We have all seen those headbangers and metalheads, the diehard fans of heavy metal music whose heads sway to the beat of the music. Heavy metal is actually a form of rock music. It started during the late 60s and early 70s with bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. While it can trace its origins from the blues and psychedelic rock, heavy metal is characterized by a thick sound, loud distortion, extended guitar riffs and thumping beats. The lyrics and performance style usually celebrate masculinity and even border on machismo.
Heavy metal has evolved over the years. Punk rock has been introduced and some bands have totally discarded the influence of the blues. Some bands have adopted a more commercial sound to enable them to attract a more mainstream audience. Others have used a more aggressive style. Several sub genres have developed, like thrash metal, glam metal, death metal, black metal, nu metal and metalcore.
Here is a list of the top 10 best heavy metal bands of all time.
Slayer is an American thrash metal band formed in 1981. It is one of the “Big Four” thrash metal acts, along with Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax. Known for its double bass drums and loud vocals, Slayer has been instrumental in influencing other bands visually, musically and lyrically. They have already 11 studio albums, winning two Grammy Awards in the process for the songs “Eyes of the Insane” in 2007 and “Final Six” in 2008.
Just when heavy metal was losing steam, Motorhead came along and re-energized the scene. The band was formed in 1975 and led the new wave of British heavy metal acts. The band put in some punk rock elements into their music and emphasized speed, thus providing the impetus for the speed metal genre. They are still active up to now, though only the bassist, Ian Fraser Kilmister also known as Lemmy, has remained from the start. He is also the band’s principal singer and songwriter. It has released 20 studio albums and have sold more than 15 million copies worldwide. It is best known for the album “No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith.”
The band was one of the pioneers of heavy metal, though its music can also be classified as hard rock or blues rock. This Australian band is one of the highest grossing acts of all time. The band is best known for albums like “Highway to Hell,” “Back in Black” and “For Those About to Rock, We Salute You.” It has already sold more than 200 million albums worldwide, more than a third of which in the United States. “Back in Black” sold more than 50 million copies, tying it with Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” as the second best selling album of all time, trailing only Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
Pantera was an American band formed in 1981. They started out as a glam metal band before it steadily progressed to a heavier groove and thrash metal sound. It has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide. Its best-known work is “Far Beyond Driven” that went straight to number one in the Billboard album chart. Unfortunately, the band broke up after its lead singer, Phil Anselmo, got addicted to heroin though it took eight years before it officially broke up.
6. Deep Purple
This British hard rock band was one of the pioneers of heavy metal. Along with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, the band formed part of the Unholy Trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal of the 70s. It was called the loudest band in the world after a 1972 concert in London. It has had many line up changes, though its most successful years were from 1969 to 1973. It is best known for the album called “Machine Head,” which gave the band hit songs that became classics, like “Space Truckin’,” “Highway Star,” “Lazy” and “Smoke on the Water.”
5. Iron Maiden
Iron Maiden is a band from England that was part of the new wave of British metal. It was formed in 1975 and it has already released a total of 15 studio albums. It is one of the most successful heavy metal bands in history, having sold more than 85 million records around the world. The 1980s saw the band release a series of highly successful albums, including “The Number of the Beast,” “Piece of Mind,” “Powerslave,” “Somewhere in Time” and “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.” It dropped out of the scene for a number of years but enjoyed a revival in 1999. Its most recent album called “The Final Frontier” was a huge critical and commercial success.
Metallica was established in 1981 after James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich met through a newspaper advertisement. The band is known for its fast tempos and aggressive style of music. In 1986, its album “Master of Puppets” got acclaim for its influential and heavy sound. It started to attract a more mainstream audience after the release of their fifth album called “Metallica,” which is also known as “The Black Album.” The album went straight to number one. It has released nine studio albums and has the distinction of having five straight albums going straight to the top. It has won nine Grammys.
3. Judas Priest
This is an English band formed in 1969. It has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide. Generally considered as metal gods, it has influenced a number of bands. Its 1980 album called “British Steel” is considered as the album that best exemplifies the meaning of heavy metal.
2. Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath was formed in 1969 and features the legendary Ozzy Osbourne. It was originally called Earth when it first got together in 1968. It has sold more than 15 million albums around the world. It is generally considered as one of the greatest hard rock and heavy metal bands of all time.
1. Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin is an English band formed in 1968 as The New Yardbirds. Though recognized as heavy metal and hard rock artists, the band has also been influenced by other kinds of music. It is best known for the song “Stairway to Heaven,” its most popular and influential song that underlined its status as superstars. It has sold between 200 to 300 million albums around the world. It is considered the heaviest band of all time and one of the most enduring acts in the history of rock music.