BAY CITY, Mich. -- The first National Metal Day was declared on November 11th, 2011. The significance of the date is an homage to the metal mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap and the famous scene in which fictional guitarist, Nigel Tufnel, proudly displays a set of amplifiers with volume knobs that "go to 11" instead of the usual 10, allowing the band to kick it one notch higher should the occasion call for it. Since then, the day has become a celebration of all things metal - from the mythic themes that lend to its signature sound and unique culture, to the artists that have made it more of a religion than a musical genre.
We love all kinds of music here at Graff Bay City, and metal deserves recognition for its contributions to the artform as much as any other genre. As National Metal Day draws near, we give you ten of the most influential artists in service to the metal! Rock on!
1. BLACK SABBATH
Kicking off our list is the band credited by many as the originators of metal - or at least one of the genre's earliest pioneers. With groundbreaking records such as Paranoid (1970), which Time Magazine called "the birthplace of heavy metal", Black Sabbath helped to shape the dark and massive sound that we know today. Ask virtually any metal musician young or old to list their top five influences, and you can bet Black Sabbath is always one of them.
2. JUDAS PRIEST
There's metal that's loud and aggressive. Then there's metal that's melodic and rhapsodic. For the latter, you can thank Judas Priest. With complex guitar passages, poetic lyrics, and frontman Rob Halford's killer vocal range, they would be extremely influential in shaping the sound of later melodic and progressive metal acts.
Ronnie James Dio may have left our world eight years ago, but his legacy and influence on the metal genre live on forever. When he formed his namesake band in 1982, Dio was already a veteran of the music business lending his larger than life vocals to acts such as Rainbow and even Black Sabbath. Between his commanding showmanship, powerful voice, and mythical lyrics - Dio was more than a man, but an icon. As Rolling Stone said of him following his death: "What always stood out was Dio's raging compassion for the lost rock & roll children in his audience. Dio never pretended to be one of the kids — he sang as an adult assuring us that we weren't alone in our suffering, and someday we might even be proud of conquering it."
Dio is also responsible for the hand signal known universally throughout the metal culture, known as the "devil horns". Despite its name, the signal is actually not evil at all - but rather protection against it. Dio learned it from his Italian grandmother, whose cultural superstition uses it to "blind" the Devil by poking him in the eyes with the index and little fingers, thus making oneself invisible to him.
4. WHITE ZOMBIE
Named after what is considered the very first zombie movie, White Zombie is responsible for pioneering the groove metal subgenre and paving the way for the nu metal movement of the 1990s which included acts such as Korn and Deftones. White Zombie also ushered in a new era of inclusion for women in metal, as bassist Sean Yseult was simply seen as just another member of the band, rather than singled out as a female in a largely male-dominated genre.
The first thrash metal band to record an album, Allmusic says of Metallica: "They expanded the limits of thrash, using speed and volume not for their own sake, but to enhance their intricately structured compositions", and called the band "easily the best, most influential heavy metal band of the '80s, responsible for bringing the music back to Earth".
Sweden's heavy grip and influence on metal culture need no introduction, and Opeth masterfully represents this legacy. Since their inception in 1989, they have fused a unique blend of progressive, folk, blues, and jazz elements with death metal more than any other band before them - alongside frontman Mikael Akerfeldt's impressively dynamic range able to shift between haunting clean vocals and deep, guttural growls creating pieces that are mind-altering musical odysseys rather than just songs.
Speaking of death metal, Slayer is directly responsible for its existence. Known as one of the "big four" of thrash metal, they took it to the extreme by adding elements of hardcore through downtuned rhythms, chugging guitar licks, and inflammatory lyrics that earned them heaps of controversy throughout their almost 40-year career.
8. IRON MAIDEN
Despite mediocre radio and television time, Iron Maiden is considered to be one of the most successful heavy metal bands of all time, with over 100 million records sold worldwide as of 2017. In addition to their heavy influence on melodic metal and early thrash metal, they're noted for their incredible live performances that include their zombified mascot, Eddie, that helped to define the high energy and bombastic nature of the genre.
9. ARCH ENEMY
Much like their fellow countrymen Opeth, Arch Enemy are pioneers of melodic metal, progressive, and death metal fusion. Although their influence lies principally in former frontwoman Angela Gossow, whose powerfully brutal and aggressive vocals along with her commanding stage presence helped to pave the way for female-fronted metal bands - despite the genre being for the most part dominated by men.
While much of metal is plagued by controversy, Anthrax is noted as being one of the few acts of the genre to receive critical praise, helping to redefine its image during the 1980s and effectively making it more accessible to a broader fanbase. As far as their influence on the music itself, they're credited with helping to develop speed metal and thrash metal by adding elements of hardcore punk due to their upbringing in the New York underground.
Who are your favorite metal bands? Have you seen any of these artists live? Comment and tell us about it!
Hank Graff Chevy is located at 3636 Wilder Road, Bay City, MI 48706 and we are here to help our community grow to become an even better place to call home! For more information on Hank Graff Chevrolet, or for any questions call us at (989) 684-4411 or visit our website: www.GraffBayCity.com.