Heavy metal is a form of music characterised by aggressive, driving rhythms and highly amplified distorted guitars, generally with grandiose lyrics and virtuosic instrumentation. Heavy metal is a development of blues, blues rock, rock and prog rock. Its origins lie in the hard rock bands who between 1967 and 1974 took blues and rock and created a hybrid with a heavy, guitar-and-drums-centered sound. Heavy metal had its peak popularity in the 1980s, during which many of the now existing subgenres first evolved. Although not as commercially successful as it was then, heavy metal still has a large world-wide following of fans known by terms like metalheads and headbangers.
The origin of the term heavy metal is uncertain. An early use of the term was by counter-culture writer William S. Burroughs. In his 1962 novel The Soft Machine, he introduces the character “Uranian Willy, the Heavy Metal Kid”. His next novel in 1964 Nova Express, develops this theme further, heavy metal being a metaphor for addictive drugs.
The first use of the term “heavy metal” in a song lyric is the words “heavy metal thunder” in the 1968 Steppenwolf song “Born to be Wild” (Walser 1993, p. 8):
“I like smoke and lightning
Heavy metal thunder
Racin’ with the wind
And the feelin’ that I’m under”