Who Belongs On the Heavy Metal Mount Rushmore?

What is THE Heavy Metal Mount Rushmore?

I know it’s fall, which means Mount Rushmore season is ova. We have football to watch, no need to pass the time with intriguing Mount Rushmore topics. But this one in particular was very frustrating to me.

You only get four choices, yet without even thinking, I’m sure we could come up with a list of 15+ bands that you can’t discuss the history of heavy metal without mentioning.

There is no proper answer, this is a subjective topic, and unfortunately, there will be plenty of bands that are considered the titans of metal, omitted. When I first tried to come up with a mount Rushmore, I took about five minutes and tried to set some sort of parameters. I ended up considering a band’s global impact and overall influence.

It led to this:

1) Black Sabbath
2) Cannibal Corpse
3) Slayer
4) Venom

Sabbath is an easy choice, and in my irrelevant opinion, the only must-have on this list. Heavy Metal began with Black Sabbath on Friday the 13th, 1970. One of the few things metalheads have generally agreed upon.

But the remaining three all have the same image: dark, violent, evil, which leads to redundancy. It also ignores an enormous catalog of important music. So while I still think the parameters are okay, I’m going to try to broaden the scope.

For the sake of brevity, we will try to accurately identify the main subgenres of metal.

  • Thrash Metal
  • Death Metal
  • New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM)
  • Nu Metal (Just relax)
  • Traditional Heavy Metal

These five subgenres are typically associated with a distinct period in time, but in this exercise, we will also include genres that they spawned. For example, Black Metal, Doom Metal, Extreme Metal, and the like all hang out at the same bar as Death Metal.

For those that wish to “well actually” about bands that fit a few of the five listed, I don’t care. You ruin every party you attend.

So now the mission becomes finding three other bands in addition to Sabbath with the proper influence and global reach in something besides death and thrash.

Slayer

In my previous article Revisiting A Classic: Show No Mercy, I explained how Slayer’s evil thrash debut became the inspiration for death metal. Terry Butler of Obituary is even on record stating “Show No Mercy was the blueprint for the beginning of death metal”

Adding Slayer to the Mount Rushmore of Heavy Metal covers an influence that reaches both the thrash and death metal communities, more so than the evil influences of Venom or Mercyful Fate. By selecting Slayer, I’m omitting absolute juggernauts like Death, Cannibal Corpse, Megadeth, and Metallica.

Judas Priest

Rob Halford’s iconic falsetto wail and leather regalia spearheaded the NWOBHM movement in the 1970s, carrying their music—and sound—to incredible global success. They get the nod over Iron Maiden, but honestly, it’s a horse apiece. They both featured iconic singers, with similar styles, as well as a defining image.

The NWOBHM was a direct influence on Metallica and Megadeth, Dave Mustaine stated he answered Lars Ulrich’s ad in the paper for a guitar player strictly due to the band’s Lars had listed as influences.

Judas Priest is the poster child to our parent’s favorite bands, as well as being a part of the bedrock of the European metal scene, makes them a worthy selection. The addition of Priest means bands like Iron Maiden, Motorhead, and Diamond Head unfortunately do not make the cut.

And finally…

Slipknot

Everybody, just relax.

It’s now 2021. To continue the story of metal, we must acknowledge bands like Slipknot, Lamb of God, Korn, and Sepultura have reached a level of influence that most of the metal founding fathers have. I’m not here to argue that Slipknot or Korn is on the same level of influence as Sabbath or Slayer.

I AM here to argue that bands like Slaughter To Prevail, Spiritbox, and Tetrarch all exist in large part because of Iowa.

The modern metal scene has evolved into a sound with a vast number of influences and sounds. Much like the nine-piece unit that has incorporated elements of hardcore, hip hop, thrash, and death metal over their illustrious career.

Our resident heavy metal heart surgeon Bill Gioia had recently asked if Slipknot should be considered nu-metal. If not nu-metal, then what?

The resulting discourse concluded that while they may not distinctly and solely fit with a specific genre (still nu-metal), the music is objectively metal.

Slipknot rounding out my Mount Rushmore means no previously stated Pantera, Lamb of God, or Sepultura, our other favorite bands we couldn’t decide exactly what they were, besides awesome.

With my updated and calculated Heavy Metal Mount Rushmore complete, I would like to officially apologize to the absolute legends that have been omitted. This rendition probably sucks too. There is no correct answer.

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