10 metal one hit wonders

Various metal singers
(Image credit: Getty / YouTube)

Metal doesn't exactly lend itself to the whole 'one hit wonder' schtick. This is, after all, a genre that is supposed to pride itself on eschewing pop norms, a scene built on albums and long term creative vision rather than hastily chucking together a 'bop' that might provide an easy pay check and a quick moment in the sun. Nonetheless, over its fifty-plus-year existence, there have been a few bands that have managed to craft one, stand-out anthem in their career.

Whether it's bands that released one breakthrough single before disappearing completely, or scene veterans who once managed to briefly break into the mainstream before returning to the depths, here are ten metal one hit wonders worthy of any rock club playlist.

Metal Hammer line break

Iron Butterfly - In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida

The first example of a metal one hit wonder takes us all the way back to to its inception - two whole years, in fact, before Black Sabbath released their game-changing debut album to officially put heavy metal on the map. San Diego psychedelic rockers Iron Butterfly made a few waves during their initial five-year run together, but it was undoubtedly 1968's hugely influential hit In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida that they'll forever be remembered for. A track so iconic it was used by Bart Simpson to ruin a church service thirty years later, it also provided one of heavy metal's most foundational building blocks.

Drowning Pool - Bodies

The nu metal era was undoubtedly the point where metal's capacity to produce one-hit wonders reached its zenith (see further below for plenty more evidence of that). One of the scene's biggest hits was 2001's Bodies, the irresistibly catchy, outrageously aggro banger by Dallas bruisers Drowning Pool. The shocking death of frontman Dave Williams the year following Bodies' release drastically curtailed the band's momentum, and while they eventually rallied and have carved out a respectable career for themselves since, they've never come close to matching the platinum-achieving, chart-crashing success of this iron-clad classic.

American Head Charge - Just So You Know

With a killer, music channel-dominating lead single in Just So You Know, a freakish, nu metal image and Rick Rubin's American Records and Slipknot icon Clown amongst their supporters, industrial metallers American Head Charge had all the tools to make it massive. Sadly, it just didn't quite come together for them, and Just So You Know remains by far their biggest hit (though for what it's worth, the album from which it came, 2001's The War Of Art, is well worth your time).

Kix - Don't Close Your Eyes

Maryland glam metal mainstays Kix had a solid run of it from their emergence in the early 80s until their split in 1996. They also reunited in 2003, producing their first album in almost 20 years with 2014's Rock Your Face Off. Never, though, did they achieve more mainstream relevance than with 1988 power ballad Don't Close Your Eyes. The stirring, lighters-up anthem, taken from Kix's fourth album Blow My Fuse, landed at an impressive 11 on the Billboard Hot 100, and remains their most-streamed track by a distance today. With the band's final show planned for later this year, you're running out of time to catch this glam metal classic live.

Five Pointe O - Double X Minus

"CHA-KA-KA-POW!" Signed to Roadrunner while nu metal was still very much in vogue, Illinois crew Five Pointe O certainly got given the right platforms to make the most of their shot at the big-time. Double X Minus was getting airplay left, right and centre on the likes of Kerrang! and MTV's Headbanger's Ball, and the band themselves landed a dream slot opening up for Killswitch Engage and 36 Crazyfists on the very first incarnation of Roadrunner's legendary Roadrage tour. Unfortunately, the band fell apart after that first album, leaving Five Pointe O's career shelved very much under the 'What if?' section of metal's great tapestry.

Autograph - Turn Up The Radio

Glam metal has a lot to answer for when it comes to churning out also-rans, but as far as one hit wonders from that particularly hair-sprayed era of metal history goes, you could do a lot worse than this 1984 chart-invading classic from Pasadena rockers, Autograph. Like many bands on this list, Autograph have had a mightily respectable, lengthy career in their own right, but nothing they've put out has had the same commercial impact as Turn Up The Radio, which peaked at 29 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Soil - Halo

An instant rock club dancefloor classic that emphatically answered the question of what Pantera might sound like if they were given a nu metal makeover, Halo is just about as perfect a fun, catchy three minutes of heavy music as you could hope to hear. The Chicago metallers have pretty much dined off it for two decades, despite putting out no fewer than seven albums across their career. They've written plenty decent songs in that time, but none have come anywhere near close to matching the enduring success of Halo. And, to be fair, if you're gonna be known for one track, you could do a lot worse. 

Living Colour - Cult Of Personality 

Given their first three albums all charted in the US Billboard top 30, it seems a little unfair to include alt rock/funk metal heavyweights Living Colour in a list like this. The fact remains, however, that Cult Of Personality isn't just by a distance their biggest single, but has a legacy that completely dwarfs anything else the New Yorkers have put their name to. Boasting over ten times as many streams as any other track in their back catalogue (120 million and counting, if you're asking), it reached a new generation of fans when WWE legend CM Punk used it as his theme tune from 2011 onwards.

Green Jellÿ - Three Little Pigs

If you want an indicator of just how bonkers the 90s could be, how about this for size: a comedy metal band featuring future Tool drummer Danny Carey wrote a song based on the beloved children's fable Three Little Pigs, roped in Maynard James Keenan, Les Claypool and Pauly Shore on guest vocals and bagged a UK Top 5 single for their efforts. Yes, you read that right. Top 5. After splitting two years after this 1993 hit, Green Jellÿ returned in 2008 and have been rolling along ever since, but it's fair to say that this was a real once-in-a-lifetime achievement.

Trapt - Headstrong

Briefly 'relevant' again for a couple of minutes in the late 2010s thanks to frontman Chris Taylor Brown using their social media accounts to out himself as a trolling, hard-right plonker, Trapt initially made their first and only big splash with their wrestle-metal jam Headstrong, released as the lead single from their self-titled, 2002 major label debut album. The track impressively debuted in the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100, and has racked up an eye-watering 363 million streams on Spotify. So, really, Brown shouldn't have so much to be angry about.

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He has also presented and produced the Metal Hammer Podcast, presented the Metal Hammer Radio Show and is probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.