Traditional heavy metal

Traditional heavy metal
Traditional heavy metal
Stylistic origins Rock, psychedelic rock, blues rock
Cultural origins Late 1960s United Kingdom and United States
Typical instruments Electric guitar - Bass - Drums - Vocals
Mainstream popularity Worldwide, mostly in 1968-1986 United States and United Kingdom

Traditional heavy metal, also known as classic metal[1] or simply heavy metal, is the seminal genre of heavy metal music before the genre "evolved and splintered into many different styles and subgenres."[2][3]



The short, original, and proper term for this genre is "heavy metal", but as Michka Assayas notes in his Dictionary of Rock,[3] the term "heavy metal" may sometimes be used in different senses. While the term can refer to the seminal style, it also can be used as a large umbrella term for any derivative subgenres. Hence the term "traditional heavy metal" or "classic heavy metal"[1] may be employed to avoid confusion with the larger sense. In order to avoid the potential ambiguity others, like Sharpe Young, use the term "heavy metal" exclusively to refer to original genre and use the term "metal" instead to refer to the global genre including subgenres.[4] Similarly, Paul Du Noyer also uses the term heavy metal to refer to the original style exclusively.[5]

Assayas points out another ambiguity of the term "heavy metal" and notes that in certain context some may consider it synonymous with hard rock (most particularly in the USA) while others consider these to be distinct genres.[3] The former view is supported by authors including Ian Christe and Robert Walser. Christe regards hard rock bands like AC/DC, Queen, Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple as heavy metal in the original sense. In contrast others, including Garry Sharpe Young[4] and Paul Dunoyer's music encyclopedia[5] reject this label for these bands.[6] Sharpe Young,[4] Rob Halford[6] and Sam Dunn[7] trace the origin of this genre to Black Sabbath exclusively,[8] with a style characterized by the dropping of the genre's blues roots. Rob Halford argues: "Black Sabbath absolutely invented heavy metal. I've read a lot of essays and such like about tracing it all back further and further. It's as though these writers want to claim the source, a bit like Dr. Livingstone and the source of the Nile. But as a purist metal musician, I can tell you- it's Black Sabbath."[8]

Musical characteristics

The traditional heavy metal sound is often similar to that of hard rock, and, as noted above, some authors even consider the two genres as synonymous. However, others such as Paul Du Noyer, Garry Sharpe Young, and Andrew Cope recognize many similarities between both genres, but state that heavy metal tends to depart from the original blues roots of hard-rock.[9] According to this view, original heavy metal is characterized by mid-to-fast-tempo riffs, by thumping basslines, crunchy riffs, extended lead guitar solos, and clean, often high-pitched vocals and anthemic choruses. One of the most important and innovative concepts of traditional heavy metal was the use of the double lead guitar pioneered by bands like Scorpions[10] and Judas Priest.[11] And although, this concept was sparingly used by earlier hard rock bands like Uriah Heep and UFO, it was wholly developed as a heavy metal element during the traditional heavy metal era. This concept of dual lead guitars would reach more profound heights during the late 1980s when other bands like Accept would also use it. Another musical concept that was developed was galloping rhythmic patterns which were extensively used in Iron Maiden songs, but also in certain Accept's songs ("Restless and Wild", "Metal Heart"), as well as Judas Priest ("Diamonds & Rust"), Dio ("Holy Diver"), Aria ("Geroy Asfalta", "Krov za Krov") or Trust ("Varsovie/Uptown Martyrs").

Lyrical themes

Typical heavy metal fashion was pioneered by Judas Priest

Traditional heavy metal is lyrically diverse, with a wide variety of themes. These include: the occult, partying and fun, fantasy, social themes, drug themes, life on the road, and war themes. A single band can write songs based on various themes. For instance, Judas Priest writes songs on partying ("Living After Midnight"), social themes ("Victim of Changes", "Breaking the Law"), love songs ("Prisoner of Your Eyes") and fantasy/fiction ("Painkiller"). Some bands may exclusively write about partying, sex, love and drugs, while other bands (such as Iron Maiden) have war, history, culture, violence, fantasy and religion as recurring themes.

War, horror fiction, mythological and historical topics are frequent themes though. Songs may also be anthems to heavy metal music itself, such as the songs "Heavy Metal" by Judas Priest, "Heavy Metal Is the Law" by Helloween, "The Gods Made Heavy Metal" by Manowar, "Metal Militia" by Metallica and "Slaves to Metal" by Accept. War is also a frequent theme. Some bands, including Manowar and HammerFall, tend to deal with it in a romanticized way, praising courage and masculinity, while other bands, including Accept ("Russian Roulette", "Man Enough to Cry", "Walking in the Shadow"), Black Sabbath ("War Pigs") and Iron Maiden ("Afraid to Shoot Strangers", "2 Minutes to Midnight", "The Trooper"), deal with war in a more serious and critical approach. Horror and mysticism sometimes overlap with religious topics, like the Apocalypse.

Key figures and important bands of the genre

The references testify the notability of the following bands in the genre:

Other notable bands regarded as traditional heavy metal

The following bands are often classified as hard rock or glam metal, but sometimes authors classify them as traditional heavy metal.

See also

  • Timeline of heavy metal


  • Sharpe-Young, Garry (2007). Metal: The Definitive Guide. London: Jawbone Press. ISBN 9781906002015 


  1. ^ a b Ian Christe, The Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal, Flammarion,2007, p. 91, ISBN 978-2-08-068797-5
  2. ^ Bowar, Chad. "What Is Heavy Metal?". Retrieved April 8, 2008. 
  3. ^ a b c Michka Assayas, Dictionnaire du Rock de A à L, Robert Lafond, 2002, pp. 776-7, ISBN 2221912608
  4. ^ a b c Sharpe-Young, Garry (2007). Metal: The Definitive Guide. Jawbone Press. ISBN 9781906002015
  5. ^ a b Du Noyer, Paul (ed.) (2003), "Heavy metal" The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music. Flame Tree. ISBN 1-9040-4170-1, p. 96.
  6. ^ a b Sharpe-Young, Garry (2007). Metal: The Definitive Guide. Jawbone Press, p. 12. ISBN 9781906002015.
  7. ^ Sam Dunn, Metal : A Headbanger's Journey, Sam Dunn, 2005.
  8. ^ a b Sharpe-Young, Garry (2007). Metal: The Definitive Guide. Jawbone Press, p. 9. ISBN 9781906002015.
  9. ^ Template:Book cite
  10. ^ GUITAR Magazine (January 1994) Interview reprint, retrieved August 2, 2011
  11. ^ The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll excerpt, Retrieved August 2, 2011
  12. ^ Metal: The Definitive Guide, pp. 333-4.
  13. ^ Metal: The Definitive Guide, pp. 296-8.
  14. ^ a b Christe, Ian (2004). Sound of the Beast. Allison & Busby. p. 2. ISBN 0749083514. 
  15. ^ Metal: The Definitive Guide, pp. 12-39.
  16. ^ Metal: The Definitive Guide, pp. 69-70.
  17. ^ a b c Christe, Ian (2004). Sound of the Beast. Allison & Busby. p. 2. ISBN 0749083514. p. 91
  18. ^ Metal: The Definitive Guide, pp. 299-304.
  19. ^ a b c d Metal: A Headbanger's Journey (2005).
  20. ^ Weinstein, Deena. Heavy Metal: The Music and its Culture. DaCapo, 2000. ISBN 0-306-80970-2, p. 2.
  21. ^ Walser, Robert (1999). Running with The Devil. Wesleyan University Press. p. s. 2. ISBN 0819562602. 
  22. ^ a b c d e Christe, Ian (2004). Sound of the Beast. Allison & Busby. p. 2. ISBN 0749083514. p. 91.
  23. ^ (English) King Diamond on MusicMight, May 31st 2010.
  24. ^ Metal:The Definitive Guide, pp. 311-14.
  25. ^ Metal: The Definitive Guide, pp. 44-50.
  26. ^ Metal: The Definitive Guide, pp. 51-60.
  27. ^ Metal: The Definitive Guide, pp. 314-16.
  28. ^ Sharpe-Young, Garry (2007), p. 79.
  29. ^ Sharpe-Young, Garry (2007), p. 82.
  30. ^ Metal: The Definitive Guide, pp. 86-9.
  31. ^ Metal: The Definitive Guide, pp. 352-3.
  32. ^ Metal: The Definitive Guide, pp. 353-4.
  33. ^ Metal: The Definitive Guide, pp. 326-30.
  34. ^ (English) Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal par Ian Christe. ISBN 978-0-380-81127-4.
  35. ^ (English) The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll. Random House, 1980. ISBN 0-394-73938-8.
  36. ^ a b c d Heavy: The Story of Metal (2006).
  37. ^ Sharpe-Young, Garry (2007), p. 30.
  38. ^ Du Noyer, Paul (ed.) (2003)."Heavy metal" The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music. Flame Tree. ISBN 1-9040-4170-1, p. 96.
  39. ^ "Blog Archive » THE TOP TEN BANDS MOST OFTEN MISCATEGORIZED AS HAIR METAL: #1, SKID ROW". MetalSucks. 2010-07-23. Retrieved 2011-03-31. 
  40. ^ Metal: The Definitive Guide, p. 441.
  41. ^ Christe, Ian (2004). Sound of the Beast. Allison & Busby. pp. 1, 50–7 and 77. ISBN 0749083514. 

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