50 Most Game-Changing Hard Rock + Metal Albums of All Time

Stretching across nearly 50 years, the definition of hard rock music from its early days is almost unrecognizable by today’s standards. Classic rock, proto-metal, garage rock, punk, traditional metal, thrash, glam, death metal, black metal, sludge, hardcore punk, grunge and everything else outside, in between and combined now represents our general understanding of the all-encompassing genre.

But how did all of these styles come to be? Of course, the prime movers of each genre can be traced, which is just what we’ve done here! Examining those who changed the game of rock altogether, we’re looking at the albums that had the most profound impact on entire scenes or even something less grandiose but still unequivocally crucial like a certain playing technique.

One of the most glaring examples, of course, is Black Sabbath’s debut record, which many cite as the first ever heavy metal record. Tony Iommi’s riffing style was so immediately different than his contemporaries, that it warranted a name all its own (some also called it “downer rock” back in the day) and the Satanic themes, well that’s just extra credit!

We won’t spoil too much before you get to reading and we’re sure you already have more than a few guesses as to which albums you’ll find ahead, but rest assured there’s some surprises along the way as we outline what it really means to be an innovator, a pioneer, something different, unique, unafraid and game-changing in the gallery at the top of the page!

The 50 Most Game-Changing Hard Rock + Metal Albums

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Top 90 Hard Rock + Metal Albums of the ’90s

The ’90s were one of the most fascinating decades in rock and metal, widening the gap between the two genres and putting fans on opposing sides, either clinging to their denim patch vests or trading them in for flannel shirts. Grunge signaled the death of metal supremacy that put a stranglehold on heavy music in the prior decade, but the underground kept the metal going strong while rock acts were assuming their role on the world’s biggest stages.

Kurt Cobain became the voice of a generation in Nirvana, while Dave Grohl steamrolled the success into the Foo Fighters following Cobain’s tragic death. Meanwhile, Texas groovehounds Pantera were flying the banner for heavy metal, keeping the genre in the mainstream. In the meantime, a new genre called nu-metal was emerging, taking the rhythmic approach of metal even further and fusing it with rap influences. Below the surface, extreme genres like black and death metal were thriving, scaring parents, exciting kids and netting headlines rife with controversy.

We started with a list of nearly 300 albums to contend with and narrowed it down to the 90 Best Hard Rock + Metal Albums of the 1990s. Take a trip down this diametric decade of music and see which album is No. 1 in the gallery below!

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PEOPLE = S#!T #2 (Fails, Public Freakouts + Instant Karma)

What do ya know? People still equal s—t! We’re serving up another compilation filled with fails, public freakouts and instant karma moments from the world of music.

One of the biggest fails in modern history took place at the 2020 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which featured performances by Smash Mouth, Trapt, Quiet Riot and more. One study estimated that Sturgis has been linked to over 250,000 new cases of COVID-19, though various health professionals have disputed that number due to a lack of modeling. Regardless, COVID rates in the Dakotas are spiking at higher rates than anywhere else in the country, with hundreds of new cases being reported each day, according to the Los Angeles Times.

We’ve also included a guitar store edition of World’s Dumbest Criminals, where a local lad stuffed an entire axe down his pants in a bizarre attempt at theft. The man was caught red-handed and on camera, but even though he got busted, the dude returned a second time only to stuff another guitar into his trousers. Needless to say, he didn’t get away with it.

Remember the trashiest wedding in history? A video of a bride walking down the aisle and twerking to Buckcherry’s “Crazy Bitch” went viral years ago. However, she wasn’t even the star of the video. An unfortunate attendee stole the show, giving a timeless reaction before cradling his innocent son, protecting the young boy’s ears from Josh Todd singing, “You’re crazy bitch, but you fuck so good I’m on top of it.”

Watch People = S#!t No. 2 in the Loud List below.

PEOPLE = S#!T #2 (Fails, Public Freakouts + Instant Karma Compilation)

57 Rock + Metal Bands Who Changed Names Before Getting Famous

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Slayer Albums Ranked

Are you ready for a fight?

Because that will be the inevitable outcome as we proceed to rank the 11 studio albums in Slayer’s incredible discography, which, despite the band’s occasional tinkering over the years, remains the living definition of thrash metal.

Of course, it was Slayer, along with fellow Big Four peers Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth, who pretty much codified the style that took heavy metal by storm in the 1980s, spawning several worthy secondary bands and countless hopeless imitators, to say nothing of virtually every subsequent branch of extreme metal: death, black, grind, you name it.

And then, when thrash metal’s initial inexorable onslaught gave way to these ensuing musical innovations, beginning in the 1990s, it was the men of Slayer who remained steadfastly loyal to the cause, refusing to pervert their sound so as to fit in with the times (we won’t name names – hint, hint) and, thus, earning the virtually unassailable respect their recorded legacy still commands today.

Still fighting!

Slayer Albums Ranked

Every Slayer Song Ranked

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The Best Metal Album From 40 Subgenres

Rock ‘n’ roll seems to nestle an almost infinite number of distinct musical genres under its very broad umbrella, but when one of those genres hangs around long enough – as heavy metal has for close to 50 years now – it’s bound to spawn a range of sub-genres all its own.

How many? Honestly, we stopped counting after we crossed the half-century mark, because even some of metal’s more popular sub-genres contain a vast range of sub-subgenres, themselves. In other words, we could split subgenre “hairs” until the cows come home and never stop.

Fact is, whether you dig your metal doomy or thrashing, traditional or progressive, groovy or gothy, deathly or, uh, black-ly, and a vast assortment of “-cores,” we can all agree what matters is that they’re HEAVY.

So, as you’ll see, our present gallery covers what we believe to be the 40 most popular and well-established heavy metal subgenres, and we’ll give ourselves the option to expand the list before too long. Check out the best releases from each metal subgenre in the gallery below.

The Best Metal Album From 40 Subgenres

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When Musicians Fight Security Guards

Remember the days when COVID-19 wasn’t the most dangerous part of throwing down in the pit? That’s what security was for, but even though security guards are important for our safety, tension between them and musicians can sometimes boil over.

One classic clip features Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain stage diving into a crowd of fans. As he was surfed back to the stage, one guard seemed to handle him a little roughly, leading to Cobain smashing his guitar into the man’s head. After a couple of blows, the guard connected with a punch to Cobain’s head and kicked the grunge icon while he was down, leading to full-on chaos from Kurt’s bandmates.

Neck Deep were forced to cancel a 2017 show just two songs into a set due to a confrontation with security. According to reports, a crowd surfer got slammed to the ground by security after coming over the barricade. Former Neck Deep bassist Fil Thorpe-Evans confronted security, only to be pulled off stage, leading to his bandmates dropping their instruments to protect him. A free-for-all broke out between the stage and the barricade, and it was all caught on tape.

We even threw some rappers into the mix for this list, including Action Bronson, who was accosted by a security guard for lighting up a blunt onstage. The guard attempted to get Bronson in a headlock, but it turned out to be a big mistake, as the powerful rapper pushed him damn near off the stage. Don’t get between a rapper and his weed, especially if he’s got the strength advantage.

Check out this compilation of When Musicians Fight Security Guards in the Loud List below.

When Musicians Fight Security Guards

Top 50 Hard Rock + Metal Live Acts of All Time

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The Best Metal Album of Each Year Since 1970

As heavy metal steadily approaches 50 years of existence, it’s flooring to look at how the genre has evolved since Black Sabbath released their debut album on Feb. 13 of 1970. Oh, and if you’re wondering, yes, it was the ominous Friday the 13th.

While the Birmingham, England, group owned this new style, then dubbed ‘downer rock,’ it eventually caught fire at the tail of the decade (with the help of Judas Priest), smashing down the door as the decade turned over, owning the next 10 years with the emergence of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, the first wave of black metal, thrash and death metal’s infancy.

The next decade, the 1990s, saw metal fall by the wayside in terms of commerciality, save for Pantera, who implemented a powerful new style, honing in on groove and a dominant lyrical style. It was also the most popular decade for the second wave of black metal and death metal, which began branching off into different factions (brutal, technical, progressive) quite early on.

The stylistic door was shattered with the arrival of the new millennium as melding genres became commonplace and metal furthered its descent into a never-ending well of subgenres and frustrated categorization. Technical prowess was generally the benchmark by which bands began to be judged as evident by our selections.

Sorting through all of the top albums of each year from nearly five decades of music was a chore (a welcome one) and after endless discussion we came away with what you see in the Best Metal Album of Each Year Since 1970 gallery at the top of the page! Take a look through the best metal has had to offer year by year!

The Best Metal Album of Each Year Since 1970

Top 50 Metal Bands of All Time

Top 10 Bands That Have Never Made a Bad Album

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System of a Down’s ‘Toxicity’: 10 Facts Only Superfans Would Know

On Sept. 4, 2001, System of a Down unleashed their sophomore album Toxicity. The disc, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart, took the hard-rock and metal worlds by storm with a tour de force of explosive songs, including the singles “Chop Suey!,” “Toxicity” and “Aerials.”

The epic album combined masterful musicianship with hard-hitting political lyrics that not only challenged societal and governmental issues, but also challenged the minds of music fans. To this day, it remains one of the best rock albums of the 21st century. In celebration of the landmark disc, Loudwire presents the following list of 10 things you may not have known about System of a Down’s Toxicity.

1. The word “prison” appears 33 times in the lyrics to “Prison Song.”

“Prison Song,” the opening track on Toxicity, is a tune that rails against the number of people who are incarcerated in prisons across America. It admonishes the government for locking up minor drug offenders. Perhaps, System really wanted to get their point across by including the word “prison” 33 times in the lyrics, and that doesn’t even include two uses of the plural “prisons.”

2. It went platinum in only six weeks.

While SOAD’s self-tiled debut album took three years to sell 1 million copies, Toxicity hit that total in just six weeks. In an interview with his old high-school newspaper, guitarist Daron Malakian said of the Toxicity sales, “If people say System is a sell out because we’ve sold millions of albums, they’re wrong. I can’t control how many CDs we sell or how popular we become.”

3. The song “ATWA” has a link to Charles Manson.

One of the catchiest songs on Toxicity is “ATWA,” a tune that combines beautifully melodic verses with an intensely chaotic chorus. The acronym stands for “Air, Trees, Water, Animals” or “All the Way Alive,” and was used by Charles Manson and his associates as a term to promote the unity of life on Earth through nature.

4. SOAD recorded 33 songs during the Toxicity sessions.

A total of 40 songs were written for Toxicity, with 33 being fully recorded. The final track list included 14 songs, with many of the unused tracks leaking onto the internet under the unofficial name Toxicity II. Those additional cuts would later make up the majority of System of a Down’s follow-up disc, the appropriately titled Steal This Album!

5. All three singles cracked the Top 10 of the Modern Rock Tracks chart.

The three official singles from Toxicity all climbed into the Top 10 of Billboard’s Modern Rock Chart, with “Chop Suey!” reaching No. 7, “Toxicity” peaking at No. 3 and “Aerials” taking the top spot. In addition, “Aerials” also topped the Mainstream Rock Chart, making it SOAD’s only song to top that tally to date.

6. Serj Tankian wrote or co-wrote the lyrics to every song on it.

Frontman Serj Tankian wrote lyrics to every song on Toxicity, with Malakian co-writing the words to six of the tunes, including “Chop Suey!” and “Aerials.” Malakian, however, wrote most of the music on the album. On their subsequent albums Mezmerize and Hypnotize, Malakian contributed most of the lyric writing.

7. It topped the Billboard 200 chart the week of 9/11.

While Toxicity came out Sept. 4, its first-week sales of 220,000 units led the disc to top the Billboard 200 chart the same week as the tragic events of 9/11. The timing added more controversy to the band’s rallying cry against various government policies on songs throughout Toxicity.

8. “Bounce” was featured in an animated Pixar movie.

The poodle in The Secret Life of Pets is apparently a metalhead, as his introductory scene shows him head banging to System’s “Bounce” once his owner leaves. It’s ironic that such a song would be included in the soundtrack of a children’s movie, considering its lyrics — “Everyone gets to playRunaway, expose / It was so exotic / But just one pogo stick.”

9. The working title of “Chop Suey!” was “Suicide.”

SOAD originally had “Suicide” as the title of “Chop Suey!,” the first single from Toxicity. In fact, the words “We’re rolling suicide” can be heard in the song’s opening seconds on select pressings of the album. Despite the name change, the song was still taken off of radio by many stations because of sensitivity surrounding the 9/11 attacks at the time.

10. SOAD turned down the chance to play “Aerials” at the Grammy Awards.

While “Chop Suey!” was nominated for Best Metal Performance for the 2002 Grammy Awards, “Aerials” earned a nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance the following year. Malakian says the band turned down the chance to perform “Aerials” at the 2003 Grammys, insisting at the time, “That’s something N*SYNC and Britney Spears do, not System of a Down.”

The 100 Best Hard Rock + Metal Albums of the 21st Century

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Iron Maiden’s ‘Powerslave’: 13 Facts Only Superfans Would Know

Iron Maiden‘s 1984 album Powerslave is perhaps the most important album in the band’s catalog, at least when it comes to understanding their absolute domination of heavy metal the world over.

It was the fifth record in as many years for the New Wave of British Heavy Metal breakouts and the Egyptian-themed album cover by artist Derek Riggs set Maiden up for their most ambitious tour to date — one that may have been the most demanding any metal act has ever embarked on.

There’s a rich history to this magnificent album, which leads us to a bit of trivia here with 13 Powerslave Facts Only Superfans Would Know. Remove all the wheelblocks, there’s no time to waste!

1. Well, hello again, everyone!
Iron Maiden’s music may have been consistent — their seven album run in the ‘80s is practically unmatched — but on Powerslave it was the first time there was any consistency among the lineup from album to album. Nicko McBrain was the latest transplant on Piece of Mind and, moving forward, this lineup remained intact until Adrian Smith’s exit in 1990.

2. From England back to the Bahamas! But before we get there… New Jersey?
After fleeing the dreary England winter weather for Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas for Piece of Mind, Maiden figured a repeat sojourn would be just cracking. But first, the band had some writing to do, so before hitting the island, they hunkered down in… New Jersey. Listen, “Joizee” folks, your state has produced some of rock and metal’s best, we know. That’s probably why Powerslave is so excellent. Before you get too cocky, though, Steve still wrote most of “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” once they boarded another flight further south.

3. So long, you amazing instrumental tracks, you
Unable to come up with any lyrics, Iron Maiden elected to let the guitar melodies do the singing on the aptly titled “Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra).” Eddie and the boys had last released two instrumental songs — “The Ides of March” and the chaotic “Genghis Khan” — on 1981’s Killers, and, here, it would be the last instrumental track they gave us to date.

Iron Maiden, “Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra)”

4. Dave Murray, where art thou?
Dave Murray, despite being the longest tenured member of Iron Maiden not named Steve Harris, has never been a primary songwriter within the band. Still, he’s usually good for one or two tracks that go on to claim “deep cut” status (“Judas Be My Guide,” “The Prophecy,” “Deja-Vu” to name just a couple). On Powerslave, however, not a single track is attributed to him, even on collaborative efforts. Whatever, we’ve still got all those buttery Davey solos on here.

5. 189 shows? Sure, just give us 331 days
Has there ever been a more rigorous tour than the ‘World Slavery’ tour, which found the band playing 189 shows in a total of 331 days from start to finish between 1984 and ‘85? Of the originally slated 197 gigs, only eight had to be canceled, half of them for health reasons. Pro baseball players might be going, “So what? We played 162 games a season,” but Iron Maiden don’t get to lounge around in left field picking their arses when there’s heavy metal to be played. Bruce, how on Earth did you pull this off, mate?

6. Iron Maiden go behind the Iron Curtain
In the thick of the Cold War, it was unheard of for a western band to penetrate the Eastern Bloc (the collective of countries under rule of the Soviet Union), much less a heavy metal act with the indescribably massive stage production Maiden’s crew had to lug from gig to gig. With their sights set on world domination, the band was undeterred by geographical boundaries and menacing political systems. Remember, Iron Maiden’s gonna get you, no matter how far. Shoutout to anyone who owns the documentary LaserDisc.

Iron Maiden, Behind the Iron Curtain

7. No live love for the album’s mid-section
For how often fans name Powerslave as their favorite Maiden record, it’s a bit of a shocker the middle section of the album never made it into a set list. Not once. “Flash of the Blade,” “The Duellists” and “Back in the Village” never escaped the studio. To boot, “Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra)” was only played 70 times live and didn’t even remain in the set for half of the ‘World Slavery’ tour.

8. Rock in Rio: Conquering a continent with just one show
There is no place in the world where Iron Maiden are bigger than in South America, where fans are often reduced to tears, so grateful to have witnessed what many deem the world’s greatest metal band. Before Powerslave though, Maiden had yet to plant their flag in South America and claim it as their own, having never played a show there up until this point. Then came the inaugural Rock in Rio event, where the Brits played to a crowd of 300,000 people. “We conquered an entire continent overnight with that one show. And that was astonishing,” Dickinson told Kerrang.

Iron Maiden at Rock in Rio — 1985

9. Bruce Dickinson, that sneaky S-O-B
Every band argues. It’s perfectly normal. But what happens when the singer discretely eggs on a heated exchange between the band’s founding member and his rhythmic counterpart, the drummer? Fortunately, we know, because Bruce Dickinson secretly recorded a war of words between Harris and McBrain, which was later released as a “2 Minutes to Midnight” B-Side title “Mission From ‘Arry.”

A miscommunication onstage led to McBrain giving his roadie a right proper bollocking, which then incensed Harris that someone in his band had treated a crew member so poorly. At least Steve had a sense of humor about the whole thing after.

Iron Maiden, “Mission From ‘Arry”

10. Can you find Mickey Mouse in the cover art?
Mickey may not be very metal, but everyone reading this has a favorite Disney film. Besides, is there some rule that states Brits can’t sell a million albums or two and go bugger off to the happiest place on earth? Didn’t think so. Artist Derek Riggs snuck in a few things in that magnificent piece of Egyptian-themed cover (“Wot, no Guinness?” “Bollocks” “Wot a load of crap” and “Indiana Jones was here”), setting himself up quite nice for the next album which had three baker’s dozen easter eggs.

11. Themes from The Number of the Beast return
It’s those blasted sixes again! Almost as if they were trolling those pearl-clutching religious zealots incensed over the chorus from “The Number of the Beast,” the “six-six-six” bit resurfaced on “Back to the Village” when Bruce sings “I see sixes all the way” and two more whispers of “six follow the initial one in the background.

12. “Flash of the Blade” flashes on the silver screen
If you’re not going to get a ton of radio support, why not land of spot on a horror film soundtrack? “Flash of the Blade,” which you now know was never played live, was chosen for the Dario Argento flick Phenomena, which was released in 1985. In the movie, a Swiss boarding school girl discovers her psychic ability to communicate with bugs and uses these newfound powers to put an end to a serial killer who has a habit for butchering women at the school.

13. Thanks for the poetry lesson, ‘Arry
We saved the 13th fact for the songs that spans over 13 minutes: “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Never has a song with no chorus been this good. Steve Harris wrote this one all to himself and he had bragging rights for Maiden’s longest track until Bruce locked himself away with a piano and a dream, crafting “Empire of the Clouds” in its 18-minute splendor.

Anyway… let’s focus here, this is about poetry! The original tale was told by the English-born William Taylor Coleridge, who penned it at the tail of the 1700s. Long, long story short… a sailor stops a guest at a wedding to recollect his treacherous events at sea, where mutiny led to near-certain death.

Every Iron Maiden Song Ranked

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10 Heaviest Albums of the 1970s Not Recorded by Black Sabbath

So you think that ‘70s heavy metal starts and ends with Black Sabbath? That nothing else released during metal’s inaugural decade could match the thunderous grind of Tony Iommi’s guitar? Well, that’s just not true and today we intend to prove it with our gallery of the 10 Heaviest Albums of the 1970s Not Recorded by Black Sabbath.

Even as heavy metal was taking shape, in the wee months of 1970, there were countless bands vying to be the loudest, toughest, scariest and – yep – heaviest on the block, and in the most far-flung corners of the globe, too. That’s because Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and select others transformed heavy music into a genuine commercial phenomenon, well beyond the underground; everyone wanted in on the action.

And so they came, wielding irresponsibly amplified and distorted guitars and basses, drums like marauding elephant herds, and hairy, charismatic vocalists unafraid to wreck their vocal cords in order to rise up over the surrounding din. It was awesome!

So awesome that many self-important music critics seeking to hail rock’s virtue as an art form, not a visceral expression of anger or alienation, couldn’t stand it! They attacked, dismissed and all around vilified heavy metal until all but its biggest success stories had been pushed back into history’s footnotes, along with some of the genre’s most exciting and heaviest albums.

View the 10 Heaviest Albums of the 1970s Not Recorded by Black Sabbath below.

The Best Metal Song of Each Year Since 1970

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15 Rock + Metal Bands Banned by Disney

The Disney corporation and heavy music don’t have much crossover appeal, except for those irresistible Radio Disney interpretations of metal classics from bands like Cannibal Corpse and Necrophagist (two bands whose names both concern the consumption of the dead). Not very family-friendly.

These two opposing worlds do overlap occasionally as rock and metal tours often stop at the House of Blues in Lake Buena Vista, Florida and Anaheim, California, both which were once on Disney property. Throughout the years, several bands have been prevented from performing at “The Happiest Place on Earth” as Disney has deemed the image, lyrical content and even “undesirable fans” of certain groups grounds for banning them in hopes of preserving the company’s squeaky clean image. Well, mostly — they’ve had their own mishaps like the overtly racist Song of the South which will never see a rerelease and some sexual references in others like The Lion King and The Little Mermaid.

Some bands, like Machine Head, were given explanations as to why they would not be allowed to perform while others were left to ponder under what reasons they were deemed unfit for Disney. As for Cannibal Corpse, however, it should be self-evident.

Take a look at the rock and metal bands Disney has brought the ban-hammer down on in the gallery below.

15 Rock + Metal Bands Banned by Disney

57 Rock + Metal Bands Who Changed Names Before Getting Famous

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Top 10 Most Nostalgic Metal Moments

Heavy metal is alive and crushing it in 2020, but the power of nostalgia remains strong for metalheads across the globe. From the ‘70s onward, heavy metal played a huge part in the cultural zeitgeist, whether on TV, the silver screen or in your ear holes.

Remember those old Monsters of Rock commercials? Of course you do, but how about that iconic blue screen topped with an address to send your check or money order? For just one payment of $26.99, you could get two CDs of hair metal’s biggest hits, or $21.99 if you’d prefer a duo of cassettes. How else could you get Nelson, Winger and Enuff Z’Nuff singles in one blast? Back then, you couldn’t.

How about an injection of nostalgia of heavy metal films? Spinal Tap should have you covered, while inspiring you to turn your volume and gain knobs to 11. Even more nostalgic, though? Heavy Metal Parking Lot! It’s because we’ve all been tailgating before a big concert, mixing with society’s castaways in a sea of alcohol and marijuana. These dynamics were especially ripe in the ‘80s and it was all captured brilliantly on film.

When it comes to music, what’s more nostalgic than seeing Dave Mustaine interviewed as a member of Metallica? One iconic interview gave us the phrase “Metal up your ass!” which has been echoed throughout the decades by dedicated metalheads. You’ll also see Bruce Dickinson interviewed during the first few months of his tenure in Iron Maiden.

Check out these Top 10 Most Nostalgic Metal Moments in the Loud List below.

Top 10 Most Nostalgic Metal Moments

The Best Metal Song of Each Year Since 1970

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