Saturday, June 19, 2021
Heavy Metal Power Ballads - a genre unto itself
The heavy metal rock ballad became a unique genre of music in the late 80s and early 90s. Also referred to as the "power ballad," these slow emotional songs became a mainstay of the hard rock/heavy metal bands of the 1980s such as Poison, Bon Jovi, and Motley Crue. In fact, it was an oddity for a hard rock band in the late 80s or early 90s to not have a song which, when played in concert, would prompt the most hardcore of fans to hold up a lighter and sway to the music.
I don't know that there is a definitive beginning of the genre or pioneer of the song style, but if I were to identify a prototype, it would probably be "Beth" by Kiss, from the 1976 album Destroyer. Some people have noted that earlier acoustic-based songs from Led Zeppelin, such as "Going to California" or even "Stairway to Heaven" are early versions of power ballads, but these don't really fit the mold to me. They aren't specifically romantic in a way the most well-known heavy metal ballads are.
"Beth," on the other hand, fits the style quite well, though it doesn't build in tempo like some. And, it's interesting that the song is basically just Peter Criss singing with a piano and orchestral sounds in the background. It's also interesting to dig in to the history of the song, which has several stories and disputes about origin and authorship. Regardless, it's a great song that actually became the band's biggest hit, despite reservations from several members who didn't want it on the album. And, for me, it's the starting point for the genre that peaked in the late 80s.
My top three songs for the heavy metal ballad are: