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Traditional Heavy Metal

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Primary Stylistic Influences:
Secondary Stylistic Influences:

Traditional heavy metal (also referred to as trad metal, classic metal, or simply heavy metal) is metal music played in its original style. Generally considered to be not a sub-genre of metal, but the main genre of it, trad metal is characterized by most of the traits metal originally was known for, including blues-inspired riffs, distorted guitars, melodic vocals with an added bombastic edge, and psychedelic rock influences, particularly in the earliest of metal bands. However, after the numerous subsets of heavy metal began to spawn, fans and music critics alike began to refer to the traditional style of metal as its own separate genre, especially after many then-newer bands began to adopt the sound despite emerging years after metal came to be.

For the most part, classic metal is, along with Hair Metal or Nu Metal, what most of the general public think of sound-wise when they hear the term "heavy metal". Nowadays the style is thought of as old-fashioned, but being the centerfold of all metal it is held in extremely high regard amongst metalheads and music fans alike for its old-school sound and rawness. Most popular bands performing the style formed in the 1970s or 1980s when metal was just done developing its identity, but its popularity has led to a new wave of bands in the new millennium, dubbed by fans as the NWOTHM (New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal), with examples including White Wizzard and Neuronspoiler.

Traditional heavy metal often overlaps with Power Metal, Hair Metal, Hard Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Thrash Metal, Speed Metal, and (in newer bands) Alternative Metal.

Bands generally considered to be traditional heavy metal include:

Common Tropes Used in this Genre:

  • Christian Metal : Bloodgood and Stryper are prominent examples. The Resurrection Band are generally considered the Ur-Example of Christian Metal, and did dab in this style, but are also considered Hard Rock.
  • Doom Metal: Arguably the first major offshoot metal subgenre, Doom Metal is just the logical continuation of the original Black Sabbath sound. Obviously, there is a decent amount of overlap between Doom Metal and Traditional Heavy Metal.
  • Hard Rock: The direct musical progenitor of Heavy Metal. While the exact dividing line between Hard Rock and Metal is the subject of a lot of (often extremely vocal and bitter) arguments, and both genres have plenty of crossover, there are a few key differences. Hard Rock is solely based in Blues, and while Black Sabbath (and by extension, a lot of Doom Metal bands) also had heavy Blues influences, Metal lost the blues elements very quickly, often being more based in Classical Music or Progressive Rock than basic blues. The guitar tone and style of riffing is also different. Metal is often more complex and technical, with a thicker sound. Metal bands often employ two or three guitars where a Hard Rock band would only use one (clearly, there are exceptions on both sides of this as well). The difference between the two is not just a question of heaviness, although Traditional Heavy Metal bands were generally heavier than most Hard Rock bands.
  • Hair Metal: There is a lot of overlap between these styles. At its basic core, Hair Metal combines a Hard Rock song structure with metal riffs and solos, with a thick poppy sheen over top.
  • Metal Scream: Over-the-top pseudo operatic shouts and wails are often used to great effect. Harsh Vocals in the more modern sense were pretty much unheard of at the time, but later bands that played this style would occasionally employ them.
  • Rock Me, Asmodeus!: Songs about The Devil aren't uncommon, but unlike the stereotype they weren't usually praising him so much as singing about what horrors he would bring upon the world, not unlike a fire and brimstone sermon.
  • Trope Codifier: Iron Maiden and Judas Priest are generally considered to have taken what Black Sabbath did and shaped it into a proper genre, but other metal bands were also prominent at the same time, including Rainbow and Scorpions.
  • Trope Makers: Black Sabbath is generally considered the first metal band.
  • Ur-Example: Both Blue Cheer and Steppenwolf have been cited as this.