Venturing into metal’s underground, you will find some of the most extreme artists in all of music. But when it comes to the more mainstream, radio-friendly metal bands – who are the heaviest?
Before answering that though, we have to answer, what makes a “radio-friendly” metal band? Typically, such a band demonstrates a straightforward approach to songwriting composition, pacing, and technicality. When you think about, say, Metallica vs. Meshuggah, both bands are heavy, but one is far more conventional in how they craft songs, whereas the other constructs songs that are like a mental puzzle.
After sitting on the idea for some time, we came up with the 10 heaviest yet catchy metal bands today. Bands that may lean into pop-sensibilities when it comes to how they write songs, but also will get your eardrums bleeding.
As the heaviest band to come out of nu-metal, Slipknot has gone on to become one of the biggest bands in mainstream metal. From their self-titled record to The End, So Far, Slipknot has delivered a plethora of ferocious-sounding bangers; yet, while such songs rip and roar, they also stick to tried-and-true songwriting compositions. However, as the band has gotten older, they’ve shown that they are itching to get more creative with their art.
As one of the more technical bands of the Big Four – and with Slayer retired – it might be fair to say that Megadeth is the heaviest act of the thrash metal titans. However, when you listen to their work, there is a pretty noticeable structure to many of their songs. That said, that structure isn’t entirely in your face, for Megadeth dress up their songwriting with exhilarating solos and melodies.
In a similar manner to Megadeth, Mastodon’s music also displays a conventional approach to songwriting; although, you wouldn’t recognize that immediately under all the crushing stoner-sludge rock the band has on display. While the band’s music may not be extremely technical, Mastodon knows how to present a catchy experience that lures listeners into nonstop head-banging, dancing, and/or moshing.
Keyboards are probably firing off right now saying “hOw is RAMMstein A popPy banD?!?!” We mean… don’t you hear the music? Unlike darker, more experimental industrial bands, Rammstein provides much of a danceable approach to their tunes; this isn’t to say that the band isn’t technically talented (that would be a bold lie), but they use their skills to craft compositions that embrace the qualities of dance music. Frankly, it’s music you could play in a club setting (and not just a goth club).
For as heavy and as punk rock as they are, Lamb of God also sticks to a conventional structure when it comes to songwriting. They have thrown some interesting curve balls at us in the past (like several of their songs off of Resolution), but for the most part, Lamb of God has a tried and true method when it comes to writing songs, creating tracks that are irresistibly crushing.
Trivium is in a similar boat, although, they’ve actually become a lot more radio-friendly over the course of their career. With the release of 2011’s In Waves, Trivium embarked on a major creative shift; yes, they are still writing exciting metal, but now there is a lot more melody and clean singing replacing the more abrasive metalcore touches they once featured. How does this impact Trivium’s heaviness? Not at all – they are still metal AF.
Motörhead created pure heavy metal rock and roll – music that is very to the point and awesome as fuck. Nothing dazzling in terms of technicality, but always creatively refreshing.
Although the compositional structure of their songs is relatively straightforward, Machine Head consistently offers crushing heavy metal. As one of the greatest modern-day thrash metal bands around, the band proves that you can do a whole lot creatively, and sound heavy as hell, with a conventional approach to songwriting.
Gojira finds themselves in an interesting place on this list because while the band has written some songs that display a conventional approach to rock and metal compositions, they are also incredibly technical. So, while you will come across several songs that are heavy, but offer a sense of pacing like your typical rock song, you’ll also find a wealth of tracks that provide more of an experimental twist. In short, Gojira is the most technically interesting radio-friendly act on this list.
Another act that also displays incredible technicality is System of a Down. A plethora of their songs make for sonic whirlwinds of technical finesse, and yet, the band also embrace typical rock/metal songwriting conventions. System of a Down’s music is like one great dialectic of chaos and structure; from song to song, you will stumble across a variety of depths. It is because of that songwriting genius, and being able to package it in a relatively digestible format, that System of a Down makes this list.