Some genres seem to appear out of nowhere, but others can be traced to very specific roots, artists and dates. The latter type predictably causes some controversy as to what is actually a new genre, and what is just a fancy twist on the old one. Metal is one of these; it comes directly from hard rock and rock n roll, but it’s exact beginnings are a little fuzzy. It’s come such a long way since then though that it is hardly recognizable as one genre anymore; modern ‘core is hardly comparable to the 70s glam swagger that started it all. But when it comes to finding the very first metal bands, there are a few that come to mind.
Obviously, there are much more; these are just the most influential. Metal would not have been possible without dozens of other bands in the 60s and 70s, but these are the bands that kickstarted the genre and made the rest possible.
VH is credited with inventing glam metal, understandably. However, their influence didn’t stop there. Eddie’s brilliant solos invented and/or revolutionized many styles used extensively in later metal subgenres, such as two-handed tapping, whammy dives, pinch harmonics, pinch harmonics combined with whammy dives…you get the idea.
Led Zep is not exactly a metal band. Their most well-known song, Stairway to Heaven, may be a lot of things but it is hardly metal, and their bluesy hard rock sound was not at all unusual at the time. However, as the 70s progressed, their sound only grew heavier, eventually heavy enough to inspire future metal bands and possibly to be considered metal themselves. The definition of metal music has changed over the decades, but in the mid-70s, Led Zep fit the picture.
British prog/psychedelic hard rock outfit Deep Purple seemed like an unlikely band to kick off a genre like heavy metal, but here they are. Their sound may have been bluesy or psychedelic at times, but at the end of the day it was heavy as well, and at the time that stood out. Their unusually heavy guitars are what earned them their place by Led Zep and Black Sabbath in what is now known as the “unholy trinity” of British proto-metal.
You probably weren’t expecting to find Motorhead on this list. They called themselves rock n roll, and for a while that worked out. They lived the rockstar life like no one else–leather, whiskey, and amps cranked to 11. They never cared what the world thought; they just played their music regardless of what people called it. But given their sound from the very beginning, it was no surprise that people started calling them metal as soon as the word had a meaning in music, and while their sound remained relatively stable, the labels changed from hard rock to heavy metal to early thrash metal. While the accuracy of those labels is debatable, Motorhead remains one of the most underrated and overlooked bands to influence the beginnings of metal to this day.
Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne. Sabbath is the first band to be considered actual metal, and their influence is beyond measure. The song “Black Sabbath” is credited with inventing all of metal and while one song couldn’t possibly start such a diverse genre singlehandedly, it’s album, ironically also called Black Sabbath, was the first album to be considered legitimate metal. Some of their other songs, such as Iron Man, Paranoid, War Pigs, and Children of the Grave, together were where it all began, followed up by Crazy Train and other songs by Ozzy and his new guitarist Randy Rhoads. The band’s influence on the future of metal is unmatched by all of the others combined.