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Hard rock

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Hard rock

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Hard Rock
Stylistic origins: Rock and roll, Blues-Rock, Psychedelic Rock
Cultural origins: 1960s, United Kingdom
Typical instruments: Guitar - Bass - Drums
Mainstream popularity: Popular among teenagers in 1970s, 1980s, 1990s. The maximum peak of mainstream popularity was reached in 1980s.
Derivative forms: Alternative rock - Heavy metal - Punk rock
Alternative rock - Heavy metal - Punk rock - Grunge
Other topics
Backbeat - Rock opera - Rock band - Performers - Rock anthem - Hall of Fame - Samples - Social impact

Hard rock is a form of rock and roll music which finds its closest roots in early 1960s garage rock and in Jimi Hendrix's psychedelic rock. It is typified by a heavy use of distorted electric guitar, bass guitar and drums. The term "hard rock" is often used as an umbrella term for genres such as punk, grunge, industrial rock and heavy metal, in order to distinguish them from softer, more radio friendly pop rock music.



Hard rock is a variation of rock and roll and is strongly influenced by blues music; in fact, the most frequently used scale in hard rock is the pentatonic, which is a typical blues scale. However, unlike traditional rock and roll, which takes elements of the "old" blues, hard rock borrows elements of the so-called British blues, a style of blues played with more modern instruments such as electric guitars, drums and electric bass.

The term hard rock is often applied to many styles of rock, their only common feature being that they deviate from pop rock, though this is generally incorrect. Two such examples are punk rock and grunge. Punk rock uses a faster tempo and fewer riffs (also known as power chords, invented by the pioneer Link Wray). Grunge can be classified as being much more extreme than hard rock.

The predominant instrument in hard rock is the electric guitar. Virtuoso guitarists are very prevalent in hard rock, examples of which include Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple and Rainbow, and Eddie Van Halen of Van Halen. Drums are also a basis of hard rock because they sustain the rhythm of the music, and create an energetic drive that keeps the music flowing.

Hard Rock or Heavy Metal?

During the 1970s hard rock spawned a new genre of music, known as heavy metal. This genre has created a controversial topic that appears when discussing 1970s hard rock groups. The debates are often centred around whether the bands are "hard rock or heavy metal groups".

The two genres have some crossover for example; the pioneers of heavy metal, such as Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin are often considered both "Heavy Metal" and "Hard Rock"... whereas, bands such as AC/DC, Aerosmith and Kiss, are normally referred to as just "Hard Rock" and not "Heavy Metal".

To further the confusion, the most popular heavy metal subgenre of the 1980s; Glam metal, was known to take influence from both the pioneering heavy metal acts and other Hard rock groups, such as Kiss, AC/DC and Aerosmith amongst other things. Both Kiss and Aerosmith subsequently went on to dabble in Glam metal stylings..


Early days (1960s)

One of the major influences in hard rock is undoubtedly Blues music, especially that brand of blues that met rock and roll in the 1960s: it is often called British blues, because this meeting happened in United Kingdom.

Led Zeppelin, the first album Led Zeppelin, the first album

British rockers like The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Who and The Kinks modified rock and roll; adding to the standard genre harder sounds, heavy guitar riffs, often bombastic drumming and harder vocals: they created the basis for hard rock. Even The Beatles, known for sweet sounds, love songs and quiet atmospheres, released a primordial hard rock album called The White Album.

At the same time, guitarist Jimi Hendrix produced a particular kind of blues known as Psychedelic rock, which combined elements of jazz, blues and rock and roll creating a unique genre. Also, he was one of the first guitarists to experiment new guitar effects like phasing, feedback and distortion. Another important group in the Blues-rock is Cream (especially the guitarist, Eric Clapton).

Hard rock came into existence when British groups of late 1960s like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin mixed the music of early British rockers with a particular kind of Blues-rock, typified by an aggressive approach to the blues. Led Zeppelin's eponymous first album, released in 1969, is a good example of heavy blues-rock which represents the true beginning of the hard rock genre.

Also Deep Purple showed up in the hard rock scene with the albums Shades of Deep Purple, The Book of Taliesyn, Deep Purple. Together with Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple are considered the true "masters" of hard rock.

The First Era (1970s)

Machine Head, one of the quintessential hard rock/heavy metal albums Machine Head, one of the quintessential hard rock/heavy metal albums

In the 1970s, hard rock finally got a true identity.

Led Zeppelin's third album, Led Zeppelin III was more progressive rock-oriented than the second, but the heavy connotations of their music still remained. So, they received several critics from detractors of hard rock, who considered it a senseless music. Anyway, this didn't stop the expansion of hard rock: young boys liked it a lot, seeing it as a form of rebellion against the fair and quiet music of their fathers.

In 1970 another important group from UK, Black Sabbath, published what is considered the first heavy metal album, titled Paranoid. Black Sabbath's music was revolutionary even in hard rock: it was typified by the darkest lyrics ever written, hard riffs and a heavy atmosphere. Black Sabbath transformed the current hard rock into an heavier genre, creating a primordial kind of heavy metal.

In 1972 Deep Purple published their most famous album titled Machine Head which contains their most famous song, "Smoke On The Water".

Machine Head continued Deep Purple's transformation of hard rock, and it's considered along with Paranoid one of the first proto-metal albums. In particular, the song "Highway Star" is considered the first Speed Metal song in the history (Speed Metal is the progenitor of the more extreme Thrash Metal). Anyway, Deep Purple's music is very different from Black Sabbath's, so Deep Purple are still considered an hard rock group, not a metal group.

From 1973, hard rock evolved to another stadium. New artists such as Queen, KISS and Aerosmith introduced heavier elements in the genre, which from this point on lost the blues influences to become more heavy metal-oriented. Aerosmith and Queen published their respective eponymous debut albums, which showed the new evolution of hard rock. Even Led Zeppelin took this direction with the album Houses of the Holy.

Differently from the past, from this moment on every group created its own style: Aerosmith, Queen and KISS moved on a style that evolved in the 1980s into the so-called Glam Rock, one of the most popular rock subgenres; on the contrary, the proto-metal frontier, formed by Judas Priest, Rainbow and Van Halen, took a more "alternative" direction.

Highway to Hell, one of the most popular hard rock albums Highway to Hell, one of the most popular hard rock albums

Judas Priest introduced a new element in the genre, the dual rhythm, where two guitarists (instead of the usual single guitarist) play the rhythmic riffs: this element would become common in heavy metal. Judas Priest would go to become one of the major influences on Thrash Metal and Power Metal.

Rainbow, formed by the former guitarist of Deep Purple, Ritchie Blackmore, created the basis for power metal together with Judas Priest, especially thanks to Ritchie Blackmore's great technique. Meanwhile, Black Sabbath took off the darkness of the beginning with albums such as Technical Ecstasy, following the heavy metal direction of Judas Priest and Rainbow.

Another important group in the hard rock scene, Van Halen, showed up in 1978. Van Halen's music, different from KISS, Aerosmith and Queen, was based mostly on the guitar skills of Eddie Van Halen, the lead guitarist. The song "Eruption" from the album Van Halen demonstrated Eddie Van Halen's technique and was very influential.

In 1979, the differences between the classical hard rock movement and the rising heavy metal movement was highlighted when the Australian band AC/DC, after three Australian only albums, published their first international album titled Highway to Hell. Despite the current heavy metal direction, AC/DC's music is based mostly on the rhythm & blues and the early 1970s hard rock. On the other side, the British band Motörhead put on the basis for the rise of Thrash Metal with the album Overkill.

The year closed with Ozzy Osbourne's firing from Black Sabbath due to his alcohol and drugs problems. Ronnie James Dio, vocalist of Rainbow, came to replace him.

The Second Era (1980s)

Back in Black, another classic by the Australian band AC/DC Back in Black, another classic by the Australian band AC/DC

In the 1980s a new wave of rockers pushed the envelope of the old frontier. Heavy metal got a separate identity from hard rock.

In 1980 Led Zeppelin disbanded because of the tragic death of drummer John Bonham who choked on his own vomit after a binge of heavy drinking. Bon Scott, the lead singer of AC/DC had also died from acute alcohol poisoning earlier that year. With this and the disbanding of Zeppelin, the first wave of "classic" rock bands ended. AC/DC still remained on the scene, and published the album Back in Black, which is the second biggest selling album of all time: this album is probably the most influential one of the 1980s for later rockers. By selling so much, AC/DC proved to the public that hard rock could sell and made possible the rise of a radio-friendly hard rock and heavy metal. Van Halen too released successuful albums such as Van Halen II and Women and Children First, which opened the road for what later became Glam Metal.

On the other side, Iron Maiden, Diamond Head, Angel Witch, Motörhead and a now solo Ozzy Osbourne kickstarted a surge of interest in heavy Metal. Iron Maiden and Angel Witch's music took great influences from Black Sabbath's album Paranoid: dark sounds, heavy riffs and dark lyrics. Their style also featured fantasy-based elements, which differenced them from Black Sabbath's classic metal: together with Judas Priest, they are considered to be the mainstays of New Wave of British Heavy Metal.

In 1981 the American band Mötley Crüe released a massively influential album called Too Fast For Love, which set the basis for the rising genre Glam Metal. A year later the genre exploded, especially thanks to Twisted Sister and Quiet Riot: Twisted Sister's Under The Blade is considered one of the best Classic metal albums, and Quiet Riot's Metal Health is the first album ever which reached #1 in the Billboard United States chart.On the other side of the ocean, Iron Maiden's The Number of the Beast reached #1 in United Kingdom charts.

Def Leppard, a sheffield-based post-punk band showed up in the scene with the album Pyromania, which reached #2 in the American charts: Their music was was a mix of glam rock, heavy metal, classic rock and Album Oriented Rock, which influenced many 80s hard rock and glam rock bands.

Shout At The Devil by Mötley Crüe Shout At The Devil by Mötley Crüe

In 1983 Mötley Crüe released their most famous album, Shout at the Devil, which became a huge hit; for this reason the album is often considered to be "The Breakthrough Metal album". 1984 was a key year. KISS returned on the scene unmasked with the album Animalize: with their unmasking, they officially entered in the glam metal movement. Van Halen's album 1984 became a huge success, hitting #2 on Billboard album charts; in particular, the song "Jump" hit #1 in the single chart and is considered one of the most popular rock songs ever written. Judas Priest's Defenders of the Faith achieved RIAA Gold and Platinum certifications. Other important acts in 1984's glam scene were Ratt and W.A.S.P..

At the same time, Yngwie J. Malmsteen and Steve Vai, two virtuoso guitarists, released their respective debut albums Rising Force and Flex-Able. Their unique style didn't feature vocals, with both albums showcasing the guitar-playing talents of the artists instead; this was the birth of Instrumental Rock. There were differences between Malmsteen and Vai; while Malmsteen's music was greatly influcenced by classical music, Vai was more of a hard rock purist.

Hysteria, successful album by Def Leppard Hysteria, successful album by Def Leppard

Meanwhile, the thrash metal frontier was about to become more "extreme" than ever: in 1985 Slayer's album Hell Awaits, which preceded their famous Reign in Blood, provided the basis for the rise of death metal. Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth and Metallica are often called the Big Four of Thrash.

In the same year Aerosmith returned on the scene with the album Done With Mirrors.

In 1986 80s hard rock finally went mainstream. The Swedish band Europe released The Final Countdown, maybe the most popular and radio-friendly album together with Van Halen's 1984. In particular, the title track "The Final Countdown" became a huge success, hitting number 1 in 26 countries. On the thrash side, Metallica and Megadeth released two landmark albums, Master of Puppets and Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?, which became notable alternatives to the mainstream. In the same year the virtuoso guitarist Joe Satriani, teacher and great friend of Steve Vai, released his first full album, Not of This Earth. True success for him arrived a year later, with the release of Surfing with the Alien, a milestone in the history of Instrumental Rock.

1987 was another big year. The most notable successes in the charts were Appetite For Destruction by Guns N' Roses, Hysteria by Def Leppard, which hit #1 in Billboard album chart, and Mötley Crüe's Girls, Girls, Girls Thrash metal was strongly transformed in something called Groove Metal, which would later evolve, together with Rage Against the Machine's music, into the Nu Metal genre, by groups such as Napalm Death, whose debut was in 1987 with the album Scum. In the same year the Seattle band Soundgarden showed up with the EP Screaming Life, giving rise to yet another sub-genre, Grunge.

The Third Era (1990s)

Nevermind, successful album by Nirvana Nevermind, successful album by Nirvana

The 1990s was an eventful and often puzzling era for hard rock. The early 90s were marked by the rise of Grunge bands in Seattle, who provided one of the earliest scenes of Alternative Rock. Some of these bands met with much commercial success, such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains. While their success was often pitched in the media as a Punk Rock reaction to Arena Rock and Hair Metal, the bands were hardly antagonistic towards the heavy metal genre in general; Soundgarden and Nirvana were influenced by much 70s and 80s metal, while Alice in Chains was arguably a metal band themselves (often touring with Thrash Metal artists). Several other notable bands included The Screaming Trees, Mother Love Bone, Mudhoney, and a few non-Seattle bands such as Stone Temple Pilots (who were very popular with fans but not with critics).

As the popularity of Thrash Metal artists such as Metallica and Slayer continued from the 80s into the 90s, some other bands had begun to fuse metal with a range of eclectic influences. These bands came to be known as Alternative Metal artists, another subset of alternative rock. Some, such as Primus and Red Hot Chili Peppers fused Funk with metal styles. Tool was a popular band, drawing from early progressive acts such as King Crimson for influence. Jane's Addiction adopted a somewhat bohemian aesthetic, while Faith No More referenced many genres ranging from Rap to Soul. The Deftones and Helmet were also popular, especially among skateboarders. With the rise of Pantera the original Thrash Metal genre was transformed into Groove metal, a subgenre which included Sepultura and Napalm Death and would later evolve into Nu Metal. This new genre showed up with Korn's eponymous debut album in 1994.

Sublime was a Skacore band, whose lead singer Brad Nowell died of a heroin overdose just before their debut album met with much popularity. Their music mixed Jamaican Ska and Reggae influences with Nirvana-influenced rock as well as some Rap production styles (Sublime would often use a sampler, sometimes even sequencing their drum patterns with samples).

The Smashing Pumpkins was another band of the mid 1990s, whose albums Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness sold many millions of copies.

Punk Rock went through several interesting phases in the 1990s, while many Epitaph Records artists such as Rancid, NOFX, Bad Religion, and The Offspring met with some success. The late 1990s brought the rise of Emo, which emerged mostly from the New Jersey punk rock scene with bands such as Saves the Day and Midtown. Although many of these emo bands emerged from legitimate punk rock scenes, they grew to be despised by veteran fans of punk who considered the genre to be fake.

Stoner Rock



See also

Rock and roll | Rock genres
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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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