In music, heavy metal is progenitor of the "Metal-family" (for example, heavy metal, black metal, death metal...). Metal derives directly from blues and rock, even if in some sub-genres there is an evident influence of classical music. So, even if heavy metal and black metal belong to the same family, there is an effective difference between them. Heavy metal is mainly blues-based, with pentatonic scales and a blues-like song structure; black metal is based on classical music, even if at a first glance it seems to be only distorted guitars playing very fast a repeating melody.
As the original expression of Sabbath/Zeppelin-influenced heavy metal distorted into punk or seceded to disco in the mid to late 1970s, an appropriation of "classical" music would fuel the development towards heavy metal maturity, most fully developed in the work of Eddie Van Halen, and Randy Rhoads' work with Ozzy Osbourne.
Heavy metal got a push from an intellectual and artistic curiosity when musicians started to exploit the opportunities of the electrically amplified guitar to produce a louder, more discordant sound. The origin of the term Heavy metal is uncertain.
Regardless of its origin, the term may have been used as a jibe initially but was quickly adopted by its adherents. Bands such as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath specialised in a "stripped down" sound in which the Blues inheritance was reduced. In addition, the influence of Hendrix should not be discounted: acting both as a bridge between black American music and white European rockers. and as an innovator in the technical capabilities of the electric guitar (although some of the original heavy metal-ers joked that their simplified sound was more the result of limited ability than of innovation. See power trio).
Some people say The Beatles started to ignite the metal music movement with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and the song "Helter Skelter" from The Beatles. Among the many bands to "cover" this song, Mötley Crüe's version very strongly brings to the fore the heavy metal undertones that the Beatles original song implied but failed to explore in their time. This opinion, however, is open for debate. The earliest song that is clearly identifiable as prototype heavy metal appears to be "You Really Got Me" by The Kinks.
Heavy metal, as an art form, is more than just music. It is as much visual as it is audible. Album covers and stage shows are almost as important to the presentation of the material as the music itself. Thus, through heavy metal, many artists collaborate to produce a menu of experiences in each piece, offering a wider range of experiences to the audience. In this respect, heavy metal becomes perhaps "more" of an art than any single form. Whereas a painting is experienced visually, while a symphony is an audible experience, a band's "image" and the common theme that binds all their music is expressed in the artwork on the album, the set of the stage, the tone of the lyrics, and the sound of the music.
Heavy metal themes are more grave than the "let's go to the hop" fluff of the 1950s, when rock and roll came into being. Commentary on war, nuclear annihilation, environmental issues, political and religious propaganda and such are standard in heavy metal. Black Sabbath's War Pigs ("...in the fields a body's burning, as the war machine keeps turning..."), Ozzy Osbourne's Killer of Giants ("...if none of us believed in war, then can you tell me what the weapons' for?/Listen to me everyone, if the button gets pushed there'll be no where to run...") are just two of many serious contributions to the discussion of the state of affairs. Granted, the commentary tends to become over-simplified, but then, the fantastic poetic vocabulary of heavy metal deals primarily with very clear dichotomies of light/dark, hope/dispair, good/evil which don't make much room for complex shades of gray.
The energetic and vitalised music soon found an audience and rapidly spread to the United States through extended touring. American musicians swiftly absorbed the agitated style and began to restore a more technically refined element as well as the Blues element.
The appropriation of classical music is "...specific and consistent: Bach, not Mozart; Paganini rather than Liszt..." such that "we must ask: if we don't understand his influence on the music of Ozzy Osbourne or Bon Jovi, do we really understand Bach as well as we thought we did?" [Walser, 63]. Thus, heavy metal enters the discourse on the enduring nature of music.
Also, "...when a text was associated with the music, Bach could write musical equivalents of verbal ideas," [Encarta]. Especially as heavy metal uses themes of apocalyptic and images of power and darkness, the ability to translate verbal ideas into musical ideas that successfully convey the ideas of the words is critical to heavy metal authenticity and credibility. An excellent example of this is the theme album Powerslave, by Iron Maiden. The cover is of a dramatic Egyptian pyramid scene, and many of the songs on the album have subject matter that requires a sound suggestive of life and death, including a song entitled [[The Rime of the Ancient Mariner]], based on the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Pop music is unable to do this, for pop by its nature can't be all that serious, while heavy metal can deal with lighter subjects as well as the serious ones.
The explosion of guitar virtuosity founded in the leadership of pioneer Jimi Hendrix a music generation earlier was ushered to the fore by Eddie Van Halen, and many consider his 1978 solo appropriately called Eruption as the significant new dawn in heavy metal history. Ritchie Blackmore (formerly of pioneer Deep Purple), Randy Rhodes (w/ pioneer Ozzy Osbourne formerly of Black Sabbath) and Yngwie Malmsteen would solidify this explosion. All of a sudden, classical guitars, even nylon-stringed guitars, were commonplace at heavy metal concerts, and classical icons such as Liona Boyd[?] became associated with the heavy metal stars as peers in a newly diverse guitar fraternity where conservative and aggressive guitarists could come together to "trade licks" (recently MP3.com featured a collection of Ms. Boyd's music which featured her collaboration with such rock stars as Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour and the great Eric Clapton, as further evidence of the "open" associations that cross musical genre divisions among the respective leaders).
This explosion would cool down in the music of Ronnie James Dio (who himself had a tenure at lead vocals with the legendary Black Sabbath) and continue to settle towards Iron Maiden, who may be the final and complete consummation of "pure" heavy metal in the lineage of the "grandfathers" - Hendrix, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. After Maiden, metal would push the limits of aggressive loudness in thrash metal, speed metal, black metal and death metal, and return full circle through the vanity of the Los Angeles scene's "glam" or pop metal lead by Mötley Crüe, to a popish romantic metal of Bon Jovi, before its energy dissipated altogether and "alternative" (or "grunge") evolved out of Seattle in the work of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.
The influence of classical music on Van Halen and Randy Rhoads helped heavy metal adopt "...a new professionalism, with theory, analysis, pedagogy, and technical rigor acquiring new importance," [Walser, 84].
In the early 80s the New Wave of British Heavy Metal made metal music very popular (especially in Europe) with Bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Motörhead. This period influenced all metal sub-genres and can be considered as their common roots. Sub-genres of heavy metal are numerous:
The most used lineup for metal is: a drummer, sometimes using a double bass-drum; a bass guitar; a rhythm guitar; a lead guitar; a singer; sometimes a keyboard player can be found. Guitar playing is very important in heavy metal. Intricate solos and riffs are a big part of heavy metal music. Guitarists use sweep-picking, tapping and similar techniques to obtain amazing fast playing. Heavy metal is not limited, however, to the standard outfit of guitars and drums. The Finnish cello quartet, Apocalyptica[?], has created their own version of heavy metal, difficult to categorize but leaning towards the darker side of metal. They apply various familiar effects to their sounds such as the all-familiar distortion, chorusing, flanging, etc. to create their style, which has fallen under a mixed assortment of applause and criticism due to their deviance.
There is a great variety of ways that heavy metal singers sing, from clean vocals to a high-pitched wail to a deep growl. The black and death metal scene tend to use distorted and guttural voices (for example try to listen to some songs of the Florida band Deicide). Generally it's hard to understand what the singer is "singing". Often, the text is considered to be too crude to be spoken out clearly (try to listen to Cannibal Corpse), but there are some bands that will have very good lyrics obscured by the style of the singing.
Studies have shown that the average metal fan may know the lyrics, but not understand or be able to explain the meaning of the lyrics. Indeed, for many, "...we can thus identify with a song?because it is the voice [tone], not the lyrics, to which we immediately respond". As a comparison, consider the abstract brush strokes of Barnett Newman and others that don't necessarily represent "something" but evoke emotional response in the viewer. Thus, we may suggest that heavy metal music has translated abstract visuals into abstract sound. Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit is an excellent example of a lyric that is obscured by the angst-ridden tone, yet it is precisely that tone that evokes the emotional response to the song.
Some heavy metal performers include:
Anthrax - Black Sabbath - Blue Oyster Cult - Budgie[?] - Burzum - The Cult - Children of bodom - Corrosion Of Conformity[?] - Deep Purple - Deicide - Danzig - Darkthrone - Dokken - Down - Extreme - Fear Factory - Frankenshred - Godsmack - Greg Howe - Guns N' Roses - Infectious Grooves[?] - Iron Maiden - Judas Priest - King's X - Led Zeppelin - Living Colour - Yngwie J. Malmsteen - Marilyn Manson - Megadeth - Metallica - Mötley Crüe - Motorhead - Nightwish - Obituary - Ozzy Osbourne - Pacifier - Prong - Puddle Of Mudd - Queensryche - Queens Of The Stone Age - Saxon - Slash's Snakepit - Slayer - Skid Row - Static-X - Stryper - Suicidal Tendencies - Tool - UFO - WASP - Y&T