The History of Heavy Metal

A Genre Emerges – Part 1

Ticket Stubs. Konstantine 2017

Ever notice when you’re leaving a concert that most of the attendees are having loud opinionated conversations about what was wrong with the set? Like “You should’ve seen em back in 83’ when they just started!” or “That’s not even the heavy shit man! Play something good!” I’m not going to lie, that’s me, I just wait to get to the parking lot to start my rant. You see most people take a path in life that is usually set by a wanting for growth and upward mobility. I woke up everyday and drank myself through bars in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and redneck towns all over much of the eastern seaboard, it was all for my lust of being drunk and listening to metal. Now of course this doesn’t make me an expert on the topic but I put in my time and went to many concerts. In other words I think I can hang with Eddie Trunk.

Consider me a Metal Missionary here to spread the holy word of Lemmy and many other saints of Metal – it’s your choice if you want to believe. I’m not going to keep  pushing anymore, it’s time to enlighten, heavily. Just be aware, I am a real metalhead through and through, not punk or hardcore or alternative, Fucking metal! To me Metal is the alpha male of musical style and if you’re a guy who isn’t attracted to it, there might be something wrong with you.

“You can’t get any heavier than that, I love that slow, droning, dinosaur-footsteps-through-the-woods type of sound.” Peter Steele on Black Sabbath

 

Classical Era (70’-78’)

During the 1960’s M.L.K., J.F.K. and R.F.K. were assassinated, the peaceful leftist groups turned militant and the flower power shit was fading. The 60’s were over and it was the end of an era. You see before Black Sabbath, “heavy” did exist but it was more of an image than it ever was a sound. The imagery or maybe the lyrics might’ve been there, but it wasn’t until the addition of the “heavy” sound that metal was born.


Even Billy Joel thought he was Metal at first but it crushed him.

Formed in Birmingham, England, the members of Black Sabbath thought jazz rock was the pinnacle of rock n roll, but a fortunate accident happened. Tony Iommi, the guitar player was working at a metal factory of all places and accidentally sliced off a few fingertips almost destroying his guitar career forever. The alpha male that is metal spoke inside of him. Instead of giving up, he decided to keep on playing no matter how painful using plastic fingertips was, he tuned his guitar a whole step down (“Drop D” enabling him to play easier), from that came the sound that became Metal. England had birthed us metal but the labor wasn’t all theirs. In the United States a band called Pentagram was sharing their work as pioneers of metal. Before they could release an album, drug abuse had caught up with the singer Bobby Liebling and Pentagram didn’t release an album until much later. Listening to the early recordings it is obvious that the United States did have a metal band of their own. The problem is Black Sabbath actually released their albums and went on tour, Bobby Liebling went on crack instead. England had beat us to the punch. Metal was almost exclusively theirs for a long time.

During the early 1970’s a few bands were coming out that seemed very metal but fell short in either image or sound. Bands like Deep Purple, Alice Cooper and Led Zeppelin for example. Many bands had one or the other but Black Sabbath had both. People don’t stop to consider that it was 1970 and a song like “N.I.B.” existed. It frustrates me when I have to argue with someone when they say “It’s not even that heavy?” I started off listening to Black Sabbath as an introduction to Metal, being that I’m a classically trained metalhead I get offended by such comments. Black Sabbath invented a sound and for almost 50 years thousands of bands jumped on the bandwagon. People seem to forget inventing something is much harder than building on it.

Black Sabbath released albums almost every year from late 69’ to 74’ when Judas Priest (Also from Birmingham, England) released Rocka Rolla, a great album but not quite metal. It wasn’t until 1976 when Judas Priest released Sad Wings of Destiny that they were fully out of the closet(lolz) and Metal. Judas Priest is a pillar in the metal world (Rob Halford also had pillars in his ass as he is really gay, as in homosexual). Considered a godfather of metal, Rob Halford is one of the most amazing lead singers of all time, till this day he sounds amazing and barely a handful of people have ever rocked a stage for that long.

Not too long after Judas Priest unleashed their clad leather metal getup, a man named Lemmy Kilmister formed a band. After being fired from his previous band Hawkwind for doing the “wrong drugs” he formed Motorhead in response. They released their self-titled album in 1977 which added speed and grit to an art that would soon become super polished (Glam). Motorhead sounds like speed and alcohol. That’s because Lemmy drank, smoked and took speed till pretty much the day he died 900 years later. In between rocking and dying he released over 20 albums with Motorhead. He was the only constant member. In 2015 he dropped dead and Motorhead died with him. God bless him.

On the other side of the Atlantic ocean not too long after Black Sabbath, an American band was rising to fame and they would soon add to the growing list of metal bands taking over. KISS was the self-titled album released by KISS in 1974 and with that,  metal would soon become mainstream. Like Alice Cooper, KISS brought more than music to the stage. They were one of the first stage “acts”, which meant it was more than just a band you were seeing. KISS came out on stage almost in drag, considering the heels and makeup but they weren’t just spectacle, they wrote great songs. They also happened to bring the merchandise idea to the metal world (Jews) just like the way Star Wars did it with film. Money aside, KISS wrote anthems that we still sing in bars till this day.

N.W.O.B.H.M., Thrash, Power & Glam(78’-92’)  

Like the 60’s in the USA, during the second half of the 1970’s there was a lot of social unrest in Britain. The rise of de-industrialization brought unemployment while leaving another generation in poverty. Again, from the ashes of shit rose a new form of art. The 1970’s brought us the base of metal but the 1980’s would bring us much variety. The New Wave of British heavy metal had arrived and punk seemed to rub off between the style and length of the actual songs. Motorhead seemed to be part of it but arrived way earlier than anyone else in the movement. Saxon and Iron Maiden came out around the same time(79’-80’). While Saxon enjoyed their success (to date, 13 millions albums sold worldwide) it wasn’t a match to Iron Maiden. Iron Maiden sounded as amazing as their name. Their original singer had a very punk driven sound and although most agree that Paul Di’Anno was amazing, it wasn’t until Bruce Dickinson replaced him that Iron Maiden became the powerhouse that we know them as. It was time to get out of the clubs and into the huge arenas. Bruce Dickinson had the showmanship of Freddie Mercury and his singing was equally as ambitious. Iron Maiden might’ve been considered part of the NWOBHM but they are also synonymous with classic metal. The chorus driven songs that arenas sang together are still as powerful as they ever were, songs like “Run to the Hills” or “The Trooper” were just 2 of 1,000,000 songs that Iron Maiden wrote in the 1980’s. Alongside but underground was Diamond Head, although their success wasn’t as grand as their counterparts, their influence is infinite in the metal songwriting world.

In 1978 Black Sabbath were facing tough times. Nobody got along and the last two albums were kind of shitty considering what laid before them. Ozzy Osbourne was kicked out of Black Sabbath and two monumental things happened. The world and Black Sabbath were introduced to a new singer from upstate New York, Ronnie James Dio. Coincidentally like Ozzy, Dio didn’t get along with Tony Iommi for long and after a couple great albums Heaven & Hell and The Mob Rules they too would have a falling out. Dio went on to start his own band Dio releasing Holy Diver in 1983. His career would be rivaled by very few.

Not too long after being booted from Black Sabbath Ozzy picked himself back up. He sobered up briefly and with the help of his wife supposedly, the band “Ozzy Osbourne” was born. Originally named Blizzard of Ozz, it featured the guitar virtuoso Randy Rhoads, and after his death it lined up some of the best guitar players one band has ever seen. Jake E. Lee, Zakk Wylde and Gus G. followed and the legacy of Ozzy Osbourne’s musical career just became more epic as time went on. In 1982 Ozzy Osbourne bit the head off a bat and chewed it on stage, he alleges he thought it was a prop. So metal !

I know this sounds hard to believe but Def Leppard started off really fucking heavy before that whole Glam Metal thing overtook them. The first two albums before the super huge third “Pyromania”(1983),  “On through the Night” (1980) and “ High N’ Dry” (1981) were heavy, driven and sounded more like a punk version of KISS. It is overlooked by a lot of metalheads but trust me on this and give it a listen.

Although at first glance glam metal looks pretty gay, it isn’t. In fact it is the furthest from gay. Glam metal took on the excess of KISS and the sold-out arenas. Wearing leggings, shoulder-pads, teased hair and pounds of Aqua net, glam metal had infused pop-quality choruses, shredding solos and heart-melting ballads that made it easier for the mainstream to accept metal.  It branded metal singers as porn stars who could never die and for the most part they were right. The only thing that ever hurt those guys was time itself. Alice Cooper might’ve been a pioneer of Glam metal but it was bands like Cheap Trick and Motley Crue that gave it the look we’ve come to know and love. An original “party” band,  Motley Crue were pioneers of T&A, they are one of the reasons we have nudity at concerts now. Woodstock might’ve had a bunch of nude hippies running around but it wasn’t until Motley Crue that it became a trend. In other words, Motley Crue really knew how to act like rock stars. Like Def Leppard, they weren’t just a “pop” friendly group of guys that gave in to the money instead of the music. Motley Crue wrote a lot of amazing music and I’m pretty sure they are engraved in some of the best party memories of all time. Dokken lead by singer Don Dokken was also an amazing glam band that has always been overlooked. Most of you will remember them from “A Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warriors” for their title track “Dream Warriors”. Dokken featured one the best guitar players of all time, George Lynch. It was said that George Lynch invented the “finger-tap” style that Eddie Van Halen popularized, as well as trying out for Ozzy Osbourne – losing to Randy Rhoads first then Jake E. Lee years later. Dokken sold millions of albums and used to play arenas, now you’d be lucky if Don Dokken and George Lynch share a stage at a dive bar.

Van Halen is a mystery to me. Although I agree that their guitar player really is one of the best ever, I don’t understand how they became so big as a metal band. Eddie Van Halen is considered to be a guitar god and it is no secret why, listen to anything he wrote, he is amazing! The thing is if you listen to their music it isn’t really metal. Yes there are plenty of licks and riffs that are “metal-like” but I personally would never consider them a metal band, not when the first metal band was Black Sabbath. I am not trying to put them down, I really like them, but have you ever heard “Jump”? Not so metal. The rest of the glam metal to come out was really gay, bands like Bon Jovi and Cinderella dominated the charts but a few good bands snuck in there too. Bands like Skid Row(“Youth Gone Wild”), Quiet Riot (“Bang Your Head(Metal Health)”) and Twister Sister(“I Wanna Rock!”) were awesome but Glam would soon see its end with the introduction of Grunge in the 90’s.

To be continued…

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