We in the metal community constantly argue about which band is better - Iron Maiden vs Judas Priest. Metallica vs Slayer. Nickelback vs Creed.
Part of it is friendly debate, part is competition to show who's the "better" metalhead, but most of it is just friendly conversation between fans professing their love for a particular band.
It's what separates us individually yet still bonds us all together as one big happy family. Unless you're part of it, you truly can't understand it completely.
This article, however, is not about who's better. It is about, in my honest opinion, who were the most influential metal bands to ever walk the earth.
This is a given. Over the last 30 years, no metal band has really been able to come close to capturing both the old school and new school metalhead crowd, and the amount of mainstream attention and success as Metallica. They took a huge gamble with 1991's self titled album, or to their fans, "The Black Album". It proved to be the right choice business wise as it paid off big time. Although many fans feel they sold out by going in a less heavy direction, I personally feel that they made the right choice. Bands' tastes change and progress over time, and you can't play the same thing for 30 years and expect to not get a little bored with it.
The main reason why they're on the list however is because without Metallica, Thrash and Death Metal would not exist, as Death Metal's roots can be traced back to Thrash. Slayer have even said on numerous occasions that Metallica basically single handedly invented thrash metal. The very first Thrash song ever released was their single "Hit The Lights", with the solo performed by Lloyd Grant. Without Metallica, Metal wouldn't be anywhere near as heavy as it is today.
On a side note, let's pretend "St. Anger" and "Lulu" never happened and listen to their good material.
02. Iron Maiden
These guys are on the list for numerous reasons. They were one of Metallica's biggest influences, so by association they're even more influential. Bruce Dickinson's voice is one of the most powerful in music all around, with notable singers such as Michael Kiske of Helloween taking major influence from him. Along with Judas Priest and other NWOBHM bands such as Angel Witch, they laid the foundations for power metal, which has just as big of a following in Europe and South America as Thrash and Death do in the US, if not a bigger one. With their long, epic arrangements and the powerful rhythm and bass section of Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Steve Harris, these guys still remain one of the most powerful metal bands to ever walk the earth. Their live shows are often considered the best out there, but that's to be expected from a band that's been around for almost 40 years.
Not many of even their diehard fans realize Pantera have been around a lot longer than when their "Cowboys From Hell" album dropped. They formed in the same year as Metallica (1981). Many fans do not realize they had 4 albums before "Cowboys From Hell" was released and that they were a glam metal band until then. The addition of singer Phil Anselmo to replace Terry Glaze was the last step to solidifying their sound as they're known for today. Even in early releases, such as on "Blue Light Turnin' Red", Dime's signature sound can be heard as he absolutely annihilates his fret board. "Dimebag" Darrel Lance Abbot's playing style can not be underscored, as he's often ranked up with such guitarists as Randy Rhoads, Dave Mustaine, Tony Iommi and Steve Vai.
Dime is most certainly the most influential metal guitarist of the last 20 years, which is why they're on here, not to mention how they basically redefined how metal is played, focusing more on groove, feeling, songwriting and riff construction than on long, overblown and winded solos. Yes, solos are definitely important to metal, but if you focus too much on solos and not enough on actual songwriting, then all you have is shred and that gets boring. Dime knew the perfect balance between the 2, and his sheer amount of all around talent can never be denied. Sadly, that was taken away from all of us when he was murdered just over 7 years ago. He also was killed on the same day as John Lennon, who strangely enough was shot and killed as well. However, he was not killed during a live performance.
Tragic as it may be, he is now effectively immortal because of it and his music and style will live on in the hearts of all kids who pick up a guitar and want to learn a few heavy songs. R.I.P., Dime, we'll miss you, buddy.
Honestly, their name should be changed to "F-CKIN' SLAAAAAYYYYEEERRRRR, MAN!" as any big fan of the band will respond with if you ask them who their favorite band is. Slayer are one of the heaviest bands of all time, not just musically but lyrically as well. Their lyrics have purposefully been controversial from the start, satirizing and criticizing society and religion. Because of their dark themes and borderline satanic lyrical content, they've been banned from numerous countries, states and cities, but that's the kind of attention the band has stated that they want. Any fan or person who does more than 5 minutes of research will also find that they're not actually satanic, but prefer to appear that way to get that reaction from the ignorant masses. They want people to think and to question everything and not just blindly follow what you're told by those in power.
Their music can seem chaotic and at times sloppy to the casual listener especially with their atonal solos, but to a diehard metalhead such as myself and any other person who can recognize actual talent instead of just saying something sucks because they don't like the style, the musical genius of Kerry King, Tom Araya, Dave Lombardo and Jeff Hanneman is easily recognized. They've laid down some of the heaviest, most brutal and fastest metal tracks ever recorded. One of the main reasons why they're on here is because at the time they came out, no other band was doing anything even close to what they did. They can be credited as laying the earliest foundations for death metal as well, making them one of the most influential metal bands ever.
05. Black Sabbath
The band that started it all. Without this band, none of the other ones on this list would even exist in the first place. Other bands at the time they came out such as Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin were doing heavy material, but none can come close to Sabbath's level. They're widely considered the first true metal band, as they had all the elements of what makes a band metal combined and used them on a consistent basis- dark lyrical themes, even darker and sometimes flat out evil sounding songs (see their self titled song), heavy distortion, down-tuned guitars, the chord progressions, and even their look screamed "metal"- long haired youth making dark, heavy and scary music unacceptable to what the mainstream thought they should conform to and rebelling against it. Their music electrified and inspired so many people to start playing metal that to discount them as influential as they are would just be sheer ignorance.
So many different forms of metal have cropped up over the years and it's hard to keep track of it all, but if you listen carefully, you can hear influences of Tony Iommi, Bill Ward, Ozzy Osbourne and Geezer Butler in it all. You don't have to like them, but give credit where credit is due. Without them, metal in all its wonderous and amazing forms probably wouldn't even exist at all.