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A Brief History Of Heavy Metal... Part 1

To write about the history of heavy metal could fill up pages and pages - and there are already so many good books out there that do so. What I am going to do, is give my version of the history of heavy metal, and a brief outline to you, our valued readers and clients, so that next time you are having a music history debate you can throw facts their way!

It is well known and widely accepted that heavy metal started with Black Sabbath. While you can argue that Led Zeppelin were the first, due to lyrical and sound elements, it was Sabbath who delivered the classic drop D tuning that metal is so well known for. This came about by accident - lead guitarist and riff god Tony Iommi cut the tips of his fingers off in the metal factory he worked in (Sabbath are from Birmingham, England, a very industrial town). Not wanting to stop playing, he fashioned fingertips out of rubber thimbles, and to make playing easier, down tuned the guitar to make the strings looser. What this meant is the sounds he made became doomier and darker, an accurate representation of their circumstances. Combine that with Ozzy's unique, unorthodox voice, and Geezer Butler's crazy lyrics, and you had the birth of metal. Songs like the self titled Black Sabbath are a perfect snapshot of the heavy metal sound.

Sabbath forming would lead to other bands following them in a similar vein. Combining elements of punk with a faster pace, Motörhead burst onto the scene from London, all guns blazing. With lead singer and bassist Lemmy at the helm, songs like Overkill and Ace of Spades set a new precedent for metal, and would go onto inspire bands like Metallica and Exodus to form the thrash movement in the States. On the other side, Judas Priest arrived around the same time from Birmingham, however they would bring in the now classic "dual guitar" attack, and with lead singer Rob Halford's operatic vocals, bring in a new style of singing - one which lead to the inspiration of power metal. And similar to Judas Priest was the iconic Iron Maiden from London, who used the two guitar approach (and later three), along with lead singer Bruce Dickinson's vocals and lyrical themes to help create their own stamp on the metal world. It's safe to say, heavy metal started in England.

These four bands could be considered the godfathers of heavy metal, and although they all formed at different times (1968, 1975, 1969, 1975 respectively), their mark on the modern and future generations of metal is unmistakable. If there were a "Mt Rushmore of metal", it would be these four bands. What makes this even more remarkable, is that all these bands formed over 40 years ago, and aside from the tragic passing of Lemmy (R.I.P), are still performing to this day - Priest and Maiden are currently on tour, and while Sabbath did their swan song tour in 2016, Ozzy is still going hard with his solo tour, and Tony Iommi is still cranking out riffs. What other genre of music or bands can say the same? Not pop, not disco, not rap, not RnB, not even most rock bands (aside from the Stones) can say the same.

Keep an eye out for Part 2 on the brief history of heavy metal!

© 2019 Merchant of Rock

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