21 Best 90s Metal Bands (with Videos) - Guitar Lobby (2022)

Though the 90s are often known for boy bands, grunge and pop punk, metal dominated much of the alternative music scenes throughout the decade and brought new subgenres into the mainstream such as death metal, industrial metal, nu-metal, and a second wave of black metal in Scandinavia. Thrash and glam metal were beginning to die out, and bands with a heavier agenda became standard.

21 Best 90s Metal Bands (with Videos) - Guitar Lobby (1)

From Korn to Obituary, these are some of the most influential and best 90s metal bands who helped shape the era’s celebrated sound.

List of the Best Metal Bands of the 90s

21. Deftones

FrontmanChino Moreno (1988 to Present)
OriginSacramento, California
Years1988 to Present
GenreAlternative Metal, Nu Metal, Art Rock

Often referred to as the “Radiohead of metal,” Deftones has become a powerhouse band over the past three decades and are known as one of the most experimental in the alternative metal scene during the mid to late 1990s.

Childhood friends Chino Moreno, Stephen Carpenter and Abe Cunningham founded Deftones in 1988 and began playing gigs throughout Sacramento in the early 1990s. They were discovered by a Maverick Records representative who immediately signed the band. Deftones debut studio album, Adrenaline was released in 1995 and though it wasn’t commercially successful, the band garnered a small cult following.

The band saw significant success with the release of their second studio album in 1997, Around the Fur, and is considered by many as their breakthrough album. The album featured the popular singles Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away) and My Own Summer (Shove It), both of which had music videos that received regular airplay on MTV. The album reached number 29 on the Billboard 200 albums chart and the single My Own Summer (Shove It) was later featured in the 1999 classic sci-fi film The Matrix.

In 2000 Deftones released their most acclaimed studio album, White Pony, which reached number 3 on the US Billboard chart and featured one of their most popular songs to date, Change (In the House of Flies). The album earned the band a Grammy Award in 2001 for Best Metal Performance.

Deftones remains one of the most influential bands from the ‘90s, with music critic Johnny Loftus stating that “rock critics usually reserve a special place for Deftones above or at least away from the rest of the turn-of-the-century metal movement. Deftones have always seemed more curious, more willing to incorporate traditionally revered sounds like D.C. hardcore and dream pop into their Northern California alt-metal.”

20. Machine Head

FrontmanRobb Flynn (1991 to Present)
OriginOakland, California
Years1991 to Present
GenreThrash Metal, Groove Metal, Nu Metal

One of the most prominent acts of the 1990s heavy metal resurgence, Machine Head emerged from Oakland, California in 1991 after vocalist Robb Flynn and Adam Duce joined forces following Flynn’s departure from thrash metal band Vio-lence.

Machine Head recorded their first demo track in a friend’s bedroom with a budget of only $800. The demo caught the attention of Roadrunner Records who saw the band’s potential and immediately signed them. Their debut studio album was released in 1994, Burn My Eyes, which sold nearly 400,000 copies globally and featured the song Davidian which remains one of their biggest hits to date. The band embarked on their first major tour and opened for Slayer in Europe by the end of the year.

The band became synonymous with the thrash and groove genres by the release of their second studio album, The More Things Change…, which reached number 138 on the Billboard 200 albums chart in 1997. The album was followed by their third, The Burning Red in 1999, which was met with criticism as it fell into the popular Nu Metal genre, though they returned to their roots in 2005 with their fourth studio album, Supercharger, which reached number 115 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.

Machine Head has since been regarded as one of the staple metal groups that grew to popularity in the 90s. The band is still actively touring and released their newest single in June 2021, titled Arrows in Words from the Sky. The band’s tenth studio album is currently in the works.

19. Deicide

FrontmanGlen Benton (1987 to Present)
OriginTampa, Florida
Years1987 to Present
GenreDeath Metal

One of the tried and true death metal groups from Tampa, Florida, Deicide became known for their polarizing anti-religious lyrics which have sparked controversy for a number of years.

Deicide came to fruition when frontman Glen Benton placed an advertisement in search of a group to play with in a local music magazine which caught the attention of guitarist Brian Hoffman, his brother Eric and drummer Steve Asheim who were in need of a vocalist and bassist. The group performed together across Tampa and were signed by Roadrunner Records in 1989, settling on the name Deicide. The bands eponymous debut studio album was released the following year.

The bands second studio album Legion, released in 1992, propelled the group into mainstream success. The album’s success led the band to be credited as the second best-selling death metal band, and their first two albums are the second and third best-selling death metal albums, respectively.

Despite the controversy that has surrounded their music, Deicide was one of the most popular metal bands of the 1990s and has remained one of the biggest death metal bands of all-time. Their most recent album, Overtures of Blasphemy, was released in September 2018. The band has just begun touring again for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic.

18. Fear Factory

FrontmanBurton C. Bell (1989 to 2020; new lead vocalist TBA)
OriginLos Angeles, California
Years1989 to 2002, 2003 to 2006, 2009 to Present
GenreIndustrial Metal, Nu Metal, Groove Metal

Since their debut in the early 1990s, Fear Factory has been considered a metal staple with their innovation and hybridization of the death, industrial and alternative metal genres which has since served as an inspiration for a variety of artists, such as Killswitch Engage, Slipknot, Static-X and As I Lay Dying.

Formed by guitarist Dino Cazares and drummer Raymond Herrera in 1989, Fear Factory’s earliest recordings were reminiscent of Napalm Death, a major influence in the band’s beginnings. Vocalist Burton C. Bell was recruited into the band and utilized a mixture of death growls, throat singing and clean vocals early on which became a major factor in the band’s success, as the unique vocal style went on to influence the late 1990s subgenre nu metal.

The band’s debut studio album, Concrete, was released in 1991 and garnered little success. However, with the release of their second album, Soul of a New Machine in 1992, the band received wide exposure in the metal scene and the album has since become a cult classic, with AllMusic stating that it was “groundbreaking” and “it ushered in the ‘90s alternative metal era.”

Fear Factory has continued to pioneer the industrial metal sound throughout the past three decades despite their original line-up changing numerous times throughout their career. In 2020, lead vocalist for 31 years, Bell departed from the band leaving Cazares as the only remaining original member. The band has since recruited a new vocalist, though their name has not been announced yet.

17. Obituary

FrontmanJohn Tardy (1984 to Present)
OriginTampa, Florida
Years1984 to 1997, 2003 to Present
GenreDeath Metal

One of the great death metal bands to emerge from the Florida death metal scene, Obituary stands as one of the best-selling death metal bands of all-time and remains one of the most influential bands in the genre as a whole.

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The band’s debut studio album Slowly We Rot was released in 1989 and featured some of their most appreciated songs to date, including the album’s title track and Internal Bleeding. The release of their second studio album the following year, Cause of Death, propelled them into the metal mainstream and has since been cited as one of the most important death metal albums of all-time.

After touring with metal legends Sepultura, Obituary released their third studio album in 1992, The End Complete, which sold over 100,000 copies. The band filmed their first music video during this time for the album’s title track which went on to receive extended airplay on MTV’s Headbangers Ball.

Obituary disbanded in 1997 after a hectic touring schedule left the members exhausted, however they reformed six years later in 2003 and released their sixth studio album in 2005, Frozen in Time. The band has remained together since and has continued touring and releasing new music. They have toured with Slayer and Lamb of God in recent years and their most recent eponymous album was released in 2017. The band’s newest album is expected to be released in 2022, as vocalist Tardy stated in an interview on Blabbermouth.net that the band was “working on new material during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

16. Morbid Angel

FrontmanMike Browning (1984 to 1986), David Vincent (1986 to 1996; 2004 to 2015), Steve Tucker (1997 to 2001; 2003 to 2004; 2015 to Present)
OriginTampa, Florida
Years1983 to Present
GenreDeath Metal

A major success that emerged from the Florida death metal scene, Morbid Angel has been credited as one of the most influential bands in the genre, rising to mainstream prominence with their music having been featured regularly on MTV throughout the early 1990s.

The bands formation in 1983 served as an immediate inspiration in the death metal scene in Florida, inspiring other crucial death metal acts such as obituary. The band’s immediate success is credited to the release of their debut studio album, Altars of Madness, in 1989. It has since been considered one of the greatest and most important death metal albums to date.

Morbid Angel went on to tour with legendary groups Pantera, Napalm Death, Obituary and Deicide following the release of their album, bringing them a slew of new fans. The release of their second studio album in 1991, Blessed Are the Sick, became critically acclaimed and is considered their true breakthrough album. Their third studio album, Covenant, was released in 1993 and the music video for one of the albums hits God of Emptiness was featured on an episode of Mike Judge’s classic MTV animated series, Beavis and Butt-Head.

Today the band’s first three albums stand as some of the most important in metal history, as they are considered some of the most influential in the death metal scene. They are currently the third best-selling death metal band of all-time, and their third studio album is best-selling death metal albums of all-time with over 150,000 copies sold.

15. Testament

FrontmanSteve “Zetro” Souza (1983 to 1986), Chuck Billy (1986 to Present)
OriginBerkeley, California
Years1983 to Present
GenreThrash Metal

Considered a thrash metal staple and one of the “big six” of the Bay Area thrash metal scene, Testament is known for rejuvenating the thrash genre and extending its roots into the 1990s, leading them to become one of the biggest names in the scene in general alongside thrash giants Metallica and Megadeth.

Originally named Legacy, Testament was formed by guitarist Eric Peterson who later recruited vocalist Steve Souza, bassist Greg Christian and drummer Louie Clemente. The band began playing at a variety of clubs in the Bay Area before releasing their debut studio album in 1987, The Legacy, which received instant critical acclaim as they were compared heavily to the thrash legend Metallica.

The band’s debut music video for their song Over the Wall received regular airplay on MTV’s Headbangers Ball, which propelled the band into widespread success, reaching metalheads across the globe. This led the band to open for Slayer and Megadeth on their tours later that year. Testaments major breakthrough came with the release of their third studio album in 1989, Practice What You Preach, which began focusing on corruption and politics and drew inspiration from traditional heavy metal.

Practice What You Preach became widely successful, hitting number 77 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The bands fourth studio album Souls of Black was released in 1990 followed by their fifth in 1992, The Ritual, which drew up the rising grunge movement while remaining true to their metal roots. Though they began to stray from thrash at this point, the album reached number 55 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, which is their highest charting album to date.

Testament has continued to tour and release music throughout the past few decades, their most recent release being their thirteenth studio album in 2020, Titans of Creation. The band remains one of the most influential of all-time in the thrash genre, with AllMusic stating that they are “one of the first thrash acts to emerge from the Bay Area in Metallica’s wake during the [late] ‘80s.”

14. Motörhead

FrontmanLemmy Kilmister (1975 to 2015)
OriginLondon, England
Years1975 to 2015
GenreHeavy Metal, Speed Metal

Though they are known primarily for their influence in the new wave of heavy metal in the United Kingdom during the 1970s and ‘80s, the legendary powerhouse group Motörhead continued to dominate the metal charts throughout the 1990s.

After Motörhead’s success with their heavy metal albums Overkill (1979), Ace of Spades (1980) and Iron Fist (1982), they toured extensively across the globe throughout the late ‘80s and early ‘90s before releasing their ninth studio album,1916, in 1991. The album was nominated for a Grammy award and vocalist Lemmy Kilmister stated that it was “really the renaissance album for Motörhead” in the documentary film The Guts and the Glory.

The band released five more albums throughout the decade, spawning hits such as Born to Raise Hell, I Ain’t No Nice Guy, Burner, Civil War, I’m So Bad (Baby I Don’t Care) and Love for Sale. The band contributed to various film soundtracks throughout the decade, with the songs Hellraiser and Hell on Earth were written for the 1992 horror film Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth. The song Born to Raise Hell was featured in the opening credits in the 1994 comedy film Airheads, where Kilmister made a cameo appearance.

13. Cannibal Corpse

FrontmanChris Barnes (1988 to 1995), George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher (1995 to Present)
OriginBuffalo, New York
Years1988 to Present
GenreDeath Metal

One of the most authentic death metal bands to emulate a unique sound in the 1990s, Cannibal Corpse currently stands as the best-selling death metal band of all-time.

Cannibal Corpse’s career started when they played their first show in 1989 at Buffalo’s River Rock Cafe where they perform the tracks from their five-song demo tape. They were signed to Metal Blade Records shortly afterwards and released their debut studio album in 1990, Eaten Back to Life, nudging them into the metal spotlight. The group decided to relocate from Buffalo to Tampa at this time, as they hoped to take advantage of the rising death metal scene in the area.

The band rose to prominence with the release of their follow-up albums, Butchered at Birth in 1991 and Tomb of the Mutilated in 1992 which featured one of their most popular and acclaimed songs to date, Hammer Smashed Face. The band had a cameo appearance in the 1994 cult comedy film Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, where they performed the song at a house party. The film stars legendary comedian and actor Jim Carey who has stated that he is a fan of the band.

Cannibal Corpse’s fourth studio album The Bleeding was released in 1994 and was the bands last with vocalist Chris Barnes, who went on to focus on his new band Six Feet Under. George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher took his place and has remained the bands frontman since. Fisher’s first album with the band, Vile, was released in 1996 and reached number 151 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.

Despite Cannibal Corpse’s polarizing name and song lyrics, they remain one of the greatest metal bands of all-time and continue to create heavy music that has stayed true to their roots. In April 2021 they released their fifteenth studio album Violence Unimagined which reached number six on the Billboard Top Album Sales Chart.


12. White Zombie

FrontmanRob Zombie (1985 to 1998)
OriginNew York City, New York
Years1985 to 1998
GenreAlternative Metal, Groove Metal, Industrial Metal

Co-founded and fronted by legendary musician, horror director, and voice actor Rob Zombie, White Zombie’s (named after the 1932 horror film of the same name) heavy-metal sound propelled the group into the mainstream in the early 1990s.

White Zombie came to fruition when Rob Zombie and his girlfriend at the time, bassist Sean Yseult, began playing music together while attending Parsons School of Design. They released their first EP, Gods on Voodoo Moon in 1985 before releasing their debut studio album in 1987, Soul-Crusher, and their second in 1989, Make Them Die Slowly.

The release of the band’s third studio album in 1992, La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume One launched the band into the mainstream, as it featured the hits Thunder Kiss ’65, Welcome to Planet Motherfucker/Psychedelic Slag and Black Sunshine. The music videos for the songs were on heavy rotation on MTV and were all featured on Mike Judge’s animated comedy series, Beavis and Butt-Head.

The band’s fourth studio album, Astro Creep: 2000 was released in 1995 and featured the hit single More Human than Human which led the album to reach number six on the Billboard 200 chart, becoming certified double platinum. The band went on to tour with a variety of legendary metal and rock acts throughout the latter half of the ’90s, such as Metallica, the Ramones, Soundgarden, Everclear and more.

White Zombie disbanded in 1998 and Rob Zombie embarked on a widely successful solo music career and directing career, as he is since known for the cult horror films House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects and his remake of the 1978 horror classic Halloween.

11. Korn

FrontmanJonathan Davis (1993 to Present)
OriginBakersfield, California
Years1993 to Present
GenreNu Metal

Considered pioneers of the nu metal genre that defined the late 1990s, Korn became one of the most successful mainstream metal acts with the release of their eponymous debut studio album.

The band’s demo tape, Neidermayer’s Mind, was released in 1993 and was produced by Ross Robinson who has been credited with discovering other acts such as Slipknot and Limp Bizkit. The demo tape solidified Korn as the founders of the nu metal sound, riffs and rhythm which inspired a new wave of metal.

Korn released their eponymous debut studio album in 1994 with Robinson which was released through Immortal Records. The album reached the number one spot on the Heatseekers Albums chart and number 72 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The band rose to mainstream prominence with the release of their third studio album in 1998, Follow the Leader, which featured some of their most notable singles to date, Freak On a Leash and Got the Life. The album reached number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart and the albums leading singles’ music videos were played regularly on MTV’s Total Request Live. The music video for Freak On a Leash won the Grammy for Best Music Video, Short Form and also earned two MTV Video Music Awards.

Follow the Leader remains one of Korn’s most commercially successful albums, with sales of over 10 million and being certified five-times platinum. Their follow-up album in 1999, Issues, hit the number one spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart and sold over half a million copies. The albums single Falling Away from Me was featured on an episode of the animated comedy series South Park and became the band’s first song to feature on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching number 99.

Korn’s success in the 1990s has led them to become one of the most influential bands of the decade. They have continued to tour extensively throughout the past few decades, and although the nu metal genre’s peak has seemed to pass, their newer releases continue to amuse fans both old and new. In April 2021, Korn’s Jonathan Davis confirmed in an interview with Kerrang! that they are working on their fourteenth studio album and have utilized the COVID-19 pandemic to focus on writing.

10. Slipknot

FrontmanAnders Colsefni (1995 to 1997), Corey Taylor (1997 to Present)
OriginDes Moines, Idaho
Years1995 to Present
GenreHeavy Metal, Alternative Metal, Nu Metal

One of the most appreciated metal bands of all-time, Slipknot truly embodies the latter half of the 1990s metal sound, style and are known for their facemasks, matching jumpsuits and variety of vocal styles from legendary frontman Corey Taylor.

Formed in Des Moines, Iowa, Slipknot’s debut demo tape Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat. was released on Halloween day, 1996 which received limited airplay on local radio stations. The band recruited vocalist Corey Taylor from the band Stone Sour to incorporate more melodic vocals into their music. The bands second demo tape caught more attention and received more extensive airplay, leading music producer Ross Robinson to offer to produce their debut studio album for them.

The bands eponymous debut studio album was released in 1999 and led to the band earning a near-immediate cult following. The album featured the popular singles Wait and Bleed and Spit It Out, leading the album to become certified platinum.

The bands success continued to rise into the early 2000s with the release of their second studio album in 2001, Iowa, which reached number 3 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The band became a major mainstream success with the release of their third studio album, Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses) which featured one of their biggest hits to date, Duality.

Slipknot remains one of the most loved bands as their fanbase has remained loyal to the group since their emergence in the late ‘90s and continues to make their live shows an entertaining experience for both the band and fellow attendees.

In July 2021, the band was met with tragedy after legendary drummer and co-founder Joey Jordison died after battling TM, a rare neurological condition.

9. Type O Negative

FrontmanPeter Steele (1989 to 2010)
OriginBrooklyn, New York
Years1989 to 2010
GenreGothic Metal, Doom Metal

Considered pioneers of the gothic metal genre, Type O Negative rose to prominence in the early 1990s due to frontman Peter Steele’s legendary vocals and the band’s themes of death, romance and depression which defined the era’s gothic sound and culture.

Peter Steele formed Type O Negative in 1989 with his childhood friends Josh Silver, Kenny Hickey and Sal Abruscato. The band was signed to Roadrunner Records in 1991 and released their debut studio album later that year, Slow, Deep and Hard which incorporated droning gothic and industrial atmospheres, setting a general theme for their later albums.

Type O Negative rose to prominence in 1993 with the release of their third studio album, Bloody Kisses, which was critically and socially acclaimed. It was Roadrunner Records first album to become certified platinum in the US. The songs Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-All), Summer Breeze (a cover of Seals and Crofts 1972 hit) and Christian Woman are some of their most popular to date, with their rendition of Summer Breeze featured in the opening credits of the … horror film I Know What You Did Last Summer.

The band’s fourth studio album, October Rust, was released in 1996 and featured the praised songs Love You to Death, My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend and Green Man. The album was the band’s first to reach the top half of the Billboard Top 200, reaching number 42.

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Type O Negative’s success continued into the early 2000s with the release of their sixth studio album in 2003, Life Is Killing Me, which featured the single I Don’t Wanna Be Me which remains one of the band’s staple songs.

In 2010, frontman Peter Steele died at the age of 48. The rest of the band decided that they wouldn’t continue on without Steele, stating that “Type O Negative died with him.” An oak tree was planted in Steeles memory in Prospect Park in his hometown of Brooklyn, New York.

8. Tool

FrontmanMaynard James Keenan (1990 to Present)
OriginLos Angeles, California
Years1990 to Present
GenreAlternative Metal, Post-Metal, Art Rock

One of the most experimental metal acts of the 1990s, Tool has been described by The Age as “the thinking person’s metal band. Cerebral and visceral, soft and heavy, melodic and abrasive, tender and brutal, familiar and strange, western and eastern, beautiful and ugly, taut yet sprawling and epic, they are a tangle of contradictions.”

Maynard James Keened and Adam Jones formed Tool after Jones was thoroughly impressed by Keenan’s vocals. The band was signed to Zoo Entertainment and released their first EP in 1992, Opiate, and released their first album the following year, Undertow. The albums single Sober became an instant classic and won the Billboard Best Video by a New Artist award.

Tools second studio album Ænema was released in 1995 and was dedicated to the late stand-up comedian Bill Hicks. The album has become certified triple platinum and the albums eponymous single won the Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 1998. Kerrang! Ranked the album at the 6th most influential of all-time, while Guitar World ranked the album at number 14 on their Best 100 Guitar Albums list.

Tool has become one of the most unique metal acts of all-time with their album art and packaging, live shows and music videos accompanying their instrumental experimentation and bridge between visual art and music. The band has won four Grammy Awards and produced numerous chart-topping albums since their debut, making them one of the most commercially successful alternative metal bands of all-time. Overall, Tool is easily one of the best 90s metal bands and certainly deserves a spot towards the top of this list.

7. Iron Maiden

FrontmanPaul Day (1975 to 1976), Dennis Wilcock (1977), Paul Di’Anno (1978 to 1981), Blaze Bayley (1994 to 1999), Bruce Dickinson (1981 to 1993, 1999 to Present)
OriginLondon, England
Years1975 to Present
GenreHeavy Metal

Known for their captivating tales that are portrayed in their music, heavy metal band Iron Maiden rose to prominence in the 1980s yet managed to remain relevant throughout the ‘90s while staying true to their iconic sound and avoiding numerous trends that plagued the genre.

Iron Maiden is perhaps known best for their iconic albums that were released in the early 1980s, such as Killers (1981), The Number of the Beast (1982) and Piece of Mind (1983), however, the band struck gold with the release of their ninth studio album in 1992, Fear of the Dark. The album features the iconic songs Afraid to Shoot Strangers, Be Quick or Be Dead and the title song, Fear of the Dark, which has remained a staple on the bands set list since the albums release.

Fear of the Dark debuted at number 12 on the Billboard 200 albums chart and was certified gold in the United Kingdom. The album was ranked at number 8 on Guitar World’s top ten list of guitar albums that year, and Billboard praised the album highly, stating that “Dickinson’s voice shows no sign of wear and tear; the guitar work sounds fresh and crisp.”

6. Death

FrontmanChuck Schuldiner (1984 to 2001)
OriginAltamonte Springs, Florida
Years1984 to 1996, 1998 to 2001
GenreDeath Metal

Death is undoubtedly one of the most influential metal bands of all-time, having established the death metal genre with their critically acclaimed album, Scream Bloody Gore.

Formed in the mid ‘80s by vocalist Chuck Schuldiner, Death’s emergence triggered the Florida death metal scene that became prominent throughout the ‘90s. Death’s earliest tapes were recorded in 1984 and circulated among cult metal fans, establishing the band’s name as key players in the death metal scene.

After performing across Florida throughout the late 1980s, Death released their debut studio album in 1987, Scream Bloody Gore which became critically acclaimed and served as a general template for the death metal sound. The bands next two albums, Leprosy in 1988 and Spiritual Healing in 1990 solidified the band as one of the most defining of the era.

Death’s 1991 album Human propelled them into the mainstream, as MTV showed their first music video regularly, Lack of Comprehension. The bands final three albums, Individual Thought Patterns (1993), Symbolic (1995) and The Sound of Perseverance (1998) all continued to demonstrate the bands signature death metal sound, with Spirit Crusher from The Sound of Perseverance becoming one of their most popular songs.

In 1999, Schuldiner was diagnosed with brain cancer and died in 2001 due to complications from the illness at the age of 34. Death disbanded as a result, and Schuldiner remains one of the most important icons in metal. The band has been noted by MetalSucks as “one of the most acclaimed music groups of all-time.”

5. Anthrax

FrontmanNeil Turban (1982 to 1984), John Bush (1992 to 2005, 2009 to 2010), Joey Belladonna (1984 to 1992, 2005 to 2007, 2010 to Present)
OriginNew York City, New York
Years1981 to Present
GenreThrash Metal, Speed Metal, Groove Metal, Alternative Metal

One of the members of the “big four,” legendary thrash metal band Anthrax took a unique approach with their releases throughout the ‘90s, experimenting with covers of music from a variety of genres.

Perhaps known best for their earlier albums in the 1980s such as Spreading The Disease (1985) and Among The Living (1987), Anthrax continued to attract the attention of metal fans with the release of their fifth studio album in 1990, Persistence of Time. The band explored darker themes with this release, spawning the popular songs Got the Time, Belly of the Beast and In My World.

AllMusic praised the album, stating that “the more cartoonish side of the band is substituted by a dark, uncompromising examination of society’s dirty underbelly, which makes Persistence of Time their most lyrically consistent album.” Anthrax’s follow-up album was Attack of the Killer B’s in 1991, a compilation album that included a variety of covers and B-sides, most notably their cover of Public Enemy’s Bring the Noise.

The band released three more albums throughout the latter half of the ‘90s, Sound of White Noise (1993), Stomp 44 (1995) and Volume 8: The Threat Is Real, all of which generated mostly positive reviews from AllMusic and Spin.

4. Sepultura

FrontmanMax Cavalera (1984 to 1997), Derrick Green (1997 to Present)
OriginBelo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Years1984 to Present
GenreGroove Metal, Death Metal, Thrash Metal

Brazilian metal band Sepultura was one of the leading forces in the genre during the early 1990s, as they are often credited as one of the leading groups of the second wave of thrash metal in the US who helped define the groove metal genre.

Formed by brothers Igor and Max Cavalera in 1984, Sepultura was heavily inspired by early metal influences such as Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Iron Maiden as well as thrash bands Slayer, Exodus and Megadeth. The band broke through into the mainstream metal scene with the release of their fifth studio album in 1993, Chaos A.D., which became certified gold and solidified their name as a reputable metal band, as AllMusic scored the album 4.5 of out 5 stars, stating that “Chaos A.D. ranks as one of the greatest heavy metal albums of all time.”

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Sepultura’s follow-up album in 1996, Roots, explored themes of and elements of the music of Brazil’s indigenous peoples. It has since been regarded as a cult classic, with AllMusic stating that “Roots consolidates Sepultura’s position as perhaps the most distinctive, original heavy metal band of the 1990s.”

Nashville Scene has described Sepultura’s legacy, stating that “Before Chaos A.D., the overwhelming majority of metal had a ‘white’ feel to it. Sepultura changed that forever, and with Roots, the band went a step further, asserting once and for all that the genre can accommodate native stylings from any culture.”

3. Metallica

FrontmanJames Hetfield (1981 to Present)
OriginLos Angeles, California
Years1981 to Present
GenreThrash Metal, Speed Metal, Heavy Metal

Kings of thrash metal, Metallica solidified themselves as thrash legends in the 1980s with their legendary albums Ride the Lightning (1984) and Master of Puppets (1986). While the band became synonymous with the genre, they bravely ditched their roots in the ‘90s for a more traditional metal sound that propelled them into the mainstream, garnering tremendous acclaim from critics and fans.

One of Metallica’s most recognizable works, their eponymous 5th album often referred to as “The Black Album,” was released in 1991 and featured the hits Sad but True, Nothing Else Matters, The Unforgiven, Wherever I May Roam and Enter Sandman. The album was critically acclaimed upon its release and has since become the band’s best-selling of all-time, as well as one of the best-selling of all-time globally with a 16x platinum certification.

Metallica followed the album with Load (1996), Reload (1997), Garage Inc (1998), and the live album S&M (1999), all of which didn’t garner as much mainstream success as The Black Album, though they remain fan-favorites of many die-hard Metallica fans. Metallica is without a doubt one of the great metal bands of the 90s.

2. Megadeth

FrontmanDave Mustaine (1983 to 2002, 2004 to Present)
OriginLos Angeles, California
Years1983 to 2002, 2004 to Present
GenreThrash Metal, Speed Metal

1980s thrash metal giant Megadeth rose to prominence with the release of their albums Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying (1986) and So Far, So Good… So What (1988) and managed to successfully extend the genres roots into the early 1990s with Rust in Peace (1990), Countdown to Extinction (1992) and Youthanasia (1994).

Often referred to as one of the best thrash metal records of all-time with high critical appraisal from publications such as Kerrang!, Rolling Stone Magazine and AllMusic, Rust in Peace spawned the iconic songs Holy Wars… The Punishment Due, Hangar 18 and Five Magics. The bands follow-up album, Countdown to Extinction, garnered significantly more success with its signature songs Sweating Bullets and Symphony of Destruction.

The album hit number two on the Billboard 200 albums chart, their highest ever, and is considered by many as the band’s commercial breakthrough album. The bands third album released in the ‘90s, Youthanasia, was praised highly for maintaining their iconic sound, with Billboard stating that the band “delivered trademark aggressive rage n’ roll to powerful effect.” The album featured one of the bands slower hits, A Tout Le Monde, which despite its ballad-like qualities has become a fan-favorite.

1. Pantera

FrontmanDonny Hart (1981 to 1987) Phil Anselmo (1988 to 2003)
OriginArlington, Texas
Years1981 to 2003
GenreThrash Metal, Groove Metal

One of the most iconic thrash and groove metal bands, Pantera dominated the 1990s, with AllMusic stating that they are “one of the pioneers of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal.”

Originally a glam metal band inspired by heavily by Quiet Riot, Pantera became an instant local favorite, performing across Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. The band developed their signature sound towards the late ’80s when thrash metal was on the with Metallica’s Master of Puppets and Megadeth’s Peace Sells… by Who’s Buying being staples of the emerging sound, pushing glam metal into the backdrop.

Pantera began experimenting with thrash and released their fourth studio album, Power Metal in 1988 with Phil Anselmo as their new, more powerful vocalist. The album experimented with mixing glam metal and thrash.

Pantera struck gold with the release of their fifth studio album in 1990, Cowboy’s from Hell, which has since been considered their signature album as well as one of the most important in the metal genre as a whole. The album is one of the first in the groove metal genre and has been praised highly from critics and metal fans, with Guitar World ranking the album at number 11 on their list of the 100 greatest guitar albums of all-time. Legendary artist and father of metal Ozzy Osbourne stated in 2017 that the album is among his ten favorite metal albums of all-time.

The band disbanded in 2003 and were struck with tragedy shortly after in 2004 when the band’s legendary bassist Dimebag Darrell was shot and killed onstage during a show in Columbus, Ohio.

21 Best 90s Metal Bands (with Videos) - Guitar Lobby (2)

Megan Lewis

Growing up in a small town in South Carolina with little to do, I spent the majority of my adolescence listening to music and writing stories. I began playing the violin in the 5th grade which helped me grow to appreciate modern music’s roots from an early age. At the age of 12 my older brother introduced me to the music he grew up with; Nu Metal, Grunge, 90’s Hip-Hop, Rap and Classic Rock. I became infatuated and embarked on my own music journey, discovering who I truly was along the way. During college I developed a passion for journalism, which I’ve now been lucky enough to merge with my love for music here at Guitar Lobby.

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What is the most underrated metal band? ›

50 underrated metal bands, A-Z
  • Afflicted (death metal, Sweden) ...
  • Antarktis (atmospheric sludge metal, Sweden) ...
  • Ars Onirica (melodic death/doom metal, Italy) ...
  • Asphodelus (death/doom metal, Finland) ...
  • Atten Ash (death/doom metal, United States) ...
  • Cold Insight (death/doom metal, France) ...
  • Counting Hours (death/doom metal, Finland)
Sep 17, 2018

Who was the first female metal singer? ›


What metal band has a female lead singer? ›

Evanescence is without a doubt one of the best metal bands with a female singer of all time.

Who are the big 4 heavy metal? ›

The Big Four: Live from Sofia, Bulgaria is a live video with performances by Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax, the "big four" of American thrash metal.

Who is the heaviest metal band ever? ›

Top 10 Heaviest bands of all time
  • Motörhead. A classic hitter, super intense for the time and they definitely set the standard for other bands and influenced many after them. ...
  • Slayer. ...
  • Pantera. ...
  • Death. ...
  • Cannibal Corpse. ...
  • Lil Thrash. ...
  • Gorguts. ...
  • Skinless.


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