Best Metal Bands
The best metal bands in the history of rock and roll defined heavy music in their particular eras, and influenced further generations of headbangers to start bands of their own and push to new extremes. These five bands are the best metal bands not because they were the heaviest or fastest, but because they had the largest influence, popularizing music from the margins and innovating new styles. Here they are, the five best metal bands of all time.
- Black Sabbath. The originators of the sound have to top the list of the best metal bands. Black Sabbath, formed in England's decaying industrial rust belt, turned the acid blues of Cream and other British bands into something entirely more sinister, playing in minor chords and adding lyrics referencing the occult. Named for a B-grade horror film, Sabbath brought to light the first definitive voice of heavy metal, the screaming Ozzy Osbourne, who, along with the mountains of riffs created by Tony Iommi and the rock-solid rhythm section, codified a new style of rock and roll. After their hit album "Paranoid," music would never be the same.
- Motorhead. A rock group popular with bikers the world over, Motorhead added the speed of punk rock and its street-wise attitude to the riffs of heavy metal and became one of the most influential and best metal bands ever as a result. Their bassist-frontman, Lemmy Kilmister, is a towering rock and roll God, the ugliest man ever to bed a thousand women and survive rock and roll excess to remain as cool as ever. Their classic "Ace of Spades" album brought them into the mainstream, and the title track remains an anthem for hoodlums, gamblers, bikers, speed-freaks and miscreants of every stripe to this day.
- Metallica. Though now they're more known for fighting Napster and hiring a band therapist, Metallica began as the defining band of the thrash metal movement, taking Motorhead's speed and riffs and combining them with the instrumental dexterity of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, setting a new standard for the best metal bands. Their first three albums, "Kill 'Em All," "Ride the Lightning," and "Master of Puppets" defined metal in the mid-eighties and took it to new speeds and complexities. Their recent albums haven't been as good but when they play the classics live it still slays.
- Slayer. Slayer took the darker side of Metallica and pushed it into the red and the black in terms of subject matter and speed. The definitive thrash band after Metallica, Slayer created the demonic epic, "Reign in Blood," a true metal classic that forever places Slayer in the ranks of the best metal bands of all time. Their lyrics, like those for "Angel of Death" about Dr. Josef Mengele, have raised eyebrows that Slayer represent a white power stance, but frontman Tom Araya's Chilean descent should be the only clue necessary to know that's false. They just write about, and play with, the convictions of humanity's darkest sides.
- Pantera. Pantera brought underground metal back to the mainstream in the nineties, in the heyday of grunge. By adding grunts, screams, and groove, not to mention the bluesy guitar style of Dimebag Darrell (R.I.P.), Pantera changed metal from something overly complex back to its mosh pit origins, creating music for angry teenagers to blast while running into each other at high speeds or lifting weights in the garage. Building upon the foundation of the other best metal bands listed above, Pantera created something entirely new, working class white trash music with chaotic and kinetic power. They close out our list of the five best metal bands of all time having influenced everyone from Hatebreed to Lamb of God, potential later entries to the list.