In no way is this a heavy metal band list or an attempt to include every detail, important or not, within the genreís history, but I believe it is a fairly comprehensive guide. I have included bands that have been influential, prominent, representative, or successful throughout their careers, and in the process omitted several others that would prevent any conciseness. I have also made the attempt of remaining as objective as possible (although words like "well-deserved" will appear throughout the text), and therefore have also included bands that I do not enjoy listening to or whose general visual image I do not respect. After all, heavy metal is something of an acquired taste. With no further comments, I leave you to read my take on the history of heavy metal. I hope you will enjoy it and maybe learn a little from it (and with any luck, you wonít find it boring at all).
During 1966, the rock world was still absorbed by the Summer of Love, but it was about to witness one of its most important revolutions; bands like Golden Earring (formed in 1965), Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Led Zeppelin, Vanilla Fudge, Iron Butterfly, Steppenwolf, Blue Cheer, Deep Purple, Grand Funk Railroad, Free, Uriah Heep, Mountain, Humble Pie, Bloodrock, Black Widow, Cactus, and Black Sabbath came to being between 1966 and 1970, and struck the world with what Steppenwolf would call in one of its songs "heavy metal thunder" (the first time the term was ever used; originally used to describe the sound of a motorcycle). A new type of music, which borrowed heavily from rock and roll and the blues, was gaining influence on the youth of those times, which was already getting tired of the stagnant Summer of Love scene.
Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience were the first bands to give heavy metal a high commercial profile. The legendary guitarist Eric Clapton was part of the first; a band that remains a seminal power trio and heavy metal band that released such memorable songs as "Sunshine Of Your Love" and "White Room." During the course of four albums and two years, Cream became a prominently successful band that influenced the likes of Rush and Van Halen and would later spawn the also legendary Blind Faith. The Jimi Hendrix Experience was another musical trio, based around the guitar histrionics of the legendary Jimi Hendrix. Albums such as Are You Experienced? and Electric Ladyland drew thousands of ravenous fans that feasted on the music provided by the band that is often mentioned along with Janis Joplin and the Doors as a premiere rock unit.
Several new bands, such as the bluesy Foghat and Bad Company, the ferocious Budgie, and the legendary UFO were spawned by the growing heavy metal explosion, while others like Status Quo hardened their sound; but until 1973 the kings of heavy metal were undoubtedly Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath. They were bands with technical prowess and a compositional inventiveness and passion unseen before, which coalesced into the hardest music existing during those times. This era also marked the beginning of Satanic imagery in heavy metal, and of spectacular, energetical live shows.
The Satanic imagery came courtesy of two English bands: Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Led Zeppelinís guitarist Jimmy Page (formerly of The Yardbirds, a band that was critical in influencing heavy metal with its psychedelic distortion and in spawning legendary guitar players Page, Clapton, and Jeff Beck) had a strong personal fascination with the occult, while many of Sabbathís lyrics within their ample range of themes dealed with the occult. However, the Sabs did not claim to be Satanic, unlike many future metal bands; in fact, Ozzy Osbourne, vocalist of the band during those times, claims to have been scared off by fans wearing black robes and carrying candles with themselves.
As for the live shows, they were carried out by every band, most notably by Led Zeppelinís "rock till you drop" concerts that lasted about two hours; and by Alice Cooperís colossal shows, known to feature boa constrictors, mutilated female mannequins, and Alice Cooper himself in a beheading spectacle. Bands moved onstage, introduced bigger-than-life special effects into their shows and recreated their music in front of fiery crowds of fans.
The first few years of heavy metal (the music being called classic metal at times because of its pioneering status) are considered by most as the best era of the genre ever. Without a doubt, it is quite a memorable segment of this musicís history. Led Zeppelin, unquestionably the most popular heavy metal band ever, created classics such as "Black Dog" and the Arabian "Kashmir;" but also had the brilliance of experimenting with forms of music such as reggae and folk. In fact, the latter was an essential part of the most widely known heavy metal song ever: "Stairway to Heaven." The masterfully created masterpiece was crafted by Page and vocalist Robert Plant to perfection and even today remains a constant radio staple.
It was, however, until 1970 that Black Sabbath inaugurated what many consider the "true" feeling of heavy metal. Gloomy, crunching, and foreboding, albums like Black Sabbath, Paranoid, and Master of Reality demonstrated the somewhat wicked musical direction of guitarist Tony Iommi and band members Ozzy Osbourne, Bill Ward, and Geezer Butler, through classic songs like "N.I.B.," "Paranoid," and "Children of the Grave." Bands such as Corrosion of Conformity, Metallica, and Nirvana were all influenced by the metal anthems provided by one of the genreís most memorable bands ever. Meanwhile, Deep Purple, after going through a progressive rock stint with vocalist Rod Evans and bassist Nick Simper, developed a solid slab of rock on their classic Deep Purple In Rock and would for a long time be heralded as true innovators of music. Ritchie Blackmoreís classical guitar training, along with Jon Lordís synthesizers and Ian Gillanís piercing shrieks, was crucial in the development of heavy metal as it is known today.
During the mid-Seventies, six new bands were to also walk into the spotlight: the Blue Öyster Cult, Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest, Queen, Aerosmith, and Kiss. Judas Priest would be responsible for popularizing the concept of two guitarists in a heavy metal band; Aerosmith for bringing back the blues, sex, and drugs; Thin Lizzy for breaking through with aesthetical and musical flash and style; Queen for introducing perhaps the greatest degree of experimentation within music and the renewal of majestic melodies and harmonies; and Kiss for revolutionizing the art of live shows, at times presenting slightly macabre theatrics strongly reminiscent of Alice Cooperís. And the Blue Öyster Cult? They disappeared into oblivion after a series of forgettable albums released in the 80´s. But during their halcyon days in the 70´s, they were an important part of the hard rock arena circuit, combining beautiful 60´s harmonies with searing guitars.
While a number of heavy metal bands cemented their reputation as rock giants for years to come, certain bands would begin taking another highly popular form of music, progressive rock, into a heavier direction. Bands like Pink Floyd and Genesis had remained most of the time outside the heavy metal realms, while others like Jethro Tull, Yes, and King Crimson flirted with it more often on songs like "Aqualung," "Heart of the Sunrise," and "21st Century Schizoid Man," respectively. Characterized by complex song structures, odd-time arrangements, and a highly technical and virtuous use of instruments, progressive metal would not come truly into being until the creation of Rush. On its debut album, Rush, the band had not yet acquired a tendency for the progressive; but by the time of Fly By Night and the acquisition of drummer Neil Peart, the band changed its approach and became more ambitious lyrically and musically, driving its progressive outings to their furthermost limits on albums like A Farewell to Kings and Hemispheres. Most other progressive bands, such as Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Focus, Asia, and Marillion, only flirted with metal through their years of existence.
Unfortunately, metal was to stagnate completely in the late Seventies. Aerosmith, Thin Lizzy, and Black Sabbath were digging their own tombs because of their drug-consuming habits, Kiss had lost its charm because of over-commercialization, Deep Purple faded out due to personnel changes, and Led Zeppelin ended with the death of drummer John Bonham; only Judas Priest and Queen remained almost intact during these times. And not only were the greatest bands dying slowly, but every new band was just ripping off the old glory; metal was on its dying bed. Only a few bands were still thriving among the ruins, among them AC/DC and Rush; the former taking over the world with their three-chord attack, guitarist Angus Youngís lunatic careening on the stage, and Bon Scottís hell-raising screams; the latter inspiring new generations of musicians with their progressive brand of music. Ted Nugent, formerly of the Amboy Dukes, released hyperactive gems like Cat Scratch Fever and Double Live Gonzo to much acclaim during the last half of the Seventies and would be another of the few surviving musical groups. Blackmoreís Rainbow was the last of the great rock giants to die or metamorphose by the end of the Eighties, after Ronnie James Dio left the band amidst a flurry of clashing egos which had earlier produced melodic epics on albums like Rainbow Rising and Long Live Rock Ďní Roll.
Perhaps the three most important bands of punk were Iggy and the Stooges, the Ramones, and the Sex Pistols. The first was Iggy Popís band. They were nothing short of amazing in their live shows, which were so energetic, that according to Iggy Pop himself, they would only last ten to fifteen minutes. They basically consisted of Iggyís wild antics and screaming over a power trioís furious songs. Then was the Ramones, the New York band whichís songs were amazingly reckless for their time and laid the foundations on which bands such as The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nirvana would grow. Finally was the greatest (as in popularity) punk rock band of all times: The Sex Pistols. Its origin was rather curious: An art project by Malcom McClaren which sought to destroy everything that had come before in rock ní roll. They managed to create some good punk rock in the process, with everything from political protest ("God Save the Queen") to hooky songs ("Sub-Mission"). However, the band destroyed itself during its American tour, with bassist Sid Vicious killing his girlfriend Nancy Spunge and then committing suicide while drugged; this turned Vicious into punkís infamous martyr, and began the end for punk rock, which would remain underground for the most part until the Nineties.
While punk was taking over strongly among the youth, another raw and aggressive band would begin making an impact: Motörhead. Motörhead would signify the beginning of what is know today as thrash/speed/power metal, and which would later originate death metal. The bandís first release, On Parole (1976) would only hint at the power unleashed in later albums released during the late 70´s and early 80ís, such as Overkill, Bomber, Ace of Spades, and No Sleep ĎTil Hammersmith, which truly offered pedal-to-the-metal songs. Motörhead surprisingly attracted not only the metal crowd, but also many fiery punk fans, therefore marking the beginning of the union that would eventually result in the creation of hardcore.
Meanwhile, Iron Maiden brought back the mystic imagery of heavy metal while pounding out some of the heaviest riffs of their time in albums like Killers, Piece of Mind and Powerslave. They were to remain the heaviest band to rule the arena hard-rock circuit for years until the advent of Metallica. While Maiden pounded out harmonized and majestic guitar riffs backed by a thunderous bass (a combination commonly known as classic metal, not to be confused with the pioneering genre), Venom would truly begin the thrash metal genre with classic albums like Welcome to Hell and Black Metal, in which they also flirted occasionally with what would turn out to be death metal later on. Originally a band meant as a tongue-in-cheek project named Oberon, Venom were to become the most intense band of their time; and they would inspire, along with Motörhead, Judas Priestís Stained Class and Riotís distinguishable and energetical musical outbursts, young bands such as Metallica, Exodus, Slayer, and Mantas (which would later become Death) to start making their own brand of fast, aggressive music.
As in the past, the United States decided to bite back with a vengeance, which was embodied in the pop/glam metal explosion of the 80ís. Van Halen was already there since 1978 and had become an arena band, hitting the world hard with Eddie Van Halenís guitar wizardry and David Lee Rothís wild show antics. The prototypical Journey had sold millions of records since its inception in 1972 with its keyboard-oriented metal, and later Angel and Foreigner would begin breaking through to the masses while Montrose released legendary music. But the real vengeance came in the early Eighties with Mötley Crüe and Ratt, two bands from Los Angeles which wrote relatively accessible songs that were big on hooks and strongly influenced by the likes of veterans Sweet and T-Rex. Both bands also took the glam images from bands such as Alice Cooper, David Bowie, the New York Dolls, Kiss, and Gary Glitter. Taking them to the extreme, glam metal bands began wearing womenís makeup, leather outfits, fishnets, headbands, spikes, and whatever they could basically get their hands on. Mötley Crüe, perhaps the most important pop metal band of the 80´s, began the LA metal explosion in 1983 with Shout At the Devil, an album that was solely responsible for bringing heavy metal fully back into commercial circles; at the same time helping propel Ratt and the older Twisted Sister and Quiet Riot into stardom. "Round and Round," "Weíre Not Gonna Take It," and "Cum On Feel the Noize," respectively, broke each band over to mainstream audiences worldwide; a success that in turn paved the way for Bon Jovi.
Bon Jovi was the second most successful metal band ever, right after Def Leppard; selling millions upon millions of albums and releasing hit ballad after hit ballad. Slippery When Wet and New Jersey took the world by storm, as would Def Leppard´s Pyromania and Hysteria. These two bands perfectly learned how to take metalís harshness and mix it with popís accessibility, therefore producing a perfect blend for the MTV-influenced youth of those days. Meanwhile, Mötley Crüe and Ratt innovated their own music with every album and remained successes for a long time, reflecting the darker side of pop metal. However, these bands obscured others which had as much to offer. Groups such as Kix, Faster Pussycat, and LA Guns, despite their strong material, never truly obtained the success they deserved, while bands like Kiss adapted to the ruling pop metal scene on songs like "Heavenís On Fire." Later on, the pop metal explosion would also obscure bands with harder or more classic styles, such as the acclaimed Thunder, G.U.N., and Junkyard; although others like the Cult and Jackyl did manage to surface.
However, pop metal eventually became too accessible and flashy and needed revitalizing. Whitesnake, which epitomized the common successful glam metal band, was already dying out despite its existence since the Seventies; only the strongest and best bands were surviving: Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and Mötley Crüe. The scene needed a new type of band; a band that was not as polished and accessible, a band that came from the sleazy and edgy streets. Enter Guns ní Roses.
Guns ní Roses was what the pop metal scene needed; Appetite for Destruction was a searing, raw, and aggressive album, featuring Slashís bluesy guitar licks and Axl Roseís hanging-on-to-dear-life vocals. Guns ní Roses took the spotlight immediately with their mix of the Hanoi Rocks, the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, and the previous pop metal bands with strong songs like "Welcome to the Jungle," "Night Train," and "My Michelle," while showing their softer side on "Sweet Child Oí Mine." Guns ní Roses saved pop metal from commercial extinction and would eventually reign the scene along with Mötley Crüe, while Def Leppard and Bon Jovi enjoyed long breaks.
The coming of Guns ní Roses, however, would not prevent new accessible bands from appearing. Poison and Warrant were probably the best and most noticeable of these; although they werenít something completely new, their songs were original and catchy. However, their extreme use of makeup and glamorous clothing would incite critics everywhere to attack them as forgettable bands. White Lion was also an important pop metal offering; although some of the bandís songs were trite, many of its material was quite impressive; especially songs like "Lights and Thunder," "Cry For Freedom," "If My Mind Is Evil," and "Leave Me Alone." Meanwhile, the bluesier Cinderella offered a string of honest and straightforward rock albums, and Tesla did likewise, shunning the glam image in the process. The far more experienced outfit Dokken was yet another strong feature of pop metal, displaying George Lynchís blazing fretwork, and a heavier influence of technical musicianship; while Europe blasted through the charts with the melodic masterpiece "The Final Countdown." Others like the Christian Stryper, the often criticized Winger and Great White, Mr. Big, Bad English, Damn Yankees, and Slaughter made up an important part of the scene. There was also the rather memorable Skid Row, but its line-up would eventually venture into much heavier grounds, despite the heavy success of its debut album: Skid Row.
The pop metal scene would also be responsible for bringing about the most popular and widely known female heavy metal musicians ever, who continued with the advances of the Runaways and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal Girlschool; the two bands most responsible for making rock a viable musical avenue for women. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts enticed admiration with the heartfelt "I Love Rock ní Roll," while Lita Ford would air on the music media through her single "Kiss Me Deadly." The two ex-Runaways members eventually lost their popularity, but they were responsible for influencing the creation of young new female bands like the velvety soft Vixen, the alternative L7, the obscure Phantom Blue, and the heavy and gloomy Drain S.T.H.
Meanwhile, a somewhat heavier and more classic approach to the genre was provided by several heavy metal legends during the Eighties. Black Sabbath, along with singer Ronnie James Dio, came back with Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules to much acclaim; both albums marking a stylistic change in which a more melodic approach was utilized. Meanwhile, Ozzy Osbourne, away from the Black Sabbath front, provided ardent fans with releases such as Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman, which featured prodigious guitarist Randy Rhoads and along with Dioís later solo releases would keep his type of melodic metal alive through the Eighties; partly due to efforts of newer melodic bands that stuck to heavy metal, such as the constantly evolving Savatage (originally a power metal band), the "Kings of Metal" Manowar, and Armored Saint, each with its own style. Several of the Seventiesí legendary bands would make comebacks throughout the Eighties with different degrees of success, but there was no synchronized revival of the pioneering metal of old, partly because many bands had lost either their originality or the passion that had characterized their early impact.
At this time, three other thrash metal bands took over along with Metallica: Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer (considered by some a death metal band). Megadeth, founded by ex-Metallica guitarist Dave Mustaine, created what would be later known as techno-thrash, characterized by numerous tempo changes and complex riffs, which backed Mustaineís sharp snarl. Meanwhile, Anthrax produced hard, fast riffs and began experimenting with rap, while Slayer made the heaviest riffs of its time and its members developed their obsession with Satanic imagery. Later on, Suicidal Tendencies would reach similar heights with releases such as LightsÖCameraÖRevolution, which would incorporate punk, alternative, and rap influences into singer Mike Muirís extroverted ramblings, while Testament would enjoy commercial success through the midperiod of the 80's with albums such as Practice What You Preach and what many consider to be the disappointing Souls of Black.
The scene would have died out if it hadnít been for an underground network in which band demos and records were quickly exchanged and distributed throughout the world. Exciter, Overkill, Nuclear Assault, Dark Angel, Destroyer, and a number of other bands became known by the thrash scene underground and developed strong cult followings. However, thrash metal had not yet acquired the influence it deserved.
Speed metal finally hit paydirt when Metallicaís masterpiece, Master of Puppets, reached the gold mark (500,000 albums sold) in 1986. This catapulted Slayer, Anthrax, and Megadeth into stardom as well, and began the rise of power metal in commercial circles. The answer to pop metal had arrived in the form of an uncompromisingly brutal form of heavy metal. However, as in pop metal, many excellent bands never quite obtained the sales they deserved. Metal Church, Coroner, Flotsam & Jetsam, Wrathchild America, the solid and straightforward Sacred Reich, and early Anvil, despite their powerful albums and originality, never reached enough exposure. VoiVod, meanwhile, failed to obtain a well-deserved recognition after changing styles towards a more progressive speed metal direction. Later on, the splendid Angel Rat featured a more accessible, mainstream sound that contrasted sharply against the brilliant Dimension Hatross, Nothingface, and The Outer Limits; yet it failed to break VoiVod through to the media.
Thrash metal spawned yet another kind of metal, which was to be the most extreme ever: death metal. Hellhammerís Apocalyptic Raids, Deathís Scream Bloody Gore, Possessedís The Seven Churches, and Bathory marked the beginning of a gender of music destined to never attain commercial success. Guitars became as heavy as possible, tempo changes went from bullet train fast to turtle slow, double pedaling almost became a rule for drummers, and vocalists switched from screaming to uttering guttural growls that were barely intelligible. Venomís Welcome to Hell had already predicted death metalís rise, and the new bands just reassured it. Celtic Frost, Sodom, and Kreator (these last two considerd thrash metal at times) continued death metal, but due to a new interest of metal bands in metalcore, death metal was losing ground.
Then came Sepultura, Obituary and Morbid Angel to resurrect death metal. Sepulturaís precise and exacting Beneath the Remains, along with Obituaryís brutal Slowly We Rot, revived the long-dead interest of metal fans and again established death metal as a strong branch of metal, propelling the existence of a slew of excellent new bands and resurgence of old ones, such as Carcass, Dismember, Benediction, Malevolent Creation, Hypocrisy, Fudge Tunnel, Entombed, Edge of Sanity, and Pan-Thy-Monium; and the progressive Pestilence, Atheist, Believer, and Cynic. However, death metal also stagnated into boring repetition. Against the background of success for bands such as Morbid Angel and Deicide, along with the technically renewed approach of Death on Human, Individual Thought Patterns, and Symbolic, most new bands had nothing new to offer, but instead chose to rehash everything done before and therefore help begin carving death metalís tomb again.
During the last half of the Eighties, death metal would churn out the most radical of its variations, grindcore, which would eventually become a separate musical identity in and of itself. Grindcoreís most representative exponent is Napalm Death, which virtually eliminated harmony and melody in albums such as Scum, Harmony Corrupted, and Utopia Banished. Grindcore seems to be the absolute frontier of heavy metal, because the genre thrives on deconstructing music and as such is probably its most radical form ever, that is, if it can be called music. Because of its nature, grindcore is usually just glanced upon by bands such as Cannibal Corpse, Scorn, and several other bands; while bands that originally formed part of the scene, such as Carcass, Godflesh, Treponem Pal, and Pitchshifter, have chosen to move towards less radical musical directions.
On the other side is black metal, a branch of death metal that began as an underproduced, noisy, but promising type of music ("black" being a connotation of Satanic imagery) that eventually developed into a more melodic type of death metal. The greater experimentation range and variety of influences that remained in it helped several death metal bands move from their heavy intense riffing to a more melodic approach. Among them, Samael, Satyricon, Cradle of Filth, and Moonspell are fine examples; bands that have incorporated several new elements into their music: classical music, flamenco, folkloric European, synthesizers, female singers, and vocalists that do not growl.
During the early Nineties, bands such as Tiamat, Therion, Sentenced, and Cemetary began moving away from their previous death metal sound in order to pursue diverse musical avenues, including progressive, doom, and classic metal. This in turn influenced other bands to create yet more diverse and musically complex black metal. As of late, Swedish bands At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity, and In Flames have maintained death and black metalís momentum with their innovative and technical approach, with others like Emperor beginning to catch on and the likes of Arcturus and Dimmu Borgir expanding on the symphonic black metal approach, which demonstrates how black metal has been influential in reviving death metal and in reminding musicians that execution is just as important as heaviness.
Later on more bands would continue with the advances of Witchfynde, Angel Witch (which, along with Witchfinder General and Witchfynde, had been part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal), and the dying scene of doom, and would eventually join the ranks and introduce a more operatic style in singing, as evidenced in the legendary and innovative Candlemassí Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. Pentagram was there too, along with others like the Obsessed and Dream Death (to later turn into Penance), but the doom metal movement was not to flourish until the coming of two bands composed of former members of death, thrash and punk bands: Paradise Lost, and, more importantly, Cathedral.
Paradise Lost, on their album Gothic, incorporated orchestral keyboards and guitar licks into their music while maintaining a general haunting tone. Cathedral, meanwhile, seemed to revive a more modern Black Sabbath, which progressed from growling, death metal-like vocals to screeching eerie howls. With the moderate success of these two bands, a slew of new bands came to being, and doom metal was suddenly affected by several influences: orchestral movements, operatic vocals, death metal heaviness and singing, and female singers; but never losing the slow, eerie and emotional side of things. The death-like Sorrow, Crematory, and Winter; the Sabbath-like Count Raven, Sleep, Internal Void, and Iron Man; the more orthodox Solitude Aeturnus and Memento Mori; the evolving My Dying Bride and Anathema and several others began to rise in the metal world. However, an important sector of doom metal has been dying out lately, because of a general lack of interest from the metal crowd.
Out from the doom metal scene and the Misfits came Glenn Danzig, the man responsible for Samhain and Danzig. The first was much heavier than the punk music of the Misfits, yet it shared much of the aforementioned bandís shock imagery. Shortly after the release of November Coming Fire, Danzig disbanded Samhain and created Danzig, whichís self-titled debut album consisted of a variety of feelings which ranged from haunting to melodic to powerful, all circling about the soulful persona of Glenn Danzig. The unique musical style, reminiscent at times of early Black Sabbath, along with its openly Satanic image, lasted during four outstanding albums; only to change direction after the industrial metal revolution of the Nineties. Along with the aforementioned bands, Loudness and King Diamond, then formerly of Mercyful Fate, would maintain a more traditional heavy metal sound. King Diamond moved progressively away from speed metal and gradually incorporated his grunts and high pitched squeals increasingly into his music, while the Japanese Loudness released constantly powerful albums throughout the Eighties, such as Thunder In the East and Soldier of Fortune. Others like GWAR, Haunted Garage, and Green Jelly expanded on the rock shock approach by worrying more about customes, stage shows and videos than about music, alienating censorship organizations along with bands like the controversial and infamous W.A.S.P.
As heavy metal began diversifying itself continuously, certain musicians would decide to relieve its characteristic vocals to a second plane, or to completely eliminate them. Among these were guitar virtuosos Joe Satriani, his student Steve Vai, and Yngwie Malmsteen. The first, often called "the guitaristís guitarist," created masterworks like Surfing With the Alien and The Extremist; the second has an illustrious career, having played with the likes of Frank Zappa and Whitesnake, and later working on his solo projects; meanwhile, Malmsteen is recognized for his heavy and constant classical music influence and swift dexterity, while criticized because of his ego and extroverted persona. Meanwhile, others like bassist Stu Hamm, Scorpions drummer Herman Rarebell, and guitarists Eric Johnson (pertaining more to the blues than to heavy metal), Steve Morse, and Richie Kotzen have slowly created a name for themselves by the release of solo albums and working with other bands and musicians, either temporary or permanently. The prominence of instrumental variations of metal has gradually grown through the years; however, only few of its exponents have achieved wide commercial and media exposure.
During the heyday of thrash and pop metal, two bands became responsible for holding progressive metalís ground: Queensrÿche and Fates Warning. With Rush approaching a softer sound during most of the Eighties, and progressive rock having lost much of its popularity during the late Seventies, progressive metal had lost most of its appeal. Queensrÿche failed to obtain commercial success with prodigious releases like The Warning and Rage For Order, but the single "Eyes Of a Stranger" propelled Operation: Mindcrime into gold status quickly and cemented the groupís reputation. Empire would later obtain platinum (1,000,000 albums sold) sales through the heavy rotation of "Silent Lucidity," while Fates Warning maintained a low but strong profile on albums like Awaken the Guardian and Perfect Symmetry. Other bands, such as Helloween and its combination of progressive, classic, and speed metal; Crimson Glory with its melodic progressive metal; and Kingís X combinations of vocal harmonies with heavy riffs (later made heavier by the Galactic Cowboys) would also tread the path of musical complexity, therefore contributing to an important resurrection of progressive metal which culminated in the 1993 release of Rushís Counterparts, featuring the bandís return to a heavier direction.
While Queensrÿche, Fates Warning, and Rush were creating complex music backed by intellectual lyrics which ran the gamut from philosophy to science fiction and beyond, several young bands began what would eventually be known as hardcore; the marriage of heavy metal and punk rock. Hardcore music was somewhat comparable to punk rock in its simple approach and politically minded lyrics, while borrowing a considerable portion of heavy metalís crunch and arrangements. Washington DC and New York City provided the genre with a majoritary portion of its bands. Among them was the Bad Brains, perhaps the most intense hardcore band ever; blending jazz, reggae, metal, and a large portion of hardcore, in order to produce bona-fide hardcore albums such as I Against I and Rock For Light. Meanwhile, Los Angelesí Black Flag was setting the world on fire with its "Iíve heard it all before, donít wanna hear it again!" ethic, Henry Rollinsí manic roars, and Greg Ginnís dissonant guitarwork which made up their classic Damaged. The Dead Kennedys were to epitomize the righteous political stance of hardcore with Jello Biafra leading the way, while Minor Threat stood against all conformism on its exhilarating live shows. Others like Circle Jerks, D.O.A., Hüsker Dü, Murphyís Law, Reagan Youth, Antidote, Agnostic Front, War Zone, Gorilla Biscuits, the Cro-Mags, Youth of Today, Sick Of It All, Laughing Hyenas, and Life of Agony kept adding fuel to the fire throughout the genreís explosion, which provided yet another sharp contrast to the reigning pop metal scene.
As Black Flag and the Bad Brains were continuously attracting the wariness of police departments all across the United States, several bands decided to take hardcore even further into heavy metal domains, thus creating metalcore, or crossover. Discharge had begun the turmoil on Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing in the early Eighties only to spearhead a movement which would have its brightest moments throughout the rest of the decade. D.R.I. (Dirty Rotten Imbeciles) would release albums like Crossover and Definition while Corrosion of Conformity created Eye For an Eye and Animosity, both bands attracting the attention of hardcore and heavy metal fans only to pave the way for S.O.D (Stormtroopers of Death). The ironic Speak English Or Die is perhaps the album most representative of crossover yet. Featuring singer Billy Milano along with Anthrax and ex-Nuclear Assault members, S.O.D. was the greatest metalcore band of all times, and even today a reunion tour is highly requested. However, crossover has yet to reach the commercial heights it attained during the Eighties, while hardcore is still somewhat prominent through bands like Fugazi, the Jesus Lizard, Madball, and Biohazard.
During the last half of the Eighties, yet another branch of heavy metal began to rise out from the underground into commercial circles. Industrial metal, whichís most important feature was the use of electronic instruments and sounds such as drum machines and synthesizers, had been around since the early Eighties with outfits like the innovative and legendary the Swans and Killing Joke. But it evolved much quicker through the last half of the decade, through the efforts of bands like Skinny Puppy, Controlled Bleeding (which would later produce Skin Chamber), the heavy and aggressive KMFDM (Kein Mehrheit für die Mitleid), Cop Shoot Cop, and Godflesh, all remaining often within a dark musical spectrum. The final breakthrough, however, came about with Al Jourgensenís Ministry, which after outstanding albums like Twitch and The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste came around full circle on Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs. The previously released "Jesus Built My Hotrod" had earned considerable video rotation, and songs like "Just One Fix" helped maintain the initial momentum of industrial metal.
Pop metal didnít get it, but power metal did, courtesy of Pantera. Pantera practically revolutionized thrash metal. Speed wasnít the main point anymore, it was what singer Phil Anselmo called the "power groove." Riffs became unusually heavy without the need of growling or the extremely low-tuned and distorted guitars of death metal, rhythms depended more on a heavy groove, and vocals became a mixture of snarls and sharp screams, which revived speed metal for the Nineties. But pop metal was to suffer another fate: death at the hands of alternative metal.
Alternative metal had its roots on Neil Youngís Crazy Horse, and even before with bands like the Ventures and the Velvet Underground, but the true innovators were Living Colour, Janeís Addiction, and Faith No More; the first an eccentric mixture of heavy metal, jazz, blues, rap, funk, hardcore, and a good dose of black culture; the second a band that borrowed heavily from the Seventies and developed its own unique sound with Perry Farrelís high-pitched squeals. As for Faith No More, its members mixed every existing type of music available to them and fused it with their second singer Mike Pattonís bewildered screaming to create masterful albums, a style adpoted and developed later by Scatterbrain, Mr.Bungle (Pattonís side project) and Mindfunk. These bands were quite successful before the alternative metal explosion that was to occur, and obscured other bands that were stirring up a commotion, such as the hardcore-influenced Sonic Youth, the hyperkinetic Fishbone, the Irish Therapy?, and Seattleís Melvins, Tad, and Mudhoney. Of course, there was also Mother Love Bone, but the band never quite hit fame, despite its outstanding music.
Then Nirvana exploded upon the world with their song "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Its mixture of accessible simple melodies and punk angst quickly drew hordes of fans eager to listen to something new. Kurt Cobainís depressed lyrics attracted millions of Generation X teenagers who felt as if the old stars of glam metal had nothing to do with their lives; flash and sex just werenít reality anymore, or so everyone thought. Until the death of Cobain in 1994, the members of Nirvana were MTV darlings and helped impulse the so-called Seattle scene, taking away the heavy metal scene from Los Angeles. The grunge wave was so overwhelming commercially that new alternative metal bands began springing out throughout the world, eventually oversaturating the scene. Few bands remained true to their original styles; the likes of the Black Crowes and the Four Horsemen reviving the bluesier rock of the Sixties; Pride & Glory displaying a Southern-influenced rock style; and Love/Hate, the Almighty, and the intensely political Warrior Soul remaining true to a more straightforward heavy metal style.
After the wake of Nirvana, several bands quickly attained fame status. Soundgarden kept to its tried and true formula; Alice In Chains offered a dark, broody musical landscape; and Pearl Jam, perhaps the second most important band of the alternative scene, offered intricate guitar arrangements and melodies, along with Eddie Vedderís low growls and words from the heart on its masterful debut album Ten. The alternative metal scene quickly grew as MTV gave such bands heavy video rotation and took them to stardom. Later came bands like Stone Temple Pilots, which evolved from a poor manís Pearl Jam to a force of its own, the punk-turned-alternative Soul Asylum, the unique My Sisterís Machine, the acclaimed Saigon Kick, the drone-like Kyuss, Blind Melon, Big Chief, Candlebox, Dinosaur Jr., Moist, and Sponge, all with different degrees of success.
Meanwhile, progressive metal would enjoy yet another zenith among commercial circles. Images and Words, a rather complex collection of progressive-minded music delivered by Dream Theater, reached stellar sales and took progressive metal to grounds seldom tried before. Consisting of prodigious musicians, the band would also release albums such as Awake and A Change of Seasons to further broaden its musical horizon and appeal, and further establishing its reputation as one of progressive metalís most outstanding bands ever. Meanwhile, in the wake of Dream Theaterís success, several new bands began experimenting furthermore with the most technically apt branch of heavy metal developed previously by the likes of Watchtower. Shadow Gallery, Damn the Machine, Angra, Altura, Enchant, Cairo, the classical-music-meets-metal Mozart, and Spastic Ink are among these bright exponents of music, which continuously broaden musical frontiers. Along with these, other bands have created more whimsical approaches, like the progressive thrash metal composed by Anacrusis and the funky speed metal of Mordred in their later albums; accompanied by the progressive combination of death metal and fusion jazz harbored by Atheist and Cynic.
While the hype around Seattle was continually growing, a unique musician named Trent Reznor, the brains behind Nine Inch Nails, took the spotlight increasingly as he revolutionized industrial metal through his angry, hateful lyrics. Impulsed heavily by tracks like "Head Like A Hole," "Broken," and "Closer," alongside a memorable performance at the second Woodstock Festival, Reznor has achieved quite a household name through the years.
Amidst the reigning alternative scene, Primus and Ugly Kid Joe had quite important stints of brilliance. Primus, whichís lineup included Larry LaLonde, formerly a member of Possessed, was perhaps the most eccentric of the alternative metal roster. Les Claypoolís nasal whines and often funky and catchy bass runs, coupled with Tim Alexanderís manic rhythms, have sometimes been called the "parallel universe" version of Rush. Musical excellency is quite fluent within the unit, and the groupís songs are quirky and extremely unique. Ugly Kid Joe, meanwhile, enjoyed two short flashes of fame, only to have its popularity fall afterwards like a bomb, despite its strong musical output. On albums like As Ugly as They Wanna Be and Americaís Least Wanted the bandís members provided the world with energetic funk metal outings. Previous to and during Ugly Kid Joeís efforts, the relatively unknown Kingofthehill, 24-7 Spyz, Infectious Grooves (derived from the Suicidal Tendencies line-up), and White Trash would constitute the underground backbone of the scene. Meanwhile, the funky pop metal of Extreme garnered the genre, which had begun its growth during the Seventies with bands like Deep Purple during David Coverdaleís stint, considerable repute. The roadworthy veterans Red Hot Chili Peppers were also vital in the popularization of funk metal, especially after their hit song "Under the Bridge" played on every radio station imaginable to mankind, and still enjoy a stellar status as, arguably, the strongest exponent of funk metal ever.
However, by the middle of the Nineties, alternative metal was dying out. Nirvana had ceased existing with the death of guitarist/vocalist Kurt Cobain, Pearl Jam had abstained from touring because of a legal feud with Ticketmaster, Alice In Chains gradually became less public as vocalist Layne Staleyís drug addiction deepened, and, just like in the Eighties, bands started imitating tried and successful formulas. Only a couple of bands kept breaking new grounds, like the musically simple Helmet and the sometimes psychedelic Smashing Pumpkins. Relatively new punk bands like the Offspring, Green Day, and Rancid (which came out of the ska-punk Operation Ivy) had helped with the initial impulse of the Seattle scene, actually and mistakenly being called alternative by MTV, but their lack of musical fierceness when compared to older punk bands eventually contributed to their own downfall, excepting the Offspring. The hardcore Bad Religion, Social Distortion, and NOFX, the latest of punk bands to reach wide media exposure after several years of existence, seem to be making a small commotion, but the matter of punk rock surviving in commercial circles for much longer is rather questionable.
This new rise of heavy metal is considerably surprising, taking into account the fact that the newest bands are probably the heaviest and most shocking to ever reach wide media rotation. One of the new musical tendencies is rap metal, also called rap-core, a combination that had already been experimented with by older groups such as Anthrax, the Bad Brains, and Aerosmith; and played constantly by more obscure outfits like Hard Corps, but that lately has been taking a harder turn. Somewhat pioneered by the controversial Ice-T-led Body Count along with the popular and politically active Rage Against the Machine during the Nineties, the movement has its softer side among the likes of 311. The dark side of the coin has been heralded so far by Deftones, the ever-growing Korn, and, recently, by Powerman 5000. Quite undoubtedly, as the media has shown, it is the strongest tendency among new bands that have already begun to copy the praised sounds of established bands.
The other new tendency is even more shocking and being led by what some people consider a lunatic, a menace, a misunderstood genius, a clown, the prime embodiment of evil, or just a cynical man who has learned that shock value and manipulation through the media can absorb the minds of youths eager to think that they are truly rebellious. None other than Marilyn Manson could fit all those categories so easily, except for Kiss in the Seventies, W.A.S.P. in the Eighties, and King Diamond and Venom in the speed metal realms. Taking on an slightly industrial edge, with simple riffs and screams aplenty, Marilyn Manson has shocked the world overnight, with its album Antichrist Superstar antagonizing conservative as well as liberal circles. However, as Time magazine cleverly and eloquently put it, Manson seems to be quite in the same vein as Kiss; a cleverly planned product designed for a music industryís increasing income. Despite this, the bands seems be to be encompassing an ever growing audience, and several new bands have already ripped off the bandís style; vein-slicing and white makeup included.
The two final tendencies of nowadays are in the power groove and industrial branches. Trent Reznor seems to be taking the illustrious spotlight of Cobain in this last half of the Nineties, while several bands continue to expand on Panteraís economically and critically successful approach; most notably Machine Head. Others like Fear Factory, the hardcore Atari Teenage Riot, and Strapping Young Lad have continued to take the industrial approach in a heavier direction while Type O Negative has gradually moved away from its industrial, gothic and atmospheric approach into which Danzig has been absorbed. In fact, the metal world is so active in these days that the Ozzfest, a heavy metal festival thought up by Ozzy Osbourne and including bands such as Sepultura, Fear Factory, Pantera, and a reunited Black Sabbath, was quite successful. One seems to be slightly reminded of the Lollapalooza Festival thought up by Perry Farrell to promote alternative music (which in turn included a wide roster of alternative metal bands), although the latter was obviously a more crossover cultural event on its inception.
What lies in the future of heavy metal? As any historian worth his own weight knows, history cannot and should not be predicted; although historic cycles may help with such evaluations, nothing assures that they are right. The Rollins Band and Tool have released several solid and straightforward heavy metal albums that have done well saleswise, while the veteran White Zombie has broken ground with heavy music thatís big on hooks, grooves, and horror movie influences, and Amorphis and the Gathering have released some beautiful and awe-inspiring atmospheric music. With Mötley Crüeís Generation Swine raising expectations continuously, the Ratt and Quiet Riot reunions turning some eyes around, and Kiss swinging through million-dollar profits, one can only expect a return of the glam metal bands; although the Crüeís recent musical approach casts quite a shadow of doubt on whether the bands will keep playing their brand of rock or adapt to more modern tendencies. Meanwhile, Korn and 311 keep invading new territory, while Marilyn Manson continues to shock people worldwide and alternative metal keeps dying; as Soundgardenís recent end shows. Whatís next? Pardon the naïve and jaded cliché, but only time will tell.