The year the Vietnam War ended, and Charlie Chaplin was knighted. Iron Maiden and Motorhead formed. We saw releases from Kiss, Rush, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, but in the history of heavy metal there are a couple of other important albums to discuss.
Thin Lizzy- Fighting
When a band formed in Dublin at the height of The Troubles released an album called Fighting, one might have expected some sort of political statement. Instead Thin Lizzy stuck to the riffs, with classic Rosalie opening the album. The riffs here are not uncommon in style for hard rock bands of the time, but it’s really the dual guitar sound on Wild One that is important to the history of heavy metal. While I’ve previously talked about Free Bird having a similar influence, the guitar passages on Wild One are a lot more similar to the lead guitar licks of Priest and Maiden. The harmonies lift and soar over the musical canvas. If Free Bird inspired the general idea of layered guitar harmonies, Wild One solidified the style that would later become synonymous with heavy metal. There are other moments of this style on this album, used to sublime effect. But it would mean nothing if the songs themselves weren’t truly sublime, vocal hooks abound and this album convinced me of the genius of Phil Lynott’s bass playing. The way he synchronises with drummer Brian Downey gives each song an infectious groove that is instantly danceable. The riffs are solid and really drive the songs forward, and the ballads never slip into being overly saccharine and sweet, invoking genuine emotion. Fighting is a sublime record, regardless of its impact on heavy metal.
It’s long been a joke that AC/DC have curated a long, lucrative career just playing the same song over and over again. People who seriously level this as a criticism seem to have forgotten that it’s a brilliant song. The AC/DC formula is already cemented on their second release- an Australia only album that would later have tracks repurposed for the international release of High Voltage. The stomping, four-four riffs, bluesy solos and lyrics about rocking, both musically and euphemistically. The bag pipes on Long Way To The Top… really add a different flavour to the song. It’s the simple, riff first approach to this album that really translates into heavy metal. Each song is built around a single, simple riff and everything branches out from there. Regardless of who it is, your favourite band have used this technique at some point. It’s the simple core rock music through the ages, executed to the highest standard. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? If you can sit still listening to Long Way… you have no soul in you. It doesn’t need to be big, clever or intricate, it just needs to be a great song, and AC/DC have delivered 9 here and continued to do so through their career, and set a bench mark for consistency for every band that came after.
Read out coverage of 1976 here.