“I listen to both sorts of music! Hard Rock AND Heavy Metal”
Ah, the good old days.
Old School Heavy Metal – in particular, British Heavy Metal, was a crossroads in rock music, a point where blues-based rock started to become something else. In some cases, the difference was as much about style as it was the music, in others it was about sound, tempo and subject matter. Whatever defined it, it was the prototype for many of the genres of rock that we enjoy today.
Looking to achieve a classic British heavy metal guitar tone? Let’s grab the bullet belt and dive into some of the Celestion Speaker Responses which we think would be excellent fits!
We tend to think of British Heavy Metal as being the music that informed and then became the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) revolution. Any list of bands has to come with a massive ‘yes, but’ footnote, so we’re going to keep it simple and start with Black Sabbath, travel through Thin Lizzy and Motorhead to Saxon (probably the beginning of NWOBHM), Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, and on to Venom.
There are so many other greats; was Led Zeppelin metal? Status Quo? Nazareth? Queen, Deep Purple, Cream? Everyone has their own opinion!
Most of this music has its roots in an era when gear was limited, Marshall and Vox had been around for a while, Laney, Orange and Sound City were the new kids on the block, and Celestion was the driver behind pretty much the whole movement. Guitar tones were often less distorted than we tend to imagine, amp gain was still relatively low (we had fuzz and treble boost pedals) and then the Ibanez Tube Screamer appeared in the early 1970s. As crowds got bigger, amps became more powerful, cabinets bigger, and speakers were developed to handle higher loads.
The First Wave
Celestion (Alnico) Blue – Celestion had been making guitar speakers long before the metal scene started – the famed Blue was in production for Vox, and the off-the shelf version would have found its way into the early Marshalls that defined the earliest days of metal. Add to this bit of history the AC30s of Brian May, and the Blue is a clear classic for well defined, responsive tones – especially in the open back cabs that were popular at the time.
The Ceramic Revolution
Greenback – If there is one speaker that defines the mainstream sound of early British Metal, it has-to be the Greenback (well, the Greenbacks, really). The woody snarl of the original G12M (medium magnet) Greenback and the tight lows and upper midrange bite of the slightly later G12H (heavy magnet) speakers define the drive of the late 60s onwards. The original Greenbacks were 20W models (check out the Heritage G12M and G12H55, later raising to 25W (G12M and G12H Anniversary) – any one of these will load a great classic 4×12, or mix and match to taste.
G12-65 – This is a beautiful speaker for classic 4×12 tones – possibly sometimes overlooked, but a stunningly detailed and full sounding speaker – designed to handle more power which it does with enormous style. One of the best.
Classic Lead 80 – The Classic Lead 80 is an evolution of the G12-80 which does a great job of spanning the later development of the classic/modern era of heavy guitar tones, classic, yet a bit fresh.
G12T-75 – A slightly later speaker, the G12T-75 was the standard fitment for Marshall JCM800 4x12s – so it’s all over later-era British Metal. Sometimes thought to be a bit ‘bitey’ in isolation, this one cuts and punches its way through a mix in its own special way.
For a Slightly Different Flavour
Music is all about identity, and the bands that made the music that moved the world did it by throwing away the rule book. Some of these bands are still active, others had their moment and disappeared. Those that still play tend to use modern gear and modern sounds, so we shouldn’t feel that we need to stick with the historically accurate models to get the spirit of British Metal – here are a few alternative flavours.
G12-35XC – This speaker certainly didn’t exist during the rise of British Metal – but it was designed to capture the sound of the early, legendary Pulsonic speaker cones. Available as an IR for an alternative, and highly satisfying, articulate chime and grind.
G12M-50 Hempback – It’s a G12M but not quite as we know it – balanced and silky, this one brings a slightly American flavour to proceedings, sometimes just what is needed to catch the ear.
G12K-100 – This is the modern big cousin of the G12T-75 – bigger, weightier and grittier; it’s a great alternative tone.
Any of these speakers will play into the British Metal ballpark; but never be afraid to throw in something out of era or off genre to catch the listener’s ear – the Vintage 30 is the modern standard, the G12H- 75 is a fantastic speaker that plays so well with the super cleans and drive of modern rock, and the G12H-150 Redback is a ridiculously good speaker that seems to work on just about everything.
Mix. Match. Make Music!