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Top 10 Decade Defining Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Songs: 1990s

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Alex Crilly-Mckean. This decade saw metal become infused with other rock genres like alternative, funk and industrial, as well as the rise of so-called “nu-metal.” For our series on the Top 10 Decade Defining Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Songs Per Decade, we’ve based our choices on a mix of a track’s success, popularity and their ability to represent the decade in question. We’re limiting it to one song per artist per decade, but you still might see some overlapping of artists over the decades. This is part of a series of videos spanning hard rock and heavy metal music from the 1970s to the 2000s. While alternative-rock flourished in the mainstream, only those alternative bands whose sound was decidedly influenced by metal made the cut here. That means no Nirvana. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top ten hard rock and heavy metal songs of the 1990s. Special thanks to our users akt, Rocky Al., Mitch Deans, Time Signature, Godslayer79, and SuperMonkeyGyrados, for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Alex Crilly-Mckean.

Top 10 Decade Defining Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Songs of the 1990s


This decade saw metal become infused with other rock genres like alternative, funk and industrial, as well as the rise of so-called “nu-metal.” Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top ten hard rock and heavy metal songs of the 1990s.

For our series on the Top 10 Decade Defining Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Songs Per Decade, we’ve based our choices on a mix of a track’s success, popularity and their ability to represent the decade in question. We’re limiting it to one song per artist per decade, but you still might see some overlapping of artists over the decades. This is part of a series of videos spanning hard rock and heavy metal music from the 1970s to the 2000s. While alternative-rock flourished in the mainstream, only those alternative bands whose sound was decidedly influenced by metal made the cut here. That means no Nirvana.

#10: “Du hast” (1997)
Rammstein

Germany is no stranger to metal. While the ‘80s may’ve given us the Scorpions, the ‘90s introduced us to the industrial sounds of pyrotechnic obsessed band Rammstein. While metal-heads may be initially confused by the blippy, synth intro, the chug-heavy riff soon descends to reassure us that we are, indeed, listening to metal. Tracks like “Du Hast” helped earn Rammstein the attention of a global audience as well as a spot on the 1998 Family Values tour alongside Korn and Limp Bizkit.

#9: “Blind” (1994)
Korn

This song not only introduced the world to Korn, but has also become one of the band’s most successful songs to date. Over the years, it’s been the track that either opens or closes all of their live shows, and it’s not hard to see why. With its intense sound and Jonathan Davis’ wild vocals, “Blind” is an excellent example of nu-metal, a particularly aggressive alternative metal genre that dominated the mainstream in the last years of the decade.

#8: “Nookie / Break Stuff” (1999)
Limp Bizkit

These two singles, both off the same album, are highlights of this band’s aggressive, controversial, and briefly successful style. While “Nookie” takes a step back from Fred Durst’s signature gruff approach to vocals, “Break Stuff” is loud, pulse pounding and pretty much summed up what Limp Bizkit was all about. The message was simple; the sentiment was irrationally aggressive and it all served as a manifesto of sorts for angst-ridden teens of the late-‘90s.

#7: “No More Tears” (1991)
Ozzy Osbourne

Not since his solo debut had there been a more successful Ozzy Osbourne album in the United States. The godfather of metal returned with a track that ran for over seven minutes, every second being pure heavy metal perfection. Featuring a dark atmosphere, Ozzy’s haunting vocals and exceptional guitar riffs by Zakk Wylde – who went on to help define metal in the 2000s with his band Black Label Society – it’s no wonder it reached number five on the U.S. mainstream rock charts and helped maintain Ozzy’s relevance in the ‘90s.

#6: “Thunderstruck” (1990)
AC/DC

Here’s another old-school band that managed to maintain their popularity into the 1990s by sticking to heavy metal basics. After the monster that was the Back in Black album, you’d think it’d be pretty hard for the band to produce tracks that measured up to their predecessor. This song did just that and has become a staple of their live shows. Its opening riff is unmistakable, and will have you chanting out “thunderstruck” before you know it.

#5: “The Beautiful People” (1996)
Marilyn Manson

Up next we have a slice of iconic industrial metal, produced by the father of mainstream industrial music, Trent Reznor. Above the rumbling drums there is guitar feedback and electronic noise intertwining with a guitar that uses palm muting to create a highly rhythmic metal song. Lyrically, the track deals with themes of social Darwinism and fascism. Considered the band’s most successful song, the single release was buoyed by the music video, which added a healthy dose of shock value to the mix.

#4: “You Could Be Mine” (1991)
Guns N’ Roses

This song has everything going for it. Not only is it a great hard rock track that the band had been kicking around since their first album, but it also has a music video that stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator. In fact, the song was first released as the theme song for “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” before being released on the Guns N’ Roses LP Use Your Illusion II. The LP version, when it was released, also soared up the charts, managing to break into the top thirty in the U.S., and the top five in the UK.

#3: “Walk” (1992)
Pantera

Beginning with that swinging riffing style so reminiscent of groove metal, this song is filled to the brim with anger and threats of violence, an embodiment of what Pantera stood for. You mess with them, and you’ll experience a vulgar display of power that you won’t recover from anytime soon. As the most well-known track to diehard fans and casual listeners alike, “Walk” is an anthem that will make you want to slam your fists to the beat.

#2: “Killing in the Name” (1991)
Rage Against the Machine

While Korn and Limp Bizkit were happy to revel in the juvenile side of the rap-rock genre, Rage Against the Machine used it to make serious, politically minded music. It was a critically acclaimed combination and this song is considered the band’s signature song, combining explicitly political lyrics, heavy guitar and a funky rhythm section. Lyrically promoting revolution, the song opposes institutional racism and police brutality, while managing to land itself among the ‘90s greatest.

Before our number one pick takes the spotlight, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Symphony of Destruction” (1992)
Megadeth
- “Closer” (1994)
Nine Inch Nails
- “Fear of the Dark” (1992)
Iron Maiden
- “Roots Bloody Roots” (1996)
Sepultura
- “Black Hole Sun” (1994)
Soundgarden

#1: “Enter Sandman” (1991)
Metallica

Debuting at the number one spot in the United States and nine other countries, “Enter Sandman” quickly became one of the most recognizable songs in all of rock music, let alone heavy metal. It’s been a staple of their live shows since its release, being performed over 1,100 times in concert. With its iconic lyrics and the timeless opening riff, which repeats throughout the track, this song dragged listeners into a gripping world of nightmarish imagery and crushing metal grooves and simultaneously propelled Metallica to worldwide popularity.

Do you agree with our list? Which ‘90s metal song rocked your socks off? For frequent hard rocking and heavy metal top 10s, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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