The Nebulous Origins of the Heavy Metal Music Genre

In “Who Invented Metal”, music writer Polyphonic traces the somewhat nebulous origins of the constantly changing, ever evolving heavy metal music genre. He examines when the music got heavier, louder and lower in pitch to create what we now know as the signature sound of heavy metal. The sound was initially influenced by American blues before taking on its own identity.

Amongst the bands cited as being early to the genre were part of the British Invasion: The Beatles, Cream, The Who, Led Zeppelin and later Black Sabbath, Motörhead and Deep Purple. But it was the Canadian band Steppenwolf who really solidified the name of the genre.

The first metal song – Steppenwolf’s ‘Born To Be Wild’ came out in 1968 and it was a
big hit …that song uses gruff vocals, distorted guitar and taps into motorcycle culture. An aesthetic that metal would draw from frequently over the next few decades and perhaps most importantly ‘Born To Be Wild’ features the line ‘heavy metal thunder’. While Steppenwolf wasn’t using the phrase to describe music, it stuck and people soon started applying it to the up-and-coming genre.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.