This was by no means an easy list to make, given the sheer number of incredibly influential people who participated in raising the metal scene to its full height and making it what it is today. But out of all of the metal legends who formed the genre, there are few that stand out from the crowd. This list only considers musicians, as they are the ones who get the attention, but in reality the fans are by far the most important people in any genre; none of the people on this list would be here without their fans. However, they are hardly a single person, so they didn’t make it on here.
#10: Corey Taylor
Corey Taylor is known for being the vocalist of the notorious alt/thrash outfit Slipknot, which brought thrash through to the new millennium and kept it going strong. In an era where alt/nu metal and extreme ‘core subgenres are the only sufficiently popular styles of metal, Slipknot covers the scarce middle ground of the two extremes, drawing influences from both but spitting out something that isn’t quite either. The main push behind the band is Corey’s reckless and explosively angry personality, which can make him difficult to work with, but, combined with a powerful vocal performance and a relentless creative drive makes him a monster on stage and in the studio.
#9: Dimebag Darrel
Pantera’s presence in the metal scene can’t be denied, and they had a significant influence on many different metal subgenres. Their guitarist Dimebag is, next to Phil Anselmo, the main force behind the band as well as the inspiration for many younger bands. His nearly superhuman Van Halen-like shredding style, combined with the tragic nature of his death–shot down playing live on the anniversary of John Lennon’s murder–only added to his influence and success.
#8: Randy Blythe
Burn the Priest, more commonly known by their slightly less intense moniker Lamb of God, is one of the most popular, as well as influential, extreme metal bands, largely thanks to Randy’s inhuman vocal abilities. It’s hard enough to scream with simple vocal fry consistently without sustaining permanent vocal damage, not to mention growl as well and keep doing it for decades. Randy was never even taught to do it; he says it all started as a cookie monster joke. What sets him apart from all the others though is that he is able to replicate almost the exact sound from the studio at his live shows, even while crowd-surfing.
#7: Bruce Dickinson
Bruce is an author, broadcaster, airline pilot, and solo artist, but it’s his work as the lead singer of Iron Maiden that places him here. Maiden’s sound isn’t exactly the heaviest it gets, but their classic two-guitar harmonies and galloping beats influenced more than onw generation of fans, and some very successful bands including Queensryche, Disturbed, and even Megadeth. Their mainstream success and powerful stage presence can be all credited to one factor: Bruce. Needless to say, his nearly superhuman vocal range, impressive vocal power, and instantly recognizable voice make him a legend of rock n roll and metal alike.
#5 and 6: Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield
These two are difficult to separate, as they co-founded Metallica and both stayed with it until today. James’s lyrics and classic stage presence dominate any performance they have, and his unique down-picking style and dynamic voice land him rightfully with the title of the first thrasher. As for Lars, love him or hate him, you can’t deny his place among the legends of metal. Metallica had a rough start with Kill Em All and some dirty issues during the black album, but the founding duo managed to stick together for some 40 years, and the result certainly paid off.
#4: Tony Iommi:
Black Sabbath can be said to have invented metal as we know it, and their influence can’t be understated. While Ozzy is for sure part of the legend that started it all, Tony Iommi was there from the start too, and shouldn’t be overlooked. His riffs loom huge over the genre, but how they came to be is even more interesting: Tony lost the tips of two of his fingers at a sheet metal factory, but instead of giving up guitar, he built his own prosthetics out of melted plastic and invented light gauge strings so he could keep playing. The plastic fingers, combined with tuned down strings and a bass amp gave him the unusual tone that Sabbath is now known for.
#3: Dave Mustaine:
As Metallica’s ex-lead guitarist and Megadeth’s founder, singer, and guitarist, Dave was there from the start of the thrash metal genre and saw it through its most popular years. In Metallica, some of his songs appeared Metallica’s iconic debut album Kill Em All, even though he was kicked out due to some intense alcohol-induced incidents some time before the album was released. In Megadeth, he continued lead guitar but also picked up rhythm, and after some trouble finding a singer, took up the mic himself. He was in two of the most influential thrash bands and some of the most popular metal bands of all time, putting him right in the center of thrash as well as the entire metal scene, from ’81 until today.
#2: Rob Halford:
Having been in metal for nearly 50 years and fronting the classic heavy metal band Judas Priest, its safe to say that if anyone, Rob Halford has earned the title of Metal God. Judas Priest invented both the sound and the look of heavy metal– Halford is rightfully credited with introducing studded leather to metal, and Priest is one of the first true heavy metal bands. Their sound, which incorporated traditional heavy metal, thrash, and a touch of glam, was the inspiration for countless bands to follow. It was all made possible by Halford’s near-superhuman 4+ octave vocal range, commanding stage presence, and an incredible drive to create entirely new styles unlike anything in existence at the time.
#1: Ozzy Osbourne:
As lead singer of Black Sabbath and later a solo artist, it’s not difficult to see why the Prince of Darkness made this list. Black Sabbath is easily the greatest influence on early metal, and quite possibly the first actual metal band the world saw. While Ozzy’s slightly more gruesome antics, such as “accidentally” chomping a live bat’s head off on stage, can be a little revolting, his work with Black Sabbath and Randy Rhoads easily makes up for the, um, incidents along the way. All in all, no one person could possibly change metal more than the one who invented it.