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Fifty years young, and as loud and obnoxious as ever, the world of metal remains a true musical phenomena. Michael Stephens turns the dial up to 11 and beyond

Metal fatigue? There’s no such thing. As it notionally celebrates half a century of headbanging and hard-edged riffing, metal shows no signs of tarnishing. It’s been a long and complex road. Black Sabbath’s seismic debut LP still owes something to blues rock: later bands were influenced more by punk and rap. There’s musical and lyrical diversity here: protest music, plenty of occult obsession, literary types who draw on fantasy themes and those who are simply here to party. Some of it is cerebral, some appears not to have a brain at all – in that context, its affinity to punk and hip-hop makes sense.

Indeed, the broader genre has gone through numerous changes. In the 1970s, ‘heavy metal’ was the simple nomenclature, even though that was a phrase first popularly heard in Steppenwolf’s not-heavy-metal boogie of 1968, Born To Be Wild. In the post-punk era, ‘metal’ became just a suffix; first there was NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal), then thrash metal, deathmetal, doom metal, black metal, nu-metal… all became common currency.

A quick word about this list. LLV tried not to have multiple entries by artists. But when it comes to the likes of Black Sabbath, Metallica, Slayer, etc, that was impossible as their catalogues are simply too influential. And a quick word on exclusions. AC/DC are not in – they hate being called ‘heavy metal’ (“we play rock ‘n’ roll”) and that’s good enough for us. Def Leppard, though once huge, aren’t really metal enough (see also, Bon Jovi), Guns N’ Roses are too diverse, Motörhead are like AC/DC (Lemmy dismissed the metal tag). Complaints to the usual address.

Metal’s longevity means you’re unlikely to find much common ground or appeal in all of Sabbath, Metallica, Queensrÿche and Opeth. That’s OK, metal is unusual in that bands can have extraordinarily long careers: metal fans are among the most faithful and of all ages. Heads down (literally), for the hardest, heaviest Top 40 you’ll find.




Helloween crystallised what’s become known as ‘power metal’. The ballistic tempos of thrash minus the punk and withsoaring melody instead. Iron Maiden on steroids, if you will. The German outfit kept the concept going to a third instalment (in 2005) despite numerous line-up changes. A mere 15 albums in, they’ve now returned to the more trad metal of their youths, but Keeper… remains hugely influential.





Not a recommendation as such: more an illustration of Nordic black metal’s sometime lunacy. The music is furious, the words indecipherable, and the album was delayed due to the inconvenience of self-professed Satanist guitarist Øystein ‘Euronymous’ Aarsethbeing murdered by bassist Varg ‘Count Grishnackh’ Vikernes, who was also convicted of arson. One of the most aptly named bands ever.

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About Long Live Vinyl

ISSUE 36 OF LONG LIVE VINYL IS NOW ON SALE! We’re turning it up to 11 this month, as Long Live Vinyl pays tribute to 50 years of Black Sabbath and the birth of heavy metal. Our cover story digs deep into the early years of Birmingham's kings of heavy rock, while we also pick out 40 essential metal albums from a genre that has twisted and evolved in multiple directions over the past half century. You’ll also want to strap yourself in as we join Iggy Pop on a debauched journey through the 1980s, and our packed features section bulges with interviews with the likes of Johnny Marr, Supergrass, Wire, Editors and Isobel Campbell. Our Classic Album feature takes a fond look at the record that emerged from the feuding egos of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young back in 1970, Deja Vu, and we sit down for a cuppa with one-of-a-kind cover artist Robert Crumb. If all that’s not enough, you’ll find the most comprehensive range of new album, reissue and hi-fi gear reviews anywhere on the newsstand. Long Live Vinyl is THE magazine for vinyl lovers…