Over the course of heavy metal’s half-century-plus existence, the genre has gone through some fascinating evolutions. Stylistically and technically, metal has not only spawned several subgenres, but the idea of what constitutes “heavy music” has also evolved over time.
Obviously, many bands should be acknowledged when it comes to this tremendous growth, but to us – whether talking about revitalized subgenres or elements of heavy music that have become super popular – there are 10 metal bands that have had the most influence on modern metal.
Unlike their contemporaries at the time, Korn displayed a desire to incorporate genres outside of metal into their material. Over the years, we’ve seen more metal acts weave other genres into their material, offering heavy experiences that are far from conventional (e.g., Tallah, Poppy). Then there’s the nu-metal resurgence, with bands like Tetrarch and Dropout Kings pulling heavy inspiration from the likes of Korn. While it has taken some 20 years, Korn’s influence is making bigger waves now more than ever.
As one of the biggest death metal bands to come out of the ’80s, Death has had a tremendous influence on multiple subgenres. Whether you’re talking caveman-esque death metal (Necrot), technical death metal (Rivers of Nihil), hell, or even deathcore (Shadow of Intent) – Death can be heard in all these bands. While there was a lot of awesome death metal coming out in the ’80s, Death proved itself to be the most technically interesting.
While there are a lot of beloved metal and punk subgenres, one that has been booming in popularity more recently is hardcore. And while it’s worth acknowledging the influence of bands like Bad Brains and Cro-Mags, Hatebreed is THE band you can hear the most in modern hardcore bands. From God’s Hate to Jesus Piece to Terminal Nation, Hatebreed is extremely present in numerous acts. The metal and punk blend of hardcore that Hatebreed has been creating for nearly 30 years has helped shape an incredible scene producing some of the most exhilarating bands in heavy music today.
In the underground, grindcore is thriving. Escuela Grind, Vermin Womb, Full of Hell, and many other bands are offering audiences some of the most vicious-sounding metal today, and those bands owe a lot of thanks to the likes of Napalm Death. Napalm Death is responsible for bringing a whole new style of heavy into the metal world, taking the speed of thrash metal and the anger of punk to create a new form of abrasive music. Without a doubt, Napalm Death has earned themselves the title of “Godfathers of Grind.”
Carcass spawned a tremendous plethora of death acts – primarily under the scope of goregrind. It’s likely that we wouldn’t have Cattle Decapitation, Aborted, Cryptopsy, or new death metal darlings Sanguisugabogg without Carcass. While there are several legendary death metal bands, Carcass stands out as one of the most influential bands shaping music today.
One of the coolest and more unique elements coming out of modern metal is how much the genre is embracing electronics. From the likes of Code Orange to Bring Me the Horizon and Electric Callboy, the sonic influence of Nine Inch Nails is incredibly apparent. Entering the music world with their 1989 studio album debut, Nine Inch Nails presented a stunning combination of rock, metal, and electronics, which in turn made for a captivating and unique approach to presenting heavy music that was both crushing, and catchy. Electronic-infused metal is becoming more popular in mainstream music, and Nine Inch Nails are the one who popularized that sound.
While there are some folks who may prefer Satanic worshipping extremity, one of the more popular subgenres of black metal nowadays is that of atmospheric, folk-like material such as Bell Witch and Ragana. The most instrumental band in birthing such profound music is Agalloch, whose post-metal blend of black, folk, and doom metal made for a jaw-dropping display of enchanting presentation. While it’s a shame that the band is no longer around, the sound and experimentation that Agalloch introduced to heavy music is still being played and experimented with to this day.
Another band that has had one hell of an impact on heavy music (for good and bad) is Meshuggah. Meshuggah themselves are fantastic – one of the best around; however, the band accidentally invented the infamous subgenre known as djent, which has spawned God knows how many bands in both underground and mainstream metal. The once catchy “djent” sound of Meshuggah has now become a copy/paste staple for so many bands. Thankfully, there are a grip of bands making stunning music with that influence, e.g., Animals As Leaders, Spiritbox, and Periphery.
While sonically the least heavy-sounding band on this list, it’s wild how much of an impact The Cure has had on modern metal. That’s because – along with electronics and djent – another major element appearing in many bands is the melancholic droning, almost shoegaze-like atmospheres that The Cure popularized. From Holy Fawn to Deafheaven, Nothing and Elizabeth Colour Wheel, the gothic drone and moody melodies of The Cure can be heard through many of the bands working in modern metal.
Last but not least, Exodus. While thrash metal was at one point the biggest subgenre in metal, the genre has enjoyed a second win over the past few years. Power Trip, Lich King, Hellripper, and Havok are just a few of the bands who have not only been honoring the classic thrash sound that Exodus kick-started, but who have also innovated upon that sound (bringing in welcoming touches of hardcore to their material). Sure you could look to the likes of Metallica as an influential band, but really, when it comes to ferocious, epic-sounding thrash, Exodus is THE band that you can hear the most of in modern thrash.