Heavy metal music
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
In music, heavy metal is progenitor of the "Metal-family" (for example, heavy metal, black metal, death metal...). Metal derives directly from blues and rock, even if in some sub-genres there is an evident influence of classical music. So, even if heavy metal and black metal belong to the same family, there is an effective difference between them. Heavy metal is mainly blues-based, with pentatonic scales and a blues-like song structure; black metal is based on classical music, even if at a first glance it seems to be only distorted guitars playing very fast a repeating melody.
Heavy Metal developed out of Sixties Rock and Blues when musicians started to exploit the opportunities of the electrically amplified guitar to produce a louder, more discordant sound. The origin of the term Heavy Metal is uncertain. Some theories hold that it was coined by one of the critics for Rolling Stone Magazine. Others have attempted to trace its origin to the words "heavy metal thunder" in the Steppenwolf song "Born to be Wild", or the William S. Burroughs story "The Heavy Metal Kid".
Regardless of its origin, the term may have been used as a jibe initially but was quickly adopted by its adherents. Bands such as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath specialised in a "stripped down" sound in which the Blues inheritance was reduced. The influence of Jimi Hendrix should not be discounted though, acting as both an innovator in the technical capabilities of the electric guitar and a bridge between black music and white European rockers. Some of the original Heavy Metallers joked that their simplified sound was more the result of limited ability rather the desire to innovate. See power trio.
Some people say The Beatles started to ignite the metal music movement with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and the song "Helter Skelter" from The Beatles. This opinion, however, is open for debate. The earliest song that is clearly identifiable as prototype heavy metal appears to be "You Really Got Me" by The Kinks.
The American band Grand Funk Railroad epitomised early heavy metal, and set an alternative benchmark in which the volume of the music was seen as the important factor rather than its musical qualities. Douglas Adams neatly satirised this propensity for excessive volume in The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy with the fictional rock band Disaster Area - creators of the loudest sound in the known universe. It should be noted however, that Adams was satirising Pink Floyd stage shows specifically - rather than metal in general.
The energetic and vitalised music soon found an audience and rapidly spread to the United States through extended touring. American musicians swiftly absorbed the agitated style and began to restore a more technically refined element as well as the Blues element.
An element to be pointed out is that heavy metal is considered by many to be white/European, in opposition to the blues-based rock, which derives from Afro-American music. This only means that the majority of the audience and the players seem to be white. There are, if one chooses to look, several examples of bands that have disproved this stereotype and the audiences can be quite mixed--Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott and Living Colour are good examples.