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100 Best Heavy Metal Bands of the ‘90s

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See if your favorite metal act appears on this list of the best '90s metal bands.

See if your favorite metal act appears on this list of the best '90s metal bands.

A number of metal subgenres emerged in the ‘90s, broadening the genre's reach. By branching out and splintering into a number of subgenres, heavy metal has been able to appeal to a wide range of audiences. Earache records and Roadrunner records promoted heavy metal bands in a big way throughout the decade. A number of the metal acts that signed recording deals with these record labels had a great deal of success throughout the decade. Many of the bands that emerged in the late ‘80s reached the peak of their success in the ‘90s. In fact, some of the most critically acclaimed metal albums of all time were released during this enigmatic decade.

Many of the heavy metal subgenres that came into prominence in the ‘90s were instrumental in changing the blueprint for what constituted a metal song. The genre's success in this decade influenced many other forms of extreme music. While heavy metal has evolved throughout each decade, the ‘90s will be remembered by metal purists for its many trendsetting acts.

The list below showcases a diverse number of ‘90s heavy metal bands from different subgenres. If you are a heavy metal buff, then you'll definitely have a lot to say. Get vocal with your views and opinions in the comments section.

Top 10 Best Heavy Metal Bands of the ‘90s

  1. Pantera
  2. Sepultura
  3. Megadeth
  4. Slayer
  5. Anthrax
  6. Motorhead
  7. Metallica
  8. Death
  9. Iron Maiden
  10. Black Sabbath

Death Metal in the ‘90s

Death metal was one of the most popular extreme subgenres of heavy metal during this decade. A number of death metal acts that formed in the ‘80s had considerable success throughout the ‘90s. Death metal, which evolved from the underground metal movement of the ‘80s, became a powerful musical entity in the ‘90s. The speed and aggression of thrash and hardcore, fused with heavily distorted guitars and double bass drumming, gave death metal its unique identity. A number of Swedish metal bands and Norwegian metal bands came into prominence, offering a more melodic style of death metal. Death growls, death rasps, high-pitched screaming, and death grunts were popular vocal techniques among death metal vocalists in this decade.

Long hair is a big part of the heavy metal look.

Long hair is a big part of the heavy metal look.

Best Heavy Metal Bands of the ‘90s #11—20

11. Judas Priest

12. Opeth

13. Guns N’ Roses

14. Tool

15. Type O Negative

16. Dream Theater

17. Napalm Death

18. Obituary

19. Slipknot

20. Nine Inch Nails

Black Metal in the ‘90s

Black metal was another extreme subgenre that rose to prominence in this decade. The second wave of black metal, which emerged in the ‘90s, was dominated by bands across Europe. Scandinavia became the epicenter for this form of music. A number of Scandinavian black metal bands reached their peak of popularity in this decade. Tremolo-picked distorted guitars, dark, atmospheric hissing vocals, shrieks, and growls are what gave this subgenre its unique identity.

A number of black metal acts popularized the use of "corpse paint" during their live performances. In fact, satanic themes, including lyrics about ancient paganism, formed the blueprint of this extreme form of music. While the black metal scene was (and continues to be) rampant across Scandinavian countries, throughout the mid-'90s, a slew of black metal bands emerged from Poland, France, and Germany. Later in the decade, a number of acts associated with the subgenre started incorporating ambient forms of music into their compositions. Symphonic black metal, which took shape in the late ‘90s, became exceedingly popular with fans of extreme metal.

The Flying V is classic heavy metal guitar.

The Flying V is classic heavy metal guitar.

Best Heavy Metal Bands of the ‘90s #21—40

21. Cannibal Corpse

22. Machine Head

23. Rage Against the Machine

24. Soundgarden

25. Testament

26. Queensryche

27. Exodus

28. Deicide

29. Kreator

30. Fear Factory

31. Morbid Angel

32. System of a Down

33. Alice in Chains

34. Korn

35. Venom

36. King Diamond

37. Overkill

38. AC/DC

39. Meshuggah

40. Voivod

Power Metal in the ‘90s

Power metal, which came into prominence in the mid-'80s, gained a great deal of mainstream popularity in the ‘90s. A number of power metal bands gained cult followings in Europe, Japan, and South America. Epic, upbeat melodies, fronted by lyrical tales of valor and bravery, are what gives this metal subgenre its unique identity. Throughout the '90s, power metal became popular with audiences across the globe. Its melodic instrumentation, interspersed with power riffs and flawless high-pitch vocal techniques, had a broad appeal, gaining traction with rock audiences. Towards the end of the ‘90s, a number of traditional power metal bands started diversifying their sound by incorporating symphonic elements into their music. Certain acts started employing orchestras and opera singers to help compose their ballads. The textural vocal arrangements and lush ambient soundscapes heard in power metal are what give this bold subgenre its iconic sound.

Some metal bands are influenced by the "Texas flood" sound.

Some metal bands are influenced by the "Texas flood" sound.

Best Heavy Metal Bands of the ‘90s #41—60

41. Immortal

42. Marilyn Manson

43. Sodom

44. Annihilator

45. Rammstein

46. At the Gates

47. Sarcofago

48. Ministry

49. Kamelot

50. White Zombie

51. Iced Earth

52. Dimmu Borgir

53. Mercyful Fate

54. Carcass

55. Symphony X

56. Danzig

57. Helloween

58. Bathory

59. Children of Bodom

60. Samael

Thrash Metal in the ‘90s

Thrash metal, which emerged in the early ‘80s, achieved widespread success in the ‘90s. Shred leads, combined with low-register guitar riffs, became exceedingly popular in this form of music. The Bay Area thrash scene played a pivotal role in developing and diversifying the subgenre's sound throughout the ‘90s. Although the majority of the bands remained in the underground metal movement, certain thrash bands achieved mainstream success. While the U.S. was the epicenter of thrash in the ‘80s, the ‘90s witnessed an explosion of thrash metal acts throughout Europe. German thrash metal bands developed a diverse style that appealed to metal fans across the globe. Thrash lyrics centered around depictions of suffering, death, violence, and the occult.

Most metal bands are five pieces with drums, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, and vocals.

Most metal bands are five pieces with drums, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, and vocals.

Best Heavy Metal Bands of the ‘90s #61—80

61. Deftones

62. Grave

63. Behemoth

64. Therion

65. Stratovarius

66. Fates Warning

67. Burzum

68. Saint Vitus

69. Darkthrone

70. Suicidal Tendencies

71. Candlemass

72. Angra

73. Cradle of Filth

74. Savatage

75. Nightwish

76. Paradise Lost

77. Trouble

78. Katatonia

79. Celtic Frost

80. In Flames

Doom Metal in the ‘90s

Doom metal was another extreme metal subgenre that came into prominence in the early ‘90s. Slow tempos, augmented by the brutal assault of low-tuned guitars, are what gave this subgenre its unique identity. Doom metal's crawling guitar riffs and dark lyrics evoked a sense of dread, despair, and impending doom. While the majority of doom metal bands in the ‘80s came from the U.S., many European doom metal acts came into prominence in the ‘90s. These European acts often blended death metal and doom metal together to create what can only be described as a death-doom sound. A number of British death-doom acts used dual-vocal arrangements that soon paved the way for European gothic metal.

Metal concerts are known for being high energy.

Metal concerts are known for being high energy.

Best Heavy Metal Bands of the ‘90s #81—100

81. Flotsam and Jetsam

82. My Dying Bride

83. Tiamat

84. Cathedral

85. Pentagram

86. Theatre of Tragedy

87. Autopsy

88. Saxon

89. Prong

90. Blind Guardian

91. Gwar

92. Suffocation

93. Biohazard

94. Emperor

95. Anathema

96. Dark Tranquility

97. Corrosion of Conformity

98. Beherit

99. Entombed

100. Tristania

Gothic Metal in the ‘90s

Gothic metal, also referred to as goth metal, gained mainstream attention in the ‘90s. This style of music combined traditional heavy metal with dark atmospheric gothic rock influences. This form of music evolved out of the death-doom movement, which was a fusion of death metal and doom metal. This genre stands out for its use of confessional and introspective lyrics, often centered around gothic fiction.

This blending of heavy metal and goth rock can still be heard in the compositions of more symphonic metal bands. Certain gothic metal acts relied on a "beauty and the beast" singing style, in which the male vocalist showcases an aggressive singing style while the female vocalist exhibits a clean singing style that's meant as a point of contrast. Classically trained female vocalists became the preferred choice by symphonic metal bands in the 2000s.

Heavy metal fashion revolves around dark colors.

Heavy metal fashion revolves around dark colors.

Other Notable Heavy Metal Bands of the ‘90s

  • Mayhem
  • Rhapsody of Fire
  • Demolition Hammer
  • Goatsnake
  • Nuclear Assault
  • Catharsis
  • Krokus
  • Channel Zero
  • Vio-lence
  • Dokken
  • Six Feet Under
  • The Obsessed
  • Cryptopsy
  • Nile
  • Skid Row
  • Gamma Ray
  • Metal Church
  • Death Angel
  • Heathen
  • Cynic
  • Rata Blacnca
  • Eyehategod
  • Arch Enemy
  • Dying Fetus
  • Theatres des Vampires
  • Pestilence
  • Stormtroopers of Death
  • Exciter
  • Brujeria
  • Dismember
  • Tankard
  • Loudness
  • Forbidden
  • Rage
  • Necrophagia
  • Edguy
  • Accept
  • Vader
  • Destruction
  • Blasphemy
  • Anvil
  • Sadus
  • Broken Hope
  • Ophthalamia
  • Saturnus
  • Rotten Sound
  • Atheist
  • Jag Panzer
  • Amon Amarth
  • Septicflesh

Groove Metal in the ‘90s

Groove metal evolved out of experimental thrash, relying heavily on the same riff structures. Syncopated rhythmic structures, combined with raspy-aggressive vocals and down-tuned guitar riffs, are what gave this subgenre its unique identity. Although only a few of these bands found mainstream success, certain groove metal bands gained critical acclaim and managed to reach large audiences. These catchy groove metal riffs paved the way for the nu-metal subgenres that would emerge throughout the 2000s.

  • Lacrimas Profundere
  • Exhorder
  • Gorefest
  • Repulsion
  • Crowbar
  • Mortification
  • Acid Bath
  • Incantation
  • Grip Inc.
  • Dissection
  • Unanimated
  • Obscurity
  • Cirith Ungol
  • W.A.S.P.
  • Impiety
  • Sleep
  • Kataklysm
  • Novembers Doom
  • Dark Angel
  • Amorphis
  • UFO
  • Sanctuary
  • Bolt Thrower
  • Trail of Tears
  • October Tide
  • Suidakra
  • Hypocrisy
  • Twin Obscenity
  • Melvins
  • Embraced
  • Darkseed
  • Grave Digger
  • Ektomorf
  • Burning Witch
  • The Crown
  • Holy Moses
  • Riot
  • Sabbat
  • Bestial Warlust
  • Uriah Heep
  • Ancient
  • Naglfar
  • Skepticism
  • Epoch of Unlight
  • Triumph
  • In Battle
  • Demoncy
  • Borknagar
  • Edge of Sanity
  • Tha-Norr
  • Sentenced
  • Lake of Tears
  • Gorguts
  • Atrocity
  • Raven
  • This Ending
  • Orden Ogan
  • Extreme Noise Terror
  • Catamenia
  • Helix
  • TNT
  • Belphegor
  • The Kovenant
  • Immolation
  • Esoteric
  • Beseech
  • Morgoth
  • Stryper
  • Atrosis
  • Crimson Thorn
  • Necrophagist
  • Thorns
  • Ancient Rites
  • Electric Wizard
  • Crimson Glory
  • Winter
  • Graveland
  • Crematory
  • X Japan
  • Within Temptation
  • Diamond Head
  • Quiet Riot
  • Funeral
  • Coroner
  • Bal-Sagoth
  • Throes of Dawn
  • Iron Savior
  • Satyricon
  • Vicious Rumors
  • Barathrum
  • Down
  • Trance
  • Manowar
  • God Macabre
  • Malevolent Creation
  • Undish
  • Acid King
  • Razor
  • Virgin Steele
  • Xentrix
  • Nocturnal Rites
  • Motley Crue
  • Skinless
  • Unleashed
  • Running Wild
  • Axxis
  • Deinonychus
  • Impaled Nazarene
  • Sacred Reich
  • Blue Murder
  • Girlschool
  • Moonspell
  • Primordial
  • Evoken
  • Agent Steel
  • Count Raven
  • Kat
  • Nokturnal Mortum
  • The Sins of Thy Beloved
  • HammerFall
  • Artillery
  • Enthroned
  • L.A. Guns
  • Sacramentum
  • Master’s Hammer
  • Y&T
  • Desaster
  • Exhumed
  • Nifelheim
  • Dirty Rotten Imbeciles
  • Aborted
  • Death SS
  • Manilla Road
  • Chastain
  • Aura Noir
  • Primal Fear
  • Dio
  • This Ending
  • Dawn
  • Helstar
  • Gorgoroth
  • Disembowelment
  • Angel Dust
  • Midvinter
  • Thergothon
  • In the Woods..
  • Sigh
  • Cinderella
  • Windir
  • Black Funeral

© 2020 Ansel Pereira

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