Best metal bands 1990s
Pantera YouTube

10. Blind Guardian

Founded in the mid-1980s, Blind Guardian were quite influential in the development of both power and speed metal. The band was originally called Lucifer’s Heritage, but prior to releasing their first album they chose a name change to avoid being associated with Satanism and black metal. The band has had quite a few lineup changes, but despite the tumultuous path, their music (which draws influence from fantasy works and cultural epics) was an important part of the 1990s scene.


9. Sepultura

One of the few metal groups from Brazil to ever break out worldwide, Sepultura helped to form the groove metal sub genre in the early 1990s. Their experimental sound in their later career has drawn from alternative, industrial, world music, and punk. Sepultura was initially founded by two brothers, Max and Igor Cavalera, but the pair had both departed by 2006, leaving the band in the hands of their colleagues. At this point, they are still together, but no original members remain in the lineup.


8. Children of Bodom

One of what will be several Scandinavian bands to appear on this list, Children of Bodom are from Espoo, Finland. Their sound ranges from thrash to melodic death metal, and while they are modestly popular across the world, they are one of the best selling artists in history in their home country Finland. The band finished their last album in 2015, and were still together playing tour dates as recently as 2016.


7. Tool

Yet another 1990s group that blended alt-rock with metal, Tool came out with a heavier sound that appealed to the youth of the 1990s. The experimental sound of Ænima was a marked departure from both the Nirvana-sounding grunge/rock bands, as well as the various Metallica knock offs that were all floundering to find a place in the 1990s metal scene. The only thing preventing Tool from holding a higher position on this list is that at times it is hard to consider them a true metal band, and to most, they are considered hard rock nowadays.


6. Korn

Korn may be remembered for many things, which does happen to include being the metal band that incorporated bagpipes into their sound. It was fusions such as these, which also drew from grunge, hip hop, and even funk, that laid the foundation for the nu metal genre which Korn helmed. The group’s unique sound and lyrics found appeal with a mainstream audience in the 1990s, reaching the top 10 in the Billboard charts 12 times. The industry also recognized the revolutionary style of Korn, seeing them earn seven GRAMMY nominations, and taking home two of the prestigious awards.


5. Alice In Chains

Emerging on the cusp of pre-grunge era Seattle, Alice In Chains merged rock with metal to place themselves in an interesting position. While more harmonic than many of their peers in the metal genre, but too heavy to fit in with the likes of Nirvana, Alice In Chains define what made 1990s metal distinct from the generations before it. By making the content of metal more accessible to fans who would be scared off by thrash, the group was able to appeal to a wider audience, making them an important piece of metal history.


4. Amon Amarth

The Swedish death metal band with a unique name, Amon Amarth were inspired by content from author J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series. The band covers distinctively Scandinavian topics - vikings, myths, etc. - that have led to them developing what is actually a new sub genre: Viking metal. Amon Amath’s melodic sound and intertwining of lore have made them an important part of the developing 1990s metal scene.


3. Opeth

One of the more melodic metal acts of the 1990s, Opeth came from Stockholm, Sweden and have remained driven by Mikael Åkerfeldt, despite many lineup changes. The band’s sound combined folk, classical, jazz, and blues, a rarity amongst metal in a generation that was mainly drawing from rap. Opeth’s compositions are often quite long, and include the frequent dynamic shifts that came from their jazz influence. It was through their music alone that Opeth gained popularity, leaving behind the shock value of some of the other artists of the 1990s and 2000s; in fact, Opeth did not even tour for the first time until 2001 in support of their fifth album Blackwater Park. In 2016, the group announced a new album, marking them still in the contemporary. 


2. Marilyn Manson

Originally formed by frontman Brian Hugh Warner and guitarist Daisy Berkowitz, Marilyn Manson has morphed more into the image of one man, but started out as a band. Merging the names of Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson to create a shocking musical act. The group was known for their outlandish stage image with makeup and costumes, going for a shock value aspect that led many parents to call for banning Marilyn Manson, while the kids wanted even more. Writing about anti-establishment topics such as sex, drugs and even violence, Marilyn Manson found their footing through controversy. None of that kept them from reaching platinum status on albums such as Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals, leaving Marilyn Manson, both the man and the band, as one of the iconic images of the 1990s.


1. Pantera

Founded in the seemingly unsuspecting town of Arlington, Texas, Pantera was initially a glam metal band. Rethinking those roots as the thrash metal scene grew around them, Pantera ditched the spandex and big hair and went out there as a bunch of regular guys playing metal. Their success kept them on the road and in the spotlight until they imploded due to internal issues, and were permanently silenced after the unfortunate demise of guitarist Dimebag Darrell in 2004. Pantera remains today one of the most influential metal bands of their generation, having inspired many more generations to come long after they were gone.