A short history of heavy metal music

Heavy metal music isn’t for everybody but for the ones that it does hit, it hits them hard in the soul.

From its powerful lyrics, guitar solos that melt into your heart and some hot banging drum beats, it’s a whole exciting experience on its own. Some deem it too heavy and some play into the stereotype that it’s Satan-worshipping tunes. Despite the rumors, the genre has been going strong since the 1960’s, with new bands and even new genres constantly gaining followers ever since. The history of this fantastic genre hasn’t always been all fun, unicorns and light heartedness, more like a wild and unsmooth path, but it surely brings a punch.

How heavy metal gained its popularity

It all started in the 1960s when two outlandish English bands that you may have heard of, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, decided to unite and create what no one had created before.

Hits like “Dazed and Confused” and “N.I.B.” were tunes unlike any heard before. Heavy guitars and fast drum beats were mind-blowing for youth looking for a way to let out rage.

After the kick starting age of the 60s, Kiss and Deep Purple brought the newly created edgy sounding genre to America and influenced a new crop of listeners.

The 70s saw an even newer blend of genres in metal emerging from the punk scene. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal (often stylized as NWOBHM) breathed new life into metal music. Iron Maiden and Motörhead restored faith in new music that was heavy and aggressive. With the recent passing of Motörhead’s bassist and lead singer, Lemmy Kilmister, this particular era of metal has seen a recent resurgence (although we can’t say that really ever actually faded in the first place).

One of the main acts of the heavy metal scene is by far, without any sort of doubt, love them or hate them but you got to give it to them that they’re one of the most influential bands of all time: Metallica. Formed by frontman James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich in the early 1980’s, they’ve released nine albums so far over the course of their history and recently celebrated their 38th year together as a band. “Master of Puppets” has been featured on countless lists as one of the best metal albums to have ever been created, and their legacy lives on to inspire a new group of metal fans.

Since the 1980’s, metal has widely branched out as artists began to experiment with sounds that were meant to set them apart from one another. Thrash metal began with Slayer being arguably one of the leaders of the genre. Pantera paved the way for groove metal and Death and Opeth slayed the death metal scene. Dream Theater is known for being the forerunners of the progressive metal subgenre, while Bullet for my Valentine covers metalcore.

Popular metal performers that inspire even the youngest of metal fans are Angus Young of the infamous band AC/DC and Till Lindemann of the extremely controversial band Rammstein. Mosh pits, otherwise known as the wall of death, became popular in the late 1980’s during the power metal era and was a way for concert attendees to “get to know each other a bit better”… just kidding, but yeah, it was a unique form of interacting, even for the more introverted people.

Of course with such a complex genre that doesn’t shy away from aggressive and even violent lyrics at times, along came the criticism. Mosh pits and human safety were also under scrutiny, but what outsiders never understand is that this form of “dancing” isn’t filled with hate but with a desire to unite with fellow headbangers.

You could say that heavy metal music is a beautiful mess. It’s loud, it’s in-your-face, at times it mocks reality and it most certainly is angry. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s OK. But for some, it’s life-changing and a way to escape from the mediocre day-to-day life. And isn’t that what music is there for anyway?