Top 10 Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Groups In Influence

Everyone’s got their favorites, but, really, who are the top 10 groups in the Heavy range who had the most influence?

Starting at the top

1. Black Sabbath – This group released their first album, Black Sabbath, on 2/13/1970, which also happened to be Friday the 13th, and created a revolution. Often named in most lists as one of the most influential metal bands of all time, I put them at #1. Why? They really did four things. First, they defined the genre of heavy metal. No one else had done what they did before, and, quite frankly, no one can come close to doing it now.

Second, it was understood that their music was simply an escape, not a lifestyle, something that was missed years later when Tipper Gore had her Senate inquisition on heavy metal. It is a relief valve, a way to have some fun, get a bit crazy, but, you were expected not to run off and become a Satan worshiper. The lead guitarist, Tony Iommi, is actually a devout Catholic.

Third, their lyrics, with the mystical content, was really a first, and allowed groups in the future to delve into subjects that were previously never touched on.

Fourth, due to an accident, Tony Iommo detuned his guitar, creating a heavier, more foreboding sound, copied many, many times. Rob Halford, lead singer for Judas Priest, once introduced Iommi as “the guy who invented the heavy metal riff.”

2. Deep Purple – Yes, many expect Led Zeppelin to at least be at #2. Nope, sorry. Deep Purple created a whole new concept in metal. Keyboards by Jon Lord were just as predominant in their music as was the lead guitar of Ritchie Blackmore. The higher pitch and howling singing of Ian Gillan created a hallmark in metal, as much as Robert Plant’s did. Their song “Black Night” hit the UK top 10 list in 1970, the first metal group do that. They had barn burning up pitched songs, followed by introspective, softer songs, a hallmark of metal to come. Consider that Smoke On The Water (not my particular favorite) is one of the most well known metal songs, heck, songs, of all time.

3. Led Zeppelin – The first song any kid who picked up a guitar wanted to learn to play was Stairway To Heaven, standing in front of the mirror pretending that they were in front of 50K screaming kids, with all the ladies throwing their panties at them. Zeppelin legitimized heavy metal as a force to be reckoned with, and was instrumental (sic), along with The Who, in pushing the drummer into the forefront of group, rather then just a guy in the back, keeping the beat. Their popularity, and ability to force music venues into paying more money, allowed future metal groups to play in the big arena’s.

4. Iron Maiden – When it comes to metal in the late 70’s/early 80’s, 3 groups had the most influence after the previous 3. Van Halen, Ozzy Osbourne and the Blizzard of Ozz, and Iron Maiden. But, Maiden created a revolution. Their heavy, almost thrashing beat, created a backdrop for the groups that played speed and thrash metal for decades to come. Anyone playing metal now who doesn’t count Maiden as an influence is either lying, drunk, or both. Maiden was on the forefront of the 80’s explosion, and dealt with concepts that had never been done before in metal: literary. Songs such as “Murders in the Rou Morgue,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Flight Of Icurus,” and even an entire poem, “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner.” They featured two lead guitarists, which was something never done, but copied many times by many bands in the 80’s and beyond. They also sold 80 million albums worldwide, something pretty tough to do for a group that gets zero airplay on the radio (but certainly helped by MTV, when it actually played music.)

A further PS was their stage show, which featured incredible backdrops and sets, including their mascot “Eddie.” But, as they often stated, the set just added something visual, but never got in the way of the music.

5. Van Halen – the original heavy metal party band. When you went to a VH concert, you knew you were in for a good time. They essentially created the LA metal sound, and spawned thousands of groups all wanting to hit the big time playing metal in the 1980’s, just like VH. What else needs to be said?

6. Ozzy Osbourne and the Blizzard of Ozz – With all due respect to Ozzy, this is more about Randy Rhoads then anyone else in the band, but, of course, it was Ozzy who created the chance for Randy, a classical guitarist by trade, to influence a generation of metal guitarists. Prior to Ozzy releasing the solo albums with Rhoads on guitar, the majority of metal and hard rock was based around the Blues. The use of classically based guitar was revolutionary, and lasted long past Rhoads’ premature, and tragic, death.

7. AC/DC – this is where the hard rock comes in. And no one rocked harder then AC/DC, who, next to Zeppelin, where the BIG concert group. Did anyone else bring actual cannons to the show? Did anyone else actually strip down during the show? They made hard rock fun, and were the very definition of “stadium rock.”

8. Rush – like Deep Purple, Rush has often been referred to as “progressive rock.” No one did it like Rush, though. Three guys making the music of 5. There are many reasons for putting Rush on this list, not the least that they are one of my favorite groups, but, I’ll throw 2 words out “technical proficiency.” Anyone who read the guitar magazines of the early 80’s knew that the thing cited most about Rush was their ability to not only play the song as it was on the album, but take it farther and make it better. When you went to a Rush concert, you knew you were not going to say “holy crap, did these guys actually record that song? Sounds like garbage.” And groups wanted to mimic that, put on a good show that would not disappoint.

9. Pat Benatar – while she mellowed out a bit in the later years, Pat was the first real big time hard rocking female artist. There were a few before her, most noticably Heart and The Runways, which led to the solo careers of Joan Jett and Lita Ford, but, Pat’s influence was huge for women in all manners of rock. And no female artist rocked harder then Pat.

10. Scorpions – this was a toughy, who to put at the 10 spot. Lots of great bands out there wo could fit in, such as Ted Nuggent, Motley Crue, and Aerosmith, but again, a very unique group, and out of Germany! They were the first really commercial selling hard rock band, with such hits as “Rock You Like a Hurricane” and “No One Like You,” inspiring budding artists that “yes, I can do it!” They were only the second western rock group to play in the Soviet Union, and created a massive metal following in that part of the world.

So, anyone have some different ideas?

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8 Responses to “Top 10 Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Groups In Influence”

  1. forest hunter says:

    Looks like you just flipped through my CD stash W.

    I think you did a pretty good job but, then I’m sittin’ here eating a giant bowl of yogurt, Kim chee, tomatoes and sliced up cukes, all mixed together and likin’ that too!

  2. StB says:

    Good to see Iron Maiden get their due but to leave out Motley Crue in favor of Pat Benetar is a crime. They led the heavy metal mania of the 80s. Furthermore, Metallica should be mentioned for the acceptance of heavier, speed metal.

  3. manbearpig says:

    Some good choices. I disagree a bit with the order as well as a couple of your choices being top 10. I would have included Judas Priest in the top 10 for sure, but then you have to figure out who to drop out.

  4. Deaconblue says:

    Good list. About the only band I think that didn’t get its due was Judas Priest. I’d have dropped Pat Benatar (as much as I like her), as she really doesn’t fit in.

  5. Yeah, FH, it kinda matches my CD stash, too.

    StB, I actually originally had a tie with BOC and Crue in at #9, but, between the time I made the list and actually started writing, which was about a week, it kinda went from the 10 ten heavy metal/hard rock groups to the 10 ten most influential ones by the time I was done writing.

    I’ve never been a big Metallica fan, but, I recognize their greatness. One reason why I wouldn’t put them in this list, like some others, is that so much of that type came from Maiden.

    MBP and Deacon, I thought about Priest, as well. They do rock, have a bunch of songs on the Zen. They were close, but, just the amount of influence I think was a bit more with some other groups.

    I wrestled hard about Pat, but, I think she opened a lot of doors for women in rock.

  6. forest hunter says:

    Never had any Metallica in my personal collection but when “I Am Iron Man” came out it became my pre-match warmup song. I’d review the 8mm no sound films and be jammin’ to Oz, then play a little Leo Kottke.

  7. If it’s Sabbath, it rules. First metal album I ever bought was their debut release when I was like 13.

  8. forest hunter says:

    I suspect we’re close to the same vintage. I just don’t have the extended warranty package. p-(

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