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What Makes a Song Heavy?

What makes a song heavy?

I have a cool idea for a multi-day event here on BBG! I've noticed you like when a theme carries over many days and I have fun writing that way, too. But, before I can write about what I want, I need a clear understanding of what "heavy" really is...keeping in mind that all art is subjective.

I think a pounding rhythm section (with overt bass) tends to make a song heavy. A band doesn't have to be "metal" to create a "heavy" song. In fact, there are random pop songs that include heavy sections. I think the lyrics need to be serious or dark. A singer that has a very powerful, booming voice or soaring scream helps. Muted chords on the guitar don't hurt, either. Divebombs are good. Downtuning is good. Distortion helps. Perhaps even the length and general complexity of a song adds to a heavy vibe.

What do you think? What - to you - makes a song "heavy?" Your responses will help me write this website next week.

Reader Comments (13)

In the words of Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, "It's gotta have CRUNCH!"
August 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
First of all, posting an article 11 hours into the future is pretty heavy. Is it noon on Saturday already? I got 1 am on my mac. But I digress.

I think anything "heavy" or "metal" has you involuntarily banging your head, throwing up the metal/horns, air-guitarring and/or drumming something.
August 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenternirVrana
why does it have to have distortion?
you really got me by the kinks is heavy, and theres no distortion.

led zeppelin are heavier than all the screamo fag bands out there
August 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersteve
not Europe (the band).
August 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSMK not SMF
I've with nirVrana on this one. There are about a billion ways to define heavy and it's all about what gets you off. There are a lot of NIN songs that are really damn heavy, and some of them don't contain any guitar. A lot of punk is also heavy, even though it's not considered 'heavy metal'.

In general, though, I think any time you combine aggressive guitars & drums, you've got the makings of something really heavy.
August 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBryon
"Rumble" by Link Wray from 1958 is often cited as the first Heavy Metal song. You can find it on YouTube and iTunes.

"You Really Got Me", The Kinks 1964 hit, is also considered to be a progenitor to Heavy Metal, as Steve points out.

p.s. Steve. C'mon, man. What's with your "F" word in your entry above, bro? Rob Halford of Judas Priest, for one, would not appreciate it.
August 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
You need a tray of cutlery like Judas Priest used on "Metal Gods".
August 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSnoot
I gotta chime in with Black Sabbath and Tony Iommi.Guy basically wrote the book on killer drop tuned riffs.

Check out Demon Speeding from Rob Zombie. That is heavy in my book... (Bang Thy Head Folks!!) Just love those dropped tuned chugging style riffs like that.
August 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGary
Yeah Demon Speeding what a song !! It's really heavyyy ... was playing it really loud driving a car today !
August 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPeter
I think Heavy means something that keeps your head banging, but has some melody thrown in with some double bass drums. The singer should have some chops and intensity. This is a hard one, folks.
August 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrian L
@ Metalboy

the kinks aren't heavy metal, but the song is still heavy as fuck.

as a homosexual, i think 1: i am allowed to use that word and 2: when i say screamo fag, i don't believe that every member of bring me the horizon or what have you is actually a homosexual...look past the words already defined meaning
August 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersteve
Kinda agree with Steve here on one thing, the Kink were more punk to me.
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShadow
Check out Swedish metal band Mustasch. They definitely know what heavy is - I recommend listening to 6:36, Haunted by Myself or Double Nature for starters. Killer band that should be a lot more well known here in the US.
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRich

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