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Heavy Metal 101 (at the Library!)

Randall Hinson, Young Adult Librarian, Felipe de Neve Branch Library,
Heavy Metal 101
Heavy Metal 101

For a long time, you’ve known you were different.

While your family enjoys summer days filled with sunshine, you dream of freezing moons and blizzard beasts stalking the frosty tundra!

While your siblings enjoy the sounds of Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars, pop music makes you want to run to the hills, screaming for vengeance!

While your friends enjoy new dances like the Nae Nae or the Shmoney, you just want bang your head!

But what does all this mean? “Is there something wrong with me,” you might ask?

No, there is nothing wrong with you! You’re just a true, grim, Heavy Metal warrior! A metal maniac! And that’s a good thing! Recent studies have shown that kids who listened to heavy metal in the 1980’s “were significantly happier in their youth and better adjusted currently than either middle-aged or current college-age youth comparison groups”[i]. In addition to that, studies in the United Kingdom have shown that students at the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth “a body whose 120,000 student members are within the top five per cent academically” often listen to heavy metal to cope with the stresses of being so crazy smart[ii].

But as a new member of the Metal Militia, it can be hard to know which bands to start your metal journey with. For instance, the excellent website Encyclopaedia Metallum (www.metal-archives.com) has discographies and reviews for over 107,850 bands! That’s a lot! So, to help you learn a bit about the many genres of heavy metal, plus some of the best bands in each, the Los Angeles Public Library has created for you…

HEAVY METAL 101 (at the Library)!

DOOM METAL

In the beginning, there was Black Sabbath. Although there were many bands which preceded Sabbath and influenced their sound (these bands are sometimes referred to as Proto-Metal), Heavy Metal as we know it today – and Doom Metal in particular – essentially begins with them. Their first six albums are all considered doom metal classics. Here are two of their best:

 

                BLACK SABBATH – PARANOID 

 

                BLACK SABBATH – MASTER OF REALITY 

 

However, while Black Sabbath might have created the template for Doom Metal, many other bands in the decades that followed built upon Sabbath’s foundation, expanding and reimagining the genre. Here are two modern Doom Metal masterpieces:

 

                SLEEP – DOPESMOKER

 

                SUNN O))) – MONOLITHS & DIMENSIONS

 

NWOBHM (THE NEW WAVE OF BRITISH HEAVY METAL)

In the late 1970’s, The New Wave of British Heavy Metal (or NWOBHM) was born in the United Kingdom, and within a few short years, took over the world. Although there are many NWOBHM bands to explore – both new and old – there are three in particular that helped define the style: Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Motörhead.

 

                IRON MAIDEN – SOMEWHERE BACK IN TIME – THE BEST OF: 1980-1989

 

                JUDAS PRIEST – SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE

 

                MOTÖRHEAD – ACE OF SPADES

 

THRASH

Then in the 1980’s, Thrash Metal burst upon the scene, upping the velocity and aggression of NWOBHM, and creating a new type of heavy metal in the process. Four American bands – known as “The Big Four” – are widely considered to be not only the fathers of thrash, but also its greatest artists. Listed here is a classic album from each of the Big Four:

 

               ANTHRAX – SPREADING THE DISEASE

 

               MEGADETH – PEACE SELLS… BUT WHO’S BUYING? 

 

                METALLICA – MASTER OF PUPPETS

 

                SLAYER – REIGN IN BLOOD

               

DEATH METAL

Although the beginnings of Death Metal can be found in the 1980’s with albums like “Seven Churches” by Possessed and early albums by Death, the subgenre really took off in the early 1990’s. Guttural vocals (sometimes jokingly called “cookie-monster vocals,” after Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster), lower instrument tunings, and machine-gun like drumming (called Blast Beats) are hallmarks of Death Metal.

 

                CARCASS – SURGICAL STEEL

 

                DEATH – SYMBOLIC

 

BLACK METAL

Perhaps the most extreme and diverse of metal’s many subgenres, Black Metal – especially in its infancy – was nearly as notorious for its offstage crimes as it was for its music. Below are two of Black Metal’s early classics, though the genre is thriving and expanding even today:

 

                DARKTHRONE – TRANSILVANIAN HUNGER

                EMPEROR – IN THE NIGHTSIDE ECLIPSE

 

READS

Of course, while listening to the music is what it’s all about, reading about unfamiliar bands and the history of heavy metal is fun too! Here are some suggested books to help you discover even more great metal bands, and learn metal’s history and impact:

 

                HEAVY METAL – by Popoff, Martin

 

                LORDS OF CHAOS: THE BLOODY RISE OF THE SATANIC METAL UNDERGROUND – by Moynihan, Michael           

 

                PRECIOUS METAL: DECIBEL PRESENTS THE STORIES BEHIND 25 EXTREME METAL MASTERPIECES

 

                THE TOP 500 HEAVY METAL SONGS OF ALL TIME – by Popoff, Martin

 

                WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE? : A BLACK WOMAN’S LIFE AND LIBERATION IN HEAVY METAL – by Dawes, Laina

 

                LOUDER THAN HELL: THE DEFINITIVE ORAL HISTORY OF METAL - by Wiederhorn, Jon

 

WEBSITES

In addition to books, many blogs and websites are dedicated to spreading the word about the power of the metal. Here are a few that are particularly helpful for learning about heavy metal bands and sub-genres.

 

                ABOUT.COM – THE “METAL” SECTION

 

                ALLMUSIC.COM

 

                METAL INJECTION

 

And one final note: if the Los Angeles Public Library doesn’t have a heavy metal CD that you’d like to listen to or a book that you’d like to read, you can suggest that we buy it! We love getting purchase suggestions and we take them seriously, too! Just fill out the web-form at the link below: http://www.lapl.org/about-lapl/contact-us/suggest-purchase

Post submitted by Randall Hinson and Philip Levie


[i] Howe, T. R., Aberson, C. L., Friedman, H. S., Murphy, S. E., Alcazar, E., Vazquez, E. J., & Becker, R. (2015, April 30). Three Decades Later: The Life Experiences and Mid-Life Functioning of 1980s Heavy Metal Groupies, Musicians, and Fans. Retrieved February 25, 2016, from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15298868.2015.1036918

 

[ii] Fleming, N. (2007, March 21). Heavy metal 'a comfort for the bright child' Retrieved February 25, 2016, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/3352230/Heavy-metal-a-comfort-for-the-bright-child.html

 

 


 

 

 

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