Unlike the creation of the telephone or the television, it is hard to trace the inventor of a particular genre of music. Just like folk music, where influences came from different places and narrowed to a few folk progenitors, it is hard to point to a particular creator of heavy metal music. But we will explore the various influences from different musicians that created the heavy metal music we know today.
Searching for the creator of heavy metal
If we search back into history, we can see many musicians having a part to play in the creation of heavy metal music. Was it the Beatles who began the movement with their mass murder inspiring “Helter Skelter”? Or was it Jimi Hendrix who created the genre with his distorted feedback guitar frenzies? Maybe it was the Kinks who gave rise to the genre with their power chord classic “You Really Got Me” or was it “The Who”?
Heavy metal music has both fans and critics. It has also spawned many subgenres and is a staple of modern music as important and recognisable as a country, pop, rock, electronic music, and others.
The early history of heavy metal
The 1960s was an era of musical creativity. Many of the blues musicians from the 1950s, such as Joe Hill-Lewis and Pat Hare began experimenting with heavier distortions in their music.
“Cotton Crop Blues” by James Cotton, a blues musician is a good example of it. The song comes with a heavier sound and also from here, blues musicians began writing lyrics on morbid subject matters, which is also a trait of heavy metal. After the foundations were laid, the later 1960s rock groups, many from the UK started building on the demented and accursed path towards metal.
Later on, bands like The Who, with their fast tempos and heavy distortion in songs like “My Generation” inspired The Beatles to write “Helter Skelter”. British bands such as Eric Clapton’s Cream, the Yardbirds, and the Jeff Beck Group, along with Jimi Hendrix were credited with developing heavier drums, bass, and distorted guitar sounds that differentiate heavy metal from other blues-based rock.
The emergence of heavy metal music
The heavy metal music we know today was codified in the 1970s by Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath. Their albums featured heavy riffs, distorted power chords, mystical lyrics, and drum solos. The vocal styles ranged from wails of Zeppelin’s Robert Plant to the whines of Black Sabbath’s Ozzy Osbourne.
Bands like Kiss, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Judas Priest, and Alice Cooper toured incessantly throughout the 1970s to make up for the lack of radio airplay and established an international fan base for heavy metal music.
Heavy metal in the 1980s
The popularity of heavy metal music slumped at the end of the 1970s with the advent of disco music. But Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, and Saxon lead the new wave of British heavy metal in the 1980s and revived the genre.
Later, a wave of ‘glam’ metal featuring bands like Motley Crue and Ratt emanated from Los Angeles around 1983. Other bands like Poison, Guns N’ Roses, and hundreds of other bands moved to Los Angeles in the hopes of getting record deals. The most important musical influence of the decade was the adaption of chord progressions, figuration, and ideals of virtuosity from Baroque models such as Bach and Vivaldi to heavy metal.
Criticism of heavy metal music
Although heavy metal music has an established fan base, it also faced several criticisms. Several political to academic groups have blamed the genre for its violent undertones and encouraged fans for causing crimes, violence, despondency to suicide. But defenders of the genre have pointed out that there was no evidence that heavy metal’s exploration of madness and horror caused the violence and social ills in society, they merely pointed it out.
The genre’s lyrics and imagery have long addressed a wide range of topics and its music has always been creative and virtuous more than critics can admit.