The History of Heavy Metal | Introduction
Apr 5th 2012 Ziad Miscellaneous

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The following is an introduction to an upcoming series of articles entitled “The History Of Heavy Metal. These articles will be tagged as “Heavy Metal History“.

Rob Halford of Judas Priest

Introduced as an “anti popular-culture” as well as being “against counter-culture movements”, Heavy Metal comes as a slap on the face to the “free world”. As opposed to Pop culture’s dominance in the global music scene, and those who have rejected it morally (counter-culture movements), Heavy Metal has always been associated with promoting the dark side of humanity, and depicting what is “real” rather than the lies that we have been fed.

While Pop culture was busy being realistic and immoral with its representation of the “American Dream”, promoting a sexy and glamorous lifestyle, and Counterculture opposing pop culture’s morals, Heavy Metal came on its own, as a unique and unrelated movement to any of its predecessors. It usually attracted young adolescents who rejected parental guidance, and free thinkers. This genre did not go by any of the approaches of other movements, it was in fact, always against pop culture, and even against the careless, free lifestyles of the LSD led movements of hippies and flower bullshit. Heavy Metal has never tried to fix things or put things straight, it has instead chosen to depict subjective and more frightening views of the world.

Early Metal bands had emerged as an opposition to the Capitalistic led world of war and money making machines.  It hoped to convey a frightening view of the reality, contrary to the medias reality and the lies that the world population has always been fed. This, of course, could be summarized in one line: “the battle for good against evil” which was a double edged sword, resulting in the labeling of Heavy Metal as the evil kind of music.

It is safe to say that Heavy Metal was inspired by the Nihilistic views of Friedrich Nietzsche, which focus on what “really is”, rather than what “should be”. His views also state that the world is in fact, not fine and that we are not living in a paradise, instead, we are living in a prison where we cannot see the bars. Thus, Heavy Metal emerged to fight and walk against the streams of social limits and go against the tides of Capitalism. Unfortunately, however, as it results, Heavy Metal groups fell into the trap which they had originally opposed, and became mainstream in the early 80s, selling millions of records and promoting “sex, drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll”, which we will discuss in details, later on.

Metal music emerged after the Western “New World Order” was introduced in early 80s, during the height era of Western civilization. This “World Order” used the media to its advantage to vilify the image of the “evils” of the previous generation, attacking political regimes such as fascism and socialism. Yet, despite these views, they have also openly attacked previous “peace movements” which lived by pacifist views and believed in equal human rights, later gaining massive popularity and becoming the face of counterculture. This movement was founded in the 1950s by Allen Freed who had attempted to promote rock music as an opposition against the many socialist and fascist “enemies of the state”, and wanted to become the voice against the Vietnamese war by showing the real face of superpowers driven by their economic needs and true agenda.

Led Zeppelin

So far, it seems that Metal music and counterculture have the same message; well that’s where we start digging deeper as to why the metal movement emerged. As Black Sabbath puts it: “…as the war machines keep turning…” the failure of the counterculture in its attempt to stop the war making machines, the Metal Movement emerged out of the darkness, in a morbid state of mind, to show that peace and love will not stop the wrongness, and that they are just the weaknesses of the human kind. They do not really stop anything. The world is still gloomy and our fate still uncertain. But Heavy Metal did not stop there! It continued its attacks on pop culture and counterculture, and ventured into new territories of attack – RELIGION. Being the first time where religion is attacked in music earned Heavy Metal’s fame as “satanic” or “Satan’s music” managing to turn the whole society against the genre and the people supporting it.

Doro Pesch

  • Metal: The Music

Music is art, no arguing about that! Usually, there is a concept and idea behind the artwork, and the same applies to music. Except for popular culture music which is mainly driven by materialism and converting free minds into purchasing oriented sheep.

Metal music has a more complex side to its story, for it has also introduced symbolism to its concept art and managed to portray the various political messages through the use of ancient imagery and symbolism inspired by ancient civilizations and fictional stories. However, the messages remained true and as realistic as ever “…to shed the light on the true demons of the world.” Metal has played on emotions too, from heroic epic stories and achievements, to socio-political stories. It has done so in such an intelligent manner and was able to combine all that it could use in the soul purpose of delivering its straight forward message. However, through its excessive use of dark imagery, it has managed to deteriorate its image gravely. And while Metal kept evolving over 3o years, most  musical elements remained the same, thus proving that it is a consistent genre of music that evolves but keeps true to its roots.

Black Sabbath

Musically, Metal differs from all genres mainly because this kind of music revolves around a clear structure, and uses a number of techniques and attributes that can be simple yet complicated. This allows the composer to convey the message he wants according to the style and genre of metal being played. Jazz, for example, emphasizes a more flexible version of Rock music, allowing more improvisation to take place, while rock uses a more simple verse-chorus-verse structure. Metal on the other hand, sheds the light on a more progressive and melodic structure style that evolves in the same way as Classical and Baroque music does, with each piece utilizing different kinds of techniques, yet remaining true to its melodic progression.

Metal music, with  its use of power chords, harmonic chord shape, and melodic composition, takes the listener on a journey of aesthetic variation leading to an ultimate Utopic state of mind, which gives ultimate joy and power.

Inspired by “History of Heavy Metal” – Mock Him productions

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  • Excellent work Ziad . . . well thought out and very well written. Quite articulate. I am very impressed with your “Introduction” to such a complex subject which has been commented by many but corrupted by many as well. Your “sociological” approach provides for a good examination of the topic, especially its implications as it separated itself out from other forms of music and became quite a distinct entity on its own, perhaps as one of the few forms of music with the most devoted long term fan base. You are absolutely correct in stating that “Metal” served as an antithesis to pop, to other counter cultural forms of music at the time, and even to “Album Oriented Rock” (AOR) which dominated the airwaves in America and was, in fact, the most popular form of rock music. I don’t know if you are finished with the essay (although I assume that this is just the beginning), and I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but I thought I would offer some personal insight since I lived during the period when “heavy metal” first burst onto the scene.

    First, I would just note that much of heavy metal (especially in the early to mid 1970s) wasn’t really that idealistic or conscious of philosophical implications. But generally speaking, as you have noted here in your “sociological” approach, you have alluded to the implications of heavy metal, especially as they would evolve later on.

    As for the term “heavy metal” itself, as you know there has been much debate about the origin of the term, but as someone who goes back to metal from the very beginning, I clearly remember making the distinction between “heavy metal” and “hard rock” as early as 1975, and it wasn’t derived from the Steppenwolf song, nor was it coined as late as Judas Priest’s “British Steel” as some people have asserted. In fact, I remember very clearly when I was 14 (1975), we gave my best friend and metal comrade, Alex, the nickname “Metalex” (pronounced: Me-TA-lex) — this was a very personalized form of the word “Metallica,” but long before “Metallica” even existed. This indicates that even by then “heavy metal” was in our vocabulary and we had already been referring to it as “metal” instead of “heavy metal.” The casual usage of the term “metal” as early as 1975 (to a 14 year old) and the usage of this nickname for my friend implies that we must have understood the term “heavy metal” for some time. ***Remember, there was no internet back then or mass communication — heavy metal was a very small sub-culture within music (actually just a few friends in our high school of 4,000 students). Apart from Black Sabbath and Deep Purple to some extent, big magazines like Rolling Stone, etc. probably only referred to Led Zeppelin as a very hard rock band. Certainly, I thought of Led Zeppelin as a hard rock band and not a heavy metal band. Groups like “Judas Priest” and the “Scorpions” were literally unknown bands so they never received any press from the music magazines. Thus, as someone who was devoted to these bands at that age I had no use for magazines like Rolling Stone or whatever and until this day I have never even bought a copy of that magazine. There were no such thing as “heavy metal magazines” back then, obviously.

    Amyway, I consciously told people that I wasn’t into “hard rock,” but rather that I was into “heavy metal.” *(I do remember that the term “Steel” wasn’t introduced until Judas Priest’s “British Steel” album. ANYWAY, although I think you have written an excellent “Introduction,” personally I would just allow a bit more latitude in the definition which I’m sure you will get into in later chapters. Now, for me, in my high school days, Rush was simply a “heavy metal” band (we didn’t define them as progressive metal at the time because there was no need for the classification of sub-genres of metal until the 1980s), while at the same time UFO, for me, was “heavy metal” as well, although if you were to ask Michael Schenker, he would say he was just playing “loud rock ‘n roll.” Of course, Black Sabbath was probably the first true heavy metal band although at that time (1970-71) there was no designation called “heavy metal.” So, in a sense, I believe, that the need for the term “heavy metal” came about in order to distinguish it from “hard rock.” Maybe The Who, Ted Nugent, Aerosmith, Foghat or Bachman Turner Overdrive were “hard rock,” but “heavy metal” was more powerful, darker (as you say, in one sense), but at the same time not so philosophically inclined (for example “Deep Purple” was simply an outgrowth of ’60s hard rock and their lyrics weren’t ideological at all). Furthermore, heavy metal was more particular of British bands (except for the Scorpions). As for it’s darker message, of course Sabbath would pave the way in that direction and then, later, Judas Priest would pick up on the darker themes. But in evaluating “heavy metal” from the 21st century, it is difficult not to be “anachronistic.” KISS was “heavy,” but they weren’t totally original. Alice Cooper had done much of what KISS was doing before — it’s just that KISS had brought that form of stagecraft to perfection. In a sense, though, KISS was simply a hard rock band which sometimes crossed over into our “heavy metal” territory with songs like “Deuce,” “Strutter,” “Detroit Rock City,” and “God of Thunder.” However, when it came to their anthem “Rock ‘n Roll all Night,” I couldn’t stand the band — actually, I couldn’t stand “rock ‘n roll” music anyway.

    When we really start seeing “anti-societal” themes in metal, I think we need to look at the NWOBHM and the early ’80s scene, because apart from Rush, Judas Priest, and of course Black Sabbath, I can’t really think of a heavy metal band that was consciously “messaging,” and apart from Neil Peart and his lyrics (which are rooted in the philosophy of Ayn Rand’s “Objectivism”), most of the dark lyrics were simply conceptual, whether it was Sabbath’s “Iron Man” or Priest’s “Sinner.” I think most of the dark themes in heavy metal were “not” ideological but rather “dark” in order to convey an image of power which paralleled the music.

    ANYWAY, you have written a very impressive “Introduction” and I look forward to reading the rest of your ambitious essay. Again, though, I would avoid thrusting philosophical categories onto later metal especially since diversity became evident. And if heavy metal is anything to me it is the attitude of anti-commercialism, not selling one’s soul to record company formulas, no concern for writing “hit songs” (although many good heavy metal songs have made it onto the airwaves). and going straight to the masses who are not necessarily all anti-social (as in the hippe movement), but who are “not keen on commercialism” and simply have a taste in a certain style of music that is not offered up on a plate over the radio (AOR). As I’m sure you will continue to write about sub-genres, the question of “What constitutes ‘heavy metal’?” has come full circle once again. For instance, do bands like Slipknot have anything in common with bands like Iron Maiden? Has “heavy metal” become so diverse, hence the need for “definitions of sub-genres” that the “all encompassing” term “heavy metal” has lost its original meaning due to the proliferation of bands and their particular styles, thus creating so many sub-genres that a “heavy metal” fan can truly enjoy one genre while, at the same time, finding a complete distaste for another sub-genre. It is for this reason that I am forced to classify Warlord as “Dark Power Epic Metal.”

    In a sense, though, it has always been that way — metal fans have always had to discern the ‘good from the bad’ which is a totally subjective approach, though consensus would tell us that bands like Iron Maiden or Metallica who play in front of hundreds of thousands of people, must have something on bands like Poison or Ratt. True classic heavy metal bands don’t seem to fade with time, but instead, seem to gain a wider audience along with 2-3 generations of fans. Again, some bands as you say DO have a philosophical slant (and different thoughtful lyricists and musicians) might have their own ideology (or represent an ideology). Another important point is the “sound” of heavy metal — forget about lyrical themes, etc. — when one listens to the instrumentals, for example Rush’s “Overture” or the Scorptions’ “Coast to Coast,” what is it about that form of musical style that appeals to most all heavy metal fans? Maybe in some cases it’s just about good music representing the Dionysian facet of man’s perception and/or expression. And by the term “Dionysian” I don’t mean “frenzy” or “intoxication,” as if all metal fans were drunkards and drug addicts — that is not the meaning of “Dionysian” from a philiosophical perspective at all. The meaning with regard to “metal” is one of “unleashed power,” while at the same time being contained by the Apollonian concept of a “reasoned methodology.” That’s why when you listen to Yngwie (or you see him live), you see that Dionysian frenzy blazing out from his presence, but at the same time, everything he is doing is “reasoned” and full of “knowledge, control, certainty, and exactitude” which represents the Apollonian facet of man’s expression. So using philosophical categories can be misleading because many people don’t understand the meaning of these terms in their truest philosophical form.

    Simply put, perhaps “heavy metal” (in the classic sense of the term) is just good music with excellent musicianship, excellent composition, and so on – and maybe it’s just simply exciting to listen to, especially certain compositions. This is a very deep subject, but for me “heavy metal” is simply a form of music that is powerful, displaying excellent musicianship and composition, emotive, melodic, and unafraid in blending with it other forms of music (whether it be a classical guitar style, an orchestral keyboard sound, but always strong rhythm and lead guitars with bombastic drums. To me, and perhaps this was part of my classical guitar background, metal has the power of Beethoven or Wagner or something of that nature. Of course, some “heavy metal” in my opinion (in fact a lot of it, no matter what the theme) is simply awful in composition or awful in musicianship. That a lot of people might like it simply indicates that many listeners do not have the ability to discern that which is “good” from that which is “bad.” And I always believed this about “music” in general. Some people are gifted with a good ear and some people are not, just as some people can appreciate fine wine while others can’t tell the difference between one wine or another. Of course, anyone will be drawn to a beautiful piece of music whether it is the theme song for the film “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel, or whether it is the song “Holiday” by the Scorpions. Everybody loves “fine wine.” However, though “heavy metal” is subjective and people can like whatever they want to like, I have found that many “metal listeners” nowadays (or many “music” listeners for that matter) simply don’t have a discerning ear.

    Finally, as an example of what “heavy metal” was like in the early to mid-1970s, I could listen to a song like “War Pigs” (which is full of anti-political messaging), yet at the same time I could listen to “In Trance” (which is essentially a love song, from a lyrical standpoint). Thus, your Nietschean reference is correct in its application to certain bands or certain songs, but perhaps the reference goes too far in its application to many bands (e.g. the Scorpions). It certainly applies, though, as we start examining metal after the NWOBHM era. In the end, though, I applaud you for not “overdoing” it and presenting a well balanced “Introduction.” As I said, I look forward to reading the rest of your essay. I really think you have an excellent work in progress. Keep up the good work!

    According to my understanding of what good heavy metal is (or classic metal), my music is full of all the great influences from the 1970’s though I have created my own style and thus brought my influences current. I leave you with an example from the new Warlord Anthology (which covers our music from 1983 to 2002) and an example from the new upcoming Warlord album, a song called “Night of the Fury” (2012).

    Warlord Anthology advertisement:

    Warlord rough demo of “Night of the Fury” (2012)

  • brain farter

    These type of articles always end up being hilarious.

    Metal: The Beginning
    Metal: We are here to stay
    Metal: Not satanism
    Metal: We’re so fucking educated
    Metal: yada yada yada

    Best part is that 99% of the time they’re written by fledglings.

    Seriously, what are you trying to prove? Why do you think we have wikipedia articles about rock and metal?

  • Brain Farter

    I think you should know who the writer is , how old is he and where did he get his information from.

    You will soon notice that wikipedia will be using this as potential information source. Not the opposite.

    This is a (former)university student thesis of 700 pages.

  • brain farter

    I hope you’re joking. The article has nothing in it that’s anywhere near the standards of a thesis, let alone an academic essay.

    “You will soon notice that wikipedia will be using this as potential information source. Not the opposite.”

    ^And that’s coming from someone who knows precisely how the website works, yeah?

  • Brain farter

    This is the introduction and it has been edited to become an article. Please be patient until other parts are published.

    I do understand the concept of wikipedia, but I did not understand all procedures when I joined as contributor there. Among many contributions, yes some got nominated for speedy deletion, because i did not cite enough references, or there was not enough… I am still learning and not ashamed of my mistakes, afterall my intention is to promote not to mess up wikipedia.

    If you have anything personal against me that you wish to discuss I will be glad to discuss it in private. I am sure you know my email.