Heavy Metal

This…this ‘heavy metal’..I don’t even know where that comes from….
– Ozzy Osbourne, Ozzfest Tenth Anniversery DVD

What is heavy metal? We can say it is a genre of music with “heavy, grinding guitar riffs.” But that’s no longer an adequate description because there are so many different styles now. Anthrax blended rap lyrics and vocals with metal. Some people even describe their music as having a “punk” influence. Which brings us to thrash metal: Metallica, Megadeth. They increased the speed of their riffs and had a harsh vocal style in comparison to some older metal singers, like Rob Halford of Judas Priest. Later came “death metal,” which never appealed to me, and the growling vocals of such bands as Death and Possessed (Wikipedia, “Death growl”). Grunge in the nineties. Now there’s “symphonic metal,” sometimes called “fairy tale metal” or “Goth metal.” Not to mention so many styles I haven’t heard or even know exist.

English: Ozzy Osbourne, Prince of Darkness, at...

English: Ozzy Osbourne, Prince of Darkness, at the I Am Ozzy book signing at Changing Hands, Tempe Arizona, Feb 20th, 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is one thing most metal bands and enthusiasts will agree on: Black Sabbath started it all. They introduced the conventions that would later be called heavy metal, and they definitely had a style all their own. In the late sixties, early seventies, people might have said, “Wow…I’ve never heard anything like this before” or “Ugh…that’s disgusting, all that devil talk.” Either way, Black Sabbath had brought something new to rock’n’roll.

Today, while my all-time favorite band will always be Black Sabbath and I still love all my old favorites (Priest, Scorpions, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth, etc.), I prefer the symphonic styles of bands like Nightwish. The American band Evanescence is very similar to them, if not quite as heavy. Their music blends symphonic instruments, Celtic folk music, usually female vocals, and other elements, and I’ve always been almost as partial to folk rock as I am to heavy metal. My brother laughs anytime I mention Simon and Garfunkel, but I still love their music. I wonder what he’d say about Clannad? Of course, this is the same guy who used to yell “Ozzyyyyyy!” at the top of lungs but will listen to the Bee Gees, too.

A significant number of the poems I write are meant to be lyrics for heavy metal songs. I don’t know how well I’m doing with that. I like to think I’m getting there, and I am always striving for lyrics that are fresh, not clichés.

Popular music tends to have a lot of clichés, however, because stock phrases are easy to remember. So many of my favorite songs are flooded with them. Of course, metal lyrics sometimes have fewer. That’s what I want to write: artistic poems with meter, easily adaptable to heavy music, that sometimes skirt the cliché without being too obvious.

Some of the contemporary styles intrigue me because, while they have not entirely moved away from “death” and “the devil,” they can be ghostly, romantic, tragic, and mythical. That is what I was going for when I wrote “Soulless,” the ghostly tragic romance part, anyway.

I hope I’ve got another one in me somewhere….

Woah, wait a minute. Christopher Lee has released a metal album?


2 thoughts on “Heavy Metal

  1. Clannad and Simon and Garfunkel are great. I still think the first heavy metal song was Helter Skelter by the Beatles.

  2. Hi, Ted! Thanks for stopping by.

    You can definitely make a case for that. Reading up on it, I was reminded of quite a few bands that preceded Black Sabbath with similar styles, at least musically. Some people would even say bands like Rush and Led Zeppelin were forerunners of metal. The music was heavy and some of lyrical contents are comparable.

    Eventually, though, the conventions that took were the ones established by Black Sabbath. Helter Skelter and other prototype metal songs might have even provided some influence for Sabbath’s style. However, it may be relevant to note that Helter Skelter is likely the heaviest song the Beatles ever performed. Black Sabbath made into a genre.

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