black Sabbath and Deep Purple attracted large audiences by playing at an increasingly faster tempo while candidly referencing Satanism in their song lyrics and stage performances. Ozzy Osbourne’s vocal style particularly influenced later heavy metal singers such as Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford and Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson. This was followed in the mid-1970s by British bands UFO and Budgie who moved away from earlier blues influences to create their own hard-edged brand of heavy metal.

The first heavy metal bands

The first heavy metal bands were Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, who started out as a blues-rock band. Sabbath’s self-titled debut album was released in early 1970, and is often cited as the first true heavy metal album. Sabbath’s sound was characterized by slow, heavy riffs and dark, brooding lyrics. Zeppelin’s debut album,Led Zeppelin, was released later that year and featured a similar sound.

Other early metal bands include Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, and Blue Oyster Cult. These bands began to experiment with heaviness and volume, incorporating distorted guitars and extended solos into their music. This new sound was characterized by its heaviness and aggression, which set it apart from other genres at the time.

Heavy metal began to gain popularity in the late 1970s as more bands began to Emerge with a similar sound. Bands such as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Motorhead helped to further define the genre with their own unique styles. By the early 1980s, heavy metal had become one of the most popular music genres in the world.

What is Folk Music?

Folk music is a type of music that is passed down through oral tradition. This means that the music is not written down, but instead is passed down from person to person. Folk music is usually about the everyday lives of the people who sing it and is often passed down through families.

The history of folk music

Folk music is a genre of music that typically uses acoustic instruments and focuses on traditional songs and melodies. It often has a strong connection to the culture and heritage of a particular region or country.

Folk music has its roots in the oral traditions of ancient cultures, and many folk songs can be traced back to ancient folk poems or folktales. In Europe, the first folk music traditions began to develop in the Middle Ages, when people started collecting and singing popular songs that were passed down from generation to generation. Over time, these songs became known as “ballads”, and they were often about love, loss, or heroic deeds.

In America, the first folk music traditions developed among the Native American tribes who inhabited the land. These tribes had their own unique musical styles and instruments, and their music was an important part of their cultures. Folk music in America also has its roots in the music of the early settlers who came to America from Europe in the 1600s and 1700s. These settlers brought with them their own folk songs and ballads, which theyAdapted to fit their new lives in America.

As America began to grow and develop as a nation, its folk music traditions began to change and evolve as well. In the 1800s, white Americans started adopting some African American folk songs and incorporating them into their own musical traditions. This process continued in the 1900s, when white Americans also began adopting traditional folk songs from other cultures around the world. This helped to create a uniquely American form of folk music that was influenced by many different cultures.

Today, there are many different types of folk music being performed all over America. Some musicians play traditional folk songs from their cultural heritage, while others write new songs that reflect the experiences of modern life. Folk music is still an important part of American culture, and it continues to evolve as our nation grows and changes.

The characteristics of folk music

Folk music is a genre of music that is typically passed down orally from generation to generation. It is often associated with less-commercialized music, and can be found in various forms all over the world. Folk music often has regional, cultural, or religious significance, and is typically tied to a particular place or tradition.

There are many different elements that can be found in folk music, but some of the most common include the use of traditional instruments, simple melodies, and storytelling. Folk music is often used as a way to preserve a culture or tradition, and can be seen as a reflection of the people who create it.

Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is characterized by highly amplified distorted guitars, bass guitars, drums, and vocals. Heavy metal songs often make use of distorted guitar solos, fast-paced drumming, and aggressive vocals.

How are Heavy Metal and Folk Music Connected?

Though they might not have much in common at first glance, heavy metal and folk music are actually more connected than you might think. Both genres have deep roots in oral tradition, and both place an emphasis on storytelling. In this article, we’ll explore the ways in which these two genres are connected.

The influence of folk music on 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 often incorporates elements of folk music. Folk influences can be heard in the use of acoustic guitars and banjo in metal songs, as well as in the incorporation of Celtic and Norse mythology in song lyrics.

While heavy metal is often associated with aggression and intensity, some bands have used folk elements to create a more mellow sound. For example, the English band Iron Maiden includes acoustic guitars and mandolin on many of their albums, particularly on their early releases. The Irish band Thin Lizzy also blended folk and metal elements in their music, using Celtic mythology as inspiration for many of their songs.

Folk music has also been influential on metal subgenres such as power metal and Folk metal. Power metal bands often use keyboard instruments to create a “epic” sound, while Folk metal bands incorporate traditional folk instruments such as the bagpipe into their music.

The influence of heavy metal on folk music

The origins of heavy metal music are often traced back to the blues, but there is also a strong connection between heavy metal and folk music. Folk music has always been about storytelling, and many of the themes in heavy metal songs are based on folk tales. For example, the song “Black Sabbath” by Black Sabbath is based on the English folktale “The Wizard of New Orleans.” Similarly, the band Iron Maiden’s song “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is based on the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Heavy metal bands have also been influenced by specific folk traditions from around the world. Celtic metal bands like Cruachan and Waylander use traditional Irish instruments like the tin whistle and bodhrán in their music. You can also hear elements of Turkish folk music in the music of Melechesh, a black metal band from Israel.

The influence of heavy metal on folk music is not just limited to sounding similar. Folk musicians have also been inspired by heavy metal to create new types of folk music. For example, the Norwegian group Wardruna uses traditional instruments and Nordic folklore in their music, but they also incorporate elements of black metal into their sound.

Folk musicians have always been open to new influences, and the influence of heavy metal on folk music is just one more example of this openness.


Folk metal is a fusion of heavy metal music and traditional folk music. This combination first came to light in the late 1980s with the release of two albums, Skyclad’s The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth and Cruachan’s Tuatha Na Gael. Folk metal is currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity, with several new bands forming in recent years.

What does the future hold for heavy metal and folk music?

It is difficult to say what the future holds for heavy metal and folk music. It is possible that heavy metal will continue to become more popular, while folk music may decline in popularity. However, it is also possible that both genres will continue to be popular, or that they will both decline in popularity. Only time will tell.

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