Black Sabbath and the Rise of Heavy Metal Music

Black Sabbath and the Rise of Heavy Metal Music

Black Sabbath and the Rise of Heavy Metal Music

Black Sabbath and the Rise of Heavy Metal Music


The definition of 'heavy metal' is often a contentious issue and in this lively and accessible text Andrew Cope presents a refreshing re-evaluation of the rules that define heavy metal as a musical genre. Cope begins with an interrogation of why, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, Birmingham provided the ideal location for the evolution and early development of heavy metal and hard rock. The author considers how the influence of the London and Liverpool music scenes merged with the unique cultural climate, industry and often desolated sites of post-war Birmingham to contribute significantly to the development of two unique forms of music: heavy metal and hard rock. The author explores these two forms through an extensive examination of key tracks from the first six albums of both Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, in which musical, visual and lyrical aspects of each band are carefully compared and contrasted in order to highlight the distinctive innovations of those early recordings. In conclusion, a number of case studies are presented that illustrate how the unique synthesis of elements established by Black Sabbath have been perpetuated and developed through the work of such bands as Iron Maiden, Metallica, Pantera, Machine Head, Nightwish, Arch Enemy and Cradle of Filth. As a consequence, the importance of heavy metal as a genre of music was firmly established, and its longevity assured.


At last! A book about heavy metal as music.

For many years popular music studies has been dominated by texts which fail to address the unique combination of musical sounds, timbres and structures that distinguishes heavy metal from hard rock. Black Sabbath and the Rise of Heavy Metal Music fills that gap and offers researchers and students alike the opportunity to explore and enjoy an engaging musical investigation into the birth and development of the heavy metal sound. Taking Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin as his starting point, Andy Cope identifies significant differences in their musical syntax: the angular and modal riffs, sequences of power chords, and down-tuned guitar riffs of Black Sabbath; the more conventional blues, rock and roll syntax of Led Zeppelin. As his analysis shows, Black Sabbath formulated the radical and extensive transgressions of the blues and rock and roll context of their origins and established metal as a distinctive genre; in contrast, Led Zeppelin faithfully retained blues and rock and roll stylisations, albeit with moderate modifications, so instigating the sound of hard rock.

As Andy Cope notes, while the purpose of his research has been to analyse the syntactical design of heavy metal and relate it to hard rock, this is contextualised with reference to their social context. He begins with an interrogation of why Birmingham provided a particular geographical space for the evolution and early development of metal and hard rock. As both an academic and a performing guitarist in rock and metal bands, his choice of musical examples reflects personal insight and an ear for detail, providing the reader with a thoughtful textual analysis of key tracks by Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.

The focus on metal’s musical evolution is developed in a detailed discussion of second generation British bands (the so called New Wave of British Heavy Metal including Motörhead, Judas Priest, Diamond Head, Venom and Iron Maiden) and the ways in which they amplified the dark and aggressive coding established by Black Sabbath. In turn, NWOBHM shaped and influenced subsequent developments in heavy metal, and these are discussed with reference to Metallica, Slayer, Napalm Death, Carcass, Cradle of Filth, Arch Enemy, Drowning Pool and Machine Head. Attention is also drawn to the rapidly growing proliferation of women in modern metal, including such major performers as Angela Gossow and Tarja Turunen. Then, again, it’s not that surprising when front page and central articles in mainstream metal periodicals are as much about female musicians as male. It’s rock, not metal that is misogynistic, as fans of Arch Enemy, Cradle of Filth, Lacuna Coil and Nightwish are all too aware.

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