Heavy Metal Business – Four Symbols

Heavy metal explained by schoolkids

Four Symbols – Heavy metal explained by school kids

Heavy Metal.  You either love it or hate it.  Nonetheless it has an awesome power from the sheer volume and deathly riffs that lurk within the genre.  Perhaps one of the most doom laden riffs of all time comes from Black Sabbath via the title song of their album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, particularly the riff towards the end of the song (3 minutes 17 seconds on), which competes with Uranium, weighing in at 238 units on the ‘heavy metal’ scale in the Periodic Table.

Heavy metal sounds different to pop music and a quick musical note explains why.  Heavy Metal tends to employ modal scales, in particular the Aeolian and Phrygian modes rather than the upbeat scales favoured in pop songs (Doh-Ray-Me-Far-So-La-Te-Doh, with third part harmonies such as those used in songs by The Beatles, Abba etc.).  Although heavy metal has its critics, it has been argued that heavy metal has the most in common with classical music, especially Bach, Wagner and Vivaldi through the influence of Ritchie Blackmore, Randy Rhoads, Yngwie Malmsteen etc.

As if to illustrate the point, take a listen to Love Sculpture, featuring Dave Edmunds, doing Khachaturian’s ‘Sabre Dance’ in 1968, containing many of the modal scales I mentioned above:

Music theory aside, what can we learn about business from Heavy Metal bands?

From Deep Purple, we get the insight that innovation in business requires discipline as much as it does creativity.

From Led Zeppelin and Peter Grant, we get the insight that, if the industry norms are killing your business opportunity, change the industry norms.

From Black Sabbath, we get the insight that limitations can assist creativity.

From Spinal Tap, we learn that plans are nothing if execution is poor.

Much more on this in The Music of Business, which launches on 31 1 13.  We finish with some more Heavy Metal:


About the Blogger:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk

6 responses to “Heavy Metal Business – Four Symbols

  1. Peter,
    I’m not enough of a metalhead to get the nuances of amodal scales…..but what I do get is that business depends on a fine balance between discipline and innovation. In the sport metaphor, Matt Syed refers to 10,000 hours of “focussed practice” to become world class.Whilst conventional semantics suggest musicians “play” (ie rather than “work”), the practised physicality of ROCK makes the “play” word inadequate.

    I’d prefer the word “craft”…so metal masters “craft” a sound borne from disciplined practice that enables innovation, just as much as an HR specialist might know lots of legal stuff that then allows him/her to bring subtle discerning judgement to a human situation.

    One of my little icebreakers in talent sessions is to ask people what is the present tense of “wrought” as in “wrought iron”……the answer is “work”, as “wrought” is an old english past participle of work.

    So if the music is metal, it is most certainly relevant to consider it wrought/worked!



  2. Whoa! I picked this up from a posting on LinkedIn on a rare (in Arizona) rainy Saturday night. After playing a few of these videos, I had to put the pup & parrots to bed and drag out my ax to jam a while. I did have two parrots singing from on the other side of the house to Burn. I guess it shows that Deep Purple is also loved by South Americans and Aussies.

    BTW, the former bass player of Metallica, Jason Newsted was a snot nosed 14 yr old who loved the bands I played in back in 1977 (Maximus & then Armageddon). I never would have guessed his future. He followed me to Tempe, AZ (well, maybe it wasn’t me that took him here, it was Flotsam and Jetsam) and then he went on to fame.

    I’ll be watching for your book with great anticipation, it sounds like something that I will love to leave with my clients. They may not be metal heads, but I certainly am and an addicted lover of music of most kinds. You’re right, I played a lot of classical music back in the sixties and watched metal and progressive rock mold it into some killer classics. How about ELP’s “Pictures at an Exhibition?”

    I just noted that you are located close to Leeds, home of one of my favorite bands of all time: cUd!

    Don’t mind my rambling, “I’m only a prawn in Whitby.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.