Fifty years ago Black Sabbath released its self-titled debut album ‘Black Sabbath’, introducing Britain and later the world to what would soon become the iconic sound of Heavy Metal. The band paved the way for the likes of Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin, who later became the holy trinity of British Heavy Metal.
In celebration of the 50th anniversary, the first World Heavy Metal Congress was held in London on the 22 and 23 of March. The two-day celebration included panel discussions with big names such as Napalm Death’s Barney Greenaway and Shadow Justice Secretary, and confirmed metal head, Richard Burgon. With film premiers and performances from bands from all corners of the globe, it was the biggest Heavy Metal gathering to date.
Owner of Rubber Soul, a local record shop, Rob Barrs, agrees that metal has definitely had and is stilling having one of the biggest influences on music. He says: “New groups are obviously influenced by the classic albums of the time. By obviously Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Led Zeplin it’s like it’s still fresh now, it’s still great and it’s still a huge influence on new bands and new projects. I don’t think it’s quite as large as it used to be in the 70s or 80s, even though great groups like Metallica and Megadeth still have a huge audiences.”
One of Metal’s greats, Lemmy Kilmister, was born and raised in Stoke-on-Trent. A Staffordshire University graduate, he later went on to become the bassist and vocalist for Mötorhead, known for his gravely voice and mutton chop side burns. “Well yeah I mean local, even though they were from here, they haven’t spent a great deal of time here,” Rob says, “but the influence on the genre has been huge because obviously Motorhead were a huge influence at the time. They’ve just become a classic known group for a classic genre of music. New bands, they still gotta take the riffs of the older groups of the time.”
Stoke-on-Trent is home to a number of music venues, most popularly The Sugarmill opened in 1994. The venue has played host to plenty of metal bands such as Lamb of God, Trivium and newer bands such as Bring Me The Horizon and A Day To Remember. With great local venues Heavy Metal music is becoming more accessible to newer audiences. “You’ve got great events like Download but it’s about the affordability because I think it’s absolutely ridiculous what they charge now, because years ago it was about your major money on music sales,” Barrs says. “I think its good [around Stoke]I think you’ve got some great groups, some great venues, you’ve got Sugarmill, the Underground ,the Eleven Club up at Sandyford. Considering we are city which is small, I think it’s pretty good.”
The last 50 years have treated Heavy Metal well, seeing it develop from its rock bluesy background into the thrashier sounds of modern age metal. The recent Heavy Metal World Congress will wilfully be the first of many. “I think it will still be here.” Rob adds. “It will still be relevant. I still think you’ll have new audiences who want to hear either new groups or great groups of the past or great bands or great artists. So it will still be here in 100 years I’m sure.”