- Vocals (usually male)
- Two guitarists – Lead and Rhythm
Performance and Arrangement:
- Powerful vocals usually delivered in a high register at a screaming level
- Guitars play riffs using Power chords (Root and Dominant chords)
- Soloing-fast and with a high degree of technical ability
- Pentatonic and blues scales used regularly for riffs and solos, also the prominent use of modal scales and chromaticism
- Driving rhythms called ‘Chugging’ used by the guitar, drums and bass.
- Keyboards are not used in a prominent / lead role
- Drum parts feature lots of cymbals and toms and can be very technical.
Technology and Production:
- Distortion and Valve amp sound create a huge guitar sound.
- Fuzz, Wah-Wah and Phaser are the main effects used
- Feedback and Finger Tapping techniques used
- Drums and bass create a thick and heavy sound
- Use of Large Reverbs
- Blues Music
- British Blues
- Prog Rock
- Psychedelic Rock
Heavy Rock is a loosely defined subgenre of rock music which has its earliest roots in mid-1960s garage rock, blues rock and psychedelic rock. It is typified by a heavy use of distorted electric guitars, bass guitar, drums, and often accompanied with pianos and keyboards.
Hard rock developed into a major form of popular music in the 1970s, with bands such as Led Zeppelin, The Who, Deep Purple, Aerosmith, AC/DC, and Van Halen, and reached a commercial peak in the mid to late 1980s. The glam metal of bands like Bon Jovi and Def Leppard and the rawer sounds of Guns N’ Roses followed up with great success in the later part of that decade, before losing popularity with the commercial success of grunge and later Britpop in the 1990s. Despite this, many post-grunge bands adopted a hard rock sound and in the 2000s there came a renewed interest in established bands, attempts at a revival, and new hard rock bands that emerged from the garage rock and post-punk revival scenes.
Hard rock is a form of loud, aggressive rock music. The electric guitar is often emphasised, used with distortion and other effects, both as a rhythm instrument using repetitive riffs with a varying degree of complexity, and as a solo lead instrument. Drumming characteristically focuses on driving rhythms, strong bass drum and a backbeat on snare, sometimes using cymbals for emphasis. The bass guitar works in conjunction with the drums, occasionally playing riffs, but usually providing a backing for the rhythm and lead guitars. Vocals are often growling, raspy, or involve screaming or wailing, sometimes in a high range, or even falsetto voice. Hard rock has sometimes been labelled cock rock for its emphasis on overt masculinity and sexuality and because it has historically been predominately performed and consumed by men: in the case of its audience, particularly white, working-class adolescents.
In the late 1960s the term heavy metal was used interchangeably with hard rock, but gradually began to be used to describe music played with even more volume and intensity. While hard rock maintained a bluesy rock and roll identity, including some swing in the back beat and riffs that tended to outline chord progressions in their hooks, heavy metal’s riffs often functioned as stand-alone melodies and had no swing in them. Heavy metal took on “darker” characteristics after Black Sabbath’s breakthrough at the beginning of the 1970s, and in the 1980s it developed a number of sub-genres, often termed extreme metal, some of which were influenced by hardcore punk, and which further differentiated the two styles. Despite this differentiation, hard rock and heavy metal have existed side by side, with bands frequently standing on the boundary of, or crossing between, the genres.
The roots of hard rock as well as heavy metal can be traced back to antecedents in the 1950s. In the early 1950s, electric blues musicians began experimenting with hard rock elements, including driving rhythms, distorted guitar solos, and power chords. This was most evident in the work of Memphis blues guitarists such as Joe Hill Louis, Willie Johnson, and particularly Pat Hare, who captured a “grittier, nastier, more ferocious electric guitar sound” on records such as James Cotton’s “Cotton Crop Blues” (1954). Another important antecedent is Link Wray’s instrumental hit “Rumble” in 1958, and also the instrumentals of Dick Dale, such as “Let’s Go Trippin'” released in 1961.
In the mid-1960s, American and in particular British rock bands began to modify rock and roll adding harder sounds, heavier guitar riffs, bombastic drumming, and louder vocals. Early forms of hard rock can be heard in The Kingsmen’s version of “Louie, Louie” (1963), which made it a garage rock standard, and the songs of rhythm and blues influenced British Invasion acts, including “You Really Got Me” by The Kinks (1964), “My Generation” by The Who (1965) and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (1965) by The Rolling Stones.
From the late 1960s it became common to divide mainstream rock music that emerged from psychedelia into soft and hard rock. Soft rock was often derived from folk rock, using acoustic instruments and putting more emphasis on melody and harmonies. In contrast, hard rock was most often derived from blues-rock and was played louder and with more intensity.
Blues-rock acts that pioneered the sound included Cream, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and The Jeff Beck Group. Cream, in songs like “I Feel Free” (1966) combined blues-rock with pop and psychedelia, particularly in the riffs and guitar solos of Eric Clapton. Jimi Hendrix produced a form of blues-influenced psychedelic rock, which combined elements of jazz, blues and rock and roll. From 1967 Jeff Beck brought lead guitar to new heights of technical virtuosity and moved blues-rock in the direction of heavy rock with his band, The Jeff Beck Group. Dave Davies of The Kinks, Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, Pete Townshend of The Who, Hendrix, Clapton and Beck all pioneered the use of new guitar effects like phasing, feedback and distortion. The Beatles began producing songs in the new hard rock style, trying to create a greater level of noise than The Who, from The Beatles (1968) (known as the “White Album”) onwards, beginning with “Helter Skelter”. Some critics have written about its “proto-metal roar”, but others have argued that “their attempts at the heavy style were without exception embarrassing”.
Groups that emerged from the American psychedelic scene about the same time included Iron Butterfly, MC5, Blue Cheer and Vanilla Fudge. San Francisco band Blue Cheer released a crude and distorted cover of Eddie Cochran’s classic “Summertime Blues”, from their 1968 debut album Vincebus Eruptum, that outlined much of the later hard rock and heavy metal sound. The same month, Steppenwolf released its self-titled debut album, including “Born to Be Wild”, which contained the first lyrical reference to heavy metal and helped popularise the style when it was used in the film Easy Rider (1969). Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (1968), with its 17-minute-long title track, using organs and with a lengthy drum solo, also prefigured later elements of the sound.
By the end of the decade a distinct genre of hard rock was emerging with bands like Led Zeppelin, who mixed the music of early rock bands with a more hard-edged form of blues rock and acid rock on their first two albums Led Zeppelin (1969) and Led Zeppelin II(1969), and Deep Purple, who achieved their commercial breakthrough with their fourth and distinctively heavier album, In Rock (1970). Also significant was Black Sabbath’s Paranoid (1970), which combined guitar riffs with dissonance and more explicit references to the occult and elements of Gothic horror. All three of these bands have been seen as pivotal in the development of heavy metal, but where metal further accentuated the intensity of the music, with bands like Judas Priest following Sabbath’s lead into territory that was often “darker and more menacing”, hard rock tended to continue to remain the more exuberant, good-time music.
In the early 1970s the Rolling Stones developed their hard rock sound with Exile on Main St. (1972). Initially receiving mixed reviews, according to critic Steve Erlewine it is now “generally regarded as the Rolling Stones’ finest album”. They continued to pursue the riff-heavy sound on albums including It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (1974) and Black and Blue (1976). Led Zeppelin began to mix elements of world and folk music into their hard rock from Led Zeppelin III (1970) and Led Zeppelin IV (1971). The latter included the track “Stairway to Heaven”, which would become the most played song in the history of album-oriented radio. Deep Purple continued to define hard rock, particularly with their album Machine Head (1972), which included the tracks “Highway Star” and “Smoke on the Water”. In 1975 guitarist Ritchie Blackmore left, going on to form Rainbow and after the break-up of the band the next year, vocalist David Coverdale formed Whitesnake. 1970 saw The Who release Live at Leeds, often seen as the archetypal hard rock live album, and the following year they released their highly acclaimed album Who’s Next, which mixed heavy rock with extensive use of synthesizers. Subsequent albums, including Quadrophenia (1973), built on this sound before Who Are You (1978), their last album before the death of pioneering rock drummer Keith Moon later that year.
The arrival of Scorpions from Germany marked the geographical expansion of the sub-genre. Australian-formed AC/DC, with a stripped back, riff heavy and abrasive style that also appealed to the punk generation, began to gain international attention from 1976, culminating in the release of their multi-platinum albums Let There Be Rock (1977) and Highway to Hell (1979). Also influenced by a punk ethos were heavy metal bands like Motörhead, while Judas Priest abandoned the remaining elements of the blues in their music, further differentiating the hard rock and heavy metal styles and helping to create the New Wave of British Heavy Metal which was pursued by bands like Iron Maiden,Saxon and Venom.
With the rise of disco in the US and punk rock in the UK, hard rock’s mainstream dominance was rivalled toward the later part of the decade. Disco appealed to a more diverse group of people and punk seemed to take over the rebellious role that hard rock once held. Early punk bands like The Ramones explicitly rebelled against the drum solos and extended guitar solos that characterised stadium rock, with almost all of their songs clocking in around two minutes with no guitar solos. However, new rock acts continued to emerge and record sales remained high into the 1980s.
In 1978, Van Halen emerged from the Los Angeles music scene with a sound based around the skills of lead guitarist Eddie Van Halen. He popularised a guitar‐playing technique of two‐handed hammer‐ons and pull‐offs called tapping, showcased on the song “Eruption” from the album Van Halen, which was highly influential in re‐establishing hard rock as a popular genre after the punk and disco explosion, while also redefining and elevating the role of electric guitar.
Glam metal era (1980s)
The opening years of the 1980s saw a number of changes in personnel and direction of established hard rock acts, including the deaths of Bon Scott, the lead singer of AC/DC, and John Bonham, drummer with Led Zeppelin. Zeppelin broke up almost immediately, but AC/DC recorded the album Back in Black (1980) with their new lead singer, Brian Johnson. It became the fifth-highest-selling album of all time in the US and the second-highest-selling album in the world. Black Sabbath had split with original singer Ozzy Osbourne in 1979 and replaced him with Ronnie James Dio, formerly of Rainbow, giving the band a new sound and a period of creativity and popularity beginning with Heaven and Hell (1980). Osbourne embarked on a solo career with Blizzard of Ozz(1980), featuring American guitarist Randy Rhoads. Some bands, such as Queen, moved away from their hard rock roots and more towards pop rock, while others, including Rush with Moving Pictures (1981), began to return to a hard rock sound. The creation of thrash metal, which mixed heavy metal with elements of hardcore punk from about 1982, particularly by Metallica, Anthrax,Megadeth and Slayer, helped to create extreme metal and further remove the style from hard rock, although a number of these bands or their members would continue to record some songs closer to a hard rock sound.
Often categorised with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, in 1981 Def Leppard released their second album High ‘n’ Dry, mixing glam-rock with heavy metal, and helping to define the sound of hard rock for the decade. The follow-up Pyromania (1983), reached number two on the American charts and the singles “Photograph”, “Rock of Ages” and “Foolin'”, helped by the emergence of MTV, all reached the Top 40. It was widely emulated, particularly by the emerging Californian glam metal scene. This was followed by US acts like Mötley Crüe, with their albums Too Fast for Love (1981) and Shout at the Devil (1983) and, as the style grew, the arrival of bands such as Ratt, White Lion, Twisted Sister and Quiet Riot. Quiet Riot’s album Metal Health (1983) was the first glam metal album, and arguably the first heavy metal album of any kind, to reach number one in the Billboard music charts and helped open the doors for mainstream success by subsequent bands.
Bon Jovi’s third album, Slippery When Wet (1986), mixed hard rock with a pop sensitivity and spent a total of 8 weeks at the top of the Billboard 200 album chart, selling 12 million copies in the US while becoming the first hard rock album to spawn three top 10 singles — two of which reached number one. The album has been credited with widening the audiences for the genre, particularly by appealing to women as well as the traditional male dominated audience, and opening the door to MTV and commercial success for other bands at the end of the decade.
Grunge and Britpop (1990s)
Hard rock entered the 1990s as one of the dominant forms of commercial music. The multi-platinum releases of AC/DC’s The Razors Edge (1990), Guns N’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II (both in 1991), Ozzy Osbourne’s No More Tears (1991), and Van Halen’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991) showcased this popularity. Additionally, The Black Crowes released their debut album, Shake Your Money Maker (1990), which contained a bluesy classic rock sound and sold five million copies. In 1992, Def Leppard followed up 1987’s Hysteria with Adrenalize, which went multi-platinum, spawned four Top 40 singles and held the number one spot on the US album chart for five weeks.
While these few hard rock bands managed to maintain success and popularity in the early part of the decade, alternative forms of hard rock achieved mainstream success in the form of grunge in the US and Britpop in the UK. This was particularly evident after the success of Nirvana’s Nevermind (1991), which combined elements of hardcore punk and heavy metal into a “dirty” sound that made use of heavy guitar distortion, fuzz and feedback, along with darker lyrical themes than their “hair band” predecessors. Although most grunge bands had a sound that sharply contrasted mainstream hard rock, a minority, including Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Mother Love Bone and Soundgarden, were more strongly influenced by 1970s and 1980s rock and metal, while Stone Temple Pilots managed to turn alternative rock into a form of stadium rock. However, all grunge bands shunned the macho, anthemic and fashion-focused aesthetics particularly associated with glam metal. In Britain, Oasis were unusual among the Britpop bands of the mid-1990s in incorporating a hard rock sound.
In the new commercial climate glam metal bands like Europe, Ratt, White Lion and Cinderella broke up, Whitesnake went on hiatus in 1991, and while many of these bands would re-unite again in the late 1990s or early 2000s, they never reached the commercial success they saw in the 1980s or early 1990s. Other bands such as Mötley Crüe and Poison saw personnel changes which impacted those bands’ commercial viability during the decade. In 1995 Van Halen released Balance, a multi-platinum seller that would be the band’s last with Sammy Hagar on vocals. In 1996 David Lee Roth returned briefly and his replacement, former Extreme singer Gary Cherone, was fired soon after the release of the commercially unsuccessful 1998 album Van Halen III and Van Halen would not tour or record again until 2004. Guns N’ Roses’ original lineup was whittled away throughout the decade. Drummer Steven Adler was fired in 1990, guitarist Izzy Stradlin left in late 1991 after recording Use Your Illusion I and II with the band. Tensions between the other band members and lead singer Axl Rose continued after the release of the 1993 covers album The Spaghetti Incident? Guitarist Slash left in 1996, followed by bassist Duff McKagan in 1997. Axl Rose, the only original member, worked with a constantly changing lineup in recording an album that would take over fifteen years to complete.
Heavy Rock continues to grow and develop through the early 2000’s to present day with a lot of the original groups remaining influential and in some cases still touring and producing new material.
Resources and Sources:
- Hard Rock wiki – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_rock
- Heavy Metal wiki – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heavy_metal_music
- The evolution of rock music – http://rock.about.com/od/rockmusic101/a/RockHistory.htm
- Heavy Rock Overview – http://www.chrispettitt.com/ASHeavyRock.htm
- Edexcel AS Music Tech focus styles 2009/10: reggae and rock
Genre Review Essay question
In your own words describe the development of Heavy Rock and take into account the key features discovered in this lesson. For this short essay there is a maximum of 15 marks to be attained. Your writing should be well structures and approximately 150 words in length.
- Fingerprints – Give a mark for each fingerprint that has been described IN DETAIL WITH EXAMPLE (maximum of 5 marks)
- The Development of the style – Give a mark for each detailed reference made to the development of the style (Maximum of 5)
- Give a mark for referencing an Artist, Song or Album (Maximum of 3 marks)
- Written Communication – Is the essay well written and structured (Maximum of 2 marks)