Metal is music for underdogs and comeback kids, anyone who has been considered down and out, but kicked and scratched to earn respect and make their place in this unforgiving world. It's no wonder then that headbangers love a good comeback story — and that heavy music has been full of them. Here are 10 of the most surprising and inspiring.
10. At the Gates re-form to play shows
No record inspired more contemporary metalcore (see Killswitch Engage, As I Lay Dying, Darkness Hour, et al) than Slaughter of the Soul, these Swedish melodic death metallers' final studio album, released a year before their 1996 breakup. To say that their reunion in 2008 was meaningful to a generation of metalheads who never got to see them live is like saying fans at those reunion shows were singing along to every word of "Blinded by Fear": They were fucking screaming along to every word.
9. Avenged Sevenfold record Nightmare and tour with Mike Portnoy after death of Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan
Drummer Jimmy Sullivan was a childhood friend to his bandmates and a major songwriter to his band, so when he died unexpectedly in late 2009, it was a crushing blow that nearly ended the group. But Avenged Sevenfold rallied and called in one of Sullivan's idols, Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater, to record on and tour behind their mostly completed new record, Nightmare. It debuted at No. 1 on the charts, A7X's first album to do so.
8. Rob Halford returns to Judas Priest
When frontman Rob Halford departed Judas Priest in 1992 to apply his shrieks and howls to heavier endeavors, he left a gaping void. They filled it with the singer of a Priest tribute band and released two middling albums with brutally un-Priest-like songs such as "Decapitate," but luckily, Halford softened his "never again" stance in 2003 and returned screaming for vengeance. The band has since rocked some of its biggest stages — and even American Idol!
7. Bruce Dickinson returns to Iron Maiden
At the end of Bruce Dickinson's then-final concert with Maiden in 1993, magician Simon Drake "killed" him, using the band's titular torture device. Far from dead, the vocalist pursued a successful solo career while his bandmates recorded their two least successful albums to that point, with singer Blaze Bayley. But when Dickinson returned in 1999, it sounded as if they hadn't missed a step. These days, Maiden sell out stadiums playing only their new material, cementing their spot here.
6. Alice in Chains re-form with new singer William DuVall, record Black Gives Way to Blue after the death of Layne Staley
When lead vocalist Layne Staley passed away in 2002, it seemed like the final nail in the coffin of Alice in Chains, who had already been largely sidelined for years due to substance abuse issues. But in 2005, the surviving members reconvened to play shows, and soon after, enlisted a new singer and made their first original record in 14 years, 2009's Black Gives Way to Blue. Named Revolver's Album of the Year, it stands up to anything in their discography.
5. Metallica enlist Jason Newsted, record …And Justice for All after death of Cliff Burton
Bassist Cliff Burton was, in many ways, the heart and soul of the '80s thrash juggernaut that was Metallica, and his 1986 death left the band and the whole thrash scene reeling. But the group forged ahead, welcoming Jason Newsted into its ranks with wasabi snorters and other ruthless hazing techniques, and crafted its most ambitious album yet. Justice skyrocketed them to new commercial heights, on the back of the song "One" and its stark music video.
4. Dave Grohl forms Foo Fighters after death of Kurt Cobain
How do you pick up the pieces when you're the drummer of the most important rock band on the planet and your frontman offs himself? Well, you become the frontman of your own band, of course, write hit single after hit single, and sell over 10 million albums in the U.S. alone. Amid this, you use your now-astronomical fame to spotlight your favorite metal singers with a killer side project (check Probot ASAP, if you're not already in the know).
3. Dave Mustaine forms Megadeth after being kicked out of Metallica
"No warning?" asked Dave Mustaine when Metallica fired him over his erratic behavior in 1983. "No second chance?" He wouldn't get one from them, but the thrash-metal world welcomed him back later that year with a new group, named after a word he found on a pamphlet during his bus ride home to L.A. from Metallica's New York abode. Within the decade, Megadeth would become the second-best-selling metal band of their generation.
2. Ozzy Osbourne goes solo after being kicked out of Black Sabbath
After touring on the ironically titled Never Say Die!, Sabbath fired Ozzy in 1979 over his drug-and-alcohol abuse. He locked himself in a hotel room, expecting to drink himself to death. Then the daughter of the group's manager — the future Mrs. Sharon Osbourne — came to his rescue, helping him find a brilliant young guitarist named Randy Rhoads to play on the quadruple-platinum Blizzard of Ozz, not to mention leading him to Ozzfest, a TV empire, and the title of Prince of Fucking Darkness.
1. AC/DC enlist Brian Johnson, record Back in Black after death of Bon Scott
Having sold over 50 million copies worldwide, Back in Black is the bestselling hard-rock album of all time, an accomplishment that's all the more incredible considering that AC/DC recorded it just months after the 1980 death of revered singer Bon Scott. The group considered disbanding but ultimately continued with the blessing of Scott's family, and their comeback album — with its opening bell tolls and equally resonant title — is heavy music's definitive statement of rebirth