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History of metal

Metal music began as the work of the youth born after the superpower age began, during a highly developmental period for Western civilization in which it, having defeated fascism and nationalism and other old-world evolution-based systems of government, considered itself highly evolved in a humanistic state of liberal democracy which benefitted the individual more than any system previously on record. During this era, society served citizens in their quest for the most convenient lifestyle possible, and any questions or goals outside of this worldview were not considered: it was considered a "progressive" continuation of human development from a primitive evolutionary "red in tooth and claw" state to one in which social concepts of justice and morality defined the life of the individual. The individual has triumphed over the natural world, and faces none of the uncertainty of mortal existence brought about by physical competition and predation.

Politically (the global quest for egalitarian society) and socially (the empowerment of new groups and loss of consensus) humanity viewed itself as getting ahead and being superior to other forms of civilization, including the equally egalitarian but totalitarian Communist empires of the Soviet Union and China, but as the thermonuclear age dawned in the 1950s, this dichotomy came to define the "free West" as much as its enemies.

The first generation after WWII created early proto-metal in a time when all older knowledge and social order was being overturned in the wake of an impulse to redesign the world to avoid the "evils" of the previous generation. The people of this age, and coming ages, were new in that they could not recall a time of direct experience of nature as necessary; the grocery stores, modern medicine and industrial economies of their time took care of all of their needs, and no unbroken natural world could any longer be found except on specialty tours. Their civilization had become exclusively introspective and was losing contact with the (natural) world beyond its self-defined boundaries.

During this time, a "peace" movement which embraced pacifism and egalitarian individualism was gaining popularity at the forefront of the counterculture, a phenomenon which had existed since in the 1950s smart marketers (namely Allen Freed) had promoted rock music as an alternative to the staid, traditional, monogamous and sober lives of Protestant, Anglo-Saxon Americans. With WWII polarizing the world against first German and later Russian "enemies," and Viet Nam revealing the moral bankruptcy of benevolent superpowers motivated by their economies, society was becoming more dependent upon the ideological tradition building over the last 2,000 years: focus on the individual, or individualism, as politically expressed in egalitarianism and liberal democracy. This was expressed in both culture and counterculture.

In contrast, metal music emphasized morbidity and glorified ancient civilizations as well as heroic struggles, merging the gothic attitudes of art rock with the broad scope of progressive rock, but most of all, its sound emphasized heavy: a literal reality that cut through all of our words and symbols and grand theories, to remind us that we are mortal and not ultimately able to control our lifespan or the inherent abilities we have. This clashed drastically with both the pacifist hippie movement and the religious and industrial sentiments of the broader society surrounding it.

Art does not exist in a vacuum within the minds of its creators. If a concept is applied to music, there is a corresponding concept in structure and the worldview of the artist that creates the frame of mind in which the artist creates music which sounds like its desired value system. Art is too complex to be created without any prior thought as to what it expresses; this concept is common in literature and visual art, but ignored in popular music (perhaps because in most popular music, the concept - and the music - reflect crass materialism and futile neurosis and not much else).

At the end of an age of moral symbolism and technological norming, metal is recreating the language of music to reflect heroic values, formulated from the nihilistic mandate of "now that you believe in nothing, find something worth believing in." The ease of social and political identification found in rock music is eschewed, as are aesthetics which endorse the myopic neurosis of first world lifestyles. And while metal has evolved over several generations, several musical facets remain the same, suggesting a corresponding shared conceptual underpinning.

This "design form" of metal differs from popular music in one simple way, but from this arise any number of techniques and attributes which allow composers to create in this method. Its primary distinguishing characteristic is that metal embraces structure more than any other form of popular music; while rock is notorious for its verse-chorus-verse structure and jazz emphasizes a looser version of the same allowing unfetter improvisation, metal emphasizes a motivic, melodic narrative structure in the same way that classical and baroque music do. Each piece may utilize other techniques, but what holds it together is a melodic progression between ideas that do not fit into simple verse-chorus descriptors. Even in 1960s proto-heavy metal, use of motives not repeated as part of the verse-chorus cycle and transitional riffing suggested a poetic form of music in which song structure was derived from what needed to be communicated
Metal began in prototype form with Black Sabbath, whose trademark occultism symbolized life in terms of the eternal and ideal, while their gritty, sensual, lawless guitar gave significance to the immediate and real. The resulting fusion of the bohemian generation with a nihilistic, dark and morbid streak birthed early metal. Those who had rejected the hippies and found no solace in social order embraced this music and lost bohemians everywhere began to find new directions in this sound.

Having been thus born of the rock tradition early metal remained much within that framework, with dual lineages existing in Black Sabbath, the proto-metal architecturalists, and Led Zeppelin, the blues-folk-rock extravagantists. While the 1970s struggled to develop further the innovations in rock between 1965-1969 the influences that hit metal were primarily from European progressive rock. These musicians used classical theory to give narrative context to themes which in the popular music style repeat through cycling short complementary phrases or riffs which center motives. This technique migrated classical styles adapted from acoustic guitar and espoused structure over total improvisation.

As metal grew in the middle 1970s, its fragmented nature brought it both commercial success and hilarity as a retarded younger brother to rock. The rock side coupled with trash rock bands and formed stadium metal, which was the apex of metal's popularity and the nadir of its creativity, with bands being known for musical illiteracy, hedonistic excess and often mind-wrenching stupidity in interviews. These bands would come into full flower in the 1980s, but marked their territory well before the turn of the decade. On the other hand, however, some of the most dramatic growth in metal occurred when bands merged progressive leanings with desires for traditional solid, sing-along songs.

From this fork in the metal path came three greats whose influences cannot be underestimated, birthed in the early 1970s but becoming most dramatically influential in the 1980s: Judas Priest, Motorhead, and Iron Maiden. Each had musicians from a progressive background who added new ideas to rock and metal, whether the neoclassical guitar duo of K.K. Downing and Glen Tipton or the melodic basslines of Steve Harris of Iron Maiden. Even Motorhead, the simplest and most basic of the three, wrote songs with a melodic baroque tendency that rivalled that of the Beatles, except without the flourishes and happy feelings. Bridging between psychedelic space rock like founder Lemmy Kilmister's Hawkwind, aggressive punk and simplified metal-rock in the style of Blue Cheer, Motorhead sounded like a glass-gargling vagabond and an impromptu jail session band, but developed much of the technique and basic riff forms for the hybrid music to come.

The more obscure and threatening NWOBHM bands grew with the subgenre in the 1970s to oppose commercial slickness with direct and primal music. Angel Witch and Diamond Head and eventually Venom tore technique to its basics to get to the ballad-meets-firefight balance of rebel music. All of these fused the DIY attitude of punk bands with the epic nature of metal and created as a result music that was bold and far-reaching but accessible, both to fans and to those who would like to pick up their own instruments and emulate it.

Art - [ Hedonism ]

"My purpose was always just to express myself," he answers.
"People are ****ng themselves when they think music is going
to change the world or enlighten people. It's a bunch of hogwash."
-- Paul Stanley, Kiss
The 1970s brought an era between the peace love and happiness age and the more serious years to follow; as the Cold War intensified and the threat of ICBMs became more pronounced and definitive, the 1970s were privately a grim time of preparation for the worst and publically a time of vast hedonism. Part of this existed because underneath the hopes of the last generation had been a vast despair, in knowing that force would solve what pleasant thoughts of peace and universal love could not; part of this occurred because the movements of the 1950s had run their course for a generation without finding anything new. Hippies were essentially Beats with a more artificially positive outlook, and rock'n'roll had run itself into redundancy, relying on extremity to make itself something other than mundane.

The result of this pursuing tangible heights in a void of actual belief was a profound hedonism. Casual **** reached the mainstream, as did drugs including more powerful variants of **** and cocaine. The futurism of a commercial society replaced ideas with lifestyles based on products, conspicuous consumption, and the Me generation at its most flagrant. The result was that most fell into mainstream lockstep, having absorbed the methods of the previous generation but lost its belief; the dissidents in art were **** punk, ambient and electronic music.

Influence - [ Electronic, Ambient ]
From the public front, the **** Pistols exemplified all that **** was: brash, loud, and in total nihilistic denial of almost all value (except curiously being anti-abortion, since even punk vocalists find it hard to shake past indoctrination). For every band that was a public face on punk however there were garage bands and **** bands which labored in obscurity, rarely recording much that survives to this day, in part because their attitude toward musicality was so dismissive that their one- and two-chord songs had few fans except those caught up in the cultural movement itself.

In ambient music, musicians such as Tangerine Dream and Robert Fripp probed a new form of spirituality in pieces that eschewed the obvious, tangible and quantifiable sounds of traditional rock instrumentation, preferring instead lengthy pieces which slowly developed through layers of atmosphere and contained a poetic content of revelation, much as classical ...
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