10 heavy metal stars who should have solo careers

James Hetfield, Randy Blythe, Jim Root and Synyster Gates performing onstage
(Image credit: Scott Legato/Getty Images | Mariano Regidor/WireImage | Venla Shalin/Redferns | Scott Legato/Getty Images)

The pursuit of a solo career is a hit-and-miss endeavour. For every artist that proves their worth by doing it, exploring amazing new soundscapes outside their core band, there’s another that only makes the exact same music we already recognise them for. Plenty of metal stars have respectfully resisted the temptation to do their own thing over the years as a result, but here are 10 that we reckon could nail it. From James Hetfield to Synyster Gates, these are heavy music icons that, we believe, could contrast their main band with some fascinating, different-sounding solo music.

Metal Hammer line break

James Hetfield

The idea of one of metal’s greatest songwriters doing his own thing is mouth-watering. James Hetfield has a famed love for country and blues, as well as all things heavy. So, he has the potential to do something completely different – but still excellent – in Metallica’s downtime, if he wants.

Rob Halford (again)

Rob led a plethora of projects, plus a solo career, during his Judas Priest absence. However, the Metal God’s slowed down over the past decade, focussing on the band and only releasing Christmas songs under his own name. We need another full-throttle onslaught of heavy music from this deity, quite frankly.

Tony Iommi (again)

The heavy metal riff master has tried to go solo twice – once in ’86, again in 2000 – but neither attempt caught on. Now that Black Sabbath have been put to rest, though, perhaps the third time’s a charm? Tony even released a standalone single, Scent Of Dark, in 2021, so it’s possible.

Mick Thomson / Jim Root

Slipknot’s two celebrated and long-serving guitarists haven’t done much outside The Nine, bar Jim’s stint in Stone Sour alongside Corey Taylor. We can’t help but be curious over what it would sound like if either of them did their own thing. They certainly have the talent and name recognition to go solo.

Adrian Smith (again) / Dave Murray

Similar to Mick and Jim, Adrian Smith and Dave Murray are fully committed to their parts in the ever-steamrolling Iron Maiden machine. Even though Adrian fronted ASAP in 1989, plenty want to know what these two’s own material would sound like nowadays – especially given how Steve Harris is their band’s songwriting general. 

Tom Araya

Tom Araya doesn’t want to tour anymore, and we understand. However, that doesn’t mean he can’t stop by a studio and still be creative post-Slayer. Would the singer/bassist stay with the white-knuckle thrash that made him famous, or surprise everybody with a total detour? We need to know!

Synyster Gates

A core component of Avenged Sevenfold and classically trained since childhood, Synyster Gates has topped plenty of “best heavy metal guitarist” lists throughout his career. With him also being a top-notch piano player, we’re convinced Syn could put out one hell of an instrumental record given the chance.

Randy Blythe

Despite being one of the most renowned frontmen of the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal, Randy Blythe is not a metalhead at heart. Instead, the Lamb Of God leader is a lifelong punk. How fascinating would it be to hear his imperious roar swapped for hardcore ranting on a solo album?

Mikael Åkerfeldt

As the leader of Opeth, Mikael Åkerfeldt has toured through many genres over the years, from death metal to prog and acoustic music. How wonderful would it be to hear that journey condensed into a solo album? This frontman flexing all his songwriting muscles at the same time would inevitably impress.

Tomas Haake

If Dave Lombardo can do a solo album where he revels in playing all manner of different drums, then why can’t Meshuggah’s limitless technician? Tomas is broadly hallowed as one of the greatest sticksmen in the scene, thanks to such dazzling performances as Bleed, and this would only reiterate his brilliance.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.