From the seventies to the eighties, nineties, and millennium days, heavy metal music has been alive and well and is only here to stay. Established as one of the most popular music genres out there in the world, the evolution of heavy metal continues to grow with a wide audience. Sometimes, these heavy metals bands start off as a different genre and evolve into a mixture of multiple genres, even developing fully into heavy metal music.
There seem to be fewer festivities and events in general for the metal heads these days. This is likely because there is a greater furor in the news around the newer events such as EDC, Wonderland, and most recently the popular Coachella. But, heavy metal is truly never going out style; especially with fans, such as myself, who make sure that it will never disappear. Thankfully, there are the occasional Epicenter and Warped Tour, which are more popular for the alternative and punk-rock kiddos. Besides, we recently got one of the fathers of heavy metal to return with a new album—yes, Mr. Rob Zombie—as well as more awesome collaborations from the Hollywood Vampires, involving Alice Cooper and actor, Johnny Depp.
Here is a list (preferably in no particular order, if I had to say so) of the top fifteen best heavy metal bands:
You have probably heard of this band before, whether you are a fan of their music or not, because they certainly know how to make breaking headlines. Originating from Richmond, Virginia, Gwar paved its way to the music scene in 1984. Their “costume” getup consists of a sci-fi theme, which often freaks people the f*** out; at least for my mother when I had first asked for tickets to see them live in middle and high school. This was before I heard criticism of their live performances, which are deemed as too “graphic,” spraying audience members with fake blood, urine, and semen. The band made even bigger headlines in the early 2000s with their single “Bring Back the Bomb” and when famous (or infamous, however, you see it) skateboarder Bam Margera had the band as guest on his hit show, Viva La Bam. They also have a dope take on Kansas’ “Carry on My Wayward Son.”
The Abbott brothers had originally started out the band as a “glam rock” band from Arlington, Texas before making their rounds in the heavy metal scene in the late eighties when band member (original lead vocalist), Terry Glaze, was fired. After the release of their 1988 album Power Metal, the band only made their music “heavier” and soon they were classified as one of the best heavy metal bands after the release of their album Far Beyond Driven, which debuted at the number spot on the Billboard 200. In 2003, the Abbott Brothers—guitarist, Dimebag Darrell, and drummer, Vinnie Paul, had formed another band, Damageplan. However, tragedy struck in 2004 when Darrell was shot and killed by fan during a concert. Honestly, there is not one “bad” song from them because it is tough to choose which one is their “best.” Just give them a listen, if you have never before. You will not be disappointed.
13. Judas Priest
This British band formed in 1969, selling more than forty-five million records and counting. However, the band had struggled for years to sell an impressive amount of records due to their music style not growing an audience. But that had all changed after the release of their 1988 album, British Steel. The album had also stirred some controversy when two fans had taken their own lives because of on one of the songs. The song, “Better By You, Better Than You” was said to be the cause of the tragic deaths, which led to an ugly lawsuit. The band then left an impression on MTV, making a semi-cameo appearance on the hit show Beavis and Butthead. We see the characters watching the music video, as well as rocking out to “Painkiller.” The second time, they are singing the lyrics to “Breaking the Law” when one of them loses their finger from a chainsaw…
In 1987 Lodi, New Jersey singer and songwriter Glenn Danzig formed Danzig after his departure from his freshman band known as the Misfits, as well as his sophomore band, Samhain. The band became known for their slow tempo style, which they have often credited to Black Sabbath as their musical inspiration. Their first big break was being featured on the Less Than Zero, starring Andrew McCarthy and Robert Downey Jr., soundtrack with their single “You And Me (Less Than Zero).” The band’s song “Thirteen,” was also featured in Todd Phillips’ overnight sensation, The Hangover. The band then wrote the song “Black Hell” specifically for the sequel, The Hangover Part II. Recently, the band had completed an Elvis Presley cover album and it is set to be released in the upcoming weeks. If I had to choose, “How The Gods Kill” is one of their best singles; familiar to their other song “Thirteen.”
Now for some, Goblin is not your typical heavy metal band, but I think their involvement with horror film soundtracks puts them into that category. This Italian band was originally called the Cherry Five. They were first hired to compose the soundtrack for Dario Argento’s feature, Profondo Rosso. They had often collaborated with the director. Then, in 1997, the band had gained international success after working on the soundtrack for Argento’s next feature, Suspiria. Argento also had a lot of creative song collaboration with the band. Goblin’s music for this particular film was an interesting process because all of the songs are well known for their eerie horror sound. Lead singer Massimo Morante had actually whispered and gibbered random words into the microphone during most of the songs, especially for the famous opener and theme song “Suspiria.” The soundtrack has been named as one of the best horror albums until this date.
It is sad to say that the band is no longer around after the death of bassist, singer and songwriter, Ian Fraser; also known as “Lemmy” Kilmister. He had passed from progressing prostate cancer. Fraser had, in fact, formed the band in June 1975. He and his rock trio, including earlier band mates Larry Wallis and Lucas Fox, brought a new wave to heavy metal. Their single “Ace of Spades” is said to be their best song to date. It has been featured in multiple films, TV shows, as well as video games. Remember the radio station options for Grand Theft Auto? That game and its latest versions also paid homage to Lemmy. Their work had also started the evolution of British heavy metal. The band’s career spanned for forty years. That consisted of twenty-three studio albums, ten live recordings, and twelve compilation albums. Band members Mikkey Dee and Phil Campbell were the ones who had decided to not continue as a band after Lemmy’s passing.
9. White Zombie
If you are a Rob Zombie fan (like myself), then you definitely remember his early work from being a production assistant on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and performing in a band called White Zombie. Check out their music videos (“More Human Than Human” is one of their best)—it is no surprise that Zombie would later go on and direct horror films. It is said that the band was named after the 1931 horror film, White Zombie. The band found a lot of success in a short time, until they broke up when Zombie refused to sign a recording contract with Geffen Records. Today, Zombie is seen at different festivals, performing both his solo and White Zombie work. Recently, he released his album, The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser, bringing back the modern classic horror film tunes. Former bassist, Sean Yseult, also performs with the horror-themed band called The Famous Monsters in local metropolitan cities.
8. Black Sabbath
Aye, the “Prince of Darkness!” To some, they are one of the most controversial bands out there because we all remember seeing vocalist, Ozzy Osbourne, biting the head off of a bat. Besides, you would have to be living under a rock if you never heard of these tunes. Especially being featured in the Iron Man franchise, starring Robert Downey Jr, and Catherine Hardwicke’s Lords of Dogtown. Fun fact: the band had originally started out as a blues-rock band until making rounds into the heavy metal scene. The band was consistently in the limelight due to Osbourne’s infamous alcohol and drug abuse. However, their songs revolving around social instability, politics, and the dangers of drug abuse had a global impact. They were later inducted into the UK Music and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It is amazing that the band had only taken home two Grammy Awards for “Best Metal Performance.”
Dudes in scary masks. Oh yeah! Founded in 1995 by percussionist Shawn Crahan and bassist, Paul Gray, some great tunes had soon arrived onto the map. For most of us, they became our new favorite middle/high school band. Again, I was banned from seeing them in concert because they were deemed as too “wild” (or in my mother’s words, “creepy”). But over the years, the band became known for their aggressive stylized music and energetic performances. The aggressiveness is often seen in all of their music videos, including slow tempo “Vermillion Part II.” Their music videos have some of the best visual work. “Duality” certainly illustrates the house party rager that everyone wants to attend (or wanted to attend and had to sneak out of the house). XIX has some cool ways to honor Stanley Kubrick, especially the song “Eyes Wide Shut.” If you take a listen, you will see why. The band members have also stated it is a “blessing” for not being recognized like most musicians due to their costumes and those masks.
6. Guns N’ Roses
“Welcome to the jungle, we’ve got fun ‘n’ games…” It is impossible to not start singing whenever a Guns N’ Roses song comes onto the radio or music playlist from your phone. The band almost seemed like an overnight sensation after their debut album Appetite for Destruction landed at the number one spot on the Billboard 200 in just days. Then, “Sweet Child o’ Mine” had ascended the Billboard Hot 100, remaining at the number spot for weeks after its debut release. Although the band took breaks throughout their career, the band’s last official album, before lead guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan departed, was their 1993 album, The Spaghetti Incident. Slash had also performed with the band, Velvet Revolver, in the early 2000s. Guns N’ Roses also had one of the most expensively produced albums, Chinese Democracy, costing around $14 million. In 2012, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Lead vocalist Axl Rose remains one of the greatest singers today.
5. System of a Down
Residing from Glendale, California, System of a Down, an Armenian-American band was established in 1994. Selling more than forty million records globally, as well as being nominated for four Grammy Awards, System of a Down continues to leave a mark on fans everywhere. The band had made their ways to the music scene, having their first performances at the Viper Room and the Whisky-A-Go-Go. Their popular performances struck the interest of music producer Rick Rubin, who immediately took the band under his wing. Soon, the band’s songs “Sugar” and “Spiders” became their first two breakthrough hits, growing into a radio fan favorites. These music videos were being looped on MTV for quite some time. Lead vocals and keyboardist Serj Tankian had even progressed a solo career after the band’s spilt in 2006. However, the band reconnected in 2010, and are frequently performing shows in the Metropolitan area.
After the release of their badass single “Reign of Blood,” this Huntington Beach band was pushed into the spotlight, as close as you can come to an overnight sensation. Their songs, “Eyes of the Insane” and “Final Six” scored Grammy Awards in back-to-back ceremonies. Their lyrics and cover work have often been criticized and banned due to their song subjects featuring around murder, death, necrophilia, Satanism, hate crimes, terrorism, and Nazism. Multiple religions had convinced many organizations and even fans to not only ban, but also even delay the band’s albums, especially when the Satanic star and even Satan himself made frequent appearances on their album covers, including their debut, Show No Mercy. But that did not stop their records from selling more than four million copies. Recently, Slayer made breaking news when one of the Kardashian-Jenner clan, Kendall, was spotted wearing a piece of the band’s merchandise clothing. Guitarist Gary Holt was said to show his “support” by wearing a “Kill the Kardashians” T-shirt.
3. Iron Maiden
Hailing from London, England, it is impressive that with little to zero radio and television support, Iron Maiden remains as one of the most successful bands in history. With a total of thirty-eight albums, the band is unstoppable. Their albums, Number of the Beast and Piece of Mind are some of their best work. However, the album releases had stirred controversy, raising questions if the band mates were Satanists. It is no surprise that it even became an ongoing question, considering it had happened to other bands, including Slayer. Something that has always made the band stand out is having its own mascot; “Eddie” is the person (or creature) who has starred on most of the band’s cover albums, merchandise items, and live performances. The Observer had also reported in 2015 that the band sold more than ninety million records, as well as performed approximately two thousand live performances in their forty-year career. Their song “The Trooper” should be your go-to song every day.
2. Alice in Chains
A mix of grunge and metal. This is the perfect band for that combination. Alice in Chains hit international success in the nineties, alongside other Seattle bands, including Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. “Rooster” is one of their best tracks, featured on their second album, Dirt. The song has continuously been featured in movies and television shows, including Beavis and Butthead. Soon, tragedy had also struck for the band when lead vocalist, Layne Staley, lost his battle to a progressing drug addiction. The band then brought on a new, as well as their current, singer William DuVall, who was part of Pomona Fairplex’s Epicenter 2009 performance. A few years later, bassist Mike Starr had also passed away from a drug overdose. It is inspiring in many ways that the band continues to play their shows in their fallen band mates’ honor. They are currently in the works with their sixth album.
Metallica’s rapid and aggressive pace has landed the band in the “Top Four” list, alongside Anthrax, Megadeth, and Slayer as the best heavy metal bands ever. Winning award after award, including their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the band has been ranked as the most successful metal heads of all time. They also had a controversial court battle with Napster after they had discovered that their song “I Disappear” was playing on air for free, prior to the actual release for the Mission: Impossible II soundtrack. The court battle had stirred interest from two filmmakers who would later go on and document the band, something that former bassist Jason Newsted was only able to shoot for a brief time because he was just released from rehab. The documentary then became Some Kind of Monster, which received a positive reception from Sundance Film Festival. Fans are currently awaiting the band’s next album, Hardwired…to Self-Destruct, which is slated for a November release.