Just a quick project from last week. Clips from the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Return of the King edited over Avenged Sevenfold — Hail to the King.
Battle jackets and vests are now a very common sight at metal shows, or even just on the street. They are an iconic and instantly recognizable aspect of rock n roll culture. However, how they were invented is, surprisingly, not common knowledge. Even people who have them may be surprised that they have more of a story than just looking cool.
Battle jackets were initially invented in WW2, when Air Force pilots would decorate their flight jackets with squadron insignia patches, and later pop culture icons. After the war ended, many pilots got into motorcycling for the excitement and speed. They kept their flight jackets to use as motorcycle jackets, since they offered protection against crashes, but sometimes sawed the sleeves off, as they could be restricting.
They continued to decorate their jackets with logos of clubs, gangs, and rapidly developing subcultures as they began to evolve in the 50s. Since paint flakes off of leather easily under rigorous use, they began to sew patches onto their jackets instead. Sewing denim is a lot easier and faster than leather, so denim jackets were used as well alongside leather.
These clubs and gangs did not usually get along, which caused them to be affiliated with street fights, mass brawls, extreme devotion to their club, and a violent appearance to the general public. Take the two most widespread British subcultures for example: the rockers with their Triumphs and Harley-Davidsons and gangster attitudes naturally opposed the mods with their hideous Italian scooters and an alarming obsession with lights and mirrors.
As the 60s arrived and rock n roll made its mainstream breakthrough, it fit the picture perfectly. There were two very different types of music-inspired jackets that came together to spark the rise of the modern battle jacket.
The first was that the gangsters found the rebelliousness of the new genre and it defying societal norms appealing, leading them to decorate their jackets with the bands’ logos and album art. The other was the Woodstock era hippie culture, who had a radically different ideology but with surprisingly similar motivations: mostly, free self-expression and defying the expected norms.
The two branches came together as the hippie music era dawned into a new wave of rock n roll: the various genres and subgenres of the 70s. Classic rock, punk, and heavy metal appeared almost out of nowhere, and as a result of the sudden change a lot of the new bands kept the fashion, which was naturally copied by the fans.
Punks were the first non-gangster group who started customizing their jackets with band logos, and they were quick to invent the addition of metal studs to their outfit as well. The existence of modern metal jackets is largely the unintentional consequences of punk fashion in the late 70s–an influence that some metalheads try to forget.
There are two people who brought denim and leather, respectively, over from the punks to heavy metal. Judas Priest is one of the greatest metal bands of all time, but next to the sound, they also invented a now-classic new look by bringing head-to-toe leather into the genre. Rob Halford’s signature move of riding a motorcycle onto the stage may also have something to do with it. The denim was brought over by none other than Lemmy, who smashed his way into metal somewhat unintentionally and very drunkenly toward the end of the 70s.
With battle jackets in punk and metal, it inevitably seeped into the middle ground, traditional hard rock, as well, and eventually covered the entire musical spectrum of rock n roll. Design aspects from specific genres mixed into one. Modern battle jackets are common among any genre related to rock n roll, from grunge to black metal.
Making your own won’t take too long either–just get a cheap denim jacket, optionally hack the sleeves off, and sew patches on in whatever order you get them in.
This was by no means an easy list to make, given the sheer number of incredibly influential people who participated in raising the metal scene to its full height and making it what it is today. But out of all of the metal legends who formed the genre, there are few that stand out from the crowd. This list only considers musicians, as they are the ones who get the attention, but in reality the fans are by far the most important people in any genre; none of the people on this list would be here without their fans. However, they are hardly a single person, so they didn’t make it on here.
#10: Corey Taylor
Corey Taylor is known for being the vocalist of the notorious alt/thrash outfit Slipknot, which brought thrash through to the new millennium and kept it going strong. In an era where alt/nu metal and extreme ‘core subgenres are the only sufficiently popular styles of metal, Slipknot covers the scarce middle ground of the two extremes, drawing influences from both but spitting out something that isn’t quite either. The main push behind the band is Corey’s reckless and explosively angry personality, which can make him difficult to work with, but, combined with a powerful vocal performance and a relentless creative drive makes him a monster on stage and in the studio.
#9: Dimebag Darrel
Pantera’s presence in the metal scene can’t be denied, and they had a significant influence on many different metal subgenres. Their guitarist Dimebag is, next to Phil Anselmo, the main force behind the band as well as the inspiration for many younger bands. His nearly superhuman Van Halen-like shredding style, combined with the tragic nature of his death–shot down playing live on the anniversary of John Lennon’s murder–only added to his influence and success.
#8: Randy Blythe
Burn the Priest, more commonly known by their slightly less intense moniker Lamb of God, is one of the most popular, as well as influential, extreme metal bands, largely thanks to Randy’s inhuman vocal abilities. It’s hard enough to scream with simple vocal fry consistently without sustaining permanent vocal damage, not to mention growl as well and keep doing it for decades. Randy was never even taught to do it; he says it all started as a cookie monster joke. What sets him apart from all the others though is that he is able to replicate almost the exact sound from the studio at his live shows, even while crowd-surfing.
#7: Bruce Dickinson
Bruce is an author, broadcaster, airline pilot, and solo artist, but it’s his work as the lead singer of Iron Maiden that places him here. Maiden’s sound isn’t exactly the heaviest it gets, but their classic two-guitar harmonies and galloping beats influenced more than onw generation of fans, and some very successful bands including Queensryche, Disturbed, and even Megadeth. Their mainstream success and powerful stage presence can be all credited to one factor: Bruce. Needless to say, his nearly superhuman vocal range, impressive vocal power, and instantly recognizable voice make him a legend of rock n roll and metal alike.
#5 and 6: Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield
These two are difficult to separate, as they co-founded Metallica and both stayed with it until today. James’s lyrics and classic stage presence dominate any performance they have, and his unique down-picking style and dynamic voice land him rightfully with the title of the first thrasher. As for Lars, love him or hate him, you can’t deny his place among the legends of metal. Metallica had a rough start with Kill Em All and some dirty issues during the black album, but the founding duo managed to stick together for some 40 years, and the result certainly paid off.
#4: Tony Iommi:
Black Sabbath can be said to have invented metal as we know it, and their influence can’t be understated. While Ozzy is for sure part of the legend that started it all, Tony Iommi was there from the start too, and shouldn’t be overlooked. His riffs loom huge over the genre, but how they came to be is even more interesting: Tony lost the tips of two of his fingers at a sheet metal factory, but instead of giving up guitar, he built his own prosthetics out of melted plastic and invented light gauge strings so he could keep playing. The plastic fingers, combined with tuned down strings and a bass amp gave him the unusual tone that Sabbath is now known for.
#3: Dave Mustaine:
As Metallica’s ex-lead guitarist and Megadeth’s founder, singer, and guitarist, Dave was there from the start of the thrash metal genre and saw it through its most popular years. In Metallica, some of his songs appeared Metallica’s iconic debut album Kill Em All, even though he was kicked out due to some intense alcohol-induced incidents some time before the album was released. In Megadeth, he continued lead guitar but also picked up rhythm, and after some trouble finding a singer, took up the mic himself. He was in two of the most influential thrash bands and some of the most popular metal bands of all time, putting him right in the center of thrash as well as the entire metal scene, from ’81 until today.
#2: Rob Halford:
Having been in metal for nearly 50 years and fronting the classic heavy metal band Judas Priest, its safe to say that if anyone, Rob Halford has earned the title of Metal God. Judas Priest invented both the sound and the look of heavy metal– Halford is rightfully credited with introducing studded leather to metal, and Priest is one of the first true heavy metal bands. Their sound, which incorporated traditional heavy metal, thrash, and a touch of glam, was the inspiration for countless bands to follow. It was all made possible by Halford’s near-superhuman 4+ octave vocal range, commanding stage presence, and an incredible drive to create entirely new styles unlike anything in existence at the time.
#1: Ozzy Osbourne:
As lead singer of Black Sabbath and later a solo artist, it’s not difficult to see why the Prince of Darkness made this list. Black Sabbath is easily the greatest influence on early metal, and quite possibly the first actual metal band the world saw. While Ozzy’s slightly more gruesome antics, such as “accidentally” chomping a live bat’s head off on stage, can be a little revolting, his work with Black Sabbath and Randy Rhoads easily makes up for the, um, incidents along the way. All in all, no one person could possibly change metal more than the one who invented it.
Starting out on guitar, it can be hard to find a great song that’s easy enough to play right away. A lot of famous songs are virtually impossible to play even for experienced players — take a look at the tab for Paradise City, Stairway to Heaven, or One and you’ll see what I mean. But when you look closer, there are quite a few really easy songs that are also famous and successful. These are some of the best, in no particular order.
The White Stripes — Seven Nation Army:
Jack White’s classic rock hit is one of the easiest rock songs ever written, but it’s also popular. The riff can be played on a single string, and the solo is almost the same. It really only takes one riff to learn the whole song, as the others are just variations on it, but you can do a lot more with it; the possibilities for variations in notes, tones, and styles are unlimited.
Nirvana — Smells Like Teen Spirit:
This is a surprisingly mainstream song for its genre, and really easy to cover for every instrument, which makes it an extremely common song for new bands to cover. Like Seven Nation Army, it’s a song every guitarist should know. The timing gets a little tricky when the main riff repeats in the chorus, but there isn’t much else that’s hard about it; even the solo is simple.
Green Day — Boulevard of Broken Dreams:
Arguably Green Day’s most famous song, Broken Dreams was a punk rock classic right from the start. It’s one of their most famous songs since their early hits like Longview and Welcome to Paradise. It’s easily and instantly recognizable, and like many other bands’ most successful songs, surprisingly easy.
Rage Against the Machine — Killing in the Name:
RATM can be hard to classify as any particular genre, but they do what they do well. This song is easily their most famous, and while it might not be the most popular rock song the world has seen, it’s pretty widely known. It has several riffs that have some slightly complex rhythms, so it might be more difficult than some other songs on this list, but it’s still obtainable.
Black Sabbath — Paranoid:
This heavy metal classic is as old as it is classic, but that’s partially why it’s so famous. It’s easy to play for every instrument, including vocals, so it’s a common song for bands that are just starting up to cover. It can be played in a variety of different styles, from punk to thrash, and the key can be easily changed as well to the vocalist’s preference.
AC/DC — Back in Black:
AC/DC released their first album with their new singer Brian Johnson with some understandable doubt; not many bands survive switching vocalists so late in their career. But it paid off, and Back in Black is their most successful song to date, and one of their most well known. Like so many other bands, their most famous song is also the easiest to play, and while the solos get a little tight, there isn’t much else to the song.
Green Day — American Idiot:
This punk rock hit has some fast power chord transitions, but other than that it’s pretty simple and very catchy. It’s also a very typical Green Day song, so if you know it, you can learn many other Green Day songs without too many new techniques.
Black Sabbath — Iron Man:
The instantly recognizable riff will get every audience’s attention, and although it is cheesy, it’s catchy enough to make up for that. It’s all easy until the solos, but even though they are fast both are pretty easy to learn. It offers quite a few interesting riffs besides the main one, so it’s pretty interesting to learn too. And if you do end up learning the solo, it’s not a bad one to start on.
Marylin Manson — The Beautiful People:
Twiggy Ramirez’s instantly recognizable riff and Manson’s catchy vocal styles paired with their usual radical, extreme, and gory violent lyrics made an instant metal classic when Antichrist Superstar was released in 1996. The song is extremely simple and doesn’t have a solo, but it gets you right in the middle of the 90s metal scene with only a few simple riffs.
Pantera — Walk:
You know the riff. Why not play it? This is another metal classic, this one with some harsher distortion and vocals, though it’s not quite extreme metal. Don’t let the weird tuning scare you off; it can be played just fine in E standard. The actual tuning lowers every string by one and a quarter notes, in a very strange setup that can only be described as C#.25. The solo is fairly difficult, as any of Dimebag’s solos are, but other than that section, it’s a simple classic that takes almost no experience to play.
These are not even close to the only ones; there are lots of others. These are just ideas. If you want more, check out Crazy Train, Come as You Are, almost any old school Green Day song, or nearly every Black Sabbath or Ozzy tune you can find. If you want a challenge that’s still fairly obtainable, try Seek and Destroy or Ace of Spades. In either case, use Songsterr, it’s easily the best free platform out there for tabs you can play along to real-time. Hope that helped you find something you like!
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.
Metalheads are a highly misunderstood group of people, mostly because very few people know as much about heavy metal as they think they do. For this reason, metal as a genre is not only unknown to most people, but villainized as well. The truth as metalheads see it is that it’s not just noise. It’s not always satanic and it doesn’t always involve sheep heads and blood. And it’s not any less sophisticated than pop or any other genre. Sadly, the average mainstream listener will probably assume all those things. So I’ll clear them up.
Note: videos may take a while to load, but they’ll show up eventually.
Metal dates back to the early 70s, when Black Sabbath’s self-titled album launched a new genre unlike anything the world had seen before. Along with Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, they shaped classic metal out of classic hard rock, psychedelic rock, and hardcore punk, paving the way for the heavier subgenres to follow.
Hair metal (aka glam metal):
This light(ish) subgenre came from heavy hard rock more than it did from classic rock/hard rock rather than classic metal. It took pop-oriented melodies, and bashed them with distortion and aggressive keyboard leads. Bon Jovi, Ratt, Motley Crue, and Guns ‘n’ Roses were some of the most popular in the 80s, but the subgenre is close to extinct now.
The term “heavy metal” is often used to refer to all metal in general, but the more specific subgenre is not as heavy as the name suggests. Iron Maiden and Judas Priest were the most notable bands, laying down the foundations for future subgenres of metal. Since it is often confused with metal as a whole, the term is not used and the subgenre goes by different names.
Note: video sounds best with stereo headphones. Progressive metal, or prog metal, was shaped from progressive rock and psychedelic rock, which were some of the more experimental genres of the 80s. It incorporated traditional metal sounds into keyboard-oriented arpeggios, unusual scales, and frequently changing, complex time signatures. Queensryche and Dream Theatre were some of the most successful prog metal bands, but some more influential bands, such as Metallica, had some prog metal songs even though it’s not their main genre.
Doom had some of the original classic metal influences, but was characterized by slow beats and a thick, dissonant sound that can only be described as doom and gloom. Candlemass, Black Sabbath, and Lost Paradise are the most popular bands in doom. The most iconic doom metal hit of all time is easily Black Sabbath (by Black Sabbath, in the album Black Sabbath).
Thrash metal (aka speed metal):
And this is where it starts getting heavy. Bands like Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth were on the frontlines shaping a whole new type of metal–one that can actually be considered heavy. Thrash is a fast, aggressive, ambitious genre with harsh distortion on the guitars and dark, brutal lyrics, but clean vocals, unlike death metal. Thrashcore (aka speedcore) is very similar to traditional thrash, just more dependent on the fast drums. Metallica was one of the most influential thrash band in the beginning, and Master of Puppets was and is still a classic.
Bands like Pantera, Lamb of God, Machine Head added back some of the classic metal-like melodic groove into thrash, while still keeping it heavy. Some say it is an unnecessary style that metal could have done without. But Pantera undeniably shaped heavy metal as much as the next band, groove or not.
If you like hoarse, tortured vocal screeching over drop A# guitars and sixteenth beat double kick drums, this one’s for you. Suicide Silence, Motionless in White, and Killswitch Engage reinvented “heavy” music with their scream/yell-singing. Unlike some other lighter genres, metalcore (formally hardcore heavy metal) retained it’s popularity well into the new millennium, leaving classic metal in the dust.
Death Metal (and brutal death):
Rather than screaming, true death metal not only incorporates but relies almost exclusively on equally hoarse but much deeper guttural growls for vocals. While it’s not always as heavy on the distortion as other genres, the brutal and distorted lyrics are what sets death metal apart from all the rest. Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel are the most well-known bands, and while there are many more, Cannibal Corpse was easily the most influential in the development and longevity of death metal.
Melodic Death Metal (aka melodeath):
Another type of death metal, melodic death, was developed to counter the already-established death metal bands that focused on distortion and weight rather than the actual music. It was essentially the groove metal for death metal, and as such some people didn’t like it or considered it unnecessary. However, unlike groove metal, melodeath is still around well into the new millennium. Arch Enemy, Dark Tranquility, Carcass, and The Black Dahlia Murder are some of the most popular and influential bands.
Basically a combination of death metal and metalcore, hardcore death metal is one of the most extreme heavy metal subgenres. It’s combination of screaming, screeching, and growling above over-the-top distortion on guitars and superhumanly fast kick beats result in what can only be described as the heaviest sound known to music. Grindcore, which is sometimes considered the same genre, is a faster and even more energetic type of deathcore.
This is how music meets satanism. Black metal is about as heavy as it gets in terms of sound, but it’s known mostly for the live shows, which are responsible for much of what people associate metal in general with: blood, barbed wire, decapitated farm animals, crucified corpses, radical satanism, way too much fire, and raw noise without musicality. Bands have been blamed for animal abuse, gruesome murder, church burnings, and even abduction of mental patients straight from asylums. Unblack metal a similar sound but with lyrics that show religion in a better light, but classic, satanist black metal like Gorgoroth, Behemoth, and Opeth remained far more popular.
In the 2000s, when hard rock was essentially dead and metal was quickly losing popularity, an altogether new genre emerged out of alt rock and thrash/heavy metal: alt metal. Heavy metal fans had their doubts and opinions, but since it was completely new and fairly successful, it was no use complaining: it’s what metal had become, and there is no going back. System of a Down, Godsmack, Disturbed, and Breaking Benjamin are some of the most popular bands rooted in alt metal.
A relatively new subgenre that was invented in the late 90s and was most popular in the 2000s after the death of rock n roll. It completely revamped the metal genre into something completely different, yet with consideration of the old styles. Slipknot, Korn, and Disturbed are some of the most influential.
There are more, of course. There are crossover genres like rap metal, electro-metal/techno metal, and trance metal. Some subgenres are so unpopular that they are often overlooked, like sludge metal, stoner metal, avant-garde metal, neo-classical metal, Viking metal, and death ‘n’ roll. There are some that overlap almost perfectly with other genres, like power metal, drone metal, and industrial metal. Some are too indistinct or unrecognized to be considered an actual genre, like djent metal. Some are considered to be more specific than subgenres, like unblack metal.
Twenty-first century pop is nothing compared to the hard rock bands of the ’80s and ’90s. Today’s music will never compete with old school hard rock. Here’s why.
It’s not about appearance. If you look at Steven Tyler today, you might throw up. But listen to his music from Aerosmith and you will change your mind. Today, “singer” and “model” are essentially synonymous.
It’s not only about the singing. Modern pop songs are based on the vocals and rely on the singer heavily if not exclusively. Rock is defined by the guitars and keyboards and topped with vocals, not the other way around.
It’s played on instruments, not computers. Today, if a song has any instruments in it at all, it’s usually synthetically generated. A few decades ago, music had to be played and recorded by real people with real instruments and recording hardware. It may have costed quality, but it gave authenticity.
The lyrics have meaning. Take Greenday’s American Idiot, Linkin Park’s In the End, or Skillet’s Rise. All of them have meanings beyond the generic “believe in yourself” songs of today.
It requires talent, something that is getting rare. It’s easy to set up auto-tune or create beats in seconds on a computer. A publisher with the right friends is half the job done to become a millionaire. Playing a guitar as well as Slash or Eddie Van Halen is not something you can do in a few minutes.
There are real concerts. 21st century live concerts consist of fancy outfits and hot dog stands. In the 80s, it was about the music and the bands. Thousands of people came to see their favorite bands in action — not for the food.
It’s good music. People like pop because everyone else does, and because it’s all that’s played on the radio. The people who like rock like it because it’s good, especially now that it’s so hard to find.
It won’t go down without a fight. Even after mainstream bands like Guns ‘n’ Roses and Nirvana are long gone, new ones like Breaking Benjamin and Linkin Park are keeping rock alive. It might be too much to hope for a revival, but at least it’s not going out completely anytime soon.