One popular narrative about the Nineties is that grunge swooped in and killed heavy metal. And certainly, Nirvana and the alt-rock revolution that followed them didn't do any good for the hair-metal and thrash scenes that swelled through the decade before. That said, depending on how you looked at them, more than a few "grunge" bands were pretty damn metal (Alice in Chains, anyone?), and a whole slew of highly innovative and influential groups (see the whole classic Roadrunner roster) arose to redefine and keep alive the sound of heavy music in those years. Indeed, the Nineties even saw the birth of an extremely popular, if also extremely polarizing, new style of heaviness: nu-metal. So if grunge didn't, in fact, kill metal in the Nineties at all, what was the single greatest metal band of the decade? We asked you, and you responded in droves. Below are the top five vote-getters.
It's not hard to see why Korn came in so high in this poll: When the Bakersfield crew came out the gate, few listeners were ready (see what we did there?) for the fresh and funky yet raw and crushing sounds they would be bringing to a massive audience. For better or worse, nu-metal came to define much of the Nineties, and as a result, a landslide of bands rocking baggy pants, dreadlocks and down-tuned seven-string guitars followed in Jonathan Davis and Co.'s wake through to the early Aughts. Korn were a truly cultural force to be reckoned with, making it no surprise that fans have backed them through the years.
Tool may be considered one of the greatest bands of the Nineties, but that sure as hell hasn't tempered the fervency with which their fans chase down every last detail about the group's movements, both within and outside of the group itself. With 1992's Opiate EP, 1993's Undertow and 1996's creative watershed Aenima, they grabbed a generation of rockers by the shirt collars, and created a lifelong legion of worshippers. Now, just release your new album already, goddammit!
Without the profound influence of Chuck Schuldiner and the strident demands he made on the rotating cast of musicians who joined him in his band, the face of death metal (particularly of the Floridian variety) would look very different. Though Death, like many on this list, got their start in the 1980s, the Nineties were the fertile breeding ground on which death metal's greatest talents really exploded, Schuldiner included. His tragically early passing in 2001 following a long battle with cancer cut his story short, leaving his brightest, most complex work in the previous decade and crowning him forever a king of 1990s metal.
Sepultura may have gotten their start way back in 1984, but it was during the Brazilian metal pioneers' evolution throughout the Nineties from death to thrash and the tribal nu-metal–inflected heaviness of Roots — which still stands as their top-selling album — that most fans latched on. Songs like "Roots Bloody Roots" and "Attitude," from that last record, as well as classic cuts from its groove-laden predecessor Chaos A.D. cemented the Cavalera brothers–era of the band as one of the most unfuckwithable periods of any metal band ever.
Is it any surprise that fans overwhelmingly voted the Texan metal lords to the No. 1 spot here? After cutting their teeth as a hair-metal act in the Eighties, the band enlisted a NOLA-bred singer named Philip Anselmo and sacked up with Cowboys From Hell at the start of the following decade, taking things to a new level altogether with its follow-up Vulgar Display of Power. Indeed, each successive album felt like Pantera somehow got heavier, while still expanding their musicality and experimentation. Metal didn't get better in the Nineties than Pantera for our readers, and it's no wonder that even after the untimely deaths of the group's founding siblings, Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul, the band still looms impossibly large.