Where Did Heavy Metal Originate? – Fascinating Facts!

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Where Did Heavy Metal Originate - A photo of an audience cheering on a heavy metal band.

The short answer to the question “where did heavy metal originate” is that it started in England and the United States. However, in this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the origins of heavy metal, who invented it, why it’s split into subgenres, and what made it so popular.

I’ll break down all the essentials you need to know about heavy metal music for your enjoyment and exploration! Keep on reading to learn more about this truly awesome musical genre!

You can use the table of contents below to take you to the area that interests you. Click on the little box to open it and then click on the section of the article you want to read, or you can read from start to finish if you want the full heavy metal experience!


First, What Is Heavy Metal Music?

Where Did Heavy Metal Originate - A guitar player taking a solo on a stage filled with fog.

First, let me say that heavy metal music is not for everyone, but if you’re reading this article, then chances are it is for you.

Heavy metal music is a type of rock music that developed in the late 1960 and 1970s. It can be seen as an extension of blues rock bands such as Cream and Jimi Hendrix. When we think of heavy metal, we typically envision loud, aggressive sounds, with fast guitar solos and vocals that are usually guttural and growling, dark, and gloomy.

Typical songs have themes like death, religion, anti-establishment, and sexuality, but they often also can have an element of fantasy. Some songs might have medieval themes or depict battles with dragons, for example!.

But there’s a lot more to heavy metal than stereotypes! Some of the best guitar players on the planet can be found in this musical genre! Take a look, and you’ll find players like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Jimi Hendrix (some of whose songs can be classified as metal), to name just a few!

If you want to see an extensive listing of heavy metal bands and guitar players, then click here, or keep on reading, and you’ll get there!


Where Did Heavy Metal Originate -The front cover of the Black Sabbath I album.
The album that started it all?

Who Started Heavy Metal?

Have you ever wondered where heavy metal originated? The truth is that we don’t know for sure, but the beginnings and evolution of metal music are fascinating and loaded with musical trivia!

The first heavy metal music was created in the late 1960s and 1970s. In the 1980s, it became one of the most popular rock music genres.

There is some debate over which artist should be credited with creating the heavy metal sound. The term “heavy metal” was probably first used in 1968 by the Canadian-American rock band Steppenwolf, with John Kay using the term “heavy metal thunder” in the band’s song “Born To Be Wild.” Still, some think that the first heavy metal bands came from England

Needless to say, it was Black Sabbath’s first album, “Black Sabbath” (1970), that opened the door for other bands to explore this heavier sound, and Deep Purple’s Machine Head (1972) helped lay down the foundation for what would become known as heavy metal.

Many consider Black Sabbath to be the “godfathers” of the genre. The band combined blues rock with a darker sound and created something new. In 1970, Black Sabbath’s album Paranoid became the first heavy metal album on the UK Albums Chart.

If you want to know what I think, it was Black Sabbath!


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Common Characteristics Of Heavy Metal Music

  • Bands are grouped into multiple subgenres
  • Loud, repetitive power-chords
  • Guitars are typically detuned to lower the pitch of the notes
  • Music is dark-sounding
  • Distortion is almost always used
  • Extended guitar solos with notes played very quickly, using 32nd, 64th, and even 128th notes
  • Lyrics may be aggressive and related to fantasy or “dark topics” like death or the devil

Keep On Reading To Learn More


Where Did Heavy Metal Originate - A grouping of words that are associated with the concept of "evolution," and an image of a heavy metal guitar.

The Evolution Of Heavy Metal

As heavy metal began to evolve, things really started to get interesting, but it wasn’t until the late 1970s that more metal bands began to emerge with a darker style of music. These bands were influenced by the punk movement, which began around this time as well.

Bands like Alice Cooper and Kiss are known for pioneering a number of popular elements of heavy metal music, including makeup, costumes, and using pyrotechnics during concerts.

Examples Of Heavy Metal Bands Throughout The Decades

In 1972, Iron Maiden released their debut album, “Iron Maiden.” It was an instant hit in England and later on throughout Europe. Their second album, “Killers,” brought them international attention in 1981.

In 1983 Metallica came out with their debut album, “Kill ‘Em All,” which set them apart from most other heavy metal bands at the time, due to its popularity with a broader audience. Megadeth is another band that appealed to roughly the same audience as Metallica.

Zakk Wylde came from Ozzi Osbourne’s band in the late 1980s and went on to form “Black Label Society in the late 1990s, which featured his killer incendiary pentatonic-fueled guitar riffs.

Bands like Mastodon and Hammers of Misfortune helped usher in the new Millenium. A lot of the music in the decade beginning with 2000 seemed to get darker and angrier.

2010 brought us bands like Symfonia and Alien Weaponry. It remains to be seen what the 2020s will produce, but it’s bound to be exciting!


Where Did Heavy Metal Originate - An Ernie Ball "Mammoth Slinky" string set.
12-62 Gauge

Drop Tuning, Seven-String Guitars, And Heavy Metal

Drop tuning is a process where, for example, the guitar’s low E string is retuned down to D to make power chords on the first two strings sound “heavier.”

Over the years, detuning the guitar has become almost synonymous with the heavy metal genre. Tony Iommi most likely did it first to give Black Sabbath songs a “heavier” sound and to decrease the string tension to accommodate his finger injury.

To make the sound even heavier, many guitar manufacturers like Ibanez began designing 7-string guitars with an additional string on the bass side. This led to companies like Ernie ball marketing thicker gauge strings that could be detuned but keep a metal player’s low-end clear and buzz-free.

See Guitar String Gauge Guide – Finding Your New Sound! for more info on drop tuning.

Also, to find out more about Black Sabbath and Tony Iommi, see Black Sabbath End Tour – Blu Ray Review – Is That Really It? and Gibson SG Electric Guitar Update – Iommi “Monkey” SG Special.


Heavy Metal Subgenres

Where Did Heavy Metal Originate - A photo of a female metal guitar player.

After a while, heavy metal began to be subdivided into “subgenres,” mainly by the music critics. These subgenres are anything but objective, and many metal bands refuse to put themselves in a single category!

Still, here are some of the ways metal has been characterized.

  • Hard Rock (which many think of as coming before metal)
  • Black (Dark) Metal
  • Death Metal
  • Progressive Metal
  • Nu Metal
  • Thrash/Speed Metal
  • Doom Metal
  • Hair Metal (often called Glam Rock)

Where Did Heavy Metal Originate - Silhouettes of three metal guitar players standing on a timeline.

Timeline Of Heavy Metal Bands

Heavy metal music started sometime in the late 1960s and early 1970s, mainly in England and the United States. Still, bands from other areas of Europe and South America also made early contributions.

Most people think of England as the inventors of heavy metal.

Here is a table that shows approximately when various metal bands made their appearance. It is not possible to list every heavy metal band in this article, but if you would like to have your favorite band added, leave me their name in the comment area below, and I’ll make that happen for you.

The Best Heavy Metal Bands Throughout The Years

Time PeriodMetal Bands And Solo Metal Artists
Late 1960s through 1970sBlack Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, UFO, KISS,  Alice Cooper, Judas Priest, Blue Oyster Cult, Scorpions, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, AC/DC, Van Halen, Deep Purple, Rainbow, Def Leppard, Uli Jon Roth
1980sMetallica, Megadeth, Ozzy Osborne, Anthrax, Motley Crue, Venom, Queensryche, Suicidal Tendencies, Ratt, Alcatrazz, Yngwie Malmsteen, Slayer, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, John Petrucci, Dream Theater, Metal Church, Overkill, W.A.S.P., Dark Angel, Sepultura, Racer X, King Diamond, Ministry, Danzig, Napalm Death, Skid Row, Warrant, Cannibal Corpse, Primus, Guns N’ Roses, Extreme, Pantera
1990sAlice in Chains, Obituary, Kreator, Helmet, Rage Against The Machine, Kyuss, Cathedral, Tool, Nine Inch Nails, Cynic, Korn, Slipknot, Bumblefoot, Deftones, Michael Angelo Batio, Corrosion of Conformity, Limp Bizkit, Savatage, System of a Down, Queens of the Stone Age, Children of Bodom, Black Label Society
2000sKillswitch Engage, Avenged Sevenfold, Bullet For My Vallentine, Mastodon, Edguy, Outworld, Adagio, Car Bomb, Beyond the Embrace, Demon Hunter, Debauchery, Deathstars, Visions of Atlantis, Hammers of Misfortune, Circus Maximus, Machinae Supremacy, Mystic Prophecy, Full Blown Chaos
2010sA Breach of Silence, A Pale Horse Named Death, Alien Weaponry, Babymetal, Bell Witch, Bloody Hammers, Deafheaven, Gloryhammer, Kontinuum, Symfonia, Vallenfyre, Nervosa, Lost Society
2020sAct of Denial, Bodom After Midnight

Which Is Better, British Or American Heavy Metal?

Where Did Heavy Metal Originate - An image of Tony Iommi playing under the British flag and Jimi Hendrix playing under the American flag.

There is no correct answer to this question! It depends on what you like or who you ask. In fact, although most of the early metal bands originated from England and the United States, these days, there are excellent metal bands from all over the world.

Some of Britain’s finest metal bands include Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, and UFO.

America has bands like Metallica, Slipknot, Pantera, Slayer, Megadeth that continue to lead the way.

Of course, Australia has AC/DC, Germany had Electric Sun, Canada has Helix, Switzerland has Krokus, Japan has Anthem, etc. The point is that you can find excellent heavy metal bands and music all over the world these days!


Where Did Heavy Metal Originate - Two heavy metal guitar players onstage.

Why Is Heavy Metal So Popular?

One reason why people enjoy listening to this type of music is that it’s so different from other types of rock music. Metal rockers tend to focus on musicality rather than lyrical content or vocals like pop music lovers do.

Heavy metal is a type of music that people typically like because it is intense, loud, and chaotic. When you listen to a song that is part of this genre, you can feel things like the anger and emotion in the singer’s voice. It has a lot of repetition in its musical makeup, which some people find attractive.

Metal songs often have an aggressive sound, and the rhythm uses power chords that can be fast and pounding. Guitar players are particularly drawn to the use of extended guitar solos using a variety of scales. The heavy guitar riffs in these songs can make you feel powerful when you hear them.


Where Did Heavy Metal Originate - A metal band takes the stage!

The Future Of Heavy Metal

Despite the prediction of many critics of a decline in the popularity of heavy metal, there are still various bands from different subgenres of heavy metal that are flourishing. British rockers and pop-punkers like Bring Me The Horizon and Fall Out Boy have grown into huge-selling bands without going away from the genre.

Heavy metal’s popularity has fluctuated over time, but it never seems to stop being listened to by many people today. However, one thing for sure is that heavy metal has a long history worth celebrating.

With such a wide variety of subgenres within the heavy metal genre, it is hard to say what will happen to heavy metal in the future. However, I think the music of classic metal bands like Black Sabbath will never lose their audience.


Where Did Heavy Metal Originate - A heavy metal fan

Getting Into Heavy Metal

If you’re just getting into heavy metal music, then you might be wondering how to get started. The first thing is to start with the basics.

Get a good idea of the sound style you are looking for before exploring different subgenres. This will make it easier for you to know what bands and albums you like best and help you find new bands that are similar!

An excellent place to start is with some classic albums from popular bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Metallica. You can’t go wrong with the classics, and that will give you a better idea of where the newer bands came from.

An important thing to remember when getting into heavy metal music is not to be afraid of experimenting! Don’t limit yourself by only listening to one metal band or song format; try exploring different kinds of heavy metal. This way, you’ll get more familiar with the genre overall and the other sounds it offers.

Finding The Bands You Like

The next step would be finding similar bands or artists with their own unique sounds. Once again, a great place to start is with classic rock bands because they offer a basic introduction to heavy metal and plenty of other subgenres that are special in their own ways.

You can also check out lists on sites such as Rolling Stone or Allmusic for recommendations on new artists who have original takes on heavy metal music that might interest you.

You may also want to explore fan forums online where people share ideas about favorite songs and albums from all sorts of genres! It’s a great way to find new albums and songs without having to search through tons of music and YouTube videos.


Beware of an issue in this review

Beware Of Heavy Metal Critics

If you want to learn about heavy metal, then stay away from people who only have negative things to say about this musical genre.

Just because you might like the music in a song that talks about the Devil or demons, it does not make you a bad person.

If you are a guitarist, don’t be afraid to add heavy metal to your repertoire. It can only make you a better player. Some of the most talented guitars players in the world are in heavy metal bands.

In the end, you have to decide which music to listen to and always choose the music you like best!


FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most common questions I get asked about heavy metal from newcomers to the genre.

Why Can’t We Say Exactly Where Heavy Metal Originated?

Although heavy metal most likely originated in England, it’s not possible to say that with absolute certainty. Even among music critics, opinions may vary. The more important point is that if you like metal, then it’s essential to explore the work of some of the earliest bands and enjoy their work!

Why Is The History Of Heavy Metal Important?

The history of metal is essential to music lovers and guitar players because it can lead us to discover bands whose music we would really enjoy. It also allows us to understand the evolution of this musical art form.

As a guitar player, I have learned a tremendous amount from studying the original works of some of the earliest players in rock, blues, and metal.

Is Heavy Metal Good For Mental Health?

There is no definitive scientific evidence, that I am aware of, that listening to heavy metal can cause problems with or help improve a person’s state of mental health.

Although the music used in many forms of music therapy is typically relaxing, listening to heavy metal can make you feel better if that’s the music you typically enjoy.

Does Heavy Metal Cause Anger?

If you don’t enjoy listening to this kind of music, being exposed to it can make you angry. For example, I can’t imagine trying to sleep while the guy upstairs blares thrash metal as loud as possible.

Many metal tunes have angry lyrics, and if they create negative feelings in the listener, then a change in musical content may be in order. Music is meant to be appreciated and enjoyed, so choose your music based on criteria that make you happy.

As a guitar player, if I don’t like the words of a tune, but I love the guitar parts, then that song (or band) will definitely be in my playlist. It’s best to pick and choose what you like based on your own personal criteria.

Can Heavy Metal Cause Anxiety?

Anxiety is different than anger, although one can definitely lead to the other. Anything that does not help you relax can cause anxiety or make underlying anxiety worse. If you are experiencing anxiety, choose musical material to help you relax.

If you find that metal is making you anxious, but, you generally enjoy that type of music, you can always listen to it on another day when anxiety is less of an issue.

Do You Have To Be A Devil Worshiper To Listen To Metal?

Absolutely not. Heavy metal is for anyone to enjoy. You are free to pick and choose the music you like, regardless of your religious beliefs. If you enjoy a particular metal band, then that’s all the reason you might need to follow them musically.

I have been listening to certain subtypes of metal since the late 1960s because I love great guitar solos, which stand apart from my religious beliefs. As a musician, I think metal is a great art form.


Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

So, where did Heavy metal originate? It most likely originated in the United Kingdom in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but it’s not possible to say with absolute certainty who the very first metal band actually was.

This form of music is a rock genre that was primarily influenced by blues-rock and “psychedelic” rock. Heavy metal has traditionally incorporated fast tempos, loud volumes, and complex guitar riffs, with themes of power, rebellion, and darkness. Lyrics can vary widely, from subdued, aggressive, dark, or angry.

Metal has been somewhat arbitrarily divided into many subcategories. There is no universal agreement on these subcategories, and some metal bands refuse to be categorized. It’s more important to listen to all heavy metal varieties and choose the songs that appeal most to you than to focus on subcategories!

There are many reasons why people like heavy metal music, and it’s a genre with many devoted fans and followers. There is every reason to believe that metal will continue to endure as a musical art form and be enjoyed for years to come!


A rock band of figures made from nuts and bolts.

Tell Me What You Think

Please leave a comment below if you enjoyed this article, have any questions about heavy metal, or want to give your point of view. I will be happy to help you.

  • Where do you think heavy metal originated?
  • What band do you think wrote the first heavy metal song?
  • Who is your favorite heavy metal band? Why?
  • Do you have a favorite metal subcategory? What is it and why?
  • If you are a heavy metal guitar player what guitar, amp, and effects do you use?
  • Did this article change your opinion about heavy metal music? Why or why not?

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6 thoughts on “Where Did Heavy Metal Originate? – Fascinating Facts!”

  1. Hello Frank,

    I really enjoyed your article about Heavy Metal and its origins.

    I have to be honest, heavy metal is not something that I resonate with, having said that I find it fascinating. I love learning about things that do not come naturally to me. 

    I really loved the section called “Why Is Heavy Metal So Popular?”. Thanks to you I have a much better understanding of why people enjoy that type of music.

    I also found the section about Heavy Metal Critics very interesting. Why would anyone criticize a music type? Why not just let everyone enjoy what they like without judgment?

    Your article is wonderful. You clearly like this type of music and you must be passionate about it to take the time to write an article about it.

    As mentioned before, I do not understand or resonate with heavy metal but I think it’s a wonderful way of expressing yourself. Without knowing too much about it, I could see the passion in the performers. And to answer one of your questions, no, your article did not change my mind about heavy metal but it did educate me and provided a perspective that I did not have before.

    Thank you very much for sharing.

    Reply
    • Hi, Anna

      Thank You for your comments!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article, and I hope it will lead you to explore this genre of music. The world of “Heavy Metal” is so diverse that there is something for everyone that likes music in the broader genre of “Rock.”

      There are critics, self-proclaimed and professional, in every area of music. The best we can do is listen and decide what we prefer and keep on growing as music lovers.

      I do like metal, but I love all music, including blues, jazz, country, and opera, to name a few categories.

      Frank

      Reply
  2. I love your website setup. Even though your site is not relatable to me, it is very informal for the music niche. I love the share widget and how it scrolls with the page. I’m going to add one to my site too! Thank you for the inspiration. Blessings to you.

    Reply
    • Hi, Sharee

      Thank You for your comments about my Website design!

      Are you a heavy metal fan, and if so, what artists do you like? I intend to write articles about all musical genres, so please return to my site in the future to find more info about guitar music.

      Frank

      Reply
  3. For Whom The Bell Tolls, Frank?

    This is a great heavy-metal history lesson, but the paradox is that people that are interested in this topic already know all this stuff, are usually really keen on this musical genre, and are even quite fanatical.

    To move an album 10 years earlier may be considered blasphemy by some fanatical rockers.

    Metallica’s first album was Kill’em All, which was released in 1983. The Black Album is also known as Metallica ‘91, as it was released in 1991.

    I assume it was just a mistyping, so no hard feelings about it 😉 I just love reading about these legends and finding other fellow rockers.

    Reply
    • Hi, Bogdan

      Thank You for your comments!

      I’m glad you liked the article. You obviously read it closely, and I appreciate you taking the time to point out the error regarding Metallica’s first album. Needless to say, it has been corrected. It’s wonderful that you have an in-depth knowledge and deep appreciation of heavy metal!

      I wrote this article at the request of a reader who wanted to learn a little about the history of this musical genre, and I hope it serves that purpose. The plan is to continue to expand the metal section of my website by adding additional articles about individual metal bands and guitar players.

      Check out the article about Black Sabbath’s “The End” tour. If you have a few minutes, let me know what you think.

      If you play guitar, I did an in-depth piece on Uli Jon Roth’s Sky Guitars that you might enjoy. These instruments are clearly for the player that wants to take the guitar to the next level, and Uli is a phenomenal guitarist!

      Rock On! 🎸

      Frank

      Reply

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