The band that possibly started the ball rolling was England's Black Sabbath. The name was evil; it brought an immediate image of what the music could be like: dark, mysterious, vulgar, rebellious. And without fear of the unknown, maybe the music could be fun. The band's self-titled debut album, released in 1970, featured all of those aspects and led many to call this group outrageous. Regardless of what people thought, Black Sabbath struck a chord with anybody who was willing to listen. Its songs, often dealing with the discovery of the unknown, appealed to many teenagers, who could easily relate with the band's struggle to find who they really were. The music was strong, it was loud, it was heavy, and it was heavy metal. Since then the music has gone through a lot of changes, and for those who could not understand it, it got into a lot of trouble.
When punk rock bloomed in the latter half of the '70s (at a time when disco was all the rage), there were people from both sides of the Atlantic who were fed up with playing in basements while others took the spotlight. In England, there seemed to be an enormous number of bands waiting to be heard, and a few of them got noticed in America. This became known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, or NWOBHM. Over in America, young musicians who were brought up on Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Deep Purple, and Yes started forming their own bands, and thus the genre became official. And it wasn't only in the States or England; Australia and Germany also had bands that could easily compete with the best.
The younger kids in England got a bit more uptight with what they heard, and they chose to make things darker and maybe faster. One of the first bands to do this was Motörhead. Then there were the adventurous American kids who sought out imported albums from their favorite NWOBHM bands and, rather than emulate what they heard, played it the way it felt to them. Some of these bands took a cue from punk rock, and what was heard was louder, harder, and faster. This became thrash-metal, a form that started around 1982. A few bands made the rhythm the essential part of their recipe, and a young musician from southern California named Jeff Dahl is considered the first individual to coin the phrase "speed-metal." Thrash-metal and speed-metal are essentially the same thing, with thrash sometimes being slightly slower and emphasizing the guitar.
From there, everything goes crazy. Bands who sang about the end of the world were called death-metal bands. Those who spoke about hell and the devil were labeled black-metal bands. Soon young British bands were doing grindcore, which is superfast music with almost unintelligible lyrics and as heavy as possible. Then there are the heavy metal bands who stuck with their roots and came out as strong and as daring as those who explored the possibilities. Loud, disgusting, meaningful, powerful, gross, fast, faster, destructive, innovative, intelligent, a way of life: that's heavy metal.
By John Book
By John Book