THE Hard Rock and AOR Reference on the Internet!
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The Genres at Heavy Harmonies
What's In A Name?
Hard rock. AOR. Heavy metal. Sleaze glam. Hair metal. Cheese metal. Commercial
metal. Melodic rock. Melodic metal. Power metal. Prog rock. Prog metal. Glam metal. Cock rock. Arena rock... musical adjectives used to describe bands
and albums. After a while they all start to blur together.
A Few Rough Definitions
AOR - Album-Oriented Rock (or Album-Oriented Radio). This term
has its origins in the 1970s, when radio stations had the flexibility to
play (and often did) any cut from an album, not just the released singles.
When someone uses the term "AOR", think bands like Styx, Boston,
Journey, Foreigner, and Toto. The term Arena rock has
also been used to describe many of these bands.
Glam - "Leather and lipstick bad boyz". Examples include:
Hanoi Rocks, Roxx Gang, and Pretty Boy Floyd. See further down
the page for more on this term.
Hair metal, Cheese metal, Commercial metal - terms for the
MTV-friendly hard rock bands of the 1980s, characterized (visually)
by long hair, leather jackets, torn jeans, and obligatory scantily-clad
hot babes in the videos. Think Bon Jovi, Winger, and Warrant.
Melodic metal - See above, but with a slightly heavier edge.
Examples: Keel, Accept, Krokus, Steeler, and Fifth Angel.
Prog rock - "Progressive rock." These bands have a tendency
to get away from routine song structure, and often their songs do
not have a definable chorus. Their albums are also often characterized
by many instrumental tracks and/or instrumental portions of songs.
Songs can be very lengthy. Examples include: Yes, Starcastle,
Shadow Gallery, Artension, and
early Genesis. NOT radio-friendly. You will find only a limited
amount here at Heavy Harmonies.
Where Does One End And Another Begin?
It's no secret that nomenclature and classification are the bane of any archivist.
In music this is even more the case, as the differences between bands and/or
albums can be subtle as well as subjective. Add to this the fact that many
genres overlap, and trying to pigeonhole bands into a single category is nigh
Rock music is much like light, in that it runs continuous spectra, one
with respect to heaviness, the other with respect to tempo. The heaviness
gammut runs from pop, through AOR and hard rock,
into melodic metal then power metal, proceeding through
speed and thrash metal, and ending up in death and
black metal. The tempo (at least with respect to metal) range runs
from doom metal on the slow end, to the frenetic paces of speed
metal, black metal, and grindcore. Then there are the
offshoots from these continua (like light that is bent away via a mirror):
sleaze glam (a mix of hard rock and punk elements) and prog
rock/metal (hard rock and metal that leaves the traditional
verse-chorus-verse-chorus-chorus structure behind and is more free-flowing).
These continua can best be visualized by the diagram below (please
bear in mind that is an extremely simplistic visualization of the
rock spectrum; most genres would span a region in the X and/or Y
direction, rather than being a point).
Not That Simple...
'twere it that easy. One person's hard rock is another's heavy metal.
Also, definitions evolve over time. What was identified and indeed
villified as "heavy metal" in the early 1980s (Twisted Sister,
Ozzy Osbourne, etc.) are now considered "hard rock". The
emergence of death and black metal in the early 1990s raised the
bar as to what is now considered "heavy".
Also, some terms mean different things to different people. For example,
the term glam is sometimes used to refer to all varieties of
'80s "hair metal", whereas it is also used to denote "leather-and-lipstick"
hard rock. It all depends on one's historical frame of reference as to
which definition is meant. For the record, Heavy Harmonies now uses the
latter definition, whereas when the site first opened as "The Halls of Glam"
I used the former (hence the reason for changing the name of the site).
Lastly, classifying a band as one type of hard rock/metal or another
only *really* works as long as all the releases by a band fall into the
same genre. Over the course of time, many bands can switch genres, and
even switch back again (for example: many of the '80s bands who jumped
onto the alternative/grunge bandwagon in 1992-93 only to lose their
fan base, and in 1998-99 have gone back to the style that made them
big to begin with).
Where Do You Draw The Line?
The boundaries as to what may or may not be included here at
Heavy Harmonies may at times seem somewhat arbitrary. That's because
they are. :).
- Chronologically, the site encompasses primarily the
years 1978 to present, with the emphasis on the music of the 1980s
and early 1990s, hence material from the 1960s and the early 1970s
most likely will not be included (unless they are early works from
bands who released material during the 1978- period).
- Structurally, most of the material here follows the tried-and-true
"singalong" structure of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-chorus (with
minor deviations). What prog is included is that which only
deviates only slightly from this; the more esoteric "out there"
material most likely will not be included.
- Q: "Well, why are bands like Iron Maiden and many of the power
metal bands not included?" A: Even though they incorporate many of the
ingredients common to '80s hard rock and '70s AOR, they have more in
common with traditional "old-school" heavy metal, and are thus found
on Heavy Harmonies' sister site www.brutalmetal.com.
What Does It All Mean?
Take classifications with a grain of salt. They're not gospel.
They're meant to give a quick pointer to a musical style, that's
all (and my interpretation of their style at that).