The roots of metal stem from British and American musicians living in working-class neighborhoods—mid- to late-1960s acts like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Deep Purple, as well as Blue Oyster Cult, MC5, and The Stooges—who infused classic rock ‘n’ roll with heavier riffs, louder distortion, and more sinister lyrics and aesthetic tropes.
Metal would evolve constantly and complicatedly over the following decades, eventually splintering into countless subgenres: power metal, the “new wave of British heavy metal,” progressive metal, thrash metal, black metal, Norwegian black metal, death metal, Swedish death metal, grindcore, metalcore, stoner metal, industrial metal, nu-metal, and even Kawaii metal (sometimes described as “cute metal”). Each branch has its own codes, cues, cliques, and quirks in both sound and style, as well as diehard legions that follow their preferred sub-subgenre or particular band as if it were a religion. (In the case of Norwegian black metal, the votary was quite literal, as the Scandinavian metal community of the early 1990s became overtly tied to Satanism and anti-Christian practices.)
Though the differences among, say, the virulent blast-beats of black metal bands like Venom and the viscous sludge and turn-it-up-to-11 distortion of stoner metal groups like Sleep and Kyuss could not be more pronounced, the disparate scenes all share a certain ethos that transcends pentagrams, devil-horn hand gestures, rippin’ guitar solos, guttural singing, and face paint. A number of excellent photo projects have attempted to highlight the fans and bands that have made this cult music genre more than the sum of its parts.