The Origins of Metal Music: What Is the First Metal Song?

by Patria

Metal music, with its thunderous riffs and powerful vocals, has been a driving force in the world of music for decades. But where did it all begin? What is the first metal song that laid the foundation for this genre’s relentless evolution? In this comprehensive exploration, we delve into the depths of musical history to uncover the birth of metal music. Metal Music enthusiasts and curious music lovers alike, fasten your seatbelts for a journey through time and sound.

The Birth of a Genre: Metal Music Emerges

Metal music, often simply referred to as “metal,” is a genre characterized by its heavy sound, aggressive guitar work, and strong, often theatrical, vocal performances. To understand the origins of the first metal song, we must first trace the roots of metal music back to its beginnings.

Precursors to Metal: Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll

Before the term “metal” was even coined, the foundations were being laid in the blues and rock ‘n’ roll genres. These early influences can be heard in the first metal songs that would later emerge. The blues, with its soulful, emotive guitar playing and raw, heartfelt lyrics, provided the emotional depth that would become a hallmark of metal music.

Rock ‘n’ roll, on the other hand, brought the energy and rebellious spirit that would define the genre. Artists like Chuck Berry and Little Richard paved the way for a new kind of music that was louder, more aggressive, and ultimately, the precursor to metal music.

The Birth of Metal: “Helter Skelter” by The Beatles

In 1968, a song emerged that many consider to be the first true metal music track: “Helter Skelter” by The Beatles. While The Beatles were primarily known for their pop music, “Helter Skelter” was a departure from their usual sound. This song is often cited as a pioneering moment in the development of metal music due to its heavy guitar riffs and aggressive vocal delivery.

“Helter Skelter” demonstrated that even the most mainstream of bands could tap into the primal energy of metal. It set a precedent for artists to experiment with the boundaries of their own sound, paving the way for the genre’s future evolution.

The Emergence of Hard Rock: Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple

As the 1960s transitioned into the 1970s, metal music began to take on a more distinct identity. Bands like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple emerged as pioneers of what would later be known as “hard rock.” These bands cranked up the volume and introduced elements like extended guitar solos, complex drumming, and powerful vocals.

Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” are prime examples of this transitional period in metal music history. These songs, characterized by their heavy guitar riffs and bluesy undertones, laid the groundwork for the harder, darker sound that metal would eventually embrace.

The Rise of Black Sabbath: A New Era Begins

When discussing the birth of metal music, one name that inevitably comes up is Black Sabbath. In 1970, Black Sabbath released their self-titled debut album, which marked a significant turning point in the evolution of the genre. Songs like “Black Sabbath” and “The Wizard” featured haunting, ominous riffs that were unlike anything heard before.

Black Sabbath’s music was heavier, darker, and more sinister than anything that had come before it. This marked the birth of a new subgenre: “heavy metal.” The band’s pioneering sound laid the foundation for the genre’s future development and solidified their place in the annals of metal music history.

Deepening the Roots: Progressive and Symphonic Elements

In the early 1970s, metal music continued to evolve with bands like Uriah Heep and Emerson, Lake & Palmer incorporating progressive and symphonic elements into their sound. These bands expanded the boundaries of metal, introducing complex arrangements, keyboard-driven compositions, and epic song structures.

Progressive metal and symphonic metal became subgenres that added depth and complexity to the genre. Bands like Iron Maiden, with their intricate guitar harmonies, and Queensrÿche, with their conceptual albums, further pushed the boundaries of what metal music could be.

The New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM)

The late 1970s and early 1980s saw the emergence of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM), a movement that revitalized metal music and brought it to a new generation of fans. Bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Motorhead became iconic figures in the genre, and their influence is still felt in metal music today.

Iron Maiden’s “Run to the Hills” and Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law” are standout tracks from this era. These songs combined powerful vocals with blistering guitar solos and anthemic choruses, defining the sound of metal music for years to come.

Thrash Metal: The Genre Gains Speed

The early 1980s also gave birth to thrash metal, a subgenre known for its breakneck speed, aggressive guitar riffs, and socially conscious lyrics. Bands like Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth led the charge, and their impact on metal music cannot be overstated.

Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” and Slayer’s “Angel of Death” are quintessential thrash metal songs that set a new standard for intensity in metal music. Thrash metal brought a level of aggression and technical prowess that appealed to a new generation of fans and pushed the boundaries of the genre.

Glam Metal and the 1980s Metal Scene

While thrash metal was gaining momentum, the 1980s also saw the rise of glam metal, a subgenre known for its flashy stage presence and catchy, melodic songs. Bands like Poison, Motley Crue, and Def Leppard dominated the charts with their brand of metal music.

“Glam metal” might seem like an oxymoron, given the genre’s penchant for makeup and hairspray, but it was undeniably a significant part of metal music history. Songs like Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” showcased the more commercial side of metal music, appealing to a wide audience.

The 1990s: Diversity in Metal Music

The 1990s brought a wave of diversity to metal music. Subgenres like grunge and alternative metal gained popularity, with bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden incorporating heavy elements into their music. This era also saw the emergence of nu-metal, characterized by bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit, who blended metal with hip-hop and alternative rock influences.

Simultaneously, European bands like Sepultura and Pantera pushed the boundaries of groove metal, infusing their music with tribal rhythms and aggressive guitar work. Metal music was evolving in various directions, with each subgenre contributing to its rich tapestry.

The New Millennium: Modern Metal

As we entered the 21st century, metal music continued to evolve and diversify. Modern metal bands like Slipknot, System of a Down, and Tool brought their unique styles to the forefront. These bands incorporated elements of experimental, progressive, and alternative music into their sound, pushing the boundaries of what metal music could be.

Slipknot’s “Duality” and System of a Down’s “Chop Suey!” are standout examples of this era’s contribution to metal music. These songs showcased the genre’s ability to remain relevant and innovative in the face of changing musical landscapes.


In our quest to uncover the first metal song, we’ve traversed through decades of musical history. From the blues and rock ‘n’ roll roots to the emergence of heavy metal, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, thrash metal, and the diversity of the 1990s and beyond, metal music has undergone a remarkable transformation.

While pinpointing the absolute “first” metal song is a challenging endeavor due to the genre’s gradual evolution, “Helter Skelter” by The Beatles, Black Sabbath’s early work, and the contributions of countless other bands have collectively shaped the genre we know today. Metal music is a testament to the power of musical innovation, rebellion, and a deep-seated desire to push the boundaries of what is possible in the world of sound.

As we celebrate the rich history of metal music, we also anticipate its future. The genre continues to evolve, welcoming new generations of artists who will undoubtedly add their own unique flavor to the ever-expanding universe of metal. So, whether you’re a die-hard fan or a newcomer to the world of metal music, one thing is clear: the journey is far from over, and the first metal song is just one chapter in an epic saga of sonic exploration.

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