List of heavy metal bands

Last updated

This is a list of heavy metal artists from the formative years of the movement. For bands that formed after 1981, please consult the lists for each heavy metal subgenre.

Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the United Kingdom. With roots in blues rock, psychedelic rock, and acid rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness. The genre's lyrics and performance styles are sometimes associated with aggression and machismo.


Original movement: 1965–1981

In the late 1960s a number of bands began pushing the limits of blues rock into a new genre which would be called heavy metal. [1] [2]

Blues rock is a fusion genre combining elements of blues and rock. It is mostly an electric ensemble-style music with instrumentation similar to electric blues and rock: electric guitar, electric bass guitar, and drums, sometimes with keyboards and harmonica. From its beginnings in the early- to mid-1960s, blues rock has gone through several stylistic shifts and along the way it inspired and influenced hard rock, Southern rock, and early heavy metal. Blues rock continues to be an influence in the 2010s, with performances and recordings by popular artists.

In 1981, [3] three of the 'Big Four' thrash metal bands emerged: Metallica, [4] Slayer [5] and Anthrax; [6] to be joined on the scene in 1983 by Megadeth, formed by Dave Mustaine after being kicked out of Metallica. [7]

Thrash metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music characterized by its overall aggression and often fast tempo. The songs usually use fast percussive beats and low-register guitar riffs, overlaid with shredding-style lead guitar work. The lyrical subject matter often deals with criticisms of The Establishment, and at times shares a disdain for Christian dogma resembling that of their black metal counterparts. The language is typically quite direct and denunciatory, an approach borrowed from hardcore punk.

Metallica American heavy metal band

Metallica is an American heavy metal band. The band was formed in 1981 in Los Angeles, California by drummer Lars Ulrich and vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield, and has been based in San Francisco, California for most of its career. The group's fast tempos, instrumentals and aggressive musicianship made them one of the founding "big four" bands of thrash metal, alongside Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer. Metallica's current lineup comprises founding members Hetfield and Ulrich, longtime lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo. Guitarist Dave Mustaine and bassists Ron McGovney, Cliff Burton and Jason Newsted are former members of the band.

Slayer American thrash metal band

Slayer is an American thrash metal band from Huntington Park, California. The band was formed in 1981 by guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman and vocalist and bassist Tom Araya. Slayer's fast and aggressive musical style made them one of the founding "big four" bands of thrash metal, alongside Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax. Slayer's current lineup comprises King, Araya, drummer Paul Bostaph and guitarist Gary Holt. Hanneman and drummers Dave Lombardo and Jon Dette are former members of the band.


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
220 Volt Sweden1979–present
44 Magnum Japan1977–1989, 2002–present


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
A II Z United Kingdom1979–1982
Accept [8] Germany1976–1989, 1992–1997, 2004–2005, 2009–presentAccept played an important role in the development of speed metal and Teutonic thrash metal, being part of the German heavy/speed/power metal scene which emerged in the early to mid-1980s. [9]
AC/DC Australia1973–present
Aerosmith [10] United States1970–present
Alice Cooper [9] [11] United States1968–present
Angel United States1975–1981, 1987, 1998–present
Ángeles del Infierno Spain1978–present
Angel Witch United Kingdom1977–1982, 1984–1998, 2000–present
Anthem Japan1980–1992, 2000–present
Anthrax United States1981–present
Anvil Canada1978–present
Armageddon United Kingdom1974–1976
Atomic Mass United Kingdom1977, 2003
Atomic Rooster United Kingdom1969–1975, 1980–1983, 2016–present
Atomkraft United Kingdom1979–1988, 2005
Attila United States1969–1970Bandmembers included Billy Joel and Jon Small.
Axe United States1979–1984, 1997–2004


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
Babe Ruth United Kingdom1970–1976, 2005–present
Bang [12] United States1969–1973, 2001–2004
Barnabas United States1977–1986
Barón Rojo Spain1980–present
Battleaxe United Kingdom1980–1988, 2010–present
Bengal Tigers Australia1979–present
Beowülf United States1981–1995, 2000–present
Birth Control Germany1966–1983, 1993–2014
Bitch United States1980–presentFirst band to be signed by the Metal Blade Records label.
Black Death United States1977–presentThe first all-African-American heavy metal band.
Black 'n Blue United States1981–1989, 1997, 2003, 2007–presentLead guitarist Tommy Thayer joined Kiss in 2003.
Black Rose United Kingdom1980–1989, 2006–present
Black Sabbath [13] United Kingdom1968–2006, 2011–2017Black Sabbath was formed by Ozzy Osbourne (lead vocals), Tony Iommi (guitar), Geezer Butler (bass guitar), and Bill Ward (drums). Alcohol abuse led to Ozzy Osbourne getting fired and replaced with former Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio. Black Sabbath is considered to be the progenitor of doom metal.
Black Widow United Kingdom1966–1973, 2007–present
Bleak House United Kingdom1972–1983
Blind Illusion United States1978–1989, 2009–present
Blitzkrieg United Kingdom1980–1981, 1984–1991, 1992–1994, 1996–1999, 2001–present
Bloodrock United States1969–1975
Blue Cheer [14] United States1966–1972, 1974–1976, 1978–1979, 1984–1994, 1999–2009
Blue Öyster Cult [15] United States1967–present
Bodine Netherlands1978–1984
Boss Australia1979–1986
Bow Wow [16] Japan1975–presentAlso known as Vow Wow for part of their career (1984–1990).
Bronz United Kingdom1976–1985, 1999–2000, 2003–2005, 2010–present
Edgar Broughton Band United Kingdom1968–2010Cited in the 2010 BBC TV documentary Heavy Metal Britannia as a formative influence on the genre in the UK.
Budgie [17] United Kingdom1967–present
Buffalo [18] [19] Australia1971–1977
Bulldozer Italy1980–1990, 2008–present


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
Cactus [20] United States1969–1972, 2006–present
Captain Beyond United States1971–1973, 1976–1978, 1998–2003
Chateaux United Kingdom1981–1985
Cirith Ungol United States1972–1992, 1996–2001, 2015–present
Cloven Hoof United Kingdom1979–1990, 2000–present
Coven United States1968–1975, 2007–2008
Crimson Glory United States1979–1992, 1998–present
Crushed Butler United Kingdom1969–1971


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
Death SS Italy1977–1984, 1988–present
Dedringer United Kingdom1977–1985
Deep Machine United Kingdom1979–1982, 2009–2015
Deep Purple United Kingdom1968–1976, 1984–present
Def Leppard United Kingdom1977–presentThe band began as a heavy metal outfit.
Demon United Kingdom1979–presentHeadlined the first British Steel Festival in 2006. [21]
The Deviants United Kingdom1967–1969, 1978, 1984, 1996, 2002, 2011–presentSinger and writer Mick Farren died on July 27, 2013.
Diamond Head United Kingdom1976–1985, 1991–1994, 2002–present
Die Krupps Germany1980–present
Divlje Jagode Bosnia and Herzegovina1977–present
Dokken United States1978–1989, 1993–present
Doro Germany1980-present
Dust United States1969–1972Drummer Marc Bell joined The Ramones in 1978.


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
Earthshaker Japan1978–1994, 1999–present
Easy Action Sweden1981–1986, 2006–present
E.F. Band Sweden1978–1986
Electric Sun Germany1978–1986
Elf United States1967–1975 Ronnie James Dio on vocals.
Ethel the Frog United Kingdom1976–1980
Europe Sweden1979–1992, 1999 (partial reunion), 2003–presentThe band began as a heavy metal outfit.
Exciter Canada1978–present


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
Fallout United States1979–1982
Fist United Kingdom1978–1982, 2001–2006
Flotsam and Jetsam United States1981–present
Flower Travellin' Band [22] Japan1967–1973, 2007–present
The Flying Hat Band United Kingdom1971–1974 Glenn Tipton on vocals and guitar, later joined Judas Priest in 1974.
Lita Ford United Kingdom1975-1995, 2008-present


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
Gamma United States1978–1983, 2000
Geordie United Kingdom1972–1980, 1982–1985, 2001Singer Brian Johnson went on to join AC/DC in 1980, after the death of Bon Scott.
Gillan United Kingdom1978–1983
Girl United Kingdom1979–1982
Girlschool United Kingdom1978–presentAll-female band formed during the new wave of British heavy metal.
Gordi Serbia1977–1984
Grand Funk Railroad [23] [24] [25] United States1968–1977, 1980–1983, 1996–present
Grave Digger Germany1980–1987, 1991–present
Gravestone Germany1977–1986
Great White United States1977–2001, 2002–present
Grim Reaper United Kingdom1979–1988, 2006–present
The Gun United Kingdom1967–1970


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
Sammy Hagar United States1967–present
The Handsome Beasts United Kingdom1972–present
Hanoi Rocks Finland1979–1985, 2001–2009
Hard Stuff United Kingdom1971–1973
Hawkwind United Kingdom1969–present
Headpins Canada1979–present
Heaven Australia1980–2000
Heavy Load Sweden1976–1985
Heavy Metal Kids United Kingdom1972–1985, 2002–presentInitially featured actor Gary Holton on vocals.
Helix Canada1974–present
High Tide United Kingdom1969–1970
Hollow Ground United Kingdom1979–1982, 2007, 2013
Holocaust United Kingdom1977–present
Holy Moses Germany1980–1994, 2000–present


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
Icon United States1979–1990, 2008–present
Iron Butterfly [22] United States1966–presentSecond guitarist Erik Braunn died in 2003 of a heart attack. Original bassist Lee Dorman died on December 21, 2012.
Iron Claw United Kingdom1969–1974, 1993, 2010–present
Iron Maiden United Kingdom1975–presentIron Maiden achieved success during the early 1980s. After several line-up changes, the band went on to release a series of U.S. and UK platinum and gold albums, including 1982's The Number of the Beast , 1983's Piece of Mind , 1984's Powerslave , 1985's live release Live After Death , 1986's Somewhere in Time and 1988's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son .


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
Jag Panzer United States1981–1988, 1994–2011
Jaguar United Kingdom1979–1985, 1998–present
Jameson Raid United Kingdom1975–1983, 2008–present
Jerusalem United Kingdom1972–presentProduced and managed by Ian Gillan of Deep Purple. Early creators of Metal, Doom and Stoner rock. Remastered vinyl and CD versions of original Decca, Deram and Universal releases have been reissued by Rockadrome Records.
Josefus United States1969–2005
JPT Scare Band United States1973–present
Judas Priest United Kingdom1969–present


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
Kat Poland1979–1987, 1990–1999, 2002–present
Kerber Serbia1981–present
Kick Axe Canada1976–1988, 2003–present
Killer Belgium1980–present
Killer Dwarfs Canada1981–1997, 2001–present
Killing Joke United Kingdom1978–1996, 2002–present
King's X United States1979–present
Kiss United States1973–present
Kix United States1977–1996, 2003–present
Krokus Switzerland1974–present


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
Leaf Hound United Kingdom1969–1971, 2004–present
Leatherwolf United States1981–present
Led Zeppelin [26] United Kingdom1968–1980, 2007, 2011
Legs Diamond United States1975–present
Leño Spain1978–1983
Leviticus Sweden1981–1990
Lionheart United Kingdom1980–1986
Living Death Germany1980–1991
London United States1978–1981, 1984–1990, 2006–presentEarly lineups featured future members of Mötley Crüe, Guns N' Roses, W.A.S.P. and Cinderella. [27]
Lone Star United Kingdom1975–1978
Los Suaves Spain1980–present
Loudness Japan1980–present
Lucifer's Friend [28] Germany1970–1982, 1993–1997, 2014–present


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
Mahogany Rush Canada1970–1980, 1998–present
Malice United States1980–1989, 2006–present
Yngwie Malmsteen Sweden1978–present
Mama's Boys Ireland1978–1993
Manilla Road United States1977–1990, 2001–present
Manowar United States1980–presentDrummer Scott Columbus died on April 4, 2011.
Marseille United Kingdom1976–present
Max Webster Canada1973–1982
May Blitz United Kingdom1969–1972
Mentors United States1976–present
Mercyful Fate Denmark1981–1985, 1992–1999 King Diamond on vocals.
Metal Church United States1980–1994, 1998–2009, 2012–present
Metallica United States1981–presentBassist Cliff Burton died on September 27, 1986.
Ministry United States1981–2008, 2011–presentStarted as a new wave act.
Misfits United States1977–1983, 1995–present
Montrose United States1973–1976, 2005
More United Kingdom1980–1982, 1985, 1998–2000, 2011–present
Mötley Crüe United States1981–2015
Motörhead United Kingdom1975–2015 Lemmy died on December 28, 2015.
Mountain [29] United States1969–1972, 1973–1974, 1981–1985, 1992–1998, 2001–2010
Moxy Canada1974-1983, 1999-2009


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
Nazareth United Kingdom1968–present
Necromandus [22] [30] United Kingdom1970–1973
The Next Band United Kingdom1978–1982
Nightmare France1979–1987, 1999–present
Night Sun [31] Germany1970–1973
Nightwing United Kingdom1978–1987, 1996–present
Ted Nugent [32] [33] United States1975–present


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
The Obsessed United States1976–1986, 1990–1995, 2011–present
Ozzy Osbourne United Kingdom1980–present
Ostrogoth Belgium1980–1988, 2002, 2010–present
Oz Finland1977–1991, 2010–present


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
Pagan Altar United Kingdom1978–1982, 2004–present
Pantera United States1981–2003Started as a glam metal band.
Pentagram United States1971–1976, 1978–1979, 1981–present
Persian Risk United Kingdom1979–1986
Picture Netherlands1979–1987, 1997–1999, 2007–present
Pink Fairies United Kingdom1970–1976, 1987–1988
Praying Mantis United Kingdom1974–present
Pretty Maids Denmark1981–present
Primevil United States1973–1974


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
Quartz United Kingdom1974–1983, 1996, 2011
Queensrÿche [34] United States1981–present
Quiet Riot United States1975–present


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
Rainbow United Kingdom1975–1984, 1993–1997, 2016–presentGuitarist Ritchie Blackmore formed Rainbow in 1975 after leaving Deep Purple.
Ratt United States1976–1992, 1996–present
Raven United Kingdom1974–present
Riot United States1975–1984, 1986–2012
Rock Goddess United Kingdom1977–1987, 1994–1995, 2009, 2015–present
Rok Mašina Serbia1980–1982
Rose Tattoo Australia1976–1987, 1993, 1998–present
Uli Jon Roth Germany1968–present
Rough Cutt United States1981–1987, 2000–2002
The Runaways United States1975–1979
Running Wild Germany1976–2009, 2011–present
Rush Canada1968–2017


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
Saber Tiger Japan1981–present
Sacred Rite United States1980–1990
Saint United States1980–1989, 1999–present
Saint Vitus United States1978–1996, 2003, 2008–present
Salem United Kingdom1979–1983, 2009–present
Samson United Kingdom1977–2002
Satan United Kingdom1979–1988, 2005–present
Savage United Kingdom1976–present
Savage Grace United States1981–1993, 2009–2010
Savatage United States1978–2002, 2014–presentPrevious members of the band formed the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in 1996.
Saxon United Kingdom1976–present
Michael Schenker Group Germany1979–present
Scorpions Germany1965–present
Shark Island United States1979–1992
Sir Lord Baltimore United States1968–1976, 2006–present
Sister United States1976–1978
Skitzo United States1981–present
Sorcery United States1976–1987
Sortilège France1981–1986
Sound Barrier United States1980–1987
Spinal Tap United States1979–presentParody heavy metal band which first appeared on TV in 1979, with American actors playing the parts of fictional British musicians.
Spider United Kingdom1976–1986
Stampede United Kingdom1981–1983, 2009–present
Starz United States1975–1979, 1980, 1990, 2003–present
Steeler Germany1981–1988
Steppenwolf Canada/United States1967–presentThe 1967 recording "Born to Be Wild" was one of the first rock songs to contain the phrase "Heavy Metal" in its lyrics.
Stormwitch Germany1979–1994, 2002–present
Stray United Kingdom1966–present
Suck South Africa1970–1971
Suicidal Tendencies United States1980–1995, 1997–present
Sweet Savage United Kingdom1979–present


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
Tank United Kingdom1980–1989, 1997–present
Tarantula Portugal1981–present
Tesla United States1981–1996, 2000–present
Thin Lizzy Ireland1969–1984, 1996–2012
Thor Canada1976–1978, 1983–1986, 1997–present
TKO United States1977–2001
Toad Switzerland1970–1995
Tobruk United Kingdom1981–1987
Trance Germany1977–1998, 2011–presentAccording to Manfred Meyer from Metal Hammer magazine, some would rank the band alongside Accept and Scorpions as the third most important hard rock band from Germany.
Trespass United Kingdom1978–1982, 1992–1993, 2013–present
Triumph Canada1975–1993, 2008–present
Trooper Canada1974–present
Trust France1977–1985, 1988, 1996–2000, 2006
TSA Poland1979–present
Tucky Buzzard United Kingdom1969–1974
Turbo Poland1980–present
Twisted Sister United States1972–1988, 1997–2016
Tygers of Pan Tang United Kingdom1978–1987, 1999–present
Tytan United Kingdom1981–1983, 2012–present


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
UFO United Kingdom1969–1988, 1992–present
Urchin United Kingdom1972–1980
Uriah Heep United Kingdom1969–present


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
V8 Argentina1979–1987
Vandenberg Netherlands1981–1987
Van Halen United States1972–present
Vanilla Fudge [35] United States1967–1970, 1982–1984, 1987–1988, 1991, 1999–present
Vardis United Kingdom1973–1986, 2014–present
Venom United Kingdom1979–presentPioneers of the Black Metal genre, with their 1981 album, Black Metal and subsequent releases.
Vicious Rumors United States1979–present
Virgin Steele United States1981–present
Vulcain France1981–1998, 2009–present


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
Warhorse [22] United Kingdom1970–1974, (partial reunions: 1985, 2005)
Warning France1980–1985
Warpig Canada1968–1975, 2004–present
White Sister United States1980–1986, 2008–2009
Whitesnake United Kingdom1978–1990, 1994, 1997, 2002–present
White Spirit United Kingdom1975–1981
White Wolf Canada1975–1986, 2007–present
Wild Dogs United States1981–present
Wild Horses United Kingdom1978–1981
Witchfinder General United Kingdom1979–1984, 2006–2008
Witchfynde United Kingdom1974–1984, 1999–present
Wrathchild United Kingdom1980–1990, 2009–present
Wrathchild America United States1978–1993


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
Y&T United States1974–1991, 1995–present


NameOriginYears activeBrief summary
Zebra United States1975-present
Zoetrope United States1976–1993

See also

A number of heavy metal genres have developed since the emergence of heavy metal during the late 1960s and early 1970s. At times heavy metal genres may overlap or are difficult to distinguish, but they can be identified by a number of traits. They may differ in terms of: instrumentation, tempo, song structure, vocal style, lyrics, guitar playing style, drumming style, and so on.

Related Research Articles

Death metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music. It typically employs heavily distorted and low-tuned guitars, played with techniques such as palm muting and tremolo picking, deep growling vocals, aggressive, powerful drumming featuring double kick and blast beat techniques, minor keys or atonality, abrupt tempo, key, and time signature changes, and chromatic chord progressions. The lyrical themes of death metal may invoke slasher film-stylized violence, religion, occultism, Lovecraftian horror, nature, mysticism, mythology, philosophy, science fiction, and politics, and they may describe extreme acts, including mutilation, dissection, torture, rape, cannibalism, and necrophilia.

Speed metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music that originated in the late 1970s from new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) roots. It is described by AllMusic as "extremely fast, abrasive, and technically demanding" music.

Anthrax (American band) American thrash metal band

Anthrax is an American heavy metal band from New York City, formed in 1981 by rhythm guitarist Scott Ian and bassist Dan Lilker. The group is considered one of the leaders of the thrash metal scene from the 1980s and is one of the "Big Four" thrash metal bands with Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer; Anthrax is the only one of the four from the East Coast, and often credited as one of the early thrash metal bands to emerge from there, along with Overkill and Nuclear Assault. The band has released 11 studio albums, several other albums, and 26 singles, including collaborating on a single with American hip hop group Public Enemy. According to Nielsen SoundScan, Anthrax sold 2.5 million records in the United States from 1991 to 2004, with worldwide sales of 10 million.

The new wave of British heavy metal was a nationwide musical movement that started in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s and achieved international attention by the early 1980s. Journalist Geoff Barton coined the term in a May 1979 issue of the British music newspaper Sounds to describe the emergence of new heavy metal bands in the mid to late 1970s, during the period of punk rock's decline and the dominance of new wave music.

Alternative metal is a rock music fusion genre that infuses heavy metal with influences from alternative rock and other genres not normally associated with metal. Alternative metal bands are often characterized by heavily downtuned, mid-paced guitar riffs, a mixture of accessible melodic vocals and harsh vocals and sometimes unconventional sounds within other heavy metal styles. The term has been in use since the 1980s, although it came into prominence in the 1990s.

Exodus (American band) American thrash metal band

Exodus is an American thrash metal band formed in 1979 in Richmond, California. They have gone through numerous lineup changes, two extended hiatuses, and the deaths of two former band members. Their current lineup consists of guitarists Gary Holt and Lee Altus, bassist Jack Gibson, drummer Tom Hunting, and lead vocalist Steve "Zetro" Souza. Hunting is one of the original members, and departed from Exodus twice, in 1989 and 2004, but rejoined in 2007. Holt joined the band about two years after its formation, and is the only member of Exodus to appear on all their releases.

Groove metal is a subgenre of heavy metal music. Music journalists and fans have used groove metal to describe Pantera, Exhorder and Machine Head. At its core, groove metal takes the intensity and sonic qualities of thrash metal and plays them at mid-tempo, with most bands making only occasional forays into fast tempo.

Crossover thrash is a fusion genre of thrash metal and hardcore punk. The genre lies on a continuum between heavy metal and hardcore punk. Other genres on the same continuum, such as metalcore and grindcore, may overlap with crossover thrash.

Clash of the Titans (tour)

Clash of the Titans was a concert tour co-headlined by American thrash metal bands Megadeth and Slayer, which took place in September and October 1990 and again from May to July 1991. Launched in support of their respective albums Rust in Peace and Seasons in the Abyss, the tour had two legs, first in Europe and second in the United States. Clash of the Titans is considered one of the most successful tours in heavy metal history, and bridged the gap between the popularity of thrash metal and rise of the alternative rock and grunge scene.

<i>Sound of the Beast</i> book by Ian Christe

Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal is a 2004 book by Ian Christe, documenting the history of heavy metal music and its origins.

<i>The Big Four: Live from Sofia, Bulgaria</i> 2010 video by Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax

The Big Four: Live from Sofia, Bulgaria is a live video with performances by Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax, the "big four" of thrash metal. The concert took place on June 22, 2010 at the Sonisphere Festival at Vasil Levski National Stadium, Sofia, Bulgaria. It was shown at 450 movie theaters in the United States and over 350 movie theaters across Europe, Canada, and Latin America on June 22, 2010.

The Handsome Beasts are a British heavy metal band who surfaced during the new wave of British heavy metal. Currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity, their album Beastiality is infamous for being featured on several "Worst album cover of all time" lists.


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