Reflecting on the Hard Luck Muse; A History of Heavy Metal
October 27, 2017
Reflecting on the Hard Core Muse; A History in Metal.
Heavy metal got its start in 1968 when Steppenwolf uttered the urge for “heavy metal thunder.” The term itself, a reflection of a William Burroughs’ character from the novel The Soft Machine; Uranium Willie, the Heavy Metal Kid.
The British bands quickly came to embody the sound of heavy metal. Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and most importantly, Black Sabbath, set the parameters for what heavy metal music could be. In America, bands such as Alice Cooper, The MC-5, and Blue Cheer pushed the limits in terms of sheer bombast and the theater of a concert experience.
Little by little bands adopted the heavy metal mantle and bands such as Judas Priest, Rainbow and Motorhead set the pace for metal in the 70’s. Their sound moved further away from the blues influence and re-defined the heavy sound.
In the late 70’s heavy metal exploded. Bands from all over the world got into the game as the genre took deep root in youth culture. Metal was becoming a global community and moving quickly to the spotlight.
By the early 80’s metal was king. Groups such as The Scorpions, Thin Lizzy, and Ozzy Osbourne’s solo group were selling out arenas world-wide. In Los Angeles, the glam metal of the Sunset Strip scene debuted in the guise of Motley Crue. Metal, in its swiftly varying forms, emerged from San Francisco’s Metallica to New York’s Anthrax and all points in between.
By 1990, Heavy Metal, as an entity, was the largest selling concert and merchandising draw of all genres of music. Metal had turned into big business and everyone wanted a piece of the pie. But the music slowly became diluted through the growing interference of commerce. Metal collapsed under the weight of its own hubris and fell away to grunge.
But, while being down, it was far from being out.
In the mid-90’s metal re-grouped in the underground. Only the purists remained. After the fall, all of the posers had been shaken loose.
Now was the time of Korn and Coal Chamber. White Zombie raged out of New York City. Tool wove a glorious mystery in their chosen anonymity. Metal was on the rise again in a tempered, purer form.
And so, on into the new century, metal has survived and thrived in the music of Slipknot, Mudvayne and Mastodon, in a thousand heavy bands working across the country. While metal doesn’t enjoy the sales that it once did, the fan base is solid and the support remains. The community is much tighter now since the fall from the bandwagon.
But for all its wild and varied incarnations, one question remains….
What is Metal?
What is it about the music that inspires such rabid enthusiasm?
The secret of heavy metal lies in its power.
The power is in its music.
The power is in its voice.
Metal’s power lies in its ability to enchant the disenchanted, to make you feel like you’re a part of something bigger. Its power is in its unity.
Its message is that we all belong.
Metal is a haven for the disenfranchised, for those living on the edge. It gives solace to the disquieted and grants the meek a voice. It offers an escape from the incessant mire of a world gone mad and soothes a weary soul.
It is a panacea for the afflicted.
Heavy metal concerts are a cathartic experience. One’s aggressions and stress are channeled in a healthy atmosphere and you are released back into the world with a slightly lightened load. It is more of a religious experience than entertainment. The response to the music is visceral. There is something in the DNA of our tribal past that identifies with the rhythms therein. More of oneself is invested in the connection to the music and thus more is gained.
Metal is about personal virtuosity and good old fashioned rebellion. It begs you to think for yourself and to stand for what you believe in. So, you can say what you will about the music, but its principles are beyond reproach.