If there's one thing metalheads love more than headbanging and wearing all black in the summer, it's arguing. Naturally, the most intense music in the world elicits some of the most intense reactions, whether it's people who'd die for one subgenre but absolutely loathe another, or those who have a band's first album tattooed on their body but are ready to physically spar with anyone who says the new stuff is better.
Metal has been and will always be a contentious phenomenon in and of itself, and throughout its history there's been many individual bands who have caused a considerable ruckus even among lovers of dark and heavy. The advent of social media has only intensified many of these disputes by creating a universal infrastructure for expressing strong opinions. With that in mind, we wanted to look back throughout metal history and highlight 10 of the most polarizing bands of all time. Do you love them or hate them?
Avenged Sevenfold have never been scared to take bold stylistic swings on each new album — which has seen them heralded alternately as "metal saviors ... or sellouts?" (the headline of their first-ever Revolver cover, in 2006). After kickstarting their career as one of the leading metalcore bands of the early 2000s, the O.C. gang completely abandoned screaming and breakdowns and picked up speed metal on 2005's City of Evil, while also beginning to dress like a cross of Guns N' Roses and Mötley Crüe. It was a drastic revamp of their entire sound and aesthetic, which is a recurring theme for the band as they've moved from thrash into groove-metal and then prog, tantalizing some while others hold their noses.
In 2013, Babymetal broke the internet with "Gimme Chocolate!!," mashing together DragonForce-like shreddery with the chibi cutesiness of J-pop. They also snapped the metal world in two. On one side, many derided the overt gimmickry, the band a product of the Japanese idol puppet-master machine. On the other, metal fans and musicians — including Metallica, Rob Zombie, Anthrax and Carcass, who've all posed happily with the group for backstage pics — embraced the sheer bonkerness of Babymetal's approach. ("They are nice kids out on the road touring," Zombie chided the haters. "What are you doing besides being a grumpy old fuck?") But Babymetal's biggest victory over the naysayers may be their longevity: What easily could have been a viral one-hit wonder is still going strong, three albums in.
It almost feels quaint to think about these days, but just 10 years ago, Black Veil Brides were one of the most contentious metal bands on the planet. Crucially, it was never really about the music. Their equally loved and loathed 2010 debut, We Stitch These Wounds, was competent metalcore that didn't sound all that different than other way-less-hated groups like Bullet for My Valentine and Atreyu, but Andy Biersack and Co.'s flamboyant Myspace-ification of Eighties glam-metal fashion — complete with big hair and buckets of makeup — was what made them such an easy target for internet trolls. BVB have toned down their look significantly over the years, but they're still a polarizing force.
Bring Me the Horizon have never stayed married to one sound for long, and all of them have been polarizing. The U.K. crew pocketed their first batch of haters when they helped spearhead deathcore back in the late Aughts, and then, when they pivoted to artful metalcore on 2010's There is a Hell..., they pissed off all the loyal chug-lovers. 2013's breathtaking alt-metal embrace, Sempiternal, made them megastars and finally earned them eyes from outside the metal world, and as they've unpredictably jumped between pop rock and pop metal and, in some cases, just straight-up pop over the last half-decade, they've lost countless OGs even as they've gained many awe-struck newcomers.
Brokencyde might have elicited the most extreme reactions out of everyone on this list. The New Mexico crunk-core pioneers made a garish concoction of simple-minded party rap littered with painful screamo shrieks and auto-tune that was vulnerable prey to metal message boards, ruthless blogs and even real-life haters who'd come to their crowded shows to try and start fights with the band. As member Michael "Mikl" Shea told Vice in a 2020 retrospective, Brokencyde had loads of fans during their peak years and were even positioned to make a jump to the major-label sphere, but their reputation as the internet's punching bag made it challenging to find other bands to tour with. That said, their biggest songs have more YouTube views than most of their biggest peers from that era.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a heavy subculture that's more precious about musical purity than black metal. Therefore, when Deafheaven fused blast beats and tortured shrieks with glimmering shoegaze textures and majestic post-rock swells on their 2013 breakout, Sunbather — and quickly became every hipster's favorite metal band because of it — there was an avalanche of kvltists getting so worked-up that their corpse paint started dripping. The dust seemed to settle by the time Deafheaven released their 2018 album, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, but earlier this year they polarized their own fan base by dropping the black metal altogether and going full 'gaze complete with clean vocals.
Musically, Falling in Reverse's mesh of mall emo theatricality, nasally singing, emo-rap bluster and metalcore flourishes is just specific enough to either drive you up the wall or give you everything you want to hear in one band. On top of that, it's impossible to separate the Vegas group's sound from their loud-mouthed frontman, Ronnie Radke, who puts his boisterous personality explicitly into the lyrics by using his songs to reference Twitter beefs, address anonymous haters, speak in the third-person ("Ronnie Radke's back to rapping") and evoke the cringiest era of his hero Eminem by dubbing himself the God of the music scene. Some people find that type of self-importance magnetizing while others are physically repelled.
Let's face it: Ghost are an easy band to make fun of. They're theatrical and over the top. Campy and cartoonish. Their music can lean soft rock, even pop, and lends itself to meme-ready mockery including hilariously on-point comparisons to "Scooby Doo chase music." Add to all this the fact that Tobias Forge's occult powerhouse has become wildly popular, earning Grammy nods and selling out arenas full of cosplaying fans, and they're an obvious target for the heavy-metal gatekeepers. But with Satan on his side — not to mention big-name advocates including Metallica and Iron Maiden — Forge surely couldn't care less.
When nu-metal took over TRL, Ozzfest and beyond in the late Nineties, it instantly split metalheads, who either loved the fresh, hip-hop-infused vision of heaviness or hated it for its big pants, rapped vocals, lack of guitar solos, turntable scratches, among many grievances. Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst was the scene's ascendant poster boy, and for many, nu-metal's Frat Boy in Chief was Public Enemy No. 1. It didn't help that Durst loved to play the villain, and when Limp Bizkit became widely accepted as the prime instigators of Woodstock '99's end-of-an-era conflagration, his role was cemented. Over 20 years removed from Bizkit's "Nookie" heyday, the band continues to polarize: Are they now lovable throwbacks bringing "dad vibes" or rock dinosaurs stomping way past their expiration date?
They're metal's biggest band so, of course, they would also be one of the genre's most hated. Metallica's first decade and first four albums are basically unfuckwithable, but with the stylistic shift and smash commercial success of 1991's Black Album, things changed forever. The band became superstars, and over the next 30 years, they would so superstar things: get flashy makeovers, fight with Napster, hire a $40,000-per-month therapist to keep the band together, collaborate with orchestras, pop stars and Lou Reed, the list goes on. Do Metallica suck? Or will they rule for all time, no matter what? The answer might come whenever they play a secret small-venue show — everyone wants a ticket.