Greatest Metal Bands
The following Greatest Metal Bands of all time top list was compiled by averaging metal band rankings between numerous popular heavy metal websites. This list is not meant to be read as a “Greatest Metal Bands Right Now” type of list. Rather, it recognizes group that severely influence the heavy metal genre over its first couple decades of growth. If you disagree with this list in someway, please comment below and share your top bands with some reviews.
1 - Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath are often considered to be the first and greatest heavy metal band of all time. Hailing from Birmingham, England, the original line-up included Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward. Since their inception in 1969, Black Sabbath has put out eighteen studio albums, some of which went multiple platinum in the 70s. Besides Black Sabbath being the number 1 greatest metal band of all time on our top 10 list, MTV also ranked them at Greatest Metal Band of all time and received the honored status as “the heavy-metal kings of the ’70s” from Rolling Stone magazine. If you do not own anything by these guys, we highly recommend picking up “Paranoid” from Black Sabbath, which features some of their signature tracks including “Iron Man” and “War Pigs”.
Iron Maiden might be the most successful heavy metal band ever, as they’ve sold over 85 million records throughout the world. The leaders in the new wave of British Heavy Metal, Iron Maiden were formed in 1975, but didn’t really achieve serious success until the early 1980s. They have some of the most die-hard fans in the world and are represented by their metal mascot, “Eddie”. I don’t think anyone can argue against Iron Maiden being featured on our Greatest Metal Bands Top 10 list, although some probably wish they were rated as first. If you don’t own it yet, download “The Number Of The Beast” now as it is probably Iron Maiden’s most popular album.
3 - Metallica
Obviously Metallica will be on any Greatest Metal Bands list, and we are talking 1980s Metallica of course. They formed in 1981 with James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich starting the group. Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine was their original lead guitarist but was quickly replaced with Kirk Hammett. Metallica have nine studio albums under their belt, with the Black Album a major turning point in Metallica’s career as it enormously expanded their fanbase and radio play. Hell, they even have their own video game (Guitar Hero: Metallica). If you somehow have never heard Metallica or are only familiar with Metallica of the 1990s and 2000s, then you have to download either “Master Of Puppets” or “Ride The Lightning” as they are easily two of the greatest metal albums of all time.
4 - Judas Priest
Like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest formed in Birmingham, England in 1969. Though not all are original members, the primary lineup for the British Heavy Metal act was Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill and Scott Travis. These leather and studded metal gods have sold over 50 million records from the Judas Priest discography of sixteen studio albums and are certainly one of the most important names in the history of metal. If you don’t have them, download “British Steel” and “Screaming For Vengeance” as they are two essentials of 20th century heavy metal.
5 - Motörhead
Motörhead were conceived in 1975 by Ian Fraser Kilmister, or ‘Lemmy’ as he is more famously known. Like Iron Maiden, Motörhead were also participants in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and combined the punk rock attitude and energy with 1970s heavy metal to make them one of the first thrash metal acts. Probably their most famous and greatest album, “Ace Of Spades” should be in every respectable metalhead’s music library.
6 - Slayer
Formed in 1981, Slayer are one of the major pioneers in thrash metal. In American pop culture, Slayer are often recognized as one of the most evil bands on the planet as their songs and album covers are vociferously protested by religious groups. While religion is a common theme in Slayer’s body of work (11 studio albums), they also cover warfare and other violent topics. These guys have stayed true to their sound and image, while still winning a couple Grammy awards along the way. Downloading “Reign In Blood<" will introduce you to the unholy glory that is Slayer.
7 - AC/DC
Although they are arguably more of a hard rock group, AC/DC were featured in enough top 10 heavy metal lists that we had to include them in ours as well. Famously the greatest Australian band of all time, AC/DC formed in 1973 by Angus and Malcolm Young. In the 70s, vocalist Bon Scott provided their signature vocals, but was replaced by Brian Johnson after he died of heavy drinking. Angus Young’s guitar playing is also a major identifying factor of AC/DC as he’s composed some of the catchiest hard rock riffs ever. They’re so good that AC/DC are one of the highest grossing groups ever and are still touring to this day. Anything from the Aussie rockers recorded in the 1970s and 1980s is worth checking out, but “Back in Black” and “Highway to Hell” are two of the best.
8 - Megadeth
After parting ways with Metallica in 1983, Dave Mustaine formed Megadeth with Dave Ellefson and Greg Handevidt. Also a major name in thrash metal in the 1980s, Megadeth have put out 12 studio albums and gone through around 20 different members. These guys are one of the greatest thrash metal bands with signature trade-off guitar solos and Dave Mustaine’s lyrical commentary on politics, religion, addiction and violence. If Megadeth have somehow gone under your radar or you’re just now getting into heavy metal, download “Rust In Peace” by these guys for it is amazing.
9 - Pantera
It was difficult choosing number 10 in our greatest metal bands of all time list, but it just seemed right to finish it off with Pantera. Although they didn’t gain commercial success until the early 1990s, Vinnie Paul and his brother Dimebag Darrell put the group together in 1981. Their vocalist and frontman Phil Anselmo didn’t join until 1987. Although Pantera were originally more of a glam metal band, their heavy southern thrash style was what really caught people’s attention making “Cowboys From Hell” and “Vulgar Display Of Power” two of the most kick-ass American metal albums to ever be produced. Pantera broke up in 2003 and can never get back together due to the tragic onstage murder of Dimebag Darrell in 2004.