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The 30 best moments from the last 30 years of metal

Metal Hammer is 30! To celebrate, join us as we take you through the 30 greatest moments that helped define the heaviest three decades in history

We’re 30! Holy shit! To celebrate, we take you through the 30 greatest moments that helped define the heaviest three decades in history. From the rise of extreme to the nu metal explosion and beyond, it’s all here. Horns up!


1987

METAL HITS THE SMALL SCREEN

There was a time when metal on TV was rarer than rocking horse turds. But then a nascent MTV shrewdly acknowledged that there was a huge and passionate metalhead audience out there and that metal videos were, in general, a lot more fun than most. Suddenly, Headbanger’s Ball was born. The long-running show’s impact was immediate and vast and provided a great number of bands with the perfect platform to launch their careers. And it beat the piss out of Antiques Roadshow.

THE GODS OF GRIND

Although they officially formed in 1981, Napalm Death’s status as genre-defining revolutionaries wasn’t secured until the release of their debut album, Scum. Endorsed by Radio 1 legend John Peel, the Brummie crew’s short, sharp bursts of insanely fast extremity not only kickstarted the entire grindcore scene but also contributed greatly to the proliferation of blastbeats and brutal vocals within the world of heavy music. Twenty-nine years later, they’re still around and still more extreme than virtually anything else out there.

1989

THE RISE OF PATTON

Faith No More had caused a stir with their genre-blending sound and first major anthem We Care A Lot in 1985, but it was the replacing of singer Chuck Mosley with a young Californian chap called Mike Patton that proved to be their smartest move. The new lineup’s first album together, The Real Thing, ushered in a whole new era for heavy music, as songs like Epic and From Out Of Nowhere ditched the usual clichés in favour of a box-fresh amalgam of influences that pointed to countless future possibilities.

1990

METALLICA WIN A GRAMMY

After being stupidly denied their first Grammy for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance in 1989, when the gong inexplicably went to prog icons Jethro Tull, Metallica finally got their just rewards 12 months later, picking up the award for the immortal One. Understandably pissed off by their previous Grammys experience, they didn’t even turn up to receive it, but that didn’t stop them from winning again in 1991 and 1992 and on three further occasions since. The Grammys are still total horseshit, mind you.

PANTERA SAVE METAL

If the 90s was a bad decade for metal, how do we explain Pantera? When Cowboys From Hell exploded into our world, it was immediately obvious that predictions of our genre’s demise had been premature: this was a new form of heavy music, delivered with bug-eyed intensity and loaded with riffs and refrains that would resonate throughout the following decade and beyond. Meanwhile, in Philip Anselmo and Dimebag Darrell, metal had two new bona fide megastars.

1991

ANTHRAX AND PUBLIC ENEMY JOIN FORCES

Metal’s alliance with hip hop might have produced some duffers over the years, but when New York’s rap revolutionaries teamed up with Scott Ian’s thrash battalion, nobody was complaining. Released in July 1991, Anthrax and Chuck D’s rampaging take on Public Enemy’s Bring The Noise built on the genre-melding efforts of Run DMC and Beastie Boys, and proved that this was a sonic hybrid with immense potential. Among many others, Rage Against The Machine were definitely listening.

1993

ROADRUNNER HITS THE JACKPOT

Roadrunner Records’ contribution to metal over the last 30 years has been colossal, but it wasn’t until 1993 that the label began to conquer the mainstream. Type O Negative’s second album, Bloody Kisses, was a towering gothic masterwork that cemented the NYC band’s growing reputation, eventually achieving first gold and then platinum status in the US. Roadrunner’s first major triumph, its success even made a few goths smile.

1994

DEATH METAL AT THE MOVIES

Extreme metal on the big screen was an impossible dream until Jim Carrey made the inspired decision to hire Cannibal Corpse to perform live in a scene for his new movie. The film, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, was a massive hit and introduced mainstream cinema audiences to the delights of watching five hairy troglodytes battering their way through a song called Hammer Smashed Face. A heroic and subversive metal milestone.

KORN REINVENT THE WHEEL

Many of metal’s established acts were beginning to struggle as the 90s progressed, but Korn conjured a brand new way to crush skulls when they emerged from Bakersfield, California, and released their epoch-shattering eponymous debut album in 1994. It would be a few years before the ‘nu metal’ tag was first coined, but by that point Korn had already inspired a generation of bands to take a fresh approach, and while the results were mixed, the new genre breathed life into a flagging scene.

MAYHEM PAINT IT BLACK

Thanks to a few church burnings and bloody murders, Norwegian black metal was notorious by 1994, but the release of scene instigators Mayhem’s first full-length album proved that this underground cult had the music to draw attention away from its more unsavoury aspects. A vicious but eerie assault on the senses, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas defined the black metal sound once and for all, and remains a revered masterpiece to this day.

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1996

ENTER THE OZZFEST

When Ozzy Osbourne was bizarrely turned down for a slot at US alt-rock festival Lollapalooza (the fools!), his wife and manager Sharon decided to cut out the middle man, and Ozzfest was born. A touring heavy metal festival that embraced both the old school and the nu metal generation, it had a profound impact and demonstrated that if you build an amazing festival with tons of kick-ass bands, metalheads will always turn up in their thousands.

1997

COREY TIES THE ’KNOT

A few months after releasing their Mate. Kill. Feed. Repeat demo, a fledgling Slipknot recruited a new singer early in 1997. His name was Corey Taylor and he was pretty fucking good. Two years later, Slipknot would release their debut album and swiftly become the biggest thing in heavy music since Metallica, despite making music that owed more to Cannibal Corpse than Coal Chamber. Nearly two decades on, Corey is still singing his arse off.

METAL’S IRON MEN REUNITE

When Ozzy Osbourne was sacked from Black Sabbath in 1979, a reunion could hardly have seemed less likely. But in 1997, the singer reconvened with Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler to co-headline Ozzfest alongside Ozzy’s solo band. Drummer Bill Ward completed the reunion later that year and the original Sabbath lineup was back to school a new generation in the ways of maximum heavy, as documented on 1998’s Reunion live album. We are still not worthy.

THE METAL GOD SPEAKS OUT

Despite what cynics may have feared about our world’s underlying attitudes, when Rob Halford first revealed that he was gay during an interview in 1998, the response from the metal world was overwhelmingly positive. Metal’s first LGBT icon remains one of the most admired figures in heavy music and has undoubtedly made it much easier for metalheads of all persuasions to be true to themselves. For that alone, the man is a hero.

BRUCE IS BACK!

In one of the finest reunions in metal history, Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith rejoined the metal giants after years apart. The eventual fruits of that labour – the excellent Brave New World album, which landed in 2000 – would propel them onto a second Golden Age, awash with albums rivalling their classic material, their biggest ever shows and, most intriguingly, their very own plane (more on that later). Plus, it arguably sparked a resurgence in classic heavy metal that dominated the scene for years to come.


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