Traditional Metal

Traditional heavy metal
Stylistic origins Rock, blues rock, psychedelic rock
Cultural origins Late 1960s United Kingdom and United States
Typical instruments Electric guitarBassDrumsVocals

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

Authors such as Paul Du Noyer, Garry Sharpe Young, and Andrew Cope recognize many similarities between hard rock and heavy metal, 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]

Lyrical themes

Traditional heavy metal bands like Black Sabbath and the many bands they inspired have concentrated lyrically "on dark and depressing subject matter to an extent hitherto unprecedented in any form of pop music", according to scholars David Hatch and Stephen Millward. They take as an example Sabbath's second album Paranoid (1970), which "included songs dealing with personal trauma—'Paranoid' and 'Fairies Wear Boots' (which described the unsavoury side effects of drug-taking) —as well as those confronting wider issues, such as the self-explanatory 'War Pigs' and 'Hand of Doom'."[12] Nuclear annihilation was addressed in later songs such as Black Sabbath's "Electric Funeral", Iron Maiden's "2 Minutes to Midnight" and Ozzy Osbourne's "Killer of Giants".

Traditional heavy metal songs often feature outlandish, fantasy-inspired lyrics, lending them an escapist quality. Iron Maiden's songs, for instance, were frequently inspired by mythology, fiction, and poetry, such as Iron Maiden's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", based on the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem. Other examples include Black Sabbath's "The Wizard" and Judas Priest's "Dreamer Deceiver".

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



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