Top 10 International Rock Bands

Is being a native English speaker really crucial for rock 'n' roll superstardom?

Ultimate Guitar

As somewhat of the world's universal language, English is also the language of rock music. With the genre originating on English-speaking territories, it comes as no surprise that most, if not each and every of the ultimate rock greats are native English speakers.

But does this mean that musicians have to be native English speakers, or sing in English at all in order to reach global superstardom? We have an interesting subject on our hands and would like to hear the opinion of UG community on it, so in order to give you a bit clearer picture, we present you with the list of 10 greatest foreign rock bands.

We should note that the term foreign in the title was used loosely and in fact refers to non-native English-speaking bands or the groups from countries that don't have English as primary language singing in their mother tongue.


Kicking things off like a hurricane, the Scorpions come as a representative of the German hard rock/heavy metal scene. With such staple rock tunes as "Wind of Change," "Rock You Like a Hurricane" and "Still Loving You," the Hanover-based group actually used Klaus Meine's heavy German-accent singing to their advantage, making it one of the Scorpions' signature traits.

Notable heavy metal German acts also include Accept, Helloween and Running Wild. If we were to delve into the heavy power domain, the likes of Blind Guardian, Gamma Ray and Avantasia would definitely stand out, only scratching the surface of truly rich German music scene.

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Golden Earring

Coming from Netherlands, Golden Earring scored major US success back in the day, even topping the Billboard Top Album Tracks chart. Tracks like "Radar Love" and "Twilight Zone" all proved as major hits, earning the band the title of arguably the greatest Dutch band ever. On the metal side of the scene, Within Temptation stand out as the most prominent Dutch group to reach major global success in recent years. Of course, we should definitely not forget that the greatest among all greats, Eddie Van Halen, was also born in Netherlands.

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Swedish rockers Europe entered the big league in the '80s with the release of their landmark record "The Final Countdown," reaching multi-platinum status with the major hit title track. What's interesting about the Joey Tempest-fronted five-piece is that they could perfectly fit in with the '80s US rock scene, both in terms of sound and appearance.

So it doesn't come as much of a surprise that people are often baffled by they Swedish nationality. But the band's name is actually a clear indication of their origins, now isn't it?

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Steadily proving the German domination in this area, Kreator serve as a prime example of the country's thrash metal scene. Also consisting of such groups as Sodom, Destruction and Tankard, the scene itself managed to get on par with a lot of the US thrash greats.

As for Kreator, tunes like "Violent Revolution," "Phobia," "Tormentor" and "Flag of Hate" made Mille Petrozza and co. a must-listen act for any well-respected metalhead. And once again, the German accent was fully used as an advantage and a distinctive trait.

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To capitalize on the power of the German scene, we bring you Rammstein, the only band on the list to actually sing in their mother tongue and reach international fame. Originating from Germany's capital of Berlin, the band succeed in what very few, if any acts can brag about - developing their own style, or even a genre using their first language that isn't English and garner a global following with almost 30 million records sold around the world.

Tunes such as "Du Hast," "Feuer Frei" and "Ich Will" speak for themselves, making Rammstein possibly the ultimate foreign metal band.

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Lacuna Coil

We're now in Italy, among the ranks of Milan-based metallers Lacuna Coil. In all fairness, not a lot rock bands from Italy managed to reach worldwide acclaim, but Lacuna Coil are definitely one of such representatives, if not the only one. With over 2 million records sold since 1994, the Cristina Scabbia-fronted act released several hit numbers, including "Heaven's a Lie" and "Our Truth."

Since we're in Italy, we should also mention the '70s prog rockers Premiata Forneria Marconi. The band reached solid reputation and success outside of its native country, but if you're a prog rock aficionado, they're pretty much a must-hear material.

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Returning to Sweden, Opeth come as our delegate of the country's more extreme scene. With a touch of prog genre, the Stockholm five-piece ventured further away from their death metal roots with the latest release "Heritage," but still kept their music top-level.

However, if there's a single city in Sweden that deserves the most respect music-wise, it's Gothenburg. Home to the likes of At the Gates, HammerFall and In Flames, it spawned an entire generation of metal musicians gathered around the so-called Gothenburg metal scene.

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Children of Bodom

Still in Scandinavia, just went a bit east-bound, to Finland. Another European country known for its top-notch metal scene, Finland was responsible for unleashing the likes of Nightwish, HIM, Stratorvarius and Children of Bodom into the world's music scene.

The band we singled out for this occasion are the so-called "kings of melodeath," Espoo-based Children of Bodom. With hit numbers galore, Alexi Laiho and co. easily managed to thrive outside of their county's borders and become a globally-renowned act.

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Proving that South America also has its key players, Brazilian thrash masters Sepultura went against the grain throughout their entire career, earning Latin America arguably its only worldwide metal success. During the peak of Max Cavalera-fronted era, the band unchained such classic records as "Arise," "Roots" and "Chaos A.D."

The group is still going fairly strong, maintaining an intense relationship with the fans through both the old and the new tracks. Whatever the future might bring, hit like "Refuse/Resist," "Roots Bloody Roots" and "Ratamahatta" have definitely stood their test of time.

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Dimmu Borgir

Our final stop is country with the most black metal bands per square mile in the world - Norway. The country's infamous, yet quite prolific scene brought us the likes of Mayhem, Emperor, Satyricon, Burzum and of course, Dimmu Borgir. The latter Oslo-based act gets to stand out as the scene's representative with such tunes as "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse" or "Puritania."

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As you can see from this brief, yet packed list, the foreign acts have plenty to show, but do you think it's enough to beat, or even stand on par with the native-English greats? And for that matter, do you think it's better for any band to sing in English or using their mother tongue? Let us know in the comments section.

103 comments sorted by best / new / date

    visual kei for the picture, but no visual kei on the list?
    That's what i was thinking. They need to redo the list with more bands from ALL around the world, not just UK and surrounding areas. Hell where are the russian bands? That would even show a more broad scope.
    X Japan (mentoned by N-D also) I know sings predominantly in Japanese with some English, but they also released English versions of songs in an attempt to boost popularity overseas so there's a mix there. Sigur Ros have become pretty popular for never changing to English. If anything they've gone the opposite direction at times with their made-up language where even the Icelandic wouldn't be able to understand them.
    To be fair, for some reason that escapes me, X Japan never made it big outside the far east. Kind of a shame considering the effect it has on the prices of their recordings over here...
    I think it's just due to a lack of attempt. I don't think anything except the most recent singles have been released outside the area. Hell, they managed to keep the name X for most of their career and only changed it to distinguish in the US so they seemed pretty comfortable with mainly Japanese popularity.
    The Hives are freaking awesome, sucks that they weren't on this list
    Some other bands that came to my mind: Behemoth (Poland) Immortal (Norway) A-Ha (Norway) The Cardigans (Sweden) The Hives (Sweden) Apocalyptica (Finland) Seether (South Africa) the GazettE (Japan) Dir En Grey (Japan) X Japan (Japan) etc
    Yeah, I was pretty sure about Dir en Grey, but no....
    Yeah it made me sad not to see them on the list, In my honest opinion, the writer is bias. There were no asian bands on the list. Some like Dir en Grey (In my opinion) are better then some of these bands.
    That's it though. It's your opinion. I could list ten Asian bands and Dir en Grey wouldn't still make it in. Ten can't possibly fit everyone's favorite bands.
    You'd be amazed by the number of bands that you'd think were from English speaking countries but aren't.
    All this has really shown is that there are plenty of reasonably famous non-US/UK musicians, but they almost all reached that fame by performing in English. No surprise there, English is the primary language of business, and thus it's the primary language of Rock.
    UG makes a "Top 10 International Rock Bands", uses 3 rock bands and 7 metal bands
    A whole paragraph about the Dutch and no Focus? No Urban Dance Squad? Urban Dance Squad were one of the first rapcore bands, starting back in 1987. They influenced RATM.
    Thank you for honoring Rammstein. They have the biggest and hottest live show and are currently Germany's biggest cultural export. I met the guys, too. They're really awesome in person as well
    Dir En Grey keeps to speaking Japanese, and they've found international success, they're a great band. It's a rarity though, since English is so widely spoken now, it's no wonder all these foreign bands have found success speaking English. It's funny though, a lot of bands like Opeth write better English lyrics than most North American or UK bands that I've heard...
    Next Hendrix
    I'm really surprised Dir En Grey and Meshuggah aren't on this list. It's rather disappointing. Other honorable mentions: Maximum the Hormone Gojira Behemoth X-Japan Versailles
    MT in Austin
    Good list. So many great bands to include on a longer list (off the top of my head): Nightwish KMFDM Accept Edguy Rhapsody (of Fire) Stratovarius Helloween SO many more - there's a ton of great music out there.
    The GazettE, Versailles, Jupiter, Dir en Grey... C'mon, Japan is actually one of countries with more rock bands right now. And most of them are pretty good, actually.
    What about Gojira? (France) Helloween? (Germany) Hammerfall? (Sweden) Stratovarius? Korpiklaani?(Finland) Eluveitie? (Switzerland)
    Yeah, great list! But all except Gojira and Eluvetie were already mentioned in the article)
    How about Tyr? They sing in Faroese dialect as well as English, and use lyrics from songs that are over 500 years old put to a modern tune.
    Yeah! I think they are only famous band from Faroe Islands
    No L'Arc-en-Ciel? They had a pretty successful US tour, they even sold out Madison Square Garden, and are the only Japanese band to play the Warped Tour.
    This would've been a much interesting list if they didn't allow Europe. (I've always thought the rock/metal scene has always been mainly the US, Canada and Europe and I thought this list would be bands from outside those regions (eg. south america, Asia, the Middle East, Africa etc.)
    I sense a lacking in the Asian department. Seriously, Dir en Grey and Loudness deserves to be on the list. Also, the South African band Seether should be there. Does a band like Placebo (Swedish, Luxembourgan and English members) count?
    + Gojira, Meshuggah, Wintersun, Devin Townsend
    Devin Townsend is foreign? I've seen interviews with him and he seems pretty-damn American.
    Canadian. American with better manners.
    Still, he is from a primarily English-speaking region of the world, and therefore is ineligible for this list. Being from a non English-speaking country/region seems to be the main criteria to be eligible for this list.
    "However, if there's a single city in Sweden that deserves the most respect music-wise, it's Gothenburg. " Lol, the writer doesn't seem to have heard of a little place called Ume.