The 100 best metal songs of the 90s

10. Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nevermind, 1991)

BAND PICK: Greg Kubacki from Car Bomb

"Seriously, is there any other answer? All of those spandex sweat shops, hairspray factories, Yngwie Malmsteen VHS instructional video duplication centres – that whole ecosystem of hair metal was completely destroyed overnight with four simple chords and Kurt’s voice. I can’t think of another song that came out of nowhere like that and single-handedly annihilated a whole genre of music."

9. Slipknot – (sic) (Slipknot, 1999)

BAND PICK: Ben Bruce from Asking Alexandria

"While the song was released at the very end of the '90s, I feel it is one of the best metal songs of the era. The song is just so aggressive and so energetic, it's unlike anything else from the '90s, and still holds it weight almost 20 years later."

8. Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun (Superunknown, 1994)

The anthem for the grunge generation arrived on Soundgarden’s 1994 album Superunknown and became an instant classic. It starts with a psychedelic vibe coupled with woozy guitars – and then comes THAT chorus. Its impact cannot be overstated and influenced a whole generation of musicians. It was the track the majority of artists chose to cover in honour of late frontman Chris Cornell earlier this year.

7. Nine Inch Nails – Closer (The Downward Spiral, 1994)

Once again proving that metal is a glorious sum of its disparate parts, NIN’s standout track from The Downward Spiral is almost bereft of searing guitar riffs, relying heavily on industrial electronica, explicit lyrics, samples and a hypnotic squelchy bassline to bury itself into our collective consciousness. It was (and remains) a standout dance floor filler at metal clubs the world over. And with very good reason.

6. Metallica – Sad But True (Metallica, 1991)

BAND PICK: Tobias Young from Our Hollow, Our Home

"The first time I heard the main riff to Sad But True, I felt like I'd been hit in the face by a train. Repeatedly. And it felt mighty fine. The Black Album slays, but for me Sad But True is the train-shaped icing on the cake."

5. Sepultura – Roots Bloody Roots (Roots, 1996)

The definitive Sepultura song and Max Cavalera's finest moment as a musician. There's nothing like bellowing the chorus out as loud as your lungs can manage, while immersing yourself in the tribal sounds inspired by indigenous Brazilian tribes.

4. Rage Against The Machine – Killing In The Name (Rage Against The Machine, 1991)

If ‘90s metal had a slogan, ‘Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!’ would arguably be it. This track – furious, focussed and expertly executed – didn’t only provide a soundtrack to thousands of pissed off teenagers being forced to tidy their rooms, but had a worthy message at its heart, taking aim at the institutional racism which plagued the American police force – a matter which, if you’ve been paying attention to latter-day RATM incarnation Prophets Of Rage, is still depressingly prescient today.

3. Machine Head – Davidian (Burn My Eyes, 1994)

It’s often said that grunge killed metal, but that would be bollocks. Machine Head’s debut album Burn My Eyes is pretty much flawless and the opening track is a real statement of intent. The unrelenting thrash that’s fuelled by a neck-breaking groove and Robb Flynn’s signature bark is just one of the many reasons Machine Head are still kicking arse over 20 years later.

2. Pantera – Walk (Vulgar Display Of Power, 1992)

A song that is so familiar and, if we’re honest, overplayed that it has become etched into our brains and must surely rank with the likes of Sweet Child O’ Mine and Enter Sandman as one that none of us ever really need to hear again. But metalheads will always want to bang their heads and stomp like nutjobs to this ingenious exercise in simplicity and brute force, because Walk – as you may be aware – swings like a megalodon’s ballbag. Given recent events, Phil Anselmo’s demands for “respect” ring a teensy bit hollow, but still… it’s a heavy metal anthem, innit?

1. Korn – Blind (Korn, 1994)

ARE YOUUUUU READDDYYYYYY??? The opener to Korn’s debut album and a quintessential part of every nu metal playlist for the next 20 years. That slack bass-line alone is enough reason to include this song, but when you factor in Jonathan Davis’ nightmarish vocals and the impact that both had on metal for the next decade and beyond, it’s not hyperbolic to say Blind was a game-changer.

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