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Heavy metal (often referred to simply as metal) is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960's and early 1970's, largely in the Midlands of the United Kingdom and in the United States. With roots in blues rock and psychedelic rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick massive sound, characterised by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats and overall loudness. Heavy metal lyrics and performance styles are generally associated with masculinity and machismo.

The first heavy metal bands such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple eventually attracted large audiences, though many were critically reviled (with the notable exception of Led Zeppelin), a status common throughout the history of the genre. In the mid 1970's Judas Priest helped spur the genre's evolution by discarding most of its blues influence. Motorhead introduced a punk rock sensibility and an increasing emphasis on speed. Bands in the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal such as Iron Maiden followed a similar vein. Before the end of the decade, heavy metal fans became known as "metalheads" or "headbangers".

In the 1980's, glam metal became a major commercial force with groups like Motley Crue and Poison. Underground scenes produced an array of more extreme, aggressive styles. Thrash metal broke into the mainstream with bands such as Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax, while other styles like death metal and black metal remain sub-cultural phenomena. Since the mid 1990's, popular styles such as nu metal, which often incorporates elements of grunge and hip hip, and metalcore, which blends extreme metal with hardcore punk, have further expanded the definition of the genre.