Music

Aquarius Rotten: A Horde of Heavy Metal's Rowdiest Progenitors

Craig Hayes

The heavy rock superstars of the late '60s and early '70s who inspired and nurtured metal's burgeoning years are all well known. However, there are innumerable more obscure or unheralded groups that fortified the heavy metal machine too, and many are infinitely more interesting than their more famous brethren.

Editor's Note: Please stay tuned for parts two and three of this series next Monday and Tuesday.

As the late '60s bled into the early '70s, the Age of Aquarius was under attack from cantankerous and extremely loud sonic forces. The bubbly psychedelia and sweet-tempered music that had fueled hippie hearts and minds was being assailed by steelier and more squalid rock, and many of those rough-necked, hairy harbingers of menace would inspire heavy metal's ascendence.

Debate about who was the first proto-metal artist is an endless circle of argument and counter-argument. You can reach back to the 1950s and find heavy metal's origins in Willie Johnson's blues, and Link Wray's guitar rumbles. Step forward a decade, and heavy metal's dawning is to be found on Cream's 1967 album, Disraeli Gears. Iron Butterfly's 1968 album, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, is an unquestionable proto-metal classic; but then, Blue Cheer's Vincebus Eruptum album from the same year is a propulsive a metal-in-the-making triumph too.

Ultimately, you can throw everyone who was amplifying their sound and vision in the late '60s and early '70s into the gene pool that evolved into heavy metal. The heavy rock superstars of that period, those who inspired and nurtured metal's burgeoning years, are well known: Black Sabbath, King Crimson, Hawkwind, Vanilla Fudge, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Montrose, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Status Quo, Mountain, Grand Funk Railroad, Blue Öyster Cult, Atomic Rooster, Budgie etc, etc and etc. Those artists, and many more, are rightly credited for their contributions to heavy metal. However, there are innumerable more obscure or unheralded groups that fortified the heavy metal machine too, and many are infinitely more interesting than their more famous brethren.

A plethora of less visible artists is celebrated by collectors and fans of heavy rock and metal, and while those bands never sold anywhere near the number of albums that Black Sabbath, Deep Purple or kin did, they're recognized as being equally important to heavy metal's family tree.

Legions of underground musical legends litter the heavy rock graveyard, and the list below surveys a horde of those rowdy rockers. All the bands covered reflect the Age of Aquarius rotting, with their twisted psychedelia or progressive rock, doom-laden or whirlwind riffing, or dissonant arrangements; and you can hear their echo throughout heavy metal's many sub-genres today.

Some bands will no doubt be familiar and some, I hope, will be entirely new to your ears. Additional, and just as electrifying, 'see also' bands are listed here too, and while this list only touches upon the hard rocking scenes around the globe in the late '60s and early '70s, the aim here is to provide a primer to spark a proto-metal bonfire burning in your heart--or, if it's already raging, to simply heap more fuel atop the inferno.

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