There are those who listen to music for the elation it provides. And there are those who listen to music to look cool. To know what this heavy metal genre that attracts all the ostentatious, long haired, headbanging hippies is all about, there’s only one way – cut the pretenders out and listen to it.

We’ll look at some pioneering bands of the genre and a song of each that show the themes they touch and the manner in which they deal in both all-out-adrenaline or almost classical, tranquil renditions just so you know that there are keen musical minds working behind all of it rather than clueless headbangers.

Led Zeppelin – Stairway To Heaven:

Arguably the most influential band in the heavy metal genre, LedZep are considered the greatest band by many. This is aided in no small measure by the fact that their songs are timeless classics, one of which is Stairway To Heaven. Possibly the greatest hard rock number of all time and certainly the most iconic, Stairway To Heaven captures the versatile genius of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant in all their glory. The song begins with a tender acoustic-folk beginning builds up to a crescendo and culminates in a brilliant solo by Page followed by a hard rock ending with a touch of tenderness again at the end by Plant. John Paul Jones provides excellent bass while John Bonham’s drumming is brilliant for the tempo swing. The lyrics are now legendary for their soft and hopeful imagery.

Black Sabbath – War Pigs and Heaven And Hell:

Black Sabbath – the pioneers of heavy metal who gave it real doom-filled riffs, haunting vocals and lyrics dealing with war, occult and horror – are rightly considered the big daddies of the genre. If Ozzy Osbourne brought his eccentricity and haunting voice to Tony Iommi’s riffs and Geezer Butler’s lyrical and bass flourish, Ronnie James Dio brought his soaring operatic vocals and imagination after Ozzy’s departure from the band. War Pigs is a political commentary on war-mongering politicians while Heaven And Hell delves into the potential for heaven and hell within us.

Deep Purple – Child In Time:

Deep Purple is probably the most likable heavy metal band of all. There’s rarely ever anyone to whom their lively, trippy and often genius-laden brand of music will not appeal to. Say Smoke on The Water to people and you’ll know what I’m talking of. They’ve done quasi-classical numbers and heavy-adrenalin based ones, while combining both in some of their songs. One such classic is Child In Time. Ian Gillan’s vocals range from the melodious to banshee-like wailing while Ritchie Blackmore’s fingers create magic with the iconic riff and then there’s Jon Lord – the man who competes with Blackmore for control and brilliance with his organ, while Roger Glover provided excellent bass with Ian Paice on drums. This song is another of those anti-war epics. The line about war being a blind man shooting at the world with bullets flying around, taking toll stay with the listener forever. This is not a song, but a haunting musical heaven.

Iron Maiden – The Trooper:

No mention of heavy metal can go without the mention of Iron Maiden, probably the most fanatically loved band of all time. Their selection of lyrical themes, crunchy riffs, galloping pace and soaring heady vocals are the stuff of legends. The Trooper is not a song. It is an anthem. Ask any heavy metal fan and he’ll nod. Steve Harris, the bassist and also the writer of this song, based it upon a Lord Tennyson poem describing a charge by the British forces against the Russians in a war. When Bruce Dickinson, one of the best heavy metal frontmen ever, begins this song with “You take my life but I’ll take yours too”, you know you’re witnessing a classic. And the riff – that phenomenal riff by Dave Murray and Adrian Smith – you can’t rave enough about it. The adrenaline pumped up by Nicko McBrain has to be heard to be believed.

Happy listening!


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Suhas Ambale

Suhas Ambale

Reluctant techie. Bangalore lover. Man of eclectic passions with cricket and politics topping the chart. Wit, subtle humour, sarcasm aficionado. Keen on understanding Dharma.