A Brief History of Heavy Metal... Part 3

Metal had come a long way from its gritty roots in England, and was now global. With more genre's and sub genre's seemingly appearing every year, metal was finally stamping its mark as here to stay. However, as the turn of the decade came in the 90s, so to would a new genre of music, and one which would cause metal to change again - grunge. Grunge is an informal word which means dirty, and came to describe the sludgy, dirty sound early bands of this style had. The reason for this sound, is not being able to afford the expensive booths and good tapes. Although grunge had been simmering away through the late 80s, it was the emergence of four pivotal bands and albums that would make grunge "popular". These were Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, who released their most popular albums at the time. What this meant for metal was a change that would affect the "mainstream" and popular culture of the US and the Western world. Europe did not experience this to the same magnitude, but the 90s would see some amazing bands be founded.

When grunge hit, metal changed, but not necessarily for the better. Trying to focus more on a commercial sound, US and even some European bands changed their styling. The Black Album had caused Metallica to explode commercially - so they tried new things, with albums like Load and Reload being launched and shocking their core audience, but not in a good way. Megadeth would release Cryptic Writings and Risk, both which did not go down well with their fans. Even stalwarts like Iron Maiden tried a new style to fit with the times, but it seems fans were not like they used to be. The glam metal bands who had exploded in the 80s, yet now found that no one wanted the pomp and stage show like they used to (apart from KISS, but some music never dies). It wasn't just the music style that was causing issues in the metal world, it was the changes to big name bands as well.

All bands go through changes, and metal was no different. Ozzy had decided he would be better on his own, so decided to pursue a solo career - Sabbath hired the legendary Ronnie James Dio (R.I.P) as a replacement. Rob Halford left Judas Priest for awhile and Tim "Ripper" Owens was his replacement, but it was not the same. And Bruce Dickinson said goodbye to Iron Maiden for a short period, choosing to focus on different projects. Combine this with the ever changing styles and fans were soon confused about what had happened to their favourite bands. But still metal held strong, doing what it does best, and finding a way through.

Enter Pantera. These "Cowboys from Hell", hailing from Texas (and Louisiana), would change their style to come storming onto the world stage and show the world, metal had not died. Although they had existed years earlier, with a much more power metal vibe (including spandex and big hair), it was once they brought in Phil Anselmo, changed up their style, and released the album Cowboys From Hell, that they truly began to make their mark. Considered groove metal, but a style much akin to thrash, Pantera's mix of social lyrics, Phil's growl/dark singing style, and the guitar mastery of Dimebag, caused them to shoot to the top of the US metal world. While infighting would lead to their downfall, Pantera held the banner of metal high while continuing to pave the way for future bands to come.

As we mentioned, it wasn't just the US experiencing a surge in keeping metal alive. Over in Europe, there was a style that had been around for awhile, but was beginning to gain momentum - symphonic power metal. This style of metal incorporates elements of classical music, and leans heavily on opera inspired vocals. Although also known as just power metal, this style was pioneered by two bands who would cause many to follow - Rhapsody (later known as Rhapsody of Fire), and Nightwish. The former came from Italy, and was founded by guitarist Luca Turilli in 1993 - with their first proper release coming in 1997. Nightwish hail from Finland, and were formed in 1996, with their first album also being in 1997. Bands such as Stratovarius (also from Finland) were formed earlier (1985) but it was the early-mid 90's which brought them success. Of course one would be remiss if not to mention the burgeoning black metal movement beginning its climb through Europe, with bands like Mayhem and Burzum leading the charge as the sound began to spread.

Metal was still alive and kicking despite the mainstream and commercial media doing their best to end it. Although some of the old flag had tried to change to go with the times, there were still new bands being formed and movements happening globally, ensuring that metal in some shape or form would still be there for a long time. As metal fought for its place in a world with many styles, as the new millennium dawned, metal would again undergo a change, this time pairing with another style to create a brand new genre, and one which would relate to much of the misguided youth at the time...

Keep an eye out for Part Four, coming soon!

© 2019 Merchant of Rock

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