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Classic metal

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Classic metal

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Classic metal
Stylistic origins: Classic rock, Punk rock
Cultural origins: Early 1980s, United States
Typical instruments: Electric guitar - Bass guitar - Drums
Mainstream popularity: Medium to Large
Other topics
Timeline of heavy metal

Classic metal is a term used to refer to heavy metal bands from any era, playing metal similar to what is viewed by fans as the original sound of the genre from when artists broke through to major mainstream success. Bands of the classic metal era are typically characterized by thumping fast basslines, fast, but less heavy riffs, extended lead guitar solos, high pitched vocals and anthemic choruses. Its peak period was the early to mid 1980s and covered such genres as glam metal, hard rock and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.

Significant artists include AC/DC, Dokken, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Manowar, Motörhead, Saxon, Twisted Sister and Van Halen.



Classic metal artists were heavily influenced by classic rock artists and other metal artists of the same period. Artists like Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, KISS, Deep Purple, Van Halen, U.F.O. and Led Zeppelin were seminal influences. AC/DC are considered by some as the biggest influence to the genre, apart from being a part of Classic Metal itself, with the vocal style and guitarwork of the band considered highly influential.

Classic Metal was also influenced by 70s Punk Rock although the punk influences diminished over time. For example, Iron Maiden had many punk elements in their first two albums but then moved away from Punk Rock to embrace and define New Wave of British Heavy Metal.

Classic Metal enjoyed great worldwide success. Iron Maiden sold in excess of 58 million albums during the 80s and Dokken sold more than 16 million in the US alone. Europe's landmark album The Final Countdown sold over 7 million copies worldwide, while Scorpions and Judas Priest sold out big arenas around the world. Some Classic Metal bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest still release successful new albums and tour world wide to this day. This is a testament to the influence that the bands still exert and their ability to keep old fans interested and attract new ones.

Classic Metal bands influenced many Metal genres including Glam Metal, Thrash Metal, and Power Metal. Classic Metal bands were not as heavy and had a greater sense of melody than the Thrash Metal bands such as Metallica, Anthrax and Morbid Angel that they influenced. Often considered by some fans as the 'purest' form of Metal, Classic Metal was popular for its combination of melody and aggression.


Classic metal as a cross-genre reference doesnt have a distinctive style. The reason why classic metal is sometimes referred to as 1980s metal or simply as heavy metal is because, its style perfectly describes popular metal music of the first half of the 1980s decade. Classic metal evolved from the earlier genres of rock n roll like Hard rock and Glam rock, during the late 70s. One of the most important and innovative concepts of classic metal was the use of the double lead guitar pioneered by classic metal bands like Scorpions and Judas Priest. And although, this concept was sparingly used by earlier hard rock bands like Uriah Heep and U.F.O., it was wholly developed as a heavy metal element during the classic metal era. This concept of dual lead guitars would reach more profound heights during the late 1980s when other bands like Megadeth and Slayer would also use it. Another musical concept that evolved during the Classic metal era was that of the supposedly galloping basslines. Although, this bass style had its inception into music in the earlier Rock n roll era, it became highly evident in the Classic metal era, and was extensively used by Iron Maiden's Steve Harris, Dokken's Jeff Pilson and others.

Lyrical theme

Classic metal is lyrically diverse, with a wide variety of lyrical themes being written by the bands without a centralised prerequisite such as glam metal's lyrics about love, sex, girls, and metal, thrash metal's heavy political and war themes, and power metal's high fantasy themed imagery. The themes in classic metal include: the occult, love, fun-based party songs, fantasy, social themes, and war themes. A single band can write songs based on various themes. For instance, Judas Priest writes songs on party (Livin' after midnight) as well as social themes (Victim Of Changes). This however is attributed due to the varying genres that make up the term classical metal.


Classic metal's position as a popular time in metal music's history withered away in the late 1980s, especially in the 1987-1989 period. At this time newer bands emerged to extend thrash metal and glam metal, with each genre taking a quite different approach to their music. Gradually, public interest drifted away from classic metal onto the newer genres. Due to the hierarchy of classic metal spliting into individual parts and drifting away from each other, many classic metal bands came to their end at this time. Some joined one of the newely founded or extended genres, (Twisted Sister, Quiet Riot, Motörhead), while some bands experimented with aspects of other genres (Skid Row, W.A.S.P., Scorpions), leaving others to carry on with typcial classic metal stylings (Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Europe, Dokken, Dio).

Revival and influence

Although classic metal went into regression as a commercially viable era in the late 90s, there has been several bands who have tried to revive the feeling of the era, or alternativly have incorperated elements of classic metal into their music. Many bands, who came after the classic metal era had ended, played music akin to one genre, with heavy influence from classic metal. White Lion, Warrior Soul, Stratovarius, Warrant, and Slayer being prominent among them.

Important artists

Black Sabbath
Blue Oyster Cult
Alice Cooper
Deep Purple
Def Leppard
Iron Maiden
Judas Priest
Motley Crue
Quiet Riot
Yngwie J. Malmsteen's Rising Force
Twisted Sister

Related genres

See also

External links

Heavy metal
Black metal - Death metal - Doom metal - Folk metal - Glam metal - Gothic metal - Grindcore - Industrial metal - Neo-classical metal - Power metal - Progressive metal - Symphonic metal - Thrash metal
Other topics
Fashion - History

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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