Five Canadian Metal Albums and One Strange Story

I love finding out about Canadian talent that I have never heard before. It doesn’t matter if it’s metal or prog or sometimes something else, I’m always thrilled to hear home-grown talent, even though I don’t live at “home” anymore.

Recently I heard about three such bands and managed to acquire an album from each. Then there was an old favourite whose classic album I never had, I finally bought. And then there was a band I had never considered, who never actually were a band but a band with an interesting and peculiar story.

First, I was watching a YouTube video, a compilation of old school trash metal bands with many obscure bands or bands that I just hadn’t heard before. The creator of this video had kindly added in what country the bands were from and I was thrilled to see that three of them were Canucks! (I also got to know of Artillery from Denmark, and Exumer and Protector from Germany.) Here’s what I got!

Aggression – The Full Treatment, 1987

Formed in Montreal in 1984 under the name Asylum, The band changed their name a year later and in 1986, recorded their first album, which would not be released until 2005. After some line-up changes, they recorded a second album, The Full Treatment, which was released in 1987. The album is fast and furious thrash metal with a fair bit of hardcore punk in the mix but also a sharp sense of musicality with quick rhythm and tempo changes. This is a brutal album because the recording job makes them sound like an-overloaded fright train careening down a Rocky Mountain railway and barely staying on track. But beneath the auditory assault, I hear finely-honed skill, at least in so far as a brutal thrash metal band can be concerned.

Disciples of Power – Power Trap, 1989

Disciples of Power were formed in that hotbed of metal music, Medicine Hat, Alberta. ??? Yeah, I know. I am surprised too. But hey, I can’t say I know what the metal scene was like in Medicine Hat so I’m actually thrilled to hear of a band from there. Power Trap was their first full-length album after three demos recorded in 1988. For a debut, Power Trap shows a mature thrash band that displays song-writing capabilities that I compare not by style but by ability to the space between Metallica’s Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets. They are listed as thrash/tech death on Encyclopedia Metallum. The band has released four other full-lengths since then, the latest being in 2002.

Obliveon – Carnivore Mothermouth, 1999

Formed in Montreal in 1987 as Oblivion, they changed their name to Obliveon in 1989. Between 1989 and 1999, Obliveon released four full-lengths and a number of demos. Their debut, From This Day Forward, has been given a fair bit of praise on Encyclopedia Metallum and one reviewer interestingly writes of competitive rivalry between Obliveon and Disciples of Power. By Carnivore Mothermouth I feel their futuristic theme and the sound of the music is not far off from Fear Factory, keeping in mind that the only Fear factory album I ever had was Remanufacture.

Razor – Violent Restitution, 1988

Razor’s fifth album and the last with their vocalist Stace “Sheepdog” McLaren. I had their second and third albums, Evil Invaders and Malicious Intent, on cassette in the eighties and finally bought Evil Invaders on CD a couple of years back. I kept Violent Restitution in mind until I started to see it show up on favourite thrash metal album lists. I bought it and I was not disappointed. The sound is better than Evil Invaders and still has the raw Razor rip and shred feel to the music. “Taste the Floor” includes a chainsaw and it fits in just perfectly with razor’s sound.

Piledriver – Stay Ugly, 1986

I remember seeing both Metal Inquisition and Stay Ugly in the eighties Canadian metal mag, Metallion. At the time, I was really getting the feeling that too many bands of lesser talent were getting signed and releasing albums, and based on the cover art and the song titles, I reckoned that Piledriver were a band best left alone. I forgot about the band until a couple of weeks ago when someone in a video or on the Net somewhere mentioned Piledriver and that the band was from Canada. I have been collecting a number of the old eighties metal bands from the Great White North, but did I want to try to get a hold of Piledriver? A quick listen to Metal Inquisition on YouTube made me sure that I was right to avoid the band. Curiosity, however, got the better of me and I went back to listen again. It wasn’t so bad.

piledriver m i

Metal Inquisition is not so easy to get a hold of but Stay Ugly was ready for order for a normal price, and so I placed my order just a few days ago. It hasn’t reached me yet but in the meantime, I found some interesting information behind the Piledriver albums.

Piledriver was never a real band. As the story goes, as told by vocalist Gord Kirchin,  Piledriver was created by a suggestion from Cobra Records. The fellow Gord refers to as “Record Weasel” said that if they made a metal album with a crazy cover and songs to match, they could easily expect to sell 20,000 copies. Gord claims to have received $250 in payment for his services as the vocalist. The album Metal Inquisition was released in 1984.

Two years later, David DeFeis of Virgin Steele was told by his manager that he owed the manager money and if he’d write material for three projects, he’d be forgiven his debt.  DeFeis and Steele guitarist Eddie Pursino worked on material for three albums, one of them becoming the second Piledriver album and another one was Convict. Gord Kirchin sang on both of these. Convict didn’t go far but apparently the Piledriver albums garnered an underground following, all unbeknownst to Gord! He did try to turn Piledriver into a real band but then changed the name to Dogs With Jobs and “de-piled” the material he had prepared for a third album.

Several years later, Gord Kirchin got himself a computer and connected to the Internet to discover that the two Piledriver albums had actually sold quite well. Yet he and others involved never saw a cent after their initial work was paid for. In 2004, Gord tried to put together a new lineup for a new, Exalted Piledriver (the name was modified since there were already other bands out there using the Piledriver name). He currently heads the band and they have at least one new album out. David DeFeis has given his blessing to Gord to use the material he and his guitarist wrote for the Stay Ugly album.

about Piledriver

interview with Gord Kirchin

interview with David DeFeis

This story about Piledriver led me to the YouTube channel of Nasty Metal Productions, where the young gentleman who hosts the channel enlightened me about the so-called “metalploitation” phenomenon of the 1980’s. There were at least two companies, Cobra Records and Metal Enterprises, who released dozens of albums recorded in the same vein as the original Piledriver albums. In some cases, real musicians would be called in to write something to help pay off a debt while in other cases, bands and musicians who were not yet (and not necessarily likely to be) professional were given studio time to knock off an album or two. The band would then, in most cases, cease to exist.

The purpose of this was to sell metal albums to eager youth who wanted their next new metal band fix. The quality was often sub-par at best and ludicrous at worst, apparently. Corroseum has taken an interest in the releases from Metal Enterprises. While most of these albums and bands have faded into obscurity, Piledriver seems to have remained an important legend. This actually reminds me of the Crown Records label I wrote about in the post about The Firebirds / The 31 Flavors, a late sixties band who were in a similar situation, recording an album of questionable material for a label that only wanted to sell sub-par music to unsuspecting youth.

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The Birth of Death

MORTA-SKULD-Dying-Remains-CD

Honestly, death metal was one reason why I lost interest in heavy metal. I was there when it was all coming together, as the ingredients were being mixed, the concoction stirred. However, I missed the final crucial years, and by the time the potion had been decanted, I came in to look and wondered what had happened to my beloved heavy metal music. Where were the new Rob Halfords, Bruce Dickenson’s, and Ronnie James Dios? Had singing gone out of fashion?

I came in to the metal scene just after the New Wave of British Heavy Metal had washed ashore and heavy metal became a household word. Then, just as Quiet Riot, Def Leppard, and Motley Crue were making metal the underdog chart champion of the world in 1983, thrash metal suddenly crashed onto the scene. With it came more extreme metal bands like Celtic Frost, Bathory, and Possessed. I was into each of these bands, but by 1987 I became more interested in the roots of heavy metal, and by 1989 when I came back to contemporary releases via Christian heavy metal, I found myself a little nonplussed by the deep guttural vocal styles of bands like Vengeance Rising and Seventh Angel (wish I had never sold off that one now!). Bands I had liked, such as Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer, were changing their sound and it didn’t appeal to me either. I lost touch with the developments in my favourite music genre and what I heard—Fear Factory, Marilyn Manson, One Minute Silence—was good but not what metal was to me. And whenever I heard these bands with incomprehensible, rumbling, roaring, growling vocals, I likened them to demons vomiting after a night of heavy drinking and spicy Mexican food.

It took a long way round for me to return to heavy metal and discover just how many subgenres it had fractionated into. My interest in progressive rock took me to progressive metal which brought me to Devin Townsend and then to Opeth. Finally, early in 2017, I came to appreciate the death metal growl and became curious about other bands. Then the history buff in me took over and I plunged into old school death metal.

Heavy Metal: Progressing to the Extreme

creem metal deadIn the late seventies, heavy metal had lost its identity. The depressed and nihilistic lyrics about war, political corruption, psychopathic mental illnesses, substance abuse, the doom of the earth and the human race, and sometimes just plain old lyrics about Satan winning thanks to our sinful ways, had gone out of fashion for the most part by around 1972, and a more fun type of energetic guitar music about rock and roll, women, relationships, and a few hard times in life became the new hard guitar music. Traces of doom and gloom still surfaced in the odd band or album, but aside from metal kings Black Sabbath, the rest was mostly underground.

When punk rock came to force in the late seventies, heavy metal was said to have lost its relevance and become redundant. What critics hadn’t bet on was that young metal musicians would learn from punk’s aggressive attitude and DIY approach and create a new brand of metal for a new generation. With the help of Judas Priest’s reinvention of the metal sound, some inspiration from progressive rock, and Motorhead’s bombastic raw and speedy style, heavy metal became faster, fuller, and demanded new levels of skill.

The NWoBHM delivered various styles of metal, and it was the faster, punk-influenced concoction that spurred the American thrash scene, while some of the darker-themed bands encouraged new directions in extreme metal in Europe.

venom

Venom

Venom were the most influential of the lot, playing fast and aggressive music that was a natural extension of Motorhead but also using Satanic lyrical themes and imagery. The music was, for the most part, still rather fun though. Switzerland’s Hellhammer and Sweden’s Bathory would do more to develop the darker and vocally deeper side of metal. Influenced by the punk band Discharge, Hellhammer went in search of a new sound for metal. With the addition of Martin Ain on vocals and a change in sound, the band became Celtic Frost, which would go on to influence a number of future death metal bands. Bathory’s sound would in turn set a template for the later black metal movement.

Back in the U.S.A., thrash was the pimply-faced, beer-swilling rival and challenger to L.A.’s hairspray and spandex glam metal scene. But while many bands sang about violence and war, one band took things more extreme. Slayer burst onto the scene with the Satanic themes but went further with lyrics of horror and homicide. Their album Hell Awaits became an inspiration to many young European bands. The next step came with Possessed’s Seven Churches. This album made metal not only faster, but more frightening with Jeff Becerra’s deep, roaring vocal style. Indeed, Possessed’s song entitled “Death Metal” would lend its name to this budding new extension of extreme metal.

Things Get Brutal

pleasure to killWith one album under their collective belt, Germany’s Kreator were looking to take things to the next level. They approached their new producer, Harris Johns, with copies of Hell Awaits and Seven Churches and said that this was the kind of album they wanted to make. The producer responded with, “Oh, I think we can do better than that”. Kreator’s second album, Pleasure to Kill featured fast, tight, and sometimes complex playing with snarling, teeth-gnashing, gruff vocals. Another German band, Sodom, took to thrash metal with a similar vocal approach. It seemed that while Americans preferred shouted vocals, Europeans were more into menacing and brutal vocals.

SLAUGHTER-Strappado-LP-BLACK-ORIGINAL-MIXMeanwhile over in Canada, Toronto’s Slaughter were joined by a musician from Florida. Chuck Schuldiner of Mantas played with the band for six months before returning south (couldn’t stand the winter?). By the time Slaughter recorded Strappado, their first full-length album in 1986, their sound had become full-on brutal bombast with deep, grumbling guitars and dual vocals that sounded like shouted, angry barks and barbaric growls.

scream bloody goreChuck Schuldiner’s band, Death, released their debut album, Scream Bloody Gore, in 1987, and this is often considered as the birth of the death metal subgenre (was it because of the screams at the start of the album?). Other Floridian bands soon followed. For many fans, death metal was born in Florida, and yet it a way, the Floridian extreme metal scene was like a response to the Californian extreme metal scene. Thrash elements were still largely present and bands typically headed west for performances, mingling with the Californ-I-A bands. But Florida’s scene was to feature two important differences: the music was splitting into either more technical styles as with Atheist and Cynic, or slowing to a bone-crunching grind as with Obituary. But as death metal rapidly caught on and spread northward, brutal and technical music became the favoured approach as with New York’s Immolation and Quebec’s Gorguts.

Don’t Forget the Brits!

necroticismAll the while extreme metal was developing and evolving in the U.S., the British had their own scene going on. Across the Atlantic, hard core punk was branching into metal—the opposite of what had happened in the States—and a new subgenre called grindcore became the British answer to thrash. It didn’t take long though before British bands also took to brutalizing things up a bit. Carcass and Napalm Death fully embraced the deep, guttural vocal style, and after the release of a couple of solid grindcore albums, their styles took on a death metal sound. Close behind were Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, whose vocals went even deeper but whose music was typically slower and more ominous, leading the way for the death/doom offshoot. Perhaps Britain’s first death-from-debut band was Bolt Thrower, who adopted war as its signature theme and released its debut, In Battle There Is No Law, in 1988. It’s important to note that Bolt Thrower’s foundations were built upon Discharge, Crass, and Slayer, once again bringing the British roots of hardcore punk and grindcore and the Slayer influence into the picture.

Mad as a Corpse Cannibalized on an Altar

altars of madnessOne of the most important albums in death metal would come in 1989 from Floridian band, Morbid Angel. Their debut album, Altars of Madness, set the bar for death metal by taking fast, technical, and brutal metal to a new level. If the mantra for death metal bands had been “faster, heavier, more brutal, more technical” then Morbid Angel carved it in bone. In fact, when looking at lists of top old school death metal and even death metal albums in general, Altars of Madness is more often than not at the top of the list. But as the Floridian scene rapidly evolved, New York’s brought forth one of the most famous bands in death metal with Cannibal Corpse, a band who took human corpse mutilation to the extreme of every horror film and novel, and whose album cover art represents some of the most imaginative, macabre, and grotesque ever to sit in a record store. Junior high school boys everywhere were thrilled!

vintage-cannibal-corpse

Cannibal Corpse with Chris Barnes

Oh, Those Ghoulish Swedish

left hand pathEuropeans can’t leave a good metal scene alone, and it was time for Sweden to rise from the grave to the occasion. Emerging also in the late eighties were the bands Carnage, Morbid, and Nihilist, who then fragmented into Entombed, Dismember, and Unleashed. The fourth of the Swedish Big Four was Grave. These bands lowered the tuning of their guitars and made good use of the Boss HM-2 distortion pedal. The Swedish take on death metal proved there was more than one way to explore and develop this new subgenre. In fact, a good point was made in the Banger TV episode about early death metal—that early death metal musicians looked at what they could do to define the death metal sound and the results were fairly diverse.

The brachiating of death metal—sometimes toward fast and technical, sometimes toward slow and massively heavy—continued until around 1992/93 when new avenues were opened up: the so-called melo-death or melodic death metal, death-and-roll, progressive death metal, and even more extremes of technical and brutal death metal. Death/doom had a short-lived period that for some bands led to gothic metal, such as with My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, and Finland’s Amorphis. Perhaps 1993 is a good year to draw a line ending the old school death metal growth period. Production of death metal albums improved as the nineties advanced, and the old guard were often playing new styles or in some cases had disappeared.

I’ve compiled a list of frequently-cited old school death metal albums. I consulted several lists on the Internet: some private lists on RateYourMusic and also lists by LoudWire, MetalStorm, and Metal Music Archives. I’ve also checked lists of top old school death metal albums on YouTube. Here are thirty of the most often-mentioned albums released between 1985 and 1993. They are not in any exact ranking order; however, albums near the bottom of the list were more frequently mentioned than albums near the top. The album most consistently included on old school death metal lists was Altars of Madness.

Napalm Death – Harmony Corruption
Cynic – Focus
Immolation – Dawn of Possession
Incantation – Onward to Golgotha
Demilich – Nespithe
Death – Leprosy
Malevolent Creation – The Ten Commandments
Pestilence – Testimony of the Ancients
Pestilence – Consuming Impulse
Autopsy – Severed Survival
Death – Human
Demigod – The Slumber of Sullen Eyes
Deicide – Deicide
Obituary – Cause of Death
Death – Individual Thought Patterns
Unleashed – Where No Life Dwells
Autopsy – Mental Funeral
Terrorizer – Downfall
Death – Scream Bloody Gore
Atheist – Unquestionable Presence
Obituary – Slowly We Rot
Bolt Thrower – Realm of Chaos
Carcass – Necroticism Descanting the Insalubrious
Suffocation – Effigy of the Forgotten
Possessed – Seven Churches
Morbid Angel – Covenant
Carcass – Heartwork
Dismember – Like an Ever Flowing Stream
Entombed – Left Hand Path
Morbid Angel – Altars of Madness

Videos about death metal

Banger TV Early Death Metal

A Basterdized History of Death Metal

Death Metal versus Black Metal

Death Metal Doc

Music Is A Journey Video Series a Success!

Music Is A Journey is posting its seventh episode this week. Each episode so far has featured different music artists and some of the albums on which they have played. Episode One was entirely dedicated to the late Colin Tench, and Episode Four was all about Oliver Rusing’s band, KariBow.

For Episode Seven, the video series turns its spyglass toward five albums – most of them recent releases – that have captured my aural heart, albums by Forever Twelve, Evolve IV, Colouratura, Fabulae Dramatis, and Babal. Clips from five songs from each of the five albums are included in the latest video.

Episode Eight won’t be recorded and prepared until late July or even early August, but that episode will be about the bands 3rDegree and Cell15.

Future episodes will first feature more artists and bands at first and then move on to specific genres and periods in the history of progressive rock and heavy metal.

Comments about the video series’ individual episodes have been very positive!

Episode One: Colin Tench

“Thank you so much for this, Peter! Very well done, natural flair, and a nice overview of the brilliant work of Colin Tench.” – Murky Red

“It’s good – it’s almost too good! You’re very good and not scared of cameras at all! You explain it all so well, and Colin must be smiling now! I’m deeply impressed and touched. Thank you, Peter!” – Pasi Koivu (Corvus Stone, Wolmari)

Episode Two: Petri Lindstrom, Blake Carpenter, Andres Guazzelli, Stef Flaming, Gordo Bennett

“Peter Skov’s videos are of such an added value to the music that I have the feeling that they will become iconic!” – Yolanda Flaming (Murky Red)

Episode Three: Steve Gresswell, Marco Ragni, Peter Matuchniak, Hamlet

“It’s Wonderful! Thanks a lot, Peter. Really appreciate it” – Marco Ragni

“A nice review of my musical past and present by Peter Skov – thank you, sir!” – Peter Matuchniak (Evolve IV, Gekko Projekt, Bomber Goggles, solo)

“Thanks for highlighting so many amazing projects (including mine!). – Hamlet (Transport Aerian, Fabulae Dramatis)

“Thank you for doing this. I love your videos and the way you promote the bands. The perfect pronoun of MRR. Much love and respect.” – Nick Katona of Melodic Revolution Records

“Another awesome job, Peter. Brilliant! You’ve got the knack, eh!” – Gordo Bennett (GorMusik, GorFusion, GorAcoustic)

“I’m truly fascinated at how it isn’t just an appreciation of the music, but how personal it actually is. You get to know the artists and dive into the micro universes of each one that many may never get to know.” – Jason Johannson (Theoretica)

Episode Four: Oliver Rusing and KariBow

“Peter Skov did it again and all I can say is ‘Chapeau’. Please take your time and watch this wonderful video. I highly recommend it to everybody who appreciates ambitious music projects, witty eloquence and charming presenters with a sense of subtle pronunciation issues. Thank you, Peter, for all your effort…” – Oliver Rusing (KariBow)

Episode Five: Phil Naro, Pete Jones, Grandval

“Peter was kind to talk about Grandval and the four fantastic guitarists!” – Henri Vaugrand (Grandval)

Episode Six: Sean Timms, Marek ArnoldChris Gill

“I had a blast watching this last night… even showed it to my wife… she was very proud. It’s a bit surreal when people such as yourself really enjoy what I do. Thanks for the kind words. I’m thankful, humbled, and honoured.” – Sean Timms (Southern Empire, Unitopia)

“Peter made 2 nice and funny videos about my releases with my prog bands… Thanks, Peter Skov – for your support. I really had much fun watching it.” – Marek Arnold (Seven Steps to the Green Door, Toxic Smile, Flaming Row, Damanek, etc.)

“Thank you so much for doing the video… Makes me feel like a rock star…” – Chris Gill (Band of Rain, The Nonexistent)

It’s Already April!

There Goes My Hero…

No, I haven’t been neglecting this blog. But as I tried to find the best way to express the tragic news of December 29th, 2017, so much else seemed to be going on. I mean I usually post about the music I was into in the previous year and a list of top ten or twelve most listened-to songs from CDs I purchased. a1384632565_10Then there was the release of the new Colin Tench Project album. I decided that I had to do that one first. But, yeah, then came the shocking news that my friend, the brilliant and, let’ admit it, lovable Colin Tench suddenly and without warning passed away.

I was standing there in my work room and had just picked up my smartphone to check something when a message came in from Gordo Bennett. He broke the news to me, having just heard from Colin’s sister. I think I would have just fallen through the floor if I could. Only days before, Colin had sent me the entire album in a file so I could listen, enjoy, and write a review for Prog Archives ahead of the album’s official release. We talked about the review and the incredible album. Our final words were some pleasant Christmas greetings to one another. For the next few days I thought more about the album. I had questions to ask, things to point out, and compliments to give. There was so much more to tell Colin about his wonderful work.

And then that news. I barely moved for the next hour or so, just standing in one spot trying to fathom how it could be that this lively, active, fun-loving, creative, humorous, talented, friendly, and energetic person could so suddenly take leave of the world of the living. The community reeled. Musicians, friends, fans, family, colleagues, and acquaintances were stunned, crushed, mortified. Photos and memories were shared, tributes paid, proposals for a tribute album were made, and yet during all this a brilliant new album of music was waiting to be heard.

The official CD release date was January 30th, and Colin’s sister and nephew took over and did a stellar job of filling all the pre-orders and new orders.  The Colin Tench Project’s second album, “minor Masterpiece” reached tenth position on Prog Archives’ top 100 albums of 2017, a pretty decent feat as it had only been released in the final week of the year. The album features vocals by Peter Jones and Joey Lugassy, bass by Petri Lindstrom, orchestral arrangement by Gordo Bennett, drums by Joe Vitale, and of course guitars and keyboards by Colin Tench. Sonia Mota created the imaginative cover art.

Music Is A Journey

As recent as last November I had in mind to start a video series about music. The premier episode was to be about the new Colin Tench Project album and Colin’s music career. This is what became the first episode indeed, but with the grievous dual-purpose of being a tribute to a great and unique musician who had passed on. For now, the series continues with episodes featuring people with whom Colin has collaborated or people who have worked with the people who knew Colin. Episode two featured Petri Linstrom, Blake Carpenter, Andres Guazzelli, Stef Flaming,, and Gordo Bennett. Episode three is in the planning stage and will be recorded next week and hopefully up on YouTube by April 14th.

Moonwink

While all of this has been going on, Gordo Bennett and Joe Serwinowski, collectively known as GorFusion, have released their second piece of music entitled “Moonwink”. Last year it was “Waxed Apples“. Gordo is planning on and working on moving ahead with more GorFusion music, including a side project called GorAcoustik, and also two projects under the GorMusik moniker. We’re hoping this will be a big year for Gordo.

As with “Waxed Apples”, I did the cover art. It came together as a conceptual piece we talked about last year and which I began last summer. I had in mind to shoot the entire scene as one shot but found it was easier to shoot the main components and then add the together in smartphone photo manipulating applications. After a lot of small edits and changes, the  final art work was released to the public along with the music.

As for me, I will keep making more videos for now and hopefully still write more music-related blog posts such as another installment or two in my essays on heavy metal series. I hope the next post won’t take so long to come.GorFusion Moon Wink Album Art 2nd edit

 

Progressive Aggressive

Essays on Heavy Metal #3 – The Prog and Punk Connection

Cream, The Yardbirds, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin… No one contests the blues roots of heavy metal. It was the arrival of the blues in rock and roll Britain that inspired many young British musicians to play blues in a rock band format, and as guitarists experimented more with guitar playing techniques and the fuzz box became prevalent, the music got louder and heavier, which in turn meant that drummers and vocalists had to be louder, too. When the American heavy metal scene really took off in 1969, bands like Grand Funk Railroad, Bloodrock and Sir Lord Baltimore were also following a blues format, having been inspired by their British predecessors. Of course, the blues in rock had already been a trend in the States as many garage rock bands of the mid-sixties had caught on to the British scene and began doing covers of British bands’ covers of African American blues.

But even while heavy metal’s roots are deep in the blues, the genre also shares a lot in common with two very different genres of rock: progressive rock and punk rock.

The Aggressive Side

Some would say that one of the earliest blue prints for a heavy metal song would be “You Really Got Me” by The Kinks. Couple that with “All Day and All of the Night” and we can see how these two songs serve as templates for heavy metal. Both feature distorted guitar riffs, hard-hitting percussion, wild lead guitar solos, and vocals that build in intensity as the music rises toward the chorus. It’s no surprise to see “You Really Got Me” was covered in 1972 by Canadian heavy rockers Thundermug and again in 1978 by Van Halen, who gave the song a new shot at the charts.

However, there are those who point out the simplicity and raw aggressive nature of the songs to be more akin to punk rock. Indeed, in writing “You Really Got Me”, The Kinks had taken inspiration from the American garage rock scene, particularly the hit “Louis Louis”. The Wikipedia article on the song says, “Ray Davies has stated that he wrote the group’s first hit ‘You Really Got Me’ while trying to work out the chords of ‘Louis Louis’”. As the American garage rock scene expanded, many bands would go on to inspire future punk rock bands. The Shadows of Knight, MC5, The Music Machine, The Sonics, The Seeds and many other bands employed fuzz tone and pushed many of their songs in a more aggressive and energetic direction, and because of the relative simplicity of the songs, they were easily picked up by future punk rock bands who had a great distaste for the technical complexity of progressive rock or the doom and despair of ponderous heavy metal tunes. That punk and metal share a common origin can been seen in lists of proto-metal albums from 1969/70 which frequently include MC5 and The Stooges, two bands whose take on aggressive guitar rock are closer to punk than metal.

When punk rock arose in New York and London in the mid-seventies, it threatened to make both metal and prog redundant. Heavy metal was supposed on the verge of death in 1978, and even as new artists such as Van Halen brought a new sound and new life to the genre, battles between punk and metal fans ensued as author Steve Waksman describes in his book, “This Ain’t the Summer of Love: Conflict and Crossover in Heavy Metal and Punk.” Waksman expounds on a reader letter exchange battle in a music magazine where metalheads and punk rockers each denounce the other’s music preference, try to prove, among many other things, whose music style best represents masculinity with one punker decrying Van Halen front man David Lee Roth as no match for Joey Ramone.

In spite of the fan disputes, heavy metal and punk musicians were to borrow from each other, the first example being the integrated punk sound in many New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands and soon after in both American thrash metal and British grindcore. In the eighties, bands in both genres would crossover and back. As heavy metal continued to splinter into subgenres in the nineties, many such “core” styles (metalcore, deathcore, mathcore, etc.) would emerge, where “core” meant the combining of hardcore punk with a metal approach.

The Progressive Side

On the opposite side of the spectrum, we find progressive rock. Known for extravagant and lengthy compositions inspired by classical and jazz music, progressive rock blossomed in the early seventies around the same time as the first wave of heavy metal. Prog can trace its roots back to the mid-sixties with bands like Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, The Beatles, and The Beach Boys who were making use of the studio to create music to be enjoyed on record first as opposed to the usual approach of recording songs that the groups already were performing live. By using the studio to create songs, artists had the freedom to experiment with and devise studio techniques for achieving realizing their musical conceptions. Sounds effects, exotic instruments, backwards recordings, modification of instrument sounds, and many other things became possible, thus opening up doors for a new approach to composing popular music.

During the peak psychedelic years of 67/68, longer compositions and the use of fuzz tone became part of the nascent prog scene arsenal. Looking at bands that are considered proto-prog, it’s not surprising to see proto-metal bands on the same list. Iron Butterfly and Vanilla Fudge both played heavy rock with guitar distortion but also wrote songs that expanded the standard rock song format into new dimensions.

It was, however, King Crimson, whose 1969 breakout song “21st Century Schizoid Man” would break the doors open for prog rock. Interestingly, while this song and King Crimson are considered pinnacles of prog rock excellence, the song has also been covered by hard rock and metal bands like April Wine and Voivod, and King Crimson easily hold a place on proto-metal and heavy seventies lists.

James M. Curtis writes this about metal and prog in his book “Rock Eras: Interpretations of Music and Society, 1954-1984”:

“Heavy metal also has significant affinities with art rock. Both styles came from England and peacefully coexisted at first. In 1970, Black Sabbath and Yes were sharing the same bill at venues like Cardiff Arts Centre Project. In the British Context, it seemed perfectly reasonable for Deep Purple to put out a record called Concerto for Group and Orchestra. After all, their lead guitarist Ritchie Blackmore had had classical training; he once said that he used a Bach chord progression on the ‘Highway Star’ solo on Machine Head.”

Deep Purple are an excellent example of the connection between heavy metal and progressive rock. The band’s first three albums followed a Vanilla Fudge approach of combining a loud heavy rock guitar playing style with plenty of stunning leads with a Hammond organ (whose player, Jon Lord, was also classically trained and went on to compose several classical-type albums) and rearranging popular songs into more extravagant pieces. It would also be of extreme importance to note that the famous riff in Black Sabbath’s eponymous song was inspired by a part in “Mars: God of War” (4:25) in Holst’s The Planets (note that the opening seems to have also inspired Andromeda and Diamond Head).

There were other bands influencing metal as well. Brian Harrington and Malcolm Dume, authors of Encyclopedia Metallica, write “The Nice played a major part in the development of the pomp-school of heavy metal and certainly (Keith) Emmerson’s influence was enormous.” His costumes and his attacks on his organ set examples of how to create an exciting stage performance.

Other bands like Yes and Genesis, though exemplary prog rock bands, included heavy metal elements. Listen to “Heart of the Sunrise” by Yes or some of the heavier parts of Genesis songs such as what crops up in “The Musical Box” (3:40 to 4:48) and you will hear the rumblings of heavy metal. In fact, Eddie Van Halen’s famous finger tapping technique was inspired by Steve Hackett’s finger tapping solos on songs like “Supper’s Ready” (8:10 to 8:25) and “The Fountain of Salmacis” (3:23 to 3:45). Hackett says he came up with the technique while trying to figure out how to play certain successions of notes that are easily played on a keyboard.

Furthering the connection between prog and metal, we see other British bands like T.2. and High Tide setting fine examples of early heavy metal while at the same time writing expanded and technically complex compositions, with T.2. leaning more to the jazz side and High Tide, featuring a lead violinist and including pseudo-Baroque passages, being more of the classically inspired. Necromandus were also a band that solidly straddled the line between heavy metal and progressive rock.

As heavy metal’s initial popularity began to wane after 1972/73, groups like Bloodrock and High Tide (after breaking up once) began exploring progressive rock more. Then in 1975, a band that would perfectly marry heavy rock with prog came out of Canada. The power trio Rush began developing their signature seventies style from their second album and by the time their fourth album, the monumental 2112 came out, the band had made prog in heavy rock fashionable. Their next two albums saw them experimenting with longer and complex compositions while maintaining the distorted guitars and technical lead playing. Sometimes considered the fathers of progressive metal, Rush would go on to inspire numerous metal bands of the future, perhaps the most notable of which is Dream Theater.

By the time the New Wave of British Heavy Metal broke loose, several artists delivered heavy metal with prog tendencies. One of the best examples is Iron Maiden’s debut album. Founding member bassist Steve Harris admits that prog rock had been his first love, and some of the songs on the debut album include expanded instrumental parts featuring tempo and time signature changes, rhythm changes, and a sense of melody.

Inspired by Iron Maiden, three new American metal bands would foster in the development of the progressive metal subgenre: Queensryche, Fates Warning, and Crimson Glory. Add to that the technical work of Watchtower and progressive metal had finally achieved a perfect marriage between progressive rock and heavy metal.

The Decade Metal Died Twice

Essays on heavy metal, #2 – How heavy metal nearly died in the 1970’s

“I submit that there was no such thing as heavy metal after the year 1972.”

These are the words of the famous American music critic, Lester Bangs, which he wrote in 1977 in response to the punk explosion. Bangs saw little reason for heavy metal, what was left of it in 1977 anyway, to survive. Having already become a reputable critic in the late sixties, Bangs frequently used the words “metal” and “heavy metal” in his reviews to describe the sound or musical intelligence of particular artists, and even though he may not have been the one to append it to a particular style of rock music, he frequently used the term. Bangs recognized that bands like Grand Funk and Black Sabbath had a distinct sound and message. The sound was nothing he particularly cared for. About Grand Funk, he wrote, “Grand Funk were only good when they sounded like shit…” and of Black Sabbath he famously said, “…just like Cream! But worse“.

It’s a commonly accepted notion that heavy metal music was born in 1969/70HEAVY-METAL-1966-1984-Lester-Bangs-Paul-Suter_slika_O_43121529martinpopoff_yeoldmetal_68-72_1024x1024, with some arguing that it was actually a little before that and others claiming the exact birth

date to be February 13th, 1970, when Black Sabbath released its eponymous debut. Emerging from the British R&B scene and the American garage rock scene, brought to life by heavy, distorted electric guitars, pounding rhythm sections and powerhouse vocals, and supercharged in the post-psychedelic sixties, heavy metal was truly born around the turn of the decade, partly as rebuttal against the flower power love and peace movements of the sixties whose idealistic world never materialized as war, political corruption, environmental destruction, criminal incarceration and punishment, substance abuse, mental illness, and general human treachery proved to be the truths of a world ruled by Satan. The distorted guitar sounds had already been called “metal” several times in the sixties and the seriousness of the lyrical subjects were certainly heavy. But it was at last in the early seventies that the words were put together to suggest a certain genre and not just a sound.

Author Gene Sculatti wrote in the pages of Bomp fanzine, “By stipping back hard rock to its primal blues roots… one interesting stylistic stream was discovered and,  for about 18 months, worked energetically: Heavy Metal”. Just try a YouTube search for early seventies heavy metal and begin exploring. So many bands, whose legacies of obscure releases and shelved demos are preserved on the Internet thanks to record collectors, were trying their hands at gritty, rumbling, loud music. This 1976 article on Robert Plant in People weekly claims that the “Age of Heavy Metal” lasted approximately from 1969 to 1971 and the musical style has “faded from fashion”. Heavy metal died in 1971/72.

This is not entirely inaccurate. In 1970/71, we can find dozens of examples of bands worldwide recording heavy, buzzing and grinding riffs, often backed by a thunderous Hammond organ, and a general appreciation for very loud music and lyrics that make the hippy flowers wilt in despair. Dust members claim that no one was playing as loud as they were in 69/70 and Lester Bangs likened Black Sabbath’s guitars to battering rams.

It is interesting to consider that the very appellation of “heavy metal” may have caused the fad to fade. It was used originally as a derogatory term, notes Black Sabbath’s Terry Butler; the band’s music was described as the sound of heavy metal falling from the sky, a simile previously applied to the music of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Many musicians felt their music was being called “clumsy” and “lumbering”. Robert Plant continues to point out that Led Zeppelin were more than just about “leadbelly” music.

It’s possible that in reaction to “heavy metal’s” association with dull, juggernaut-like, graceless music that in 1972, there was a change in the wind. Many bands like Deep Purple, Bloodrock, Grand Funk, and Bang were beginning to modify their sound. More organ but not as heavy, or add piano instead of having organ. Guitar distortion more controlled and more use of less distorted or clean guitars and more obvious jazzy or bluesy parts. Some bands switched to a progressive style, some added more folk influences and acoustic tracks, others went for more melody and a radio-friendly, mainstream style. Still others broke up entirely.

Some bands soldiered on but to little avail. Sudden Death never saw their demo album released until the nineties; Necromandus and Iron Maiden (of Essex) suffered a similar fate. Supernaut, too. Canada’s Twitch tried to push the envelope but at a time when it was unfashionable. Any bands who tried to keep the gravity of their music – both in heaviness and severity of subject matter – found themselves lacking fans as guitar rock began to split between the nascent punk rock sound and AOR. A new breed of bands who sang about fast women, fast times, and a life of rock and roll and who largely relied on the pentatonic scale instead of experimenting with the chromatic scale and classical influences were taking the centre stage: Aerosmith, Ted Nugent(’s Amboy Dukes), KISS, Nazareth, Thin Lizzy, Sweet, April Wine, Bachman Turner Overdrive, etc. The dark, heavy side of metal went underground with bands like Pentagram, Bedemon, Desirèe and Cold Feet, and survived only in occasional moments of release like Nazareth’s “Miss Misery” and Aerosmith’s “Nobody’s Fault”. Black Sabbath was the only big name band that truly refused to change their ways.

heavy metal digest

It’s all metal, baby… in 1974

Ironically, as the hard rock acts (as they are mostly recognized today) became the new black, the term “heavy metal” was applied to them. By the late seventies, heavy metal was a commonly flouted moniker for loud and heavy guitar music and applied to a good number of bands.

Yet as the punk movement grew and disco also came into vogue, heavy metal was in trouble. Like its more cultured cousin, progressive rock, heavy metal was being threatened by extinction. Or at least that was what the music press was suggesting. By 1978, it seemed that heavy metal was on the verge of death.

creem metal dead

Is Heavy Metal Dead in 1978?

Of course, heavy metal was not dying at all. It was undergoing a metamorphosis that was first suggested by Judas Priest and Rainbow in 1976. By 1977, British heavy metal bands were forming with the seeds for a new take on metal already germinating. And in 1979/80, the dam burst and a whole new generation of heavy metal enthusiasts flooded forth, not only delivering a revamped and more intense version of heavy metal to the world, but also inspiring the forth-coming thrash metal movement in the United States.

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Back from the Dead – Heavy Metal

Heavy Metal: Music By Any Other Name

Essays on Heavy Metal, Number #1 – The significance of the term “heavy metal” as a moniker for a genre of music

Heavy metal has been around for nearly 50 years and despite repeated threats of extinction, the music has always managed to adapt and evolve, ever thriving in the underground scene when mainstream success was for the most part unattainable. Heavy metal has never truly cared anyway. The fans have never truly expected airwave dominance either. Mainstream success would mean intervening record companies who would fluff up the sound or bands who would “sell out” by choosing to fluff up their sound.

For legions of metal fans, the term “heavy metal” is synonymous with the personal choice of enjoying music that has been the bane of critics, a hot piece of iron difficult to handle for radio stations, and something of ridicule for many classic rock and pop musicians, not to mention aficionados of jazz and classical music. Choosing metal is a statement of individuality over following the galvanized pop for the masses or some hoity-toity community of ivory tower music snobs. Yet while fans maintain a pride in being “metalheads” and “headbangers”, many progenitors of the genre don’t want to be associated with the monster they created. Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin refers to early seventies heavy metal as “that horrendous boring period in music.” Cream bass guitarist and vocalist, Jack Bruce, once said, “I still don’t take the blame for inventing heavy metal. Hang that one on Led Zeppelin”. Fellow bandmate and drummer Ginger Baker put it more disdainfully: “People say Cream gave birth to heavy metal. If that’s so, we should have had an abortion.”

Metal Sucks

So, is it the musical style that is so repulsive or the image? Or is it just the term “heavy metal”? Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan has never liked the label. “Heavy metal is a term that is just unintentionally clumsy.” Black Sabbath’s Terry Butler said of it that Black Sabbath’s music was likened to the sound of a box of heavy metal objects being dropped. As for music critic Lester Bangs, in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, he posited a more articulate statement against heavy metal:

“As its detractors have always claimed, heavy-metal rock is nothing more than a bunch of noise; it is not music, it’s distortion—and that is precisely why its adherents find it appealing. Of all contemporary rock, it is the genre most closely identified with violence and aggression, rapine and carnage.”

Not surprisingly, for musicians who believed they were making music and not noise, being associated with such an unflattering label was tantamount to career damnation. No matter what talent you possessed, if you were heavy metal then you were just loud and noisy and unsophisticated. Lemmy Kilmister skirted the association with the label by always claiming that his band, Motorhead, played rock and roll and insisted that heavy metal was just rock and roll.

When the term “heavy metal” first began being used to describe a genre of music in the early 1970’s, it was applied as a pejorative; “heavy metal-leaden shit-rock” was how critic Mike Saunders described the music of Humble Pie’s Safe as Yesterday Is in his review of the album. Their third and self-titled album was described as, “more of the same 27th-rate heavy metal crap”. Considering that in those days, heavy metals such as mercury and cadmium were poisoning the environment, there wasn’t much that was flattering about the appellation.

Why “Heavy Metal”?

Even still, why did Saunders think to apply the label to an emerging subgenre of popular music. Deena Weinstein explores the roots of the term in her paper entitled Just So Stories: How Heavy Metal Got Its Name—A Cautionary Tale. Mike Saunders wrote his reviews while attending college and had spent some time studying the Periodic Table of the Elements. “Heavy metal” and “leaden metal” were still fresh in his mind when he considered the heavy, leaden drumming on the Humble Pie albums, drumming that lacked the “swing” of hard rock. In an email message to Weinstein, Saunders explained how he derived the term:

“I’d taken freshman chemistry during fall 1969 and spring 1970 semesters … the phrases ‘leaden metal’ and ‘heavy metal,’ along with the periodic table of elements’ neighborhood where they derived from or resided, clocked in a lot more time-share space in my day-to-day mind than any old Steppenwolf hit song … [Humble Pie’s album, Safe as Yesterday Is ] was stiff, turgid, i.e. leaden in its lack of hard rock drummer “swing” (also known as cool drum rolls/parts). Since ‘heavy’ had been around for three whole years as the most common genre term, i.e. ‘heavy rock,’ hell yeah…why NOT insert the phrase ‘leaden-metal’ in between the ‘heavy’/’rock’ tandem? Flipped around, ‘metal-leaden’ must have looked catchier on paper…’heavy metal-leaden rock’…since that put the words ‘heavy’ and ‘metal’ into a tandem status just like on the elements table. Oh yeah, the Humble Pie album that I’d wasted my money on was complete shit, so throw in the ‘shit’ word too….’heavy metal-leaden shit-rock.’ shortened in the next/final paragraph to simply ‘heavy metal crap.’ (no hyphen)…Maybe the leaden part (as pejorative describing the dreadful Humble Pie rhythm section) was just implied.”

The Steppenwolf song he refers to is of course the classic early 1968 hit song “Born to Be Wild” which includes the lyric, “heavy metal thunder”. However, in the context of the lyrics, it attempts to capture the image of a motorcycle or car engine. Indeed, Led Zeppelin would use the term in their 1975 song “Trampled Underfoot”: “Check that heavy metal underneath your hood.” But perhaps Robert Plant’s usage in this case also implied innuendo as the song’s refrain repeats, “Talkin’ ‘bout love, talkin’ ‘bout love” and the lyrics go further in suggestiveness with the line, “I’m so glad I took a look inside your showroom doors”. Exactly what is this hood he looked underneath and what are those showroom doors?

Whatever image Robert Plant was trying to imply with his use of the musical term he reviled, he was not talkin’ ‘bout heavy metal music. And neither were Steppenwolf, who were, by the way, not the first to use the term in a musical context. In 1967, the British avant-guard outfit Hapshash and the Coloured Coat used the term in their album title Featuring The Human Host and the Heavy Metal Kids. Here, though, the term seems to reference a novel by William Burroughs, which we will consider shortly.

Who Was On First?

So, was Mike Saunders then the first to use heavy metal to describe a style of music? As he states in the quote above, the term heavy had already been in use for three years, as in “heavy rock”. Weinstein’s paper delves deeper into the origins of the term and there is more than one critic who demands credit for inventing descriptive moniker. Blue Oyster Cult manager and lyricist, Sandy Pearlman, claims that he came up with the term originally, again citing the Periodic Table of the Elements as the source for the inspiration. In a review he wrote in Crawdaddy! About The Notorious Byrd Brothers album, Pearlman claims he used the term “heavy metal” to describe “the incredible complexity of the distortion”.

Once again, “heavy metal” becomes synonymous with distortion and noise; however, the review was on the website ByrdWatcher: A Field Guide to the Byrds of Los Angeles, and there was no mention of “heavy metal”. Site manager Tim Conners gives Lester Bangs credit for inventing the term, remarking that he lifted it from a William Burroughs’ book series that included a character called “Uranian Willy The Heavy Metal Kid”. Uranian Willy had no association with any style of music but instead the planet Uranus and its drug-addicted inhabitants. But Bangs makes no use of the term in his reviews or other writing until later on in the seventies, after the term had come into frequent usage.

Still, Pearlman used the word “metal” as early as 1967 when writing about the Rolling Stones’ album Got Live If You Want It. Weinstein observes that “metal” or “metallic” was used eight times in the first eight sentences, although the term is used to describe the sound of the music rather than a style of music.

Another contender, which is also mentioned in the Wikipedia entry for “heavy metal”, is a 1968 review published in Rolling Stone and written by Barry Gifford. He writes of musician Mike Bloomfield that his new album is “the New Soul Music, the synthesis of White Blues and Heavy Metal rock”. The author later clarified the intention of his use of “heavy metal” as a means to describe the sound of the band, and the music bears no resemblance to what later became known as heavy metal. Still again in 1968, the terms “heavy” and “metallic” were used in a New York Times review of the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s album Axis: Bold as Love, where author Jim Miller wrote, “Jimi Hendrix sounds like a junk heap, very heavy and metallic loud”. Once again, “heavy” and “metal(lic)” are used to describe the sound of the music, and while Jimi Hendrix, Mike Bloomfield, and The Rolling Stones all have quite distinctly different sounds to their music, we are reminded once again in the Hendrix review at least that “heavy metal” could be used in criticism of the music’s sound. Another description used elsewhere described Hendrix’s music as, “like listening to heavy metal falling from the sky”.

Quite interesting as we get closer to the birth of the term to describe the genre of loud and metallic heavy rock, Weinstein’s paper reveals yet another usage of “heavy metal” prior to the Mike Saunders’ penned review. The surprise is that the review which included the term was written by none other than Lester Bangs, this time in a 1970 review of The Guess Who’s album, Canned Wheat. Bangs writes about the band, “They’re quite refreshing in the wake of all the heavy metal robots of the year past”. The term here describes a number of bands who have been churning out monotonous and uncreative music but not a genre of music. Still, it’s not flattering to those bands.

Heavy? Downer?

Alternatively, heavy rock, as Saunders pointed out, was already being used to describe the music of bands like Cream and Blue Cheer in the late sixties and later for Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. “Heavy” on its own, though, implied no derision, and the term had already been used by the Beats from jazz and co-opted by the sixties counter-culture youth, where it meant “deep”, “meaningful”, and even something that was good. It could also refer to something profound and serious. But by the time it was used for Black Sabbath’s music, it no doubt was applied to the sound of the heavy (i.e. low toned) guitars, the low bass, and the crushing drums.

Downer rock was yet another term used to describe music whose song lyrics dealt with the unpleasantness of reality with its wars, political corruption, environmental destruction, crime and punishment, substance abuse, mental illnesses, and death. The facts that were being addressed in the lyrics of bands like Black Sabbath (“War Pigs”, “Children of the Grave”, “Hand of Doom”), Grand Funk (“Paranoid”, “Can’t Be Too Long”), and Bloodrock (“Wicked Truth”, “DOA”) were the antipodes of the hippie idealisms of universal love and peace. Add to that the frequent use of depressant “downer” drugs by some fans of the music and a certain appropriateness of the term becomes recognizable. Indeed, Lester Bangs made more ready use of “downer rock” to describe the musical style of Black Sabbath than he did “heavy metal”. In a 1972 issue of Creem he described a Black Sabbath concert like this:

“The audience, searching endlessly both for bone-rattling sound and someone to put the present social and psychic traumas in perspective, found both in Black Sabbath … they possessed a dark vision of society and the human soul borrowed from black magic and Christian myth; they cut straight to the teen heart of darkness with obsessive, crushing blocks of sound and “words that go right to your sorrow, words that go ‘Ain’t no tomorrow,’” as Ozzy sang in “Warning” on their first album. The critics…responded almost as one by damning it as “downer music.” Since much of it did lack the unquenchable adrenaline imperatives of its precedents and one look around a rock concert hall was enough to tell you where the Psychedelic Revolution had led, the charge seemed worth considering.”

Ying and Yan

Robert Plant, in the People Weekly article briefly quoted at the beginning of this post, laments that people didn’t get the other side of Led Zeppelin, the softer and subtler parts. That Led Zeppelin should include opposite extremes of “heavy” and “light” is spelled out right in the name “lead”, a heavy metal, and “zeppelin”, an airship. Though the name was suggested in mockery by either Keith Moon or Pete Townshend (depending on your source) in a comment stating that Jimmy Page’s new band would go down like a lead zeppelin, it couldn’t have been more appropriate for the music the band would go on to create. Iron Butterfly chose their name exactly for the purpose of capturing the essence of their music, which included both heavy and light and beautiful sounds. One could consider this “heavy” and “light” connotation further by applying it to other bands such as Vanilla (light) Fudge (dark), Black (dark, unknown) Sabbath (holy day), and Judas (deceiver of Christ) Priest (religious leader and pious man). Certainly, each of these bands chose their name from other inspirations, yet the concept of dichotomies remains.

Loud, Noisy, Toxic, and Metallic – A Product of Industrial Heartlands

In the end, is “heavy metal” such a derogatory term? Weinstein writes in her conclusion that the term “showed a set of characteristics and sensibility”. Would it have included the same set of bands had it been called “downer rock” or “heavy rock”, or that more generic term “hard rock”? As we saw, both terms “heavy” and “metal” were already employed to describe the sound of the music. Mike Saunders’ brilliant spur of creative writing thought to put both terms together as an adjective for the sound of a musical style. Another source noted that the acceptance of the term for the genre rests in its appropriateness in defining how listeners interpret the music. The same could be said for “punk rock” or “progressive rock”. The name implies something about the music.

Looking to The Phrase Finder at phrases.org.uk, under the entry The Meaning and Origin of the Expression Heavy Metal, we find once again the connotation of “heavy” with “serious” or “profound”. The entry then points out the common usage of metals in band names, such as Led Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly, Iron Maiden, and Metallica (the list of bands that used “iron” in their names can go on). Also, the toxic nature of heavy metals lends its image to the musical style (once more, unflattering to some musicians). Another interesting point is that some of the earliest bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Judas Priest hailed from industrial Birmingham, and you can add to that all the proto-punk and early metal bands like Stooges and Grand Funk who emerged out of the industrial heartland of the U.S. in Michigan. No wonder Rush’s “Working Man” resonated so strongly with the industrial working class!

Perhaps, like the birth of the music itself, the term “heavy metal” has a number of sign posts leading up to its invention. Just as heavy metal music was the product of several years of distorted and energetic guitar riff rock, psychedelic experimentation, and a return to the blues with heavier electric music, so the term “heavy metal” comes from nearly a decade of the appearance of the words being used to describe serious and profound matters and loud distorted guitar rock music. As most will agree, though, the music we call heavy metal today has evolved and progressed a long way from its first appearance.