Characteristics[ edit ] Heavy metal is traditionally characterized by loud distorted guitars, emphatic rhythms, dense bass-and-drum sound, and vigorous vocals. Heavy metal subgenres variously emphasize, alter, or omit one or more of these attributes.
The New York Times critic Jon Pareles writes, "In the taxonomy of popular music, heavy metal is a major subspecies of hard-rock—the breed with less syncopation, less blues, more showmanship and more brute force. Keyboard instruments are sometimes used to enhance the fullness of the sound.
In , John Paul Jones used a Moog synthesizer on Led Zeppelin III ; by the s, in "almost every subgenre of heavy metal"[ attribution needed ] synthesizers were used. The electric guitar and the sonic power that it projects through amplification has historically been the key element in heavy metal.
Reflecting metal's roots in the s counterculture, an "explicit display of emotion" is required from the vocals as a sign of authenticity. The bass guitar provides the low-end sound crucial to making the music "heavy".
Some bands feature the bass as a lead instrument, an approach popularized by Metallica's Cliff Burton with his heavy emphasis on bass guitar solos and use of chords while playing bass in the early s.
The metal drum setup is generally much larger than those employed in other forms of rock music. The ties that bind the two bands started in the s and were still strong in the s. In live performance, loudness —an "onslaught of sound", in sociologist Deena Weinstein 's description—is considered vital. She argues that the loudness is designed to "sweep the listener into the sound" and to provide a "shot of youthful vitality".
Musical language[ edit ] Rhythm and tempo[ edit ] An example of a rhythmic pattern used in heavy metal. The upper stave is a palm-muted rhythm guitar part. The lower stave is the drum part. Rhythmic Pattern Audio The rhythm in metal songs is emphatic, with deliberate stresses. Weinstein observes that the wide array of sonic effects available to metal drummers enables the "rhythmic pattern to take on a complexity within its elemental drive and insistency".
These rhythmic figures are usually performed with a staccato attack created by using a palm-muted technique on the rhythm guitar. These phrases are used to create rhythmic accompaniment and melodic figures called riffs , which help to establish thematic hooks. Heavy metal songs also use longer rhythmic figures such as whole note - or dotted quarter note-length chords in slow-tempo power ballads. The tempos in early heavy metal music tended to be "slow, even ponderous".
When power chords are played on the lower strings at high volumes and with distortion, additional low frequency sounds are created, which add to the "weight of the sound" and create an effect of "overwhelming power".
Traditional heavy metal tends to employ modal scales, in particular the Aeolian and Phrygian modes. Tense-sounding chromatic or tritone relationships are used in a number of metal chord progressions. A pedal point is a sustained tone, typically in the bass range, during which at least one foreign i.
Also that metal's "most influential musicians have been guitar players who have also studied classical music. Their appropriation and adaptation of classical models sparked the development of a new kind of guitar virtuosity [and] changes in the harmonic and melodic language of heavy metal. Classical and metal are probably the two genres that have the most in common when it comes to feel, texture, creativity.
As musicologists Nicolas Cook and Nicola Dibben note, "Analyses of popular music also sometimes reveal the influence of 'art traditions'. An example is Walser's linkage of heavy metal music with the ideologies and even some of the performance practices of nineteenth-century Romanticism.
However, it would be clearly wrong to claim that traditions such as blues, rock, heavy metal, rap or dance music derive primarily from "art music'. Heavy metal lyrics According to scholars David Hatch and Stephen Millward, Black Sabbath, and the numerous heavy metal bands that they inspired, have concentrated lyrically "on dark and depressing subject matter to an extent hitherto unprecedented in any form of pop music".
They take as an example Sabbath's second album Paranoid , which "included songs dealing with personal trauma—' Paranoid ' and ' Fairies Wear Boots ' which described the unsavoury side effects of drug-taking —as well as those confronting wider issues, such as the self-explanatory ' War Pigs ' and ' Hand of Doom '. The thematic content of heavy metal has long been a target of criticism.
According to Jon Pareles , "Heavy metal's main subject matter is simple and virtually universal. With grunts, moans and subliterary lyrics, it celebrates Congress to regulate the popular music industry due to what the group asserted were objectionable lyrics, particularly those in heavy metal songs. Senate and in court. At the hearing, the PMRC alleged that the song was about sadomasochism and rape ; Snider stated that the song was about his bandmate's throat surgery.
Osbourne was not found to be responsible for the teen's death. While the case attracted a great deal of media attention, it was ultimately dismissed. In countries such as Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, and Malaysia, there have been incidents of heavy metal musicians and fans being arrested and incarcerated. Heavy metal fashion Kiss performing in , wearing makeup. For many artists and bands, visual imagery plays a large role in heavy metal. In addition to its sound and lyrics, a heavy metal band's image is expressed in album cover art, logos, stage sets, clothing, design of instruments, and music videos.
Long hair gave members of the metal community "the power they needed to rebel against nothing in general". Deena Weinstein writes, "T-shirts are generally emblazoned with the logos or other visual representations of favorite metal bands.
Performers typically wore long, dyed, hairspray-teased hair hence the nickname, "hair metal" ; makeup such as lipstick and eyeliner; gaudy clothing, including leopard-skin-printed shirts or vests and tight denim, leather, or spandex pants; and accessories such as headbands and jewelry.
Many metal musicians when performing live engage in headbanging , which involves rhythmically beating time with the head, often emphasized by long hair. The il cornuto , or devil horns, hand gesture was popularized by vocalist Ronnie James Dio while with Black Sabbath and Dio.
It has been argued that this is due to the music's largely male audience and "extreme heterosexualist ideology". Two primary body movements used are headbanging and an arm thrust that is both a sign of appreciation and a rhythmic gesture. Stage divers climb onto the stage with the band and then jump "back into the audience".