By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)
From the heavier progressive music of the 70’s came what we now we know as Heavy Metal in its most pure form. Traditional Metal, Doom Metal and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal all had their beginnings in England. Grandfathers of all Metal with a specialty in Doom, Black Sabbath, defined the darkness, thickness and heaviness that was with obvious roots in blues and psychedelic rock. Other bands that helped forge heavy metal showcased these elements as well as proficient guitar skills and extended soloing that many of the experimental genres artists before them engaged in.
The first proto-heavy metal bands such as Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple attracted arena-sized shows similar to the previously examined prog rockers and arena rockers. However, the grandiosity was more focused within the size and scope of the riffs more so than the technicality of the musicians. As such artists began to rise in popularity and Black Sabbath really began to set the “tone” for darkness with Tony Iommi’s sound and slow heavy sound and Ozzy Osbourne’s lyrics provided a blueprint for overall themes in much of early metal. By the mid 70’s, Judas Priest helped the genre evolve a bit past where the forefathers derived most of the heaviness, the blues. It was more “straight up” like what many would describe as “hard rock” today. Around the same period, Motörhead reintroduced the speed in rock not dissimilar to some of the early punk rock.
But it was with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal that metal gods such as Iron Maiden and Saxon followed in a similar vein but with the original heaviness and darkness paramount yet again. As such, NWOBHM came to dominate the heavy metal scene of the early mid 1980s. Bands such as Def Leppard, Diamond Head, Tygers of Pan Tang, Tank, Raven, Demon, Samson, Sweet Savage, Jaguar, Avenger, Blitzkrieg, Girlschool, Angel Witch, Witchfynde, Persian Risk and White Spirit featured the fast upbeat songs thought of when many audiences think of Metal in a general sense. The distinct mysterious harmonies, power chords, solos and melodic vocals with themes based on mythology returned similar to founding fathers’ Zeppelin and in addition sometimes the dark mystical lyrics similar to Sabbath and often went a step further.
However, Iron Maiden continued on to become extremely progressive, and other places in the world picked up on this music especially into the 80’s. As the English movements lead up to what would become the first to call themselves other subgenres in other countries, one remained the same to this day. Doom, which is where Metal came forth after stewing in blues and experimental rock, such as psychedelic and prog, and will remain undead in Tony Iommi.
Doom is the root of Metal just as Blues is the root of Rock. Pagan Altar, Witchfinder General and of course, the previously examined My Dying Bride are great British Doom acts. Of course other countries went on to produce some great doom, in United States, Pentagram, Saint Vitus, Trouble and in Sweden, Candlemass and Count Raven, all acknowledge a reverence for doom and traditional metal the sub-genres that they are known for now (US – Thrash, and Sweden – Black Metal) both of which will be examined as geographical phenomena later in this series.
Indeed with Metal in general, Doom and NWOBHM, several sub and sub-sub-genres evolved and will be discussed as phenomena in specific geographical regions. Though England’s Venom brought us the term Black Metal at roughly the end of the NWOBNM movement, we’re going to see how it became a phenomenon in the Scandanavian lands next.
For now, enjoy these essential tracks spanning many Traditional Metal/Doom and NWOBHM and check out the previous Picks of the Week which I played on the radio.