When you really think about it, it’s stunning how many major heavy metal stars don’t parlay their success into a solo career. For every Ozzy Osbourne or Bruce Dickinson that built a legacy under their own name, there are a hundred that either don’t attempt it or are met with apathy from fans who’d rather the musician stick to their day job. Metal is doubtlessly a band-based business, so, because of that, Hammer’s decided to celebrate the figureheads who not only survive on their own, but make some truly must-hear music in the process. These are the 10 greatest solo albums in heavy music history (limited to one per artist):
Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard Of Ozz (1980)
We couldn’t not mention Ozzy Osbourne. The Black Sabbath singer has become a multimedia celebrity in his own right, with a reality TV show and podcast under his belt. And it was his solo career, which began with Blizzard Of Ozz, that launched that push towards celebrity. Hiring Randy Rhoads proved Ozzy’s greatest move: his neoclassical masterclasses on Crazy Train and Mr Crowley made this debut an instant classic.
Dio – Holy Diver (1983)
From one Black Sabbath singer to another. Ex-Rainbow frontman Ronnie James Dio replaced Ozzy with the Brummies from 1979 to 1982 (then again in the ’90s), and after his first exit released solo debut Holy Diver. It presented everything longtime fans had loved about the maestro’s work, from the fantastical lyrics of Rainbow to Sabbath’s lead-heavy riffing. The title track and Rainbow In The Dark have since become generation-spanning heavy metal hits.
Bruce Dickinson – Chemical Wedding (1998)
Bruce Dickinson’s solo work has never been talked about as much as his Iron Maiden material – or at least it hadn’t, until the Air Raid Siren announced his comeback The Mandrake Project for 2024. Some of the music released under his name is admittedly patchy, but on Chemical Wedding, he rediscovered the pageantry of his then-former Maiden days. Meanwhile, collaborator Roy Z brought a plethora of lead-heavy riffs to the fray.
King Diamond – Abigail (1987)
Abigail is when King Diamond became King. Fucking. Diamond! Where the Danish monarch’s solo debut Fatal Portrait felt like a bit of a Mercyful Fate rehash, this follow-up introduced many of his now-essential solo signatures: guitarist Andy LaRocque’s co-writing, a gothic lyrical concept and squeals of “Abigaaaaaaaaaail!” It was the first album for both the King and Roadrunner Records to chart in the US, affirming his spot among metal music’s royalty.
Rob Zombie – Hellbilly Deluxe (1998)
Rob Zombie going solo surprised plenty of people. From the outside looking in, his band White Zombie were steamrolling through the metal scene, their final album Astro-Creep: 2000 cracking the US top 10. Life with those musicians was shit, however, so Rob broke rank and doubled down on everything people loved about his now-ex-outfit in the process. Hellbilly Deluxe was camp, heavy and catchy, setting the horror hound up for life.
Halford – Resurrection (2000)
Poor Rob Halford, during his absence from Judas Priest between 1992 and 2003, couldn’t really hold a band down. Fight, 2wo and Halford all came and went without much fanfare during that time, but the singer’s first album under his surname is actually badass. Resurrection’s an ante-upping rip-snorter that even features a clash of the titans in The One You Love To Hate, where Bruce Dickinson lends his unmistakable pipes.
Devin Townsend – Ziltoid The Omniscient (2007)
Devin Townsend was already an inescapable polymath by 2007: between his solo work and Strapping Young Lad, he was releasing albums like greyhounds out of a starting gate. So, when the maverick dissolved the much-adored Strapping out of the blue, it suddenly left Ziltoid with everything to prove – then it became his quintessential statement. Eccentric, melodic and unabashedly hilarious, it remains one of Dev’s (and prog metal’s) most beloved works.
Myles Kennedy – Year Of The Tiger (2018)
For years, as he was fronting the increasingly progressive and heavy Alter Bridge, rumours swirled of a Myles Kennedy solo album. It finally materialised in 2018 and, despite swerving into acoustic folk, was fucking great. Year Of The Tiger remains a rare example of a solo release that deserves to be a solo release, as it contains both new ideas and a deeply personal narrative that no collaborative project would have let Myles write.
Greg Puciato – Mirrorcell (2022)
After The Dillinger Escape Plan dissolved in 2017, singer Greg Puciato’s first stab at going solo was… fine. 2020’s Child Soldier: Creator Of God was crammed with great ideas but, at 64 minutes, too long and scatterbrained. Mirrorcell, on the other hand, felt tight and purposeful, sounding dense throughout while still flaunting the many modes of Greg’s distinctive voice. Fingers crossed more solo material like this is to come.
Ihsahn – Eremita (2012)
Ihsahn’s place in the progressive metal pantheon had long been well-earned by 2012. The Norwegian’s black metal days in Emperor were 11 years gone, and he was beginning to get his rightful notice as a truly limitless and technical songwriter. Fourth solo album Eremita then summarised all his talents in 52 minutes, boasting luscious melodies (Arrival) and an expansive vision (The Grave). After this, there was no excuse to doubt Ihsahn’s genre-spanning capabilities.