Classic rock and heavy metal bands do not belong to the same genre of music but they share similar features in terms of sound and lyrics. The genres – classic rock and heavy metal, came to prominence in the late 60s and early 70s. acid rock, blues, country music, psychedelic rock, and blues rock are the musical foundations upon which these genres were built.
The quintessential musical piece that can be classified as classic rock and heavy metal are usually songs that feature a long guitar solo – done with an electric guitar, coupled with distortion of amplified sounds, strenuous singing that sounds like shouting on-key with elaborate drumming and lyrics that are steeped in angst and anger. During the early stages of these genres, particularly heavy metal, they were heavily criticized.
Classic rock and heavy metal music were majorly consumed by fans from the United Kingdom and created by English bands. Music from any genre is nothing without the musicians that create and play the music and in the case of classic rock and heavy metal, the music is usually created by bands and not solo artists. So, here is a list of the ten most famous classic rock and heavy metal bands.
Famous Classic Rock and Heavy Metal Bands
1. Black Sabbath
In the battle for the progenitor of heavy metal, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin are the major contenders. Black Sabbath was an English band that was formed in 1968 in Birmingham. The pioneer members of the band were Tony Iommi who was the lead guitarist, Ozzy Osbourne was the lead singer, Bill Ward was on the drums and Geezer Butler played the bass and was the band’s lyricist as well. In 2017, they were officially disbanded but before then, the membership of the band had evolved multiple times with Iommi being the only consistent part of the band.
Black Sabbath was originally called Polka Tulk Blues Band but they went through some changes, including the genre of music they played until they settled on rock music. Their second album Paranoid has been described as setting the pace for what metal music is as we have it today. They are ranked as the greatest rock band of all time and have the record number of records sold – 70 million – to corroborate this fact.
2. Led Zeppelin
Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham all came together to create one of the greatest classic rock and heavy metal bands to have existed in the history of music. The band is one part of the holy trinity of heavy metal and they have served as a source of inspiration for younger heavy metal bands. Led Zeppelin is an English metal band that came into existence in 1968 in London. The band was originally called New Yardbirds, and after many failed attempts and the exit and replacement of certain band members, Led Zeppelin was finally able to break out on the music scene with their 1969 debut album, Led Zeppelin. Their song ‘Stairway to Heaven’ ranks number three on VH1’s list of 100 Greatest Rock Songs of all time and is a canon in the world of classic rock and heavy metal.
3. Iron Maiden
On the 25th of December in 1975, Iron Maiden was formed. In the typical manner of most bands, many changes to the personnel had to be made before the perfect blend was achieved, in the case of Iron Maiden, the changes in personnel led to a-year-long hiatus and in 1977, they were back together once more. Steve Harris who formed the band is the only member of the band who has stayed the longest. Their first body of work was a four-song demo, which had the song Prowler that was widely received by audiences and critics world over. By 1980, their debut album Iron Maiden was released but it was not until 1982, with the album The Number of the Beast, that they topped the UK Albums Chart. This album was also what introduced them to fans outside of the United Kingdom and the United States.
Bohemian Rhapsody can be described as not just the Magnus Opus of this band’s discography but of rock music in general. 1970 was the year and the band Smile had just lost their Bassist, Tim Staffell to another band. Farrokh “Freddie” Bulsara who was a fan of Smile gave the suggestion that they experiment with new sounds and change the name of the band with him leading the band, and that was how the band, Queen came to be. Although their earlier songs fit into the bracket of Classic Rock, the growth experienced by the band turned their minds towards making songs that would appeal to a wider audience. The band has only two members now, but the songs that they created are noteworthy for their timelessness and universality. Some of these songs are We Will Rock You, We Are the Champions, and Another One Bites the Dust.
As previously mentioned, heavy metal grew out of the United Kingdom’s music scene and as a result of this, there were fewer American rock bands in the early days of the genre. One of the few American heavy metal and classic rock bands in those days was Metallic. Lars Ulrich, in 1981, placed an ad in a newspaper for people who were interested in joining a drummer to make a band and five months after the ad was placed, the band was formed. The only two people who have always been part of the band are Lars Ulrich – the founder and James Hetfield who is the lead vocalist. Cliff Burton who was the band’s bassist died in an accident involving other members of the band while they were on a tour. His death almost resulted in the band splitting up but they decided otherwise.
Metallica has sold over a hundred million records and they are predominately remembered for being the progenitors of the Thrash Metal sub-genre.
6. Bon Jovi
Bon Jovi is an American rock band that was formed in 1983 by Jon Bon Jovi, David Bryan, Tico Torres, Richie Sambora, Alec John, and Dave Sabo. Of the six, the first three are the only remaining members of the band. Their style of music has been categorized as pop rock, arena rock, hard rock, and glam metal. On their 2007 album, Lost Highway, the band implemented elements of country rock and country pop; it is their only album where they deviated from the core features of the heavy metal or classic rock music.
It wasn’t until two years after getting formed, that the band experienced musical success; with the album, Slippery When Wet. This album has one of their most popular songs till date – Livin’ on a Prayer. The reason for this success was because of the wide reach of the song, which appealed to not just fans of rock music, but fans of pop as well.
7. Parkway Drive
The origins of heavy metal and classic rock music are rooted in the American and British music scenes but as these genres of music started to grow, heavy metal and classic rock bands from other parts of the world started to spring up and one of such bands is the Australian heavy metal band, Parkway Drive. The band was formed in 2003 by Winston McCall at a time when the genre was not a widely accepted type of music in Australia. The members of the band have pretty much remained the same since its formation in 2003 only having to change their bassists. From the get-go, the Parkway Drive has experienced immense success with their six full-length albums and one EP. They have also been the recipients of a number of awards which speaks to the mastery of their artistry.
8. August Burns Red
Jon Hershey, John Benjamin “JB” Brubaker, Brent Rambler, Jordan Tuscan and Matt Greiner were all in high school when they decided to come together and form the musical band August Burns Red in March of 2003. Their first album, Thrill Seeker was released in 2005 while they were signed to Solid State Records. Majority of the band’s members are practicing Christians and this has led to them having to state if the band is a Christian band or not to reporters and fans. There have been several disputes between band members who believe the band should identify as a Christian band and other band members who hold opposing ideas about this.
9. Of Mice and Men
Formed in 2009 by Austin Carlile and Jaxin Hall, Of Mice and Men has since gone through many changes. One of these changes is the exeunt of the founding members Carlile and Hall for different reasons. The band has released five studio albums and each of them was well received by critics. It is a newer band when compared to others on this list and may not have reached iconic status like their older counterparts, but this does not mean that they have not left a mark on the genre and in the industry at large.
A very large percentage of heavy metal and classic rock bands are made up of male members and the few bands that have female members usually have more male members. One heavy metal band that does not fit this description is the Japanese band, Babymetal. The band was formed in 2010 by Suzuka Nakamoto, who is the lead vocalist. The other members of the band are Moa Kikuchi who is on background vocals while Yui Mizuno plays the instruments. The Japanese music scene is not very receptive of metal music, but this band has found a way to incorporate elements of pop and metal in their music and this is one of the things that has given them international acclaim.