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National Metal Day

Throw on your leather jacket, turn up the stereo, and raise up those devil horns, it's National Metal Day! Proclaimed by VH1 Classic (which has since been replaced with MTV Classic), National Metal Day honors metal artists and music. The first observance took place on November 11, 2011. For 11 days during the lead up to the day, VH1 Classic showed concerts, movies, videos, and specials related to metal music. The 11-day metal celebration culminated with the premiere of the first installment of the metal documentary series Metal Evolution. A similar run of programming was aired the second year. For example, during the lead up to the day in 2012, VH1 Classic premiered America's Hard 100, a 10-hour-long countdown of the top 100 rock songs of all time as voted by viewers. That Metal Special, a special hosted by the hosts of The Metal Show, as well as a premiere of Judas Priest at the US Festival 1983, were shown on National Metal Day in 2012.

Why all the 11s? Why is the holiday held on the 11th day of the 11th month, and why was it first celebrated in 2011? In This is Spinal Tap, the 1984 mockumentary about a fictitious metal band named Spinal Tap, guitarist Nigel Tufnel, played by Christopher Guest, talks to documentary filmmaker Marty Di Bergi, played by Rob Reiner, about how his amps go up to 11 instead of 10. Di Bergi asks if the amps are louder than other amps, and later asks, "Why don't you just make 10 louder and make 10 be the top number and make that a little louder?" Tufnel responds, "These go to 11." Explaining the exchange doesn't do it justice—it needs to be watched. It should be of no surprise that VH1 Classic has aired This is Spinal Tap as part of their programming for National Metal Day.

However, This is Spinal Tap's connection with National Metal Day doesn't end there. Nigel Tufnel Day was held on November 11, 2011. It appears to have been started independently from the VH1 Classic celebration, and focuses more on honoring This is Spinal Tap instead of metal music as a whole. But, for all intents and purposes, the holidays are the same. November 11 has sometimes continued to be referred to as Nigel Tufnel Day in successive years. The day was thought up by Michael Fennelly—a member of bands like Crappy Appleton, who also recorded with Steely Dan—in honor of his favorite movie. In 2011, events, such as concerts, were held independently around the world.

Metal, or heavy metal, is music that can be described as aggressive, intense, and powerful. It employs heavy use of distorted electric guitar, and can sometimes be virtuosic. Those who are fans of the genre are known as metalheads, and they often value the music for its authenticity and release of frustration and anger. Some of the biggest metal bands of all time are Megadeth, Slayer, Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Pantera, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Anthrax, and Metallica.

The term "heavy metal" may have first been associated with music when it appeared in the 1968 Steppenwolf song "Born to Be Wild." In the mid-1960s, a number of artists set the groundwork for metal, by having a heavier sound and differentiating from rock that was based solely on the blues. Some of these artists were Cream, the Yardbirds, and the Jeff Beck Group in Britain, and Jimi Hendrix in America. This trend continued into the 1970s with Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and more than the rest, Black Sabbath, using distorted power chords, heavy riffs, powerful vocals, and guitar and drum solos. Some bands of the mid-1970s that were considered metal or had metal elements were Kiss, AC/DC, Judas Priest, Alice Cooper, and Aerosmith. They were known for touring heavily and putting on elaborate stage shows.

The popularity of the genre flagged in the late 1970s as disco was ascendant, but it raged back in the 1980s with British metal bands like Iron Maiden, Saxon, and Def Leppard, and with American bands like Van Halen, Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Poison, and Guns N' Roses. Artists from other countries emerged as well, such as Scorpions, who were from Germany. Baroque influences from the likes of Bach and Vivaldi came into the genre in the form of chord progressions, figurations, and virtuoso guitar parts, which dispelled the notion of the genre as being simple. Subgenres arose, such as glam metal, nu metal, doom metal, death metal, and black metal. Some of the bigger bands of the 1980s, such as Ozzy Osborne, Metallica, and Van Halen, sustained their popularity during the following decades, other bands emerged, and metal is still immensely popular today.

How to Observe National Metal Day

Some ways you could spend the day include:

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