During the late 60s rock and roll evolved quickly and split into various camps. Blues-centric rock bands like Cream, The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, cut a definitive pathway through rock culture. However, some artists were opposed to the calmness inspired by the 60s, saw a kind of doom and gloom in the coming decade. Early metal bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath literally cranked up the volume and added an extra guitar to the front line. As much as they could they let lyrics rip from their throats and stretched out the wail of a steel-stringed duo of guitars that cut the air like thunder.
This early style was marked by on-stage theatricals, most unmatched to those of Ozzy Ozbourne, and a dark grim-reaperish uniform. In fact nu metal bands—such as Korn and Disturbed—owe much of their style to these early pioneers.
Not long after Ozzy and Zeppelin were accepted into the mainstream, sub-genres of heavy metal emerged. Hair bands such as Motley Crue, Poison, and Ratt cut their own track. They borrowed characteristics of rock and roll as well as metal, but appealed more widely to audiences that thought Black Sabbath over the top.
Still other rock acts managed to gain even more widespread appeal. Van Halen began as an opening act for metal-heads Black Sabbath, but in the end made frequent forays into the mainstream rock realm while they kept a foot in their mother-genre. Kiss, the most outrageous band of all, made great heavy metal music and defined their style largely through their costumes and on-stage performances.
Metal’s departure from rock and roll bands like the Stones and even Southern rock bands like the Allman Brothers, was its attention to sound. During the 80s thrash metal melded metal, glam rock and electrically distorted guitar sounds. Bands like Metallica and Anthrax again pushed the dark and stormy side of rock as had Sabbath.
Today’s ‘metal” bands include Red Hot Chili Peppers, Linkin Park, Nine Inch Nails and Alice in Chains. Noise remains a common denominator, but this newest generation also revisits elements of rap, hard rock and grunge.