From deals with the devil to devil signs to truly demonic performances, a brief history of the devil’s music
Blues legend Robert Johnson is born in Mississippi, and reportedly sells his soul to the devil for fame and talent. He dies violently and prematurely but proves that selling your soul to the horned one is actually a cool thing to do.
American guitarist Link Wray releases the instrumental rocker Rumble. It features heavy distortion, amplifier overdrive and even bottom-heavy power chords to bring the noise
The Who’s Pete Townshend and other guitarists keep turning up the volume and experimenting with feedback. Stock in earplugs shoots through the roof.
Named after a brand of LSD, Blue Cheer explode on the San Francisco scene, establishing the blueprint for all over-amped power trios to come.
Metal forerunners Led Zeppelin form in London and begin rocking out with blues-based riffs turned up super-loud.
The term “heavy metal” is first used by Mike Saunders to describe a genre of music in a Rolling Stone review of Humble Pie’s As Safe As Yesterday album.
Black Sabbath release their self-titled debut, thus beginning one of the most important recording careers in the history of metal.
Original shock rocker Alice Cooper ups the ante with a live show that features Gothic torture methods and an execution by electric chair. Two-year-old Marilyn Manson takes notes.
Motörhead bridges the divide between metal and increasingly popular punk rock. As some kind of karmic reward, leader Lemmy Kilmister is able to drink and smoke excessively and generally be awesome indefinitely.
Heavily influenced by Sabbath, doom metal innovators Saint Vitus form. Bong sales increase.
Late 70s to early 80s
Iron Maiden leads the new wave of British heavy metal. Decades later, they still look good in spandex.
Britain’s Venom release Black Metal, and a new genre is born.
In Stockholm, Sweden, 17-year-old Quorthon forms the extreme-sounding Bathory, which along with Venom and Celtic Frost will help shape the black metal sound, and single-handedly create Viking metal.
Metallica release Kill ’Em All, the first of several brilliant albums that prove they weren’t always sucky douche-?bag crybabies.
In America, hair metal takes hold, ushering in a bunch of pretty-boy groups like Poison, Warrant and Cinderella. By the end of their heyday, most party-monster band members have probably had more sex than 10 porn stars.
Bands like Deicide, Morbid Angel and Obituary put death metal on the map by helping shape the influential Florida death metal scene. Deicide leader Glen Benton will become infamous for branding an inverted cross into his forehead, proving he’s way more bad-ass than you’ll ever be.
Thrash gods Slayer set new standards of heaviness and insanity with the release of their classic Reign In Blood. Really scary-looking tough guys the world over discover their new favourite band.
Former electronic band Ministry drop the dance beats and opt for a more aggressive sound influenced by Throbbing Gristle and comes to be known as “industrial metal.”
Heavily influenced by noise terrorists Swans, Britain’s Napalm Death drop their debut, Scum, and help coin the term “grindcore” – kind of like metal played so fast it sounds like it just snorted a bag of coke and drank 10 Red Bulls.
Amidst a slew of violence and church-burnings reportedly propagated by Norwegian black metal bands and scenesters, Mayhem vocalist Euronymous is murdered by Burzum’s Varg Vikernes, thus solidifying the genre’s extreme reputation.
Limp Bizkit release a shitty album and begin embarrassing themselves along with other equally depressing nu-metal bands that feature DJs and bad facial hair. One of metal’s worst trends in the history of forever begins.
Virginia’s Lamb of God begins releasing albums that will help usher in a new wave of American heavy metal. Nu-metal bands start wondering where all their fans went.
Hardcore-meets-extreme-metal band Converge release the now-classic Jane Doe and, along with acts like Botch and Dillinger Escape Plan, metalcore begins to hit the mainstream.
American drone metal kings Sunn 0))) release Black One. The album becomes one of several genre landmarks that effectively mix the scathing wrath of black metal with the churning hypnotism of drone. Call it part of the avant-extreme.