30 Greatest American Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Artists of All Time

Hard-rock and heavy-metal are not elitist music, it’s people’s music. Camaros music, professional sporting events and streaming TV syncs. And in this way, as American as possible, even though British bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin invented these loud and proud genres.

Below is my list of the 30 greatest American hard rock and metal artists of all time. Some of you will hate this list. Metalheads will think the metal has been undervalued. Some more mainstream-oriented fans will ask, “Who are fk The Stooges?”


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With so many great choices available, it’s a tough list to make. However, it’s easier than a general list of top American rock artists. The hard-rock/metal qualifier automatically hits on many top artists, ranging from country (like the Eagles) and pop (Beach Boys, Bon Jovi), to experimental (Velvet Underground) and Southern rockers. (Allmans, Skynyrd).

Many stars of the 90s like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana and Pearl Jam were inspired by hard rock and metal. But they are more accurately classified under alternative rock. Ramones, New York Dolls and Green Day are more punk. In the case of the band Foreigner, their lead guitarist Mick Jones is British.

This list is just my view, meant to get us talking about our favorites. Because hard rock and metal are not their music is our music.

30. Anthrax

From New York

Great Because: Thrash lifers who never lost their underdog appeal.

Three essential titles: “Caught In A Mosh”, “Antisocial”, “Madhouse”

29. Living Color

From New York

Great Because: Brought a vibrant, post-modern, much-needed black perspective to late ’80s MTV.

Three essential titles: “Cult of Personality”, “Type”, “Open Letter (To a Landlord)”


From: Sacramento, California

Great because: blue jean rock with acoustic bluesy flourishes.

Three must-have tracks: “Gettin’ Better”, “Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)”, “Love Song”

27. Cinderella

From: Philadelphia

Great because: don’t be fooled by the pouf style of their debut album cover. Cinderella made larynx-ripping hard rock that blended Aerosmith and AC/DC and, on subsequent albums, The Rolling Stones.

Three essential titles: “Shake Me”, “Gypsy Road”, “Coming Home”

26. Slipknot

From: Des Moines, Iowa

Great Because: Nose-busting outsider metal, with a clever vocal blend of growl and croon.

Three essential titles: “Duality”, “Psycosocial”, “Wait and Bleed”

25. Tool

From: Los Angeles

Ideal because: art and test metal with groove for days.

Three essential titles: “Schism”, “Stinkfist”, “The Pot”

24. Rat

From: Los Angeles via San Diego

Great because: Anthemic sleaze that moved masses. People forget that Ratt had four platinum albums in a row.

Three essential songs: “Round And Round”, “Lay It Down”, “You Think You’re Tough”

23. Chained Alice

From: Seattle

Great because: haunting melodies, intertwining vocals, and blistering delivery.

Three essential titles: “Would?”, “No Excuses”, “Man in the Box”

22. Joan Jett

From: Los Angeles via Maryland/Pennsylvania

Great because: From her all-female band The Runaways to solo success, Joan Jett is always tough, cool, and hot.

Three essential titles: “Bad Reputation”, “Cherry Bomb”, “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”

21. Megadeth

From: Los Angeles

Great because: Dave Mustaine’s jet riffing and defiant growl.

Three essential titles: “Peace Sells”, “Killing Is My Business… and Business Is Good!” », « Holy Wars… The Punishment Due »

20. Pantera

From: Dallas/Arlington, TX

Great because: Their barbed wire aggression made most other bands sound like the Muppets in comparison.

Three essential titles: “Cowboys From Hell”, “Walk”, “I’m Broken”

19. Killer

From: Huntington Park, California

Great because: Pretty grim Thrash fans carve the band’s name onto their forearms.

Three essential titles: “Raining Blood”, “South of Heaven”, “Seasons In The Abyss”

18. Foo Fighters

From: Seattle/Los Angeles

Great Because: Dave Grohl went from being the best rock drummer of the 90s to the best arena rock songwriter of the 2000s. Thanks to Taylor Hawkins on drums, the Foos never lacked a punch no more.

Three essential titles: “Everlong, “My Hero”, “Learn to Fly”

17. Stone Temple Pilots

From: San Diego

Great because: Scott Weiland’s dark, glamorous magnetism wrapped around a classic rock punch.

Three essential tracks: “Interstate Love Song”, “Vaseline”, “Big Bang Baby”

16. Heart

From: Seattle

Great because: Ann Wilson is one of the best rock singers ever. Paired with his sister Nancy Wilson’s deft mix of acoustic and electric guitars and a talented array of band members, Heart was the coolest Zeppelin clone ever.

Three essential titles: “Barracuda”, “Magic Man”, “Crazy On You”

15. Travel

From: San Francisco

Great because: Yeah, they do some pop ballads. But when guitarist Neal Schon fired up his Les Paul and Steve Perry roared like a Freddie Mercury mall, Journey believed.

Three essential titles: “Stone in Love”, “Don’t Stop Believin'”, “Anyway You Want It”

14. Sound Garden

From: Seattle

Great because: Chris Cornell’s shirtless moan and the band’s math-metal thump.

Three essential titles: “Rusty Cage, “Outshined, “Black Hole Sun”

13. Boston

From: Boston

Great because: Session guitarist Tom Sholz and tweeter vocalist Brad Delp made a devastating duo.

Three essential titles: “More Than A Feeling”, “Smokin'”, “Don’t Look Back”

12. Ronnie James Dio

From: New York State via New Hampshire

Great Because: From leading post-Ozzy Osbourne Black Sabbath to leading his namesake band Dio, RJD was an unearthly singer.

Three essential titles: “Rainbow in the Dark”, “Heaven and Hell”, “The Last in Line”

11. Guns N’ Roses

From: Los Angeles

Great because: badass band, badass songs, badass singer.

Three essential titles: “Welcome to the Jungle”, “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, “Paradise City”

10. Motley Crue

From: Los Angeles

Great because: feet in the gutter, head in the stars, Mötley Crüe made danger super fun.

Three essential tracks: “Live Wire”, “Shout at the Devil”, “Home Sweet Home”

9. Cheap Tip

From: Rockford, Illinois

Great because: the catchy guitar gold that so many 80s bands absorbed and made their own.

Three essential tracks: “Surrender”, “Come On, Come On”, “I Want You To Want Me”

8. The Stooges

From: Ann Arbor, Michigan

Great because: A dust devil of metallic catharsis and wild spirit. Even if you don’t know the Stooges, your favorite hard rock and metal bands do.

Three essential titles: “Search and Destroy, “Gimme Danger”, “Down on the Street”

7. High ZZ

From: Houston

Best because: Boogie and hooks with a 10 gallon hat trick. Not to mention one of the greatest blues-oriented guitarists of all time, Billy F. Gibbons.

Three essential songs: “Tush”, “Just Got Paid”, “Legs”

6.Alice Cooper

From: Detroit/Phoenix

Great because: shock-rock rebellion delivered with showbiz panache. Before singer Alice Cooper embarked on a solo career with “Welcome To My Nightmare,” Alice was a band, not just a man.

Three must-have tracks: “School’s Out”, “Under My Wheels”, “No More Mr. Nice Guy”

5. Metallica

From: San Francisco via Los Angeles

Great because: an undeniable underground thrash that has become a dirt-eating superstar.

Three essential tracks: “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, “Sad But True”, “Master of Puppets”

4. Kiss

From New York

Great because: so many catchy and fun rock songs. And of course, the game-changing performance flash and pyrotechnics.

Three essential titles: “Black Diamond”, “I Love It Out”, “Lick It Up”

3. Aerosmith

From: Boston

Great because: With street band spunk and rock god grandeur, Aerosmith is exactly halfway between the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.

Three essential titles: “Sweet Emotion”, “Mama Kin”, “Dream On”

2. Jimi Hendrix

From: Seattle

Great because: Completely tore up the sky for what electric guitars could do.

Three essential tracks: “Purple Haze”, “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)”, “Machine Gun”

1.Van Halen

From: Pasadena

Brilliant because: an unparalleled blend of success, virtuosity and showmanship. The supersonic siblings, guitarist Eddie Van Halen, drummer Alex Van Halen and bassist/backing vocalist Michael Anthony were so gifted that after six multi-platinum albums with luxury frontman David Lee Roth, they scored four more. with vocalist supreme Sammy Hagar on the mic.

Three essential titles: “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love”, “Panama”, “Best of Both Worlds”

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