Have you ever had one of those conversations, where the topic inevitably turns to what type of music you listen to and the only response you know they'll understand is ‘um…heavy fucking metal’?
Well, we've decided it was high time that we put together a list of our top picks for the uninitiated. Next time you're trying to get somebody into metal, just show them these bands to kick-start their descent into the all-evil, totally unreal world we live in.
The band that took Thrash to the next level, Slayer remains a household name in the metal world. Their 1986 release Reign in Blood is still arguably one of the best metal albums of all time, produced by the legendary Rick Rubin. A must-have band in any classic metal collection.
Album recommendation: Reign in Blood (1986)
Every long-time metal fan will have vivid memories of the first time they listened to Slipknot (probably at age 15). Not too heavy and not too soft, the iconic masked faces of Slipknot are known for their energetic live shows loaded with pyrotechnics. They continue to be a great introduction into the metal world.
Album recommendation: Slipknot (1999)
One of the most memorable bands of the 90’s, Pantera drove the force for heavy metal in a time when alternative rock ruled the scene. With period-defining albums like Cowboys from Hell and Vulgar Display of Power, Pantera established the so-called groove metal sub-genre. Their catalogue is filled with some of the most memorable riffs of all time.
Album recommendation: Vulgar Display of Power (1992)
A newer offering to the metal scene, Mastodon has developed a unique sound through an evolution of albums since the year 2000. Employing techniques of progressive and psychedelic rock, they know how to write a concept album, evident in their 2004 release Leviathan, based on the story of Moby Dick. They also appeared as Wildlings in the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones, which is a good way to get any non-metal fan interested.
Album recommendation: Emperor Of Sand (2017)
Lamb of God
They’ve been on the scene for almost 25 years and there is no mistaking the heavy riffs and growling vocals of Lamb of God. Part of a new wave of metal coming out of the States in late 90’s, Lamb of God balanced the equation of power, rage and craft. They became commercially successful without compromising their thrash and melodic death metal influences and created their own legacy that continues today.
Album recommendation: Ashes of the Wake (2004)
Bringing a new intricacy to hard rock in the 90’s, Tool has gained a brutally loyal following from a whole world of music fans for their lyrical and artistic genius. Bordering on hard rock and metal, they continue to release complex and emotive music that is a great introduction to the heavy world.
Album recommendation: Ænima(1996)
System of a Down
When System of a Down released their debut album in 1998, no one really knew what to make of them. They had elements of metal, punk and funk, didn’t really fit into the nu metal category and definitely weren’t hip hop. Nearly twenty years on, their sound remains their own and it’s rare to find anyone at a party not yelling ‘Wake Up’ when Chop Suey hits the speakers.
Album recommendation: Toxicity (2001)
Of the big four (that’s Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth for all your non-metalheads), Megadeth have produced the most consistent standard of metal albums. They manage to bring a sense of precision to the thrash genre whilst maintaining fast guitar riffs, technical drumming and in-your-face vocals. If you’re looking for something politically charged, you can’t go past their second full-length album Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?.
Album recommendation: Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? (1986)
If anyone ever tells you that death metal has no melody, they obviously haven’t listened to Opeth. They are the heavy metal band for people who never though they’d get into heavy metal, with a seamless blend of softness and aggression that will leave you feeling enlightened. Frontman Mikael Akerfeldt is one of the longest standing Gods of metal.
Album recommendation: Still Life (1999)
No introduction to heavy metal would be complete without Metallica - one of the most important heavy metal bands of all time. You can’t argue with their insatiable talent to take thrash metal and make it radio friendly – whilst still being totally awesome.
Album recommendation: Metallica – Black Album (1991)
Keep a look out for Part 2 where we level up to some heavier bands you wouldn’t dare unleash on beginners.