What Is Heavy Metal Music?
HEAVY METAL (or simply METAL) is a genre of rock music that arose in the late 1960s and early 1970s mostly throughout the United Kingdom and United States . It’s roots lay within blues, classical music and rock and it is generally characterized by a massive sound of distortion, extended guitar solos, driving drum beats, vigorous vocals and an emphasis on loudness. Heavy metal itself has spawned numerous subgenres which generally can be identified through changing, or omitting one of the these attributes.
New York Times critic Jon Pareles wrote: “In the taxonomy of popular music, heavy metal is a major subspecies of hard-rock—the breed with less syncopation, less blues, more showmanship and more brute force.” The typical heavy metal band lineup includes a drummer, a bassist, a rhythm guitarist, a lead guitarist, and a singer. On occasion, keyboards have been added to this formula.
The core of heavy metal music has always lied within the pure admiration and sonic power of the electric guitar, played – generally loudly – through an amplifier. Most songs within the heavy metal genre feature at least one guitar solo, which is “a primary means through which the heavy metal performer expresses virtuosity”.
Who Invented Heavy Metal Music?
The question of “Who invented heavy metal music?” has always been a wildly debated subject with a vast array of subgenres and numerous acts contributing their own unique sound to the genre.
However it is widely accepted that heavy metal was basically conceived in 1968, a year that would see the formation of three of the genre’s most prominent pioneers, LED ZEPPELIN, BLACK SABBATH and DEEP PURPLE. All three bands would attract enormous audiences, yet somehow were often derided by critics.
In January of that year, San Francisco band BLUE CHEER would release a cover of the Eddie Cochran classic “Summertime Blues” from their debut album ‘Vincebus Eruptum’ which featured a thunderous new sound and heavy distortion that shook listeners to the core. This would lead many to consider the song to be the first true “heavy metal” recording.
In June of that year, STEPPENWOLF would release their self-titled debut album, which included the song “Born to Be Wild”, which refers to “heavy metal thunder” in describing a motorcycle. The Beatles’ self titled, double album (or more commonly known as the “White” album) would be released in November, featuring the Paul McCartney penned “Helter Skelter”, which the iconic musician claims to have written with the sheer intent of creating a song heavier than fellow British act THE WHO had ever recorded.
Throughout the 1970’s, numerous American bands would modify the sound of heavy metal into more accessible forms, with bands like ALICE COOPER and KISS presenting a more raw, theatrical take; the blues based rock of AEROSMITH; and the exceptional guitar work coupled with the ‘in your face’ rock attack of VAN HALEN. Moving through the decade, even more influential acts would emerge from across the pond with JUDAS PRIEST roaring beyond their blues influence, MOTÖRHEAD integrating the punk rock elements of strait up speed and aggression and the mighty BLACK SABBATH – who by this time had even adopted elements of keyboards into their music – remaining the driving force of what would come to be known as the ‘New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’. Bands such as IRON MAIDEN and SAXON would continue in this vein beginning late in the decade.
In his book ‘Metalheads’ (a term that arose in the late 1970’s which refers to an individual who is a listener of heavy metal music), psychologist Jeffrey Arnett compares heavy metal concerts to “the sensory equivalent of war”. A 1977 review of a MOTÖRHEAD concert would bring up the fact that “excessive volume in particular figured into the band’s impact.”
Countless Influential bands in heavy metal would follow throughout the 80’s with the emergence of the San Francisco Bay-area ‘thrash metal’ scene, the continued attack of the ‘New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’ and the sleazy, booze soaked glam metal scene of the Los Angeles Sunset Strip all making their own significant mark on the genre.
Death Metal and Black Metal would arise in the late 80’s, while the 90’s would be ushered in by the Seattle ‘grunge’ era which was followed by a steady offering of powerful new bands like PANTERA, SEPULTURA and RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE. The late 90’s would give birth to ‘Nu-Metal’ as heavy metal continued to split off into countless other subgenres heading into the 2000’s with the arrival of ‘Grindcore’, ‘Metalcore’, ‘Symphonic Metal’ and countless others.
The Top 13 Most Influential Heavy Metal Bands Of All Time As Voted By You
Over the last month, we here at Loaded Radio and Loadedradio.com have been tabulating your votes for who you think are the most INFLUENTIAL HEAVY METAL band(s) of all time. We have done this tabulation through on-site voting, incoming emails and on-air requests, so we would like to personally thank each and every one of you who took the time to vote.
It was a rather lengthy process, but we have now narrowed down the ‘Top 13’ INFLUENTIAL HEAVY METAL bands of all time as voted by you.
You can find them below.
Number 13. – PANTERA
They were the preeminent metal band of the early to mid-’90s, who without inclusion, would make this list inadequate. PANTERA was the band that obliterated any remaining remnants of the ’80s “glam” or “hair” metal scene, despite the fact that at one time the Texas group were one. PANTERA would switch up their image and sound to a more aggressive and groove driven identity with the release of 1990’s ‘Cowboys From Hell’ and their mainstream breakthrough, 1992’s ‘Vulgar Display of Power’. The band’s follow-up, 1994’s ‘Far Beyond Driven’, followed by two long years of extensive touring, marked the peak of the band’s success debuting atop the Billboard Top 200, in part due to the record’s lead single, “I’m Broken”.
It was around this time that PANTERA began to self-destruct with lead singer Phil Anselmo overdosing on heroin less than two months after the release of 1996’s ‘The Great Southern Trendkill’. Adding to the distance between him and the rest of the band, Anselmo would also begin engaging with a growing list of side projects that kept him away from PANTERA. A live album, 1997’s ‘Official Live: 101 Proof’, was released when it became clear that no new studio album would be arriving any time soon. One final studio effort did result however with the release of 2000’s ‘Reinventing the Steel’, but that would mark the end of the incredibly influential band.
All hopes were dashed for a reunion of PANTERA after guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott was murdered by a deranged fan on-stage during a DAMAGEPLAN show on December 8, 2004. On June 22, 2018, his brother and drummer for the band, Vinnie Paul Abbott, would die in his home in Las Vegas at the age of 54 due to “dilated cardiomyopathy and coronary artery disease.”
Plain and simply, there was no greater metal band during the early to mid-’90s than PANTERA, who inspired a legion of rabid fans and whose “groove metal” style still resonates to this day.
Number 12. – KISS
Decked out in outrageously flamboyant costumes and kabuki style makeup, KISS was the brainchild of Gene Simmons (bass, vocals) and Paul Stanley (rhythm guitar, vocals), who had both been members of New York-based hard rock band WICKED LESTER. After recruiting drummer Peter Criss and guitarist Ace Frehley, the band would impress producer Bill Aucoin who would offer the band a management contract. Two weeks later, KISS would sign to Neil Bogart’s fledgling record label, Casablanca and release their self-titled debut album in February of 1974, which peaked at number 87 on the U.S. charts. By April of 1975, KISS had already dropped three albums and coupled with their extensive touring, built a rather sizable fan base.
From those numerous live shows, the ‘Alive!’ double live album was created and released in the fall of 1975 which instantly made KISS massive superstars. The follow-up, 1976’s ‘Destroyer’, would become the group’s first platinum album and would also feature their first Top Ten single with the Peter Criss penned and sung ballad “Beth.”
A 1977 Gallup poll named KISS as the most popular band in America with their membership of the KISS Army – the band’s fan club – reaching six figures and growing rapidly.
However, KISS would begin a slow downturn in 1978 when all four members would release solo albums on the same day in October of that year, followed by 1979’s ‘Dynasty’ which despite reaching platinum status, caused derision among fans due to it’s “disco hit” ‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’. It would also mark the band’s last record with the original lineup with Peter Criss leaving his seat behind the drum kit in 1980. Drummer Eric Carr would join the band soon after, however original guitarist Ace Frehley would soon vacate and be replaced by shredder Vinnie Vincent in 1982.
KISS would continue with numerous lineup changes throughout the 80’s, see a reunion of the original band in the 90’s and early 2000’s, have Ace and Peter leave again, and eventually settle on their current lineup of guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer.
KISS are currently in the midst of their farewell ‘End Of The Road’ tour, yet will always remain an integral and influential band in the heavy metal genre, not just due to their success and live shows, but also their sheer tenacity.
Number 11. – RUSH
Canadian power trio RUSH became, and still remain, one of hard rock and early progressive metal’s most celebrated bands. RUSH were able to garner a large and devoted following among hard rock, heavy metal, and prog audiences almost from the beginning.
RUSH formed in Toronto in the fall of 1968, and was comprised of guitarist Alex Lifeson (born Alexander Zivojinovich), vocalist/bassist Geddy Lee (born Gary Lee Weinrib), and drummer John Rutsey. The band drew a “heavy” influence from acts like CREAM and BLUE CHEER and in 1974 would drop their self-titled LP, at which time Rutsey would exit and be replaced by drummer Neil Peart, who also took on the role of the band’s primary lyric writer.
RUSH would return with a fury in 1975 with a pair of LPs – ‘Fly by Night’ and ‘Caress of Steel’ – the former giving a strong radio hit with the song “Fly by Night” and the band’s first metal suite with the epic “By-Tor and the Snow Dog.” 1976’s ‘2112’ would be the act’s breakthrough: a futuristic concept album based on the writings of Ayn Rand and the first in a long line of gold and platinum releases.
‘A Farewell to Kings’ would follow in 1977 and after 1978’s ‘Hemispheres’, RUSH would achieve even higher popularity with their 1980 release ‘Permanent Waves’. After 1981’s massive hit ‘Moving Pictures’ (which would feature the band’s iconic song “Tom Sawyer”), RUSH began a seven-year period where their recorded sound was dominated by Geddy Lee’s synth playing, which culminated in 1989’s ‘Presto’.
During the ’90s, RUSH would ease into a radio hit-friendly brand of hard rock, best represented by 1996’s ‘Test for Echo’. During the band’s final days, RUSH would unleash multiple studio offerings that fused heavy rock and prog metal in sonic new ways; the last release being 2012’s ‘Clockwork Angels’. RUSH would amicably split in 2015 after Peart decided to retire from touring. He died from brain cancer in early 2020, yet RUSH still remain one of the most respected and influential acts in the history of rock music, continuing to blow new fans’ minds with their exceptional talent and incredible musicianship.
Number 10. – SLAYER
SLAYER were always incredibly distinctive within the genre of metal from their beginnings in the early 1980s, through to their final performance in 2019. Their graphic lyrics dealing with death, dismemberment, war and hell itself coupled with their intense, chaotic guitar solos painted a chilling yet loud picture of the dark side of life (and death). The band’s pure ferocity and unwavering presentation of nothing but pure, unadulterated speed metal place SLAYER firmly among metal’s Big Four of ’80s thrash outfits along with METALLICA, MEGADETH and ANTHRAX.
SLAYER formed in 1982 in Huntington Park, California, by guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman; also recruited were bassist/vocalist Tom Araya and drummer Dave Lombardo. The band would start out playing JUDAS PRIEST and IRON MAIDEN covers, but quickly discovered that they could get more notoriety by indoctrinating Satanic imagery into their act. Two EPs, ‘Haunting the Chapel’ and ‘Live Undead’, would be released in 1984, but it was 1985’s ‘Hell Awaits’ that would win SLAYER a rabid cult following.
Def Jam co-founder Rick Rubin signed them to his label, and would contribute the first high-end production heard on any SLAYER album for the iconic ‘Reign in Blood’, which became an instant classic and is still hailed by many as the greatest speed metal album of all time.
SLAYER’s next outing, 1988’s ‘South of Heaven’, would disappoint some of the band’s more hardcore followers yet still delivered a metal offensive that is still practiced in bedrooms and garages by budding metalhead guitarists to this day while 1990’s ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ would go on to be well-received in all respects as the quintessential SLAYER album.
Despite a few back and forth lineup changes to the drummer spot, a couple of not so well received albums and the unfortunate death of co-founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman who died of liver failure at 49, SLAYER endured and continued to conquer. EXODUS shredder Gary Holt – who had filled in for Hanneman when he was seriously ill with necrotizing fasciitis in 2011 – joined as his permanent replacement, and the band would announce what would become their farewell tour in 2018. To commemorate the historic milestone, SLAYER would release a special concert film, ‘The Repentless Killogy’, which paired a short movie with a full performance filmed in 2017 at the Los Angeles Forum – the venue of SLAYER’s final show on November 30, 2019 – leaving a floor covered with sweat and blood and a monstrous legacy.
Number 9. – RONNIE JAMES DIO
Ronnie James Dio was unquestionably one of heavy metal’s most talented and instantly identifiable vocalists. Hailing from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Ronnie (born Ronald James Padavonaon on July 10, 1942), started his music career at an early age, playing bass and trumpet for a local band called “The Vegas Kings”. The band would change their name numerous times until the late ’60s when the group became “The Electric Elves”, and then eventually simply ELF (with Dio focusing on lead vocals and changing his name to Ronnie James Dio). In 1972, the band would secure a record deal with a debut album produced by ex-DEEP PURPLE bassist Roger Glover but would eventually merge with ex-DEEP PURPLE guitarist Ritchie Blackmore’s new group, RAINBOW.
Such massive albums albums like 1975’s ‘Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow’, 1976’s ‘Rising’, 1977’s ‘On Stage’, and 1978’s ‘Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll’ introduced Dio’s powerful vocal abilities to the heavy metal masses worldwide. Blackmore would eventually make it known that RAINBOW was in fact “his” band, causing Dio to vacate and soon after join heavy metal icons BLACK SABBATH after the ousting of frontman Ozzy Osbourne.
The resulting group would give us such heavy metal staples as 1980’s ‘Heaven and Hell’ and 1981’s ‘Mob Rules’, yet Dio would vacate his position in the band in 1982 to form his own solo project, simply called DIO.
DIO’s first two solo albums, 1983’s ‘Holy Diver’ and 1984’s ‘Last in Line’ would establish the singer as an arena headliner in his own right. In the early ’90s, Ronnie mended his differences with BLACK SABBATH and found himself fronting the band once again for 1992’s ‘Dehumanizer’, and then again in 2006 when both parties would form HEAVEN AND HELL – named after SABBATH’s inaugural album with Dio. HEAVEN AND HELL would tour throughout 2007 and release the full-length studio recording ‘Devil You Know’ in 2009. However, in November of that year, Dio’s wife Wendy announced that the singer was suffering from stomach cancer. Sadly, Ronnie James Dio succumbed to the disease on May 16, 2010, leaving one of the biggest and most memorable legacies in heavy metal.
Number 8. – OZZY OSBOURNE
Despite his reputation, no one can deny that Ozzy Osbourne has had an immeasurable effect on heavy metal as a whole. As a frontman, Osbourne has managed to establish himself as an international superstar, capable of selling millions of records with each album and packing stadiums around the globe with each tour he undertakes.
Born John Michael Osbourne, Ozzy began his career in the late ’60s, when he teamed up with guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, and drummer Bill Ward to form BLACK SABBATH in Birmingham, England. The band would go on to massive success, releasing such classic platinum records as ‘Paranoid’ and ‘Master of Reality’ throughout the rest of the decade. However, it was after the 1978 album ‘Never Say Die’ that Osbourne was shown the door from BLACK SABBATH, leading him to go on and form his own solo project.
With his new manager and eventual wife Sharon, Ozzy formed the band ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ with guitarist Randy Rhoads, bassist Bob Daisley, and drummer Lee Kerslake. The group’s self-titled first album was released in September 1980 in the U.K. and early 1981 in the U.S. and featured the hit singles “Crazy Train” and “Mr. Crowley”.
Ozzy would be accused of animal cruelty due to an incident that took place around this time, when during one of his concerts a fan would throw what Osbourne thought was a plastic bat on-stage. Ozzy, the true showman that he is, would proceed to bite it’s head off creating one of heavy metal’s most notorious urban legends. Soon after, Rhoads was killed in a plane accident, which brought the band’s success to a screeching halt.
Jake E. Lee would become Ozzy’s new guitarist for the 1984 album ‘Bark at the Moon’ and 1986’s ‘Ultimate Sin’, a year that would also see Osbourne accused of encouraging suicide among listeners via use of subliminal messages in his song “Suicide Solution,” a song that he claimed was written about the effects of alcohol abuse. Lee soon left the band and was replaced with guitar virtuoso Zakk Wylde, who would stay with Ozzy for many years to come, through a failed retirement, a return to live music, and the creation of Ozzfest – a tour package that featured Ozzy along with a number of other metal bands on one giant festival.
Ozzy would make his eventual return to BLACK SABBATH in the mid-90’s and embark on an extremely successful reunion tour, and then headline the 1999 edition of Ozzfest. SABBATH would enter the studio with producer Rick Rubin in 2013 to give forth their first new studio album with Ozzy in the front spot since 1978. The resulting album,’13’, would be the last for BLACK SABBATH with their eventual retirement in 2017.
Yet somehow Ozzy still endures. Despite drug and alcohol addiction, his eventual recovery, a global hit tv reality show, marital issues and even almost losing his life in an ATV accident, Ozzy Osbourne remains one of heavy metal’s Godfathers.
Number 7. – DEEP PURPLE
DEEP PURPLE, together with LED ZEPPELIN and BLACK SABBATH, have been referred to as the “unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal in the early- to mid-seventies”. They were listed in the 1975 Guinness Book of World Records as “the globe’s loudest band” for a 1972 concert at London’s Rainbow Theatre and have sold over 100 million albums worldwide. Heavy metal as we know it today would not sound the way it does were it not for DEEP PURPLE. It may not have even existed. That is just how important the band is to the genre of heavy metal as a whole.
DEEP PURPLE formed in Hertford, Hertfordshire in 1968 and are considered to be among the pioneers of the genre that is heavy metal. The band would initially start off, like many other groups of the late sixties, as a psychedelic and somewhat progressive rock act. That would change however with the 1970 album ‘Deep Purple in Rock’, which showcased a heavier sound for the band, complete with distorted guitars, wailing vocals and screaming organs.
DEEP PURPLE would continue to bring their heavy, driving sound with such iconic releases as 1971’s ‘Fireball, 1972’s ‘Machine Head’ and the seminal live album ‘Made in Japan’ released in that same year, solidifying the act as a brute force to be reckoned with in one of rock music’s most important and growing eras. That being said, DEEP PURPLE have seen numerous personnel changes over their existence, with the 1968–1976 line-ups commonly being labelled Mark I, II, III and IV respectively. Their second and most commercially successful line-up consisted of Ian Gillan (vocals) and Roger Glover (bass), joining founding members Jon Lord (keyboards), Ian Paice (drums) and Ritchie Blackmore (guitar). Between 1974 and 1976, the band consisted of David Coverdale (lead vocals) and Glenn Hughes (bass, vocals) (with Tommy Bolin replacing Blackmore in 1975), and between 1989 and 1992 the band featured the voice of frontman Joe Lynn Turner. DEEP PURPLE’s current line-up (which includes Ian Gillan, and guitarist Steve Morse whose been with the group since 1994) has been much more stable in recent years, although after keyboardist Jon Lord’s retirement from the group in 2002 (to be replaced by Don Airey), drummer Ian Paice would remain the band’s only original member.
DEEP PURPLE (specifically Blackmore, Lord, Paice, Gillan, Glover, Coverdale, Evans, and Hughes) would also finally see induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016, placing the act in the upper echelon of music’s finest and most influential groups.
Number 6. – LED ZEPPELIN
LED ZEPPELIN are one of the best-selling bands of all time with various sources estimating the group’s record sales at 200 to 300 million units moved worldwide. They are the third-best-selling band and fifth-best-selling act in the United States. Rolling Stone magazine called them “the heaviest band of all time”, “the biggest band of the Seventies”, and “unquestionably one of the most enduring bands in rock history”. Some may question their addition to this list as the group isn’t a “heavy metal” band in the traditional sense, however you can certainly guarantee that the metal bands that you know and love, have had in part, a direct influence from LED ZEPPELIN.
LED ZEPPELIN were an English rock band that formed in London in 1968 and consisted of vocalist Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham. Due to the group’s heavy, guitar-driven sound, they are cited as one of the pioneers of hard rock and heavy metal, although the band’s style would draw from numerous influences, including blues and folk music. Led Zeppelin have been credited as significantly impacting the nature of the music industry, particularly in the development of album-oriented rock and stadium rock.
Originally going under the name, “The New Yardbirds”, (due to guitarist Jimmy Page being left holding the bag when it came to the aforementioned band’s disintegration), LED ZEPPELIN had an arrangement with Atlantic records that would see them have a great deal of artistic freedom in the creation of their music.
Initially unpopular with critics, they achieved significant commercial success with eight studio albums over ten years. Their 1969 debut album, ‘Led Zeppelin’, was a top-ten record in several countries, while ‘Led Zeppelin II’ (1969) would be their first number-one release. ‘Led Zeppelin III’ would follow in 1970 while their untitled fourth album, commonly known as ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ (1971), is one of the best-selling albums in history with 37 million copies sold.
The latter half of the band’s career saw a series of record-breaking tours that earned LED ZEPPELIN a reputation for excess and debauchery. The band would maintain a massive success and following, yet as the 70’s drew to a close, the band grew somewhat limited in their collaboration with each other, and eventually disbanded altogether following John Bonham’s death in 1980.
LED ZEPPELIN were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995; the museum’s biography of the band states that they were “as influential” during the 1970s as the Beatles were during the 1960s.
Number 5. – MOTÖRHEAD
MOTÖRHEAD’s loud and fast style of heavy metal was one of the most groundbreaking sounds the genre had to offer in the late ‘1970s. The group’s leader, Lemmy Kilmister, made his bones in the heavy space rock band HAWKWIND, yet with MOTÖRHEAD he had no desire to continue with his old group’s sonic, progressive sounds, choosing instead to heavily amplify the rock elements of HAWKWIND with the speed and aggression of punk.
Lemmy (born Ian Fraiser Kilmister, December 24, 1945) was born the son of a vicar and first began his career in rock and roll in 1964, briefly working as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix. In 1971, he would join the prog rock outfit HAWKWIND as their bassist, yet would find himself kicked out of the group in the spring of 1975 after spending five days in a Canadian prison for drug possession. Upon returning home to England, Kilmister set out to form a new band that was initially supposed to be called “Bastard”, however Lemmy soon decided on MOTÖRHEAD instead, named after the last song he wrote for HAWKWIND.
Despite what at first seemed to be a rotating door of personnel within MOTÖRHEAD, the outfit eventually settled with it’s classic lineup of Lemmy, guitarist Eddie Clarke and drummer Phil Taylor.
The release of the album ‘Ace of Spades’ in the fall of 1980 would give the act a significant push commercially, becoming a number four hit, while the single of the same name would hit number 15. Though the group was seeing some significant success in this period, there was tension within the band, particularly between guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke and Lemmy, which would lead to Clarke’s leaving the band during the supporting tour for 1982’s ‘Iron Fist’.
Despite continued lineup changes, MOTÖRHEAD would continue to climb the mountain to heavy metal icon status. Mikkey Dee, formerly of KING DIAMOND would take over on drums in 1992, just in time for the album ‘March or Die’, which didn’t chart in the U.S. leading to the act being dropped by their label. So the band started their own, appropriately called ‘Motörhead’, which was distributed through ZYX.
MOTÖRHEAD may have seen it’s share of lineup changes, with Lemmy, who passed away in 2015, being the act’s sole remaining original member, however the band have been hailed as one of metal’s most influential acts and never strayed from their raging sound.
Number 4. – JUDAS PRIEST
JUDAS PRIEST formed in Birmingham, England in 1969. They have sold over 50 million albums worldwide, and are commonly ranked as one of the greatest heavy metal bands of all time.
The band’s membership has seen a vast amount of turnover, including a revolving seat behind the drum kit in the 1970s and the departure of singer Rob Halford in 1992. American vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens would step in to replace Halford in 1996 and also record two albums with JUDAS PRIEST, before Halford would return to the band in 2003. The current line-up consists of Halford, guitarists Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner, bassist Ian Hill and drummer Scott Travis. The band’s best-selling album is 1982’s ‘Screaming for Vengeance’, with their most commercially successful line-up featuring Hill, Halford, Tipton, guitarist K. K. Downing, and drummer Dave Holland. Tipton and Hill are the only two members of the band to appear on every JUDAS PRIEST album.
Rob Halford’s operatic vocal abilities coupled with the twin guitar sound of Downing and Tipton have been cited as major influences on heavy metal bands worldwide. JUDAS PRIEST’s image of leather, spikes, and other BDSM style articles of clothing were widely influential during the glam metal era of the 1980s. Despite a brief decline in exposure during the mid 1990s, the band has once again seen a massive resurgence over the last two decades, including worldwide tours, receiving a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 2010, and having their songs featured in video games and feature films.
JUDAS PRIEST were on the nomination ballot the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s class of 2020 yet were not elected, leading to widespread panning of the institution and the mass questioning of the organization’s reputability. And rightfully so.
Number 3. – IRON MAIDEN
IRON MAIDEN are easily one of heavy metal’s most influential bands of all time. They’re also one of metal’s most enduring and distinctive groups, thanks to their melodic guitars, vivid songwriting, theatrical powerhouse vocals, and a mascot named Eddie. One of the first groups to be classified as “British metal,” IRON MAIDEN helped set the rock scene for the ’80s and inspired generations of subsequent bands, including the likes of METALLICA, SLIPKNOT, DREAM THEATER and countless others.
IRON MAIDEN were formed in 1975 in Leyton, East London by bassist Steve Harris, who was fresh out of his previous band “Smiler”. The group’s lineup was rather unstable during their early years, but eventually settled on drummer Doug Sampson, guitarist Dave Murray, and vocalist Paul Di’Anno in 1978. Late in 1979, Sampson would leave due to health issues and former SAMSON drummer Clive Burr would step in to take his place .
IRON MAIDEN’s self-titled debut album arrived in 1980 and became a U.K. hit due to the song “Running Free.” Its 1981 follow-up, ‘Killers’, had a much heavier and slick sound thanks in part to producer Martin Birch — with whom the band would work with until his 1992 retirement — and also saw the replacement of guitarist Stratton with Murray’s childhood friend Adrian Smith. Di’Anno was dismissed from IRON MAIDEN after the ‘Killer World’ Tour in 1981 due to substance abuse issues affecting his performance and was replaced by Bruce Dickinson, another former SAMSON member who joined that September and made his debut on 1982’s groundbreaking ‘The Number of the Beast’ release.
Along with the record’s massive success came offended Christian activists and conservative politicians throughout the United States who claimed the band were Satanic and affecting the youthful, impressionable minds of the youth of America. Nevertheless, The Number of the Beast’s triumph would make IRON MAIDEN international superstars, and with the replacement of drummer Clive Burr with former TRUST stickman Nicko McBrain, the iconic lineup of IRON MAIDEN was formed and charged onward, leaving thousands upon thousands of screaming fans in their wake.
Ex-GILLAN guitarist Janick Gers would join the fold for 1990’s ‘No Prayer for the Dying’ after Smith’s departure while lead singer Bruce Dickinson would stick around for one more album, 1992’s ‘Fear Of The Dark’ before vacating the band with the intention of creating his own music. MAIDEN would endure however and return with 1995’s ‘The X Factor’, which featured new singer and ex-WOLFSBANE member Blaze Bayley. Its follow-up, 1998’s ‘Virtual XI’, was one of the band’s lowest-selling albums, seeing Bayley leave the group in 1999 and the return of Dickinson and Smith soon after.
Despite a lack of radio airplay or mainstream media support, early allegations of Satanism, and a revolving lineup, IRON MAIDEN have consistently remained one of the most important, successful and influential heavy metal bands of all time.
Number 2. – METALLICA
Way before the massive tours, multi platinum albums and headlining of major rock and metal festivals, METALLICA was formed in 1981 in Los Angeles by vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich (the band would, however, become based out of San Francisco for the majority of their illustrious career).
The name “METALLICA” can be credited to a friend of Ulrich’s named Ron Quintana, who was brainstorming names for a metal fanzine and was considering either “MetalMania” or “Metallica”. Upon hearing the two names, Ulrich wanted METALLICA for his own band, so he suggested Quintana use “MetalMania” instead. Guitarist Dave Mustaine would reply to an advertisement for a lead guitarist and be recruited after Ulrich and Hetfield saw all of his expensive guitar equipment. In early 1982, the band would record their first original song, “Hit the Lights”, for the Metal Massacre I compilation with early pressings listing the band incorrectly as “Mettallica”. The song however would generate word of mouth and the band played their first live performance on March 14, 1982, at Radio City in Anaheim, California, with newly recruited bassist Ron McGovney.
In late 1982, Ulrich and Hetfield attended a show at the West Hollywood nightclub Whisky a Go Go, which featured bassist Cliff Burton in the band TRAUMA. The two were “blown away” by Burton’s use of a wah-wah pedal – believing at first that Burton was in fact the band’s lead guitar player before discovering that he was shredding lead solos on a bass – and asked him to join METALLICA as Hetfield and Mustaine wanted McGovney out, feeling that he “didn’t contribute anything and “just followed along”. Although Burton initially declined the offer, by the end of the year, he had accepted on the condition that the band move to El Cerrito in the San Francisco Bay Area. METALLICA’s first live performance with Burton was at the nightclub “The Stone” in March of 1983, and the first recording to feature Burton in the band was the 1983 Megaforce Records demo.
After ousting Mustaine (who would go on to form MEGADETH as we all now know), and replacing him with EXODUS guitarist Kirk Hammett, METALLICA would earn a growing fan base in the underground music community and eventually win critical acclaim with their first five albums. The band’s third album, 1986’s ‘Master of Puppets’, has been described as one of the heaviest and most important records in not just thrash but in heavy metal as a whole. Their eponymous fifth album, 1991’s ‘METALLICA’ or “the black album” as it has become affectionately known, would appeal to a more mainstream audience, achieving substantial commercial success and selling over 16 million copies in the United States to date.
METALLICA would return to their thrash metal roots with the release of their ninth studio album, 2008’s ‘Death Magnetic’, which drew similar praise to that of the band’s earlier releases. Their most recent album, 2016’s ‘Hardwired… to Self-Destruct’ met similar acclaim.
The band has sold more than 125 million records to date worldwide, including an RIAA-certified 66 million and Nielsen SoundScan-reported 58,000,000 in the US, making METALLICA one of the most commercially successful bands of all time.
Number.1 – BLACK SABBATH
BLACK SABBATH are a heavy metal institution whose influence on the genre as a whole cannot be overstated. There is a definitive reason why they were voted as the number 1 most influential heavy metal band of all time and sit on top of this list. BLACK SABBATH are the band that pioneered heavy metal, building the framework for subsequent metal subgenres, despite massive in-fighting, lineup changes and substance abuse issues.
From the end of the ’60s and throughout the the ’70s, BLACK SABBATH were known for guitarist Tony Iommi’s powerful drop tempo riffs, Geezer Butler’s thundering bass lines, Bill Ward’s aggressive drums and Ozzy Osbourne’s primal vocals which all merged together in a seamless, yet gloomy breed of hard rock.
Forming in 1968 under the name “The Polka Tulk Blues Band”, Iommi and Ward, who had just left the band “Mythology”, enlisted Butler and Osbourne, both of whom had played together in a group called “Rare Breed”, in an attempt to create a more definitive sounding band.
After changin their name to “Earth”, the band eventually settled on the moniker of BLACK SABBATH, after Osbourne and Butler penned a song that was inspired by 1963 Boris Karloff horror film of the same name.
This original lineup were responsible for metal masterpieces like 1970’s ‘Paranoid’ and 1971’s ‘Master Of Reality’, but when Ozzy was fired from the group in 1979, BLACK SABBATH would continue on with ex-RAINBOW frontman Ronnie James Dio on vocal duties. Dio’s powerful voice proved to be the perfect fit for the band, who would go on to release 1980’s, ‘Heaven and Hell’ and 1981’s ‘Mob Rules’, the latter of which would also feature new drummer Vinny Appice behind the kit.
Citing a falling out with Iommi and Butler, Dio and Appice left the group in the middle of mixing the ‘Live Evil’ album, making way for DEEP PURPLE singer Ian Gillan to enter for 1983’s ‘Born Again’ album, which proved to be a critical failure. BLACK SABBATH splintered once again at this point leaving Iommi as the sole original member.
After numerous lineup changes and a brief reunion with Dio and Appice for the 1992 album ‘Dehumanizer’, Iommi, Butler, Ward, and Osbourne would eventually reconnect in 1997, culminating in the release of the Best Metal Performance Grammy Award-winning double-live album ‘Reunion’. Released in 2013, the Rick Rubin-produced ’13’, which also brought home a Grammy for the single “God Is Dead?,” would be BLACK SABBATH’s final album and in 2015, Osbourne, Iommi, and Butler (Ward did not participate due to being unable to agree on a contract) would announce their final worldwide trek. The aptly named “The End” Tour, which concluded in their hometown of Birmingham, England saw the mighty BLACK SABBATH wrapping up a nearly 50-year career and cementing their legacy as the true godfathers of heavy metal.
– Scott Penfold is the Program Director of Loaded Radio as well as a writer and on-air personality.