The History of Metal (T.H.O.M.) is a large scale visual art project detailing the origins, growth, and breadth of heavy metal music. I will attempt to identify every heavy metal band that ever existed, identify different subgenres within metal and their relationships to one another, and create a collection of artworks that represents metal’s place in history, the world, and in popular culture.

I've been a fan of heavy metal music since I was a teenager, but until now I haven't taken the time to delve into the history and genealogy of this unique music genre. I took on this project largely to educate myself and others about heavy metal, as well as to bring attention to what I consider to be one of the most complex and enduring facets of musical culture.

When I originally came up with the idea for T.H.O.M., it was to be a single drawing - a giant timeline that contained every heavy metal band from the 1970's to present day, organized by subgenre. It has since evolved and expanded to include several "peripheral" pieces that investigate heavy metal's cultural presence. The project as a whole currently consists of four pieces - three drawings and a interactive Flash presentation:

  • The Timeline Study: A snapshot, if you will, of how the timeline drawing is being constructed. This drawing is the first of many tests to determine the ideal configuration of bands on a timeline.
  • The Metal Map: The Metal Map is a hand drawn and painted representation of the concentration of metal bands in countries throughout the world. Each country has been assigned a color based on how many heavy metal bands have originated there throughout history, with amounts ranging from 0 - 9,396. The map reveals correlations between the popularity of heavy metal and political, racial, and economic climates throughout the world.
  • Subgenre Interactive: An interactive Flash presentation that allows users to explore the different subgenres within heavy metal, and listen to samples from bands that represent those subgenres.
  • Metal Subgenre Popularity Index: A large drawing showing the growth and popularity of each of the 14 main heavy metal subgenres from 1970 to 2008.

Each of these pieces can be seen in the Images section of this website.

If you are interested in contributing your knowledge and experience to this project, please use my blog and/or the contact page on this site to contact me directly. Thank you for visiting.

Mike Hill


12/2008 Project Update

I got a hold of some images from the Charlotte Street Awards Exhibition at the Nerman Museum at Johnson County Community College. The opening was Nov. 21st., and it was a great time. Thanks to all my friends and family who attended. We had over 500 people at the opening. If you were unable to attend the opening, you can still see the show. It will be up until the end of January. The staff at the Nerman Museum did a great job installing the artwork, and making sure the Subgenre Interactive was working correctly.

I was also sent another link to some photos from the opening reception, you can see them here.

exhibition shot

exhibition shot

exhibition shot

11/2008 Project Update

Show announcement! I will be participating in the Charlotte Street Awards Exhibition, and it will be at the Nerman Museum at Johnson County Community College. I am one of four artists in the show, and I'll have all the drawings from my current project "The History of Metal" on display. The show opens on Friday, November 21st, and runs through January. On the evening of Friday the 21st, there will be a reception from 6-8:30pm and a slide talk from each of the artists at 7pm (it won't last long - there are only four of us, and we've been told to keep it to 10 minutes each). After the 21st, the show will be up for three months. Stop by if you're in the area!

Also, I've finished the "final" version of the Metal Subgenre Popularity Index. Images below.

Metal Subgenre Popularity Index




08/2008 Project Update

A first look at the latest T.H.O.M. drawing: the Metal Subgenre Popularity Index

Metal Subgenre Popularity Index

This is the first (unfinished) draft of the Metal Subgenre Popularity Index. It shows how each subgenre within heavy metal occupied the spectrum of heavy metal as a whole from 1970 to present day. The drawing is a timeline, with each half-ring representing a year. Each year is broken into 100 parts, representing 100 percent of the heavy metal scene. Each subgenre is color coded and placed on the timeline based on when it appeared, how much of the scene in dominated, and where on the "extremity spectrum" it fell. The most extreme subgenres appear on the right (Black Metal, Death Metal, Grindcore, etc.).

This drawing is basically a test run, since I haven't collected all the necessary data yet.

05/2008 Project Update

subgenre interactive   subgenre interactive

Click above image to launch program in new window.

New! The Subgenre Interactive is finished and online. I've been working on this for a few months now, and it's basically a "Metal for Dummies" guide to metal's many subgenres. Click the images above to launch the program and try it out yourself.