The Music Genre
Heavy Metal, known simply as 'metal' to many of its fans, is a music genre derivative of hard rock, known for a thick sound scape that emphasized guitar solos and highlights technical proficiency. The Metal movement has its origins in the early 60s, and has continued on, actively, until this day.
Fans of the genre are known for their long hair, reckless attitude, and extreme loyalty to the genre and its bands. While the age-range is usually young, with newer, younger groups crafting their own subgenres in a futile attempt to prevent uniformity, they all carry common characteristics of being socially withdrawn, and artistically inspired.
Heavy Metal: A Genre
As a genre, metal is unique. While it was similar to hard-rock acts, this comparison only lasts the first few years of their shared existence. By the early 70s, Heavy Metal and Hard Rock would be separate, and would remain so, due to one's commercial availability, and the other's intense subject matter and technicality.
However, where this sibling association ended, metal found itself alone, but not for long. After some time, many fans soon realized that metal had something in common with an older genre. Classical music is known for its technicality and power, and indeed, even the psychological profiles of the average listener are very similar, with the largest differences being age or education levels. This relationship would serve to spawn a few unique subgenres.
Heavy Metal: A History
The progenitors of heavy metal can be found among many blues-rocks acts of the mid 60s. These acts, such as the Who, were characterized by deeper bass lines, and experiments in distortion. These same acts soon evolved into psychedelic rock, which was the basis and primary progenitor genre of Heavy Metal.
From psychedelic rock, like Purple Haze, you can clearly see a lineage that builds to acts like early Zeppelin. The band Vanilla Fudge was cited as a clear link between psychedelic rock and heavy metal. You can hear this early connection in Season of the Witch by either Vanilla Fudge or Donovan.
In the late 60s and early 70s, Heavy Metal was pioneered by bands such as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. These originators defined the dark tones, mythological references, and serious subject matter that will come to dominate the genre, with increasing technical proficiency. These early bands defined what was metal, and set the standard high for following acts, both in terms of lyrics and technicality.
However, before more good metal could come about, there would be a dark age. A darkest night before the dawn, really.
By the mid 70s, Heavy Metal seemed at a lull. The progenitor bands were making albums, but Hard Rock, and spectacular hair rock (like Kiss) was on a role. In that same timeframe, a new wave of Heavy Metal Bands emerged from Britain. Bands like Def Leopard and Iron Maiden. Eventually though, this new wave of fresh blood either split off to join the upcoming Glam Metal scene, or faded to something akin to obscurity.
Thus, by the beginning of the 80s, Heavy Metal reached heavy commercial success with Glam Metal Acts taking the lead. Bands like Poison and and WhiteSnake dominated a highly commercial market characterized by the 'Power Ballad'. By the early 90s though, Grunge killed this movement.
However, Metal was not dead. While Glam Metal bands fought wars over the existing market, two subgenres were formed. Thrash and Black Metal. Black metal was characterized by a deeper, bulkier sound, usually with growling lyrics. Thrash metal was dominated by fast riffs, and amazing guitar proficiency. These two major sub-genres would work with and against each other, to form the metal underground.