PREVIOUSLY ON TOP 20 METAL BANDS OF ALL TIME:
We went from Hatebreed to Pantera and everything in between (yes even Linkin Park). Now dear friends (and of course, beloved trolls) we charge into battle once more. We are well into the upper echelon of the list now, and I tell you, placing these top 10 bands into spots (save for my top 2) was harder than trying to make Kirk Hammett put his wah pedals down (hahaha metal banter). This is also why my favourite hasn’t been given away by the cover photo, you’ve got to guess you lucky little gremlins! (If you haven’t guessed by now of course).
Once again, go and check out the That’s Not Metal podcast to listen to journalists far more qualified than I, in the form of Beez and Stephen Hill. Me? I’m just a geek with a laptop who likes to write stuff down.
We begin with the Tye Dillinger of metal bands at Number 10! (10!10!10!10! okay I’ll stop now). Onward with the list!
Mastodon, to put it lightly, are fucking bonkers. To call them insane would be to call peanut butter *slightly* addictive. Let’s put it this way; if metal bands were personified by animals, then Mastodon would be Bigfoot. Their sludge drenched brand of groove metal has kept the band’s sound both unique and unusual, keeping listeners guessing after 6 records and a seventh on the way! “Leviathan” is the heaviest retelling of Moby Dick since the 1998 Patrick Stewart series, with “Blood and Thunder” remaining a staple of Mastodon’s live sets. 2006’s opus “Blood Mountain” is (in this guy’s opinion) the band’s finest hour, stomping along with tracks like “The Wolf is Loose”, “Crystal Skull” and “Circle of Cysquatch” and mixing said stomping with the tranquil rain dances that are “This Mortal Soil” and “Pendulous Skin.” The mixture of Troy Sanders’ beastly grumble and Brent Hinds’ southern drawl provided something that the metal world hadn’t really witnessed since Pantera or Down, and I can safely say that they’ve developed a blend of 11 vocal herbs and spices, all their own.
Mastodon have really pushed the creative boat out into whatever lazerus pit they draw powers from, shining through with “Crack the Skye” (2009) and the multidimensional guitar work on tracks like “Oblivion” combined with the conquering glory of “The Czar” (all four parts of it’s epic 10 minutes). “The Hunter” (2011) and “Once More ‘Round the Sun” (2014) kept things experimental, but still churned out metal more exploitative than an Indiana Jones movie. The groove on songs like “Curl of the Burl” and “Black Tongue” are stark contrasts when compared with the outer-space galaxygasms that are “High Road” and “Chimes at Midnight.” These prehistoric palm crushers are set to release a furious new record in March entitled “Emperor of Sand”, and if lead single “Sultan’s Curse” is anything to go by, then the rigorous riffs and gruff vocals from Sanders are returning, fulfilling this keyboard warrior’s dream of a “Blood Mountain” (2006) resurrection.
Entry Point: “Leviathan” (2004), Essential Album: “Blood Mountain” (2006)
9. Parkway Drive
At a time when metalcore was becoming stagnant and very paint-by-numbers, Parkway Drive coloured outside the lines and gave the sub-genre a This Is Sparta style kick into the open ocean. Bringing melodic beatdowns and salt-laced vocals aplenty, courtesy of frontman Winston McCall, Parkway have taken the creativity started by bands like Killswitch Engage and given it a good twist. “Horizons” (2007) was an unrefined masterpiece, with powerful tracks like “The Siren’s Song” and “Boneyards” providing more hammering than a weekend away with Lemmy. Follow-up’s “Deep Blue” (2010) and “Atlas” (2012) swim in the same vein, but with each bringing a slightly refined element to the metallic proceedings. Tracks like “Karma” and “Sleepwalker” added an riffingly infectious groove to the Driver of Parkways, whilst “Wild Eyes” and “Dark Days” bring the metal coated fury that one would expect from a hardcore band. Of course, fan favourite “Deliver Me” is a standout as well, with an Earth shattering drumline leading the charge.
However, if there’s one standout moment for Parkway Drive, it’s 2015’s metal opus, “Ire.” This album is one of the best releases of the decade by far! The melody, the riffs, the singalong choruses. Parkway have really taken themselves to the next level. Wether it’s the melodious leads of “Vice Grip”, the sharpened groove of “Destroyer” or the Rage Against the Machine meets Hatebreed fusion of “Crushed”, this is THE best album by the band to date. Parkway Drive have finally attained stratospheric status, and if we’re lucky, they’ll stay up there for a good while yet!
Entry Point: “Deep Blue” (2010), Essential Album: “Ire”(2015)
Remember way back when, when I said that Jim Root and Corey Taylor appear twice on this list? Yeah, good times. This is another case of 12 year old me taking control here, but not having Slipknot on a list like this would be a crime. I wore out “Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses” (2004) as a teen, and the brutality displayed on “The Blister Exists” and “Before I Forget” remains a regular fixture to this day. Of course, everyone knows “Duality” (another meme song) and the pumping glory of “Pulse of the Maggots” only enhanced the genre’s spirit of rebellion. It wasn’t until a few years later that I was swallowed whole by the monster that is Slipknot’s first two records. Both “Slipknot” (1999) and “Iowa” (2001) were very good examples of the direct opposite of refinement. Even the album’s “glossier” numbers (if they can even be considered that) like “Wait and Bleed” are more ferocious than an outraged sloth. “Iowa” ramps up Slipknot’s brand of decayed thrash, like a zombie goat with titanium hooves.”People=Shit” might just be THE most aggressive album opener since KoRn figured that Jonathan Davis’s scatting would be a great way to lead people in. Other cuts like “The Heretic Anthem” bring moshability aplenty, whilst “Left Behind” sounds like super saiyan Stone Sour (go figure right?!).
Even Slipknot’s later offerings, “All Hope Is Gone” (2008) and “. 5: The Gray Chapter” (2014) remain stronger than the bond of the 9 masked bandmates. “Psychosocial” brings a Rammstein-esque pump along with it (no, not that sort of pump) whilst “The Devil in I”, “Sarcastrophe” and “Custer” prove that Slipknot are still more than capable of writing songs fierier and harsher than Gordon Ramsay’s lamb sauce critique. Live, these guys are nigh unstoppable, as anybody that has seen their Download Festival 2009 sets (and any since then!) or their Knotfest performances (yeah, THEY HAVE THEIR OWN FESTIVAL!) can very strongly attest to this. Slipknot may be the harshest gateway metal band imaginable, but once you’re hooked, you are a maggot for life.
Entry Point: “Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses”, Essential Album: “Slipknot” (1999)
7. Rage Against the Machine
This was a tough one, as for the longest time, I was unsure of whether or not to class RATM as a metal band. How did I arrive at said conclusion? Well, I asked someone over the weekend. They said yes. That was the end of that. One look at their back catalogue, and it cannot be denied. Rage Against the Machine were metal as fuck (and fuck can be pretty metal). The entirety of the self-titled debut (1992) is a lesson in defiance and fury, with songs like “Bombtrack”, “Take the Power Back” and “Know Your Enemy” spinning out militant poetry to the masses. “Killing the Name Of” is of course the band’s most well known track (and well-deserved too, it’s a banger!) and even made it to Christmas Number 1 in 2009 (in the UK of course). Both “Evil Empire” (1996) and “The Battle of Los Angeles” (1999) build on this, adding more fuel to the ever-growing rebellious fire with each song.
“Bulls On Parade” has been covered by many modern metal bands, and with a hypnotic riff like that, you don’t have to be Einstein to see why. “The Battle of Los Angeles” is chock full of scratchy guitar work, as Tom Morello tries to use his insturment as a DJ deck. “Guerilla Radio”, “War Within a Breath” and “Testify” all provide enough angst to fuel a Panic! At the Disco show, whilst slower jams like “Calm Like a Bomb” and “Born of a Broken Man” give plenty of space for bassist Tom Commerford to show of his impressive string tickling. Overall, if someone is looking to get into metal, or just looking for a bit more bite from their music, you cannot go wrong with Rage Against the Machine. Believe me, there is one hell of a bite there.
Entry Point: “Rage Against the Machine” (1992), Essential Album: “The Battle of Los Angeles” (1999)
Easily the metal band that I have most seen live (the band that I’ve seen most is Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, but *shrugs*) Trivium have held a special place in my heart for the better part of a decade now. Sure, they put out a couple of dud records in the form of “The Crusade” (2006) and “Vengeance Falls” (2013), during which frontman Matt Heafy tried to emulate James Hetfield and David Draiman respectively. BUT the pedigree and pure brilliance of the bands remaining four albums cannot be denied. 2005’s “Ascendancy” is one of my favourite records of all time, with absolutley every track hitting its mark. Faster punishers like “Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr” and “Like Light to the Flies” are balanced with slower numbers like “Departure” and “Drowned and Torn Asunder.”
2008’s “Shogun” (2008) is viewed by many…well…me, as the true successor to “Ascendancy”, with the band wandering into the guitar graveyard known as 7-string territory. Riff’s chunkier than a tub of Jiffy and a sonically huge album overall, “Shogun” is a record that, as described by bassist Paolo Gregoletto, “Kicks people’s asses right in the face!”. Thrashfests like “Kirisute Gomen” and “Insurrection” are matched by the dynamic pump of “Down From the Sky” and the rumbling thunder of “Into the Mouth of Hell We March.” The guitarwork on “Throes of Perdition” and the 10 minute title track is absolutely stellar, with Heafy and lead axeman Corey Beaulieu letting more rip than a Beyblade competitor. 2011’s “In Waves” stripped back the sound, but was equally as furious, featuring brilliant moments like “Inception of The End”, “Caustic Are the Ties That Bind” and “Forsake Not the Dream” (a song based on Inception was always going to be a winner. The album’s crowning glory however is Trivium’s show opener turned finale “In Waves” bringing the groove of “Shogun” and the fury of “Ascendancy” together in metal matrimony. 2015’s “Silence in the Snow” may have been a bit hit and miss, but it contained some brilliant guitarwork, and the best that Matt Heafy’s clean singing has ever sounded.
Don’t know if you noticed, but Trivium were and are pretty damn special to me, and they definitely keep fans on their toes. I can, without a doubt, confirm that they still pull it off live. Hail to the shoguns!
Entry Point: “Shogun” (2008), Essential Album: “Ascendancy” (2005)
5. Lamb of God
Lamb of God have remained one of the most consistently brilliant metal bands on the planet. From their second record “As the Palaces Burn” (2003) up to and including album number five, “Wrath” (2009), I feel perfectly secure in saying that (aside from the next band on this list) they had the best run of albums of any modern metal band. “Ruin” and “11th hour” were two of the first metal songs that I listened to, and the first thing I had noticed was the lack of guitar solos in LOG’s music.
Fast forward to “Ashes of the Wake” (2004) and “Sacrament” (2006) and I realised, “wow…I now know why there aren’t many solos, these riffs are difficult enough.” Tracks like “Laid to Rest” and “Now You’ve Got Something to Die For” remain sutured into the band’s live set today, with plenty of furiously happy metalheads bellowing the lyrics back. “Sacrament” really pushed what a heavy metal band could do, with groove-laden crushers like “Walk With Me in Hell” and “Blacken the Cursed Sun” alongside monster tunes like “Redneck” and “Beating on Death’s Door.” “Wrath” (2009) follows suit, with “Contractor” and “Set to Fail” pushing the limit next to the crippling heavy “Broken Hands.” There’s nothing quite like frontman Randy Blythe blurting out “BLED OF ALL, YOU HAD TO LOSE!” like his lungs are about to give out is pretty damn visceral. LOG’s latest efforts, 2012’s “Resolution” and 2015’s “VII: Sturm und Drang” are solid records. So solid that they’d make a golem jealous. This is a band that are churning out heavy music on their terms, and all power to them!
Entry Point: “Ashes Of the Wake” (2004), Essential Album: “Sacrament” (2006)
4. Machine Head
Three words. Machine. Fuckin’. Head. These guys KICKED the door or metal when it was bolted down with the hatches locked. Pre-2007, they were pretty well established, but that did a complete nitro-loaded blast into metal’s upper echelon with “The Blackening” (2007). A true masterpiece (that turns 10 this year….fuck me I’m aging…slowly). From the opening squeels of “Clenching the Fists of Dissent” to the thrashterpiece that is “Aesthetics of Hate”, to the glorious groove of “Halo.” Listening to that record in full again was a real treat, as I was able to experience all of those first time feelings again, but with an even bigger sense of excitement! Any other band would have rested on that particular laurel, but not MH. They put out 2011’s magnificently rifftastic “Unto the Locust” (which gave us the three part greatness of “I Am Hell (Sonata in C#)” and the brilliant groove of “Who We Are.”) and followed that with “Bloodstone and Diamonds” in 2014, which many believe to be the spiritual successor to “The Blackening” (2007). The orchestral sections of “Now We Die” matched with the thrashy shark that is “Killers and Kings” to the tremlo groove of “In Comes the Flood” sum out a brilliant overall record.
Machine Head’s run of dominance has been undeniable this past decade, but even the pre-Blackening efforts have their moments. “Through The Ashes of Empires” (2003)is friggin’ brilliant (find me someone that doesn’t like “Impreium” or “Bite the Bullet”) and “The More Things Change” (1997) and “Burn My Eyes” (1994) are both lessons in how to write a brilliant metal record.
Strong music from an even stronger band. Here’s to the next decade. As frontman Robb Flynn would say, “CHEERS FUCKERS!”.
Entry Point AND Essential Album: “The Blackening” (2007) (because of course it is)
3. Avenged Sevenfold
If I could sing like M. Shadows, my life (as well as my frontman game) would be complete. Avenged Sevenfold have truly made a unique, Deathbat shaped, imprint on the metal scene with each release, following their headcharge onto the scene with “Waking the Fallen” (2003). Giving us classics like “Second Heartbeat” and “Chapter Four” as well as the band’s show closer “Unholy Confessions“. THEN, following some vocal reworking from Shadows and the sonic equivalent of Hulking out, we were given “City of Evil” in 2005, one of the most important metal albums of the 2000s (and probably of all time). The brilliant twin gutiarwork from Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance shines through like the light at the end of a bat and motorbike infested tunnel, with songs like “Beast and the Harlot“, “Trashed and Scattered” and the now infamous “Bat Country” bringing glorious guitar harmonies galore. The key bolt in all of this however, was drummer and legend, Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan. As both a drummer and songwriter, The Rev helped A7X reach astronomical heights, with songs like “Afterlife” and the beautiful Danny Elfman esque score of “A Little Piece of Heaven.” Even after his death in 2009, Sullivan’s songwriting permeated the group’s follow-up effort “Nightmare” (2010), where, despite his brilliant drumlines on “Nightmare” and “Natural Born Killer” being played by Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy, you could tell that those were Rev, through and through.
Avenged Sevenfold however, are just as adept at ballads, solidly proved by “Buried Alive” and “So Far Away.” Following The Rev’s passing, Sevenfold put out solid rocker “Hail to the King” which, whilst a departure from their usual sound, was still a brilliantly strong metal record, and proved that they were ready to take the quantum leap and headline major festivals. Latest opus, “The Stage” (2016), dropped with a day’s notice (take that Beyonce) and was a spectacular return to form. With former Bad Religion stickman, Brooks Wackerman behind the kit, and a songs so sonically huge that they’re positively galactic! (also my favourite album of the year!)
Sevenfold have been put through the ringer, both creatively and personally, over the last 8 years, and have emerged as one of the metal world’s greatest offerings to the universe.
Entry Point: “Nightmare” (2010), Essential Album: “City of Evil” (2005)
Did you really think I would leave the biggest metal band on the planet off of my list? No, I didn’t think so. Metallica are in the middle of their third decade as a band, and, fresh off of putting out their tenth record in that time, “Hardwired…To Self Destruct” it’s pretty clear that Metallica aren’t giving up the claim to their throne anytime soon.
This is the band that gave us trash classics like “Creeping Death” and “Master Of Puppets.” This is the band that gave us the brilliant bass solo on “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” This is the band that gave us the groovingly crushing anthem that is “Enter Sandman.” Yes, “St. Anger” (2003), may have the most colossal dud of duds, but most everything before that, and pretty much everything after, was absolutely bloody incredible.
1991’s self-titled release, aka, “The Black Album” (which I got confused with My Chemical Romance’s “The Black Parade” over the weekend…I’ll show myself out) is the shining example of how to write a metal record, properly. From the opening strings of “Enter Sandman” to the final drum beats of “The Struggle Within” the album is a timeless masterpiece. I got to witness ‘Tallica playing the full thing at Download Festival in 2012 (they played it in reverse so that “Enter Sandman” would be last…well played) and it was and still is one of the best gigs I have seen in my short, miserable life.
Throughout their three decade career, Metallica have played with a symphony orchestra, played on every continent (yes, even Antarctica) and even recently played a headline slot at the Grammy Awards with Lady Gaga! Sure, James’ mic didn’t work on the TV stream, but still! Metallica, are arguably the biggest band that heavy metal has ever produced. Nearly every modern band cites them as an influence, and the fact that people born AFTER the release of “The Black Album” (yours truly included) hold them in such high regard speaks for itself .Not everyone may like them, but everyone, even non-metal fans, have heard their name. Not bad for a band who’s debut album was nearly called “Metal Up Yet Ass.”
Entry Point: “Ride the Lightning”(1984), Essential Album: “Metallica (The Black Album)” (1991)
1. Iron Maiden
You get no points for guessing that these would be the top of my list. I have made no secret of the fact that Iron Maiden, are not just my favourite metal band of all time, but my favourite BAND of a all time, full-stop (he typed right before a full stop….). Having formed in 1975 (not releasing a full album until 1980 however) Maiden are entering their 40th year as a band, and show absolutely no signs of slowing down. Iron Maiden are as innovative off of the stage as they are on it. Their live sets are full of enough statues and puppets to fill a museum (an Iron Maiden museum might not be a bad idea actually!) with each album receiving it’s own special features, often recreating album art and making it move. As Beez would say “Keep you giant tellys!”. Iron Maiden’s stage shows are less of a gig and more of a theatrical performance these days, which wins A LOT of points in my book. The combination of the ramps, the pyro, the statues and whatever Bruce Dickinson feels like doing on the night really is something spellbinding.
Off the stage, the band have their own aircraft, named after their mascot (Eddie the Head) dubbed “Ed Force One” which the band have used since 2008/2009’s Somewhere Back in Time tour. Fitting their crew, gear, and full stage sets into a plane, flown by their own frontman, Iron Maiden figured out the best way to tour on their terms, which is quite a crowning achievement.
Musically, they are in a league of their own. The Conor McGregor of metal bands. Not many bands have three guitarists pulling off brilliant harmonies and awesome twin solo sections (in the form of Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers). Combine this with founder Steve Harris’ galloping bass and the titanic drumset, decorated with an appropriate Sooty mascot (if you don’t know who Sooty is, then you had an awful childhood) played by Nicko McBrian and you have the recipe of the perfect metal cocktail. Of course, Bruce Dickinson’s vocals are that drizzle of air siren on top of Maiden’s musical earthquake. Now well into his fifties, the man can still hit notes that can only be heard by pygmy bats. Listen to “The Number of the Beast” live and you’ll see what I mean.
In terms of studio records, Iron Maiden have a literal gallery of brilliant albums. Their album artwork alone is untouchable by modern standards. “The Number of the Beast” , alongside it’s brilliant title track, brought us the thrilling supercharge of “Run to the Hills” and the tranquil burst of “Hallowed by thy Name.” “Piece of Mind” (1983) and “Powerslave” (1984) brought classics like “Aces High” and Maiden mainstay “The Trooper” into the fold, whilst “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” (1988) started Maiden down the track to the epic bombasticity that we know today (listen to either the title track or “Moonchild” and you’ll see what I mean). Even after a storied album history, Maiden put out “Brave New World” (2000) following Bruce Dickinson’s return to the band, which resulted in the comeback to end all comebacks.
Going through Maiden’s storied studio history would take up about 1000 pages and a whole blog in itself (and stay tuned!), but, I think I’ve made my point. Iron Maiden really are one of the greatest metal bands to walk this great Earth (in this guy’s opinion, THE greatest), and anybody that gets in their way will be swiftly crushed under the weight of Ed Force One. Up the Irons!
Entry Point: “Powerslave” (1984), Essential Album: “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” (1988) OR “Brave New World” (2000)
AND THERE YOU HAVE IT
The 20 Greatest Metal Bands of all time. Well, according to the angry man with the keyboard anyway. I’m not going to lie, this is one of the most single difficult things I have ever done (and that includes both dissertaitons). Metal has been a central part of my life since my pre-teens, and remains my true first love of music today. Whilst I still listen to other genres, and have grown fond of others (what do you mean pop punk isn’t a thing?! SHUT YOUR FILTHY MOUTH!) metal remains the constant in my musical life.
Obviously, if you can, go and subscribe to the That’s Not Metal podcast over on their website (thatsnotmetal.net) and sign up for their premium podcasts. They are brilliant discussions and great history lessons on both bands and the metal community as a whole. Of course, if you can’t afford it, there’s plenty of brilliant free content (including an awesome discussion on the Grammys) on iTunes, Soundcloud AND YouTube. You’re spoilt for choice really.
Of course, you can’t have a list like this without some honourable mentions. Do check any of these out at your leisure .
Amon Amarth – hooray Vikings!
Atreyu – hooray metalcore!
Behemoth – hooray blackened death metal!
Black Label Society – hooray bikers and beer!
Breaking Benjamin – hooray groove!
Gojira – hooray even more groove!
In Flames – hooray melodeath!
Kalmah – hooray swamp metal!
Kamelot – hooray violins and keyboards and shit!
KoRn – hooray heavy and scatting!
Megadeth – hooray thrash and Dave Mustaine
Sepultura – hooray Brazil!
Soulfly – hooray even more Brazil!
Testament – hooray Big 5 of Thrash!
Of course, I wouldn’t write a list like this without expecting you guys to do the same. Send me your Top 20 (or your Top 10, 5, whatever!). Music chat is the best chat. Peace!