Almost every metalhead in this new generation knows the bands: “Iron Maiden / Metallica / Nightwish / Dream Theater”. Those are the major bands in metal music and they represent the genres they belong to. Whenever a metalhead mentions NWBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal), Iron Maiden comes to the mind; as for progressive metal it’s DT, Nightwish for symphonic metal and Metallica for thrash metal (and whenever metal music is mentioned).
What’s interesting is that most of those big bands didn’t “create” something new. Instead, they have taken what other bands created and promoted it with a bigger label in a better and perhaps catchier way. I don’t mean that the bands are not creative but the essence of their genre is not their creation.
Iron Maiden – Iron Maiden (1980)
For example, as much as gallop riffs are praised and recognized as the Iron Maiden signature, it is actually performed earlier by bands like Saxon (Stallions of the Highway 1979) and Accept (Lady Lou 1979).
Dream Theater – When Dream and Day Unite (1989)
As much as DT is praised for technical prog, odd beats and time signatures, all this was played by earlier underground bands who had not achieved “commercial” success. (Ex: Psychotic Waltz (1988), Fates Warning (1984), etc).
Nightwish – Angels Fall First (1997)
Nightwish is also a close case but again they shifted styles alot, jumping from sub-sub genre to another, yet Theatre of Tragedy (1995) was one of the first bands to incorporate the male/female vocal contrast. Lacrimosa (1995) was one of the first bands to shift from gothic rock to gothic metal and Lacrimas Profundere (1995) had the vocal contrast and the metal touch alongside acoustic / piano passages.
Metallica – Kill ‘Em All (1983)
Metallica still stands as one of the most successful and influential thrash metal bands among the Big Four (Megadeth /Anthrax / Slayer / Metallica). Still, Slayer is regarded as the most “thrash” representative band (continuity in the genre) and is influenced by Venom (1981) (who played faster Heavy Metal) and Canadian Anvil (1981). Metallica also used riffs from NWBHM like the riff from Saxon‘s”The Eagle Has Landed ” was used in “Fade to Black“.
Then comes bands walking in the path of the “BIG” bands sometimes making better/catchier, more complex or more fresh music but failing to catch the interest of the media, to reach millions of listeners that would appreciate the work even more. I will be following this article with another talking about the bands that also followed in the genre and mostly bands that are better evaluated musically or/and lyrically or/and technically than the “BIG” ones.