Satanic themes are common in black metal, though many bands take inspiration from ancient paganism, promoting a return to supposed pre-Christian values. Numerous black metal bands also “experiment with sounds from all possible forms of metal, folk, classical music, electronica and avant-garde”. Darkthrone drummer Fenriz explains, “It had something to do with production, lyrics, the way they dressed and a commitment to making ugly, raw, grim stuff. There wasn’t a generic sound.”
During the late 1980s, the power metal scene came together largely in reaction to the harshness of death and black metal. Though a relatively underground style in North America, it enjoys wide popularity in Europe, Japan, and South America. Power metal focuses on upbeat, epic melodies and themes that “appeal to the listener’s sense of valor and loveliness”. The prototype for the sound was established in the mid-to-late 1980s by Germany’s Helloween, which combined the power riffs, melodic approach, and high-pitched, “clean” singing style of bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden with thrash’s speed and energy, “crystalliz[ing] the sonic ingredients of what is now known as power metal”.
Birmingham’s Black Sabbath had developed a particularly heavy sound in part due to an industrial accident guitarist Tony Iommi suffered before cofounding the band. Unable to play normally, Iommi had to tune his guitar down for easier fretting and rely on power chords with their relatively simple fingering. The bleak, industrial, working class environment of Birmingham, a manufacturing city full of noisy factories and metalworking, has itself been credited with influencing Black Sabbath’s heavy, chugging, metallic sound and the sound of heavy metal in general. Deep Purple had fluctuated between styles in its early years, but by 1969 vocalist Ian Gillan and guitarist Ritchie Blackmore had led the band toward the developing heavy metal style. In 1970, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple scored major UK chart hits with “Paranoid” and “Black Night”, respectively. That same year, two other British bands released debut albums in a heavy metal mode: Uriah Heep with Very ‘Eavy… Very ‘Umble and UFO with UFO 1. Bloodrock released their self-titled debut album, containing a collection of heavy guitar riffs, gruff style vocals and sadistic and macabre lyrics. The influential Budgie brought the new metal sound into a power trio context, creating some of the heaviest music of the time. The occult lyrics and imagery employed by Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep would prove particularly influential; Led Zeppelin also began foregrounding such elements with its fourth album, in 1971. In 1973, Deep Purple released the song Smoke on the Water, with the iconic riff that’s usually considered as the most recognizable one in “heavy rock” history, as a single of the classic live album Made in Japan.
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This is another song with a true story behind it. The name Layla relates to a book entitled The Story of Layla and Majnun, which tells the tale of Majnun, who falls in love with a beautiful young woman; but her father rejects Majnun and he goes crazy with desire. In real life, guitarist Eric Clapton, the co-writer of “Layla,” fell in love with Patty Boyd, who had married George Harrison. Eventually, though, Boyd and Harrison got a divorce and Clapton then married Boyd. How sweet! Anyway, over the years “Layla” has garnered great popular and critical acclaim. Interestingly, Both Clapton and Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers wrote and played the famous guitar licks throughout the song.
It has been argued that heavy metal has outlasted many other rock genres largely due to the emergence of an intense, exclusionary, strongly masculine subculture. While the metal fan base is largely young, white, male, and blue-collar, the group is “tolerant of those outside its core demographic base who follow its codes of dress, appearance, and behavior”. Identification with the subculture is strengthened not only by the group experience of concert-going and shared elements of fashion, but also by contributing to metal magazines and, more recently, websites. Attending live concerts in particular has been called the “holiest of heavy metal communions.”
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Jump up ^ DeCurtis, Henke & George-Warren 1992, p. 8; George-Warren & Romanowski 2001, p. 7; Hecker 2016, p. 21; Orteza 2006; Phillips & Cogan 2009, “Aerosmith”; Shuker 2017; Wallach, Berger & Greene 2011, p. 39, 115; Weiss 2016, p. 9.
Also in the 2010s, a metal style called “djent” developed as a spinoff of standard progressive metal. Djent music uses rhythmic and technical complexity, heavily distorted, palm-muted guitar chords, syncopated riffs and polyrhythms alongside virtuoso soloing. Another typical characteristic is the use of extended range seven, eight, and nine-string guitars. Djent bands include Periphery, TesseracT and Textures.
That said, I’d love to try an all-Classic Modern Rock format in L.A. (where I’m based); I thought that was a good idea ten years ago but the market ownership is so concentrated — and so much of the programming here is in Spanish — that I’ve pretty much given up on anyone freeing up a signal to give it a spin. Heaven knows I already have the research for it sitting in a file cabinet here.