3 reasons 1970 is the year heavy metal was born


Eduardo Rivadavia just wrote a killer piece at UCR where he lays out his basic thesis: 1970 is the year heavy metal was born. Here are three of his reasons why:

1) Black Sabbath. Black Sabbath’s first album (Black Sabbath) was released on Friday the 13th, February 1970, and they’re the band widely credited as starting it all. “Years would pass before the ‘heavy metal’ description actually stuck with listeners, or was even accepted by many of the bands involved,” Rivadavia writes. “But most of the genre’s fundamental musical ingredients, lyric themes, and even its outcast status as rock and roll’s bastard offspring, were crystallized on Sabbath’s first album.” Black Sabbath followed up that album the same year with another: Paranoid. Steve Huey says Paranoid “defined the sound and style of heavy metal more than any other record in rock history.”

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2) Deep Purple. DP had been putting out albums for years, but they didn’t turn heavy until 1970’s release of In Rock. “Deep Purple would complete the holy trinity of British heavy rock, along with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin – who, ironically, turned to folkier sounds with their third LP in 1970, though not before unleashing the driving Viking metal opener ‘Immigrant Song.'”

3) A generation of new bands. Sabbath changed the way just about every band on the scene made music. Even Billy Joel tried his hand at it with “widely maligned ‘Attila.'” Numerous heavy metal bands formed in 1970 (check out Rivadavia’s piece for an incredible list), and 1971 saw the emergence of some truly great heavy metal groups. Among them Nazareth, Thin Lizzy, and Leaf Hound. “By 1972, Blue Oyster Cult had arrived, followed by Montrose, Aerosmith and others in 1973, and then Judas Priest in 1974.”

All this happened in 1970 – a time when Black Sabbath wasn’t getting any play on rock stations. They were there, though, simmering under the surface where they changed the culture.

“Black Sabbath has been so influential in the development of heavy metal rock music as to be a defining force in the style,” writes Allmusic’s William Ruhlmann. “The group took the blues-rock sound of late ’60s acts like Cream, Blue Cheer, and Vanilla Fudge to its logical conclusion, slowing the tempo, accentuating the bass, and emphasising screaming guitar solos and howled vocals full of lyrics expressing mental anguish and macabre fantasies. If their predecessors clearly came out of an electrified blues tradition, Black Sabbath took that tradition in a new direction, and in so doing helped give birth to a musical style that continued to attract millions of fans decades later.”

Definitely check out Rivadavia’s piece for more!

Photo credit: Padgett22


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