The Top 10 German Heavy Metal Bands
Pawel Maciwoda (L) and Rudolf Schenker of Scorpions perform on stage at FivePoint Amphitheatre on September 2, 2021 in Irvine, California.
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Ranking the best German metal bands is a difficult task. There are so many great groups, especially in the thrash and power metal genres. Here’s my list of the top German heavy metal bands:
Scorpions are our number one German metal band of all time for their combination of talent and longevity. They even had radio hits in two different decades in the U.S. with “Rock You Like A Hurricane” in the ’80s and “Winds Of Change” in the ’90s. 1982’s Blackout is probably their best album, but their 1970s releases are really underrated and overlooked, especially by younger fans. Some may argue they aren’t metal, but it’s our list, and we say they are!
The power metal band Helloween had their greatest success in the ’80s and were a very influential European group. Keeper Of The Seven Keys and Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II are both classics, and the band has had several other excellent albums over the years.
The industrial metal band Rammstein has combined aggressive but catchy music with controversy to keep their profile high. Their breakthrough album was 1997’s Sehnsucht, which topped the German album chart and was their first appearance on the U.S. Billboard charts. That album also included their memorable single “Du Hast.”
It wasn’t until Accept’s fifth album, 1983’s Balls To The Wall, that they had great commercial success and worldwide attention. But their earlier albums were even better, especially 1982’s Restless And Wild. Accept combined power and speed with melody and the distinctive vocals of Udo Dirkschneider. Udo is no longer in the band, but Accept continues to be very successful.
Kreator rose to prominence in the mid-1980s and were one of best, most popular and most influential European thrash metal bands. They had a string of outstanding albums including 1986’s Pleasure To Kill, 1988’s Terrible Certainty, 1989’s Extreme Aggression and 1990’s Coma Of Souls. Kreator hit a slump in the ’90s before rebounding with more excellent albums during the past few years.
Even though they weren’t as successful as thrash brethren Kreator and Sodom, Destruction was a really good band whose work has really stood the test of time. Their best album was 1988’s Release From Agony, a ferocious release with great riffs. Vocalist Schmier left the band for the decade of the ’90s but has now returned and Destruction is a much stronger force.
Along with Helloween, Blind Guardian is at the top of the German power/speed metal heap in terms of both commercial success and longevity. Originally known as Lucifer’s Heritage, Blind Guardian is known for their stellar musicianship and epic lyrical themes. Their best albums are probably 1992’s Somewhere Far Beyond and 1995’s Imaginations From The Other Side.
The power metal band Grave Digger was formed back in 1980. Frontman Chris Boltendahl is the lone original member still in the band after numerous lineup changes over the years. They even shortened their name to Digger for a while before reverting to their original title. Grave Digger’s style is epic speed/power metal with great melodies and catchy choruses. Their best releases include 1995’s Heart Of Darkness and 2001’s The Gravedigger.
Sodom is a thrash band with heavier, more extreme influences like death and black metal. Their career has had a lot of ups and downs, but when they are good, such as 1987’s Persecution Mania, they are really good. But their inconsistency puts them in third place among the Big 3 of German thrash that also includes Kreator and Destruction.
After appearing on Helloween’s first four albums, Kai Hansen left the band to form Gamma Ray. He would play guitar, and Ralf Scheepers was the group’s singer for their first few albums. He did a good job, but Gamma Ray’s best album was 1995’s Land Of The Free, which saw Hansen resuming vocal duties and kickstarting the power/speed metal band to a string of excellent albums. This is a rare band whose later albums have been superior to their earlier ones.
Some other great German bands who deserve mention but didn’t make our top 10 include Crematory, Die Apokalyptischen Reiter, Doro, Edguy, Necrophagist, Powerwolf, Rage, Running Wild, and Worship.