The Best Selling Metal Albums of All Time

by Bill Nihill on October 25, 2013

The best selling heavy metal albums ever

Think heavy metal albums don’t sell? They have, and in massive numbers.  Album sales numbers have been in decline since downloading rose to popularity in 1999, so the number of new metal albums appearing near the top of any all time “best selling albums” list is an almost near impossible feat. If you notice the albums are largely skewed towards releases before around 2005, when the music industry suffered it’s biggest decline (and hasn’t recovered).

As you may have expected, the “glory days” of heavy metal album sales were the 1980′s, followed by the 1990′s. Glam rock albums sold very well, but there’s better news here. Real metal albums sold even better. Classic albums from some of the best known metal bands appear near the top of this list.

This list uses RIAA Platinum status in the USA (not worldwide numbers) as a gauge of how many albums have been sold for each individual album.


Adding to the controversy of this list are the bands within the list. Which bands are truly heavy metal? What makes a band “heavy metal” in the first place? Why aren’t Led Zeppelin or Def Leppard featured here? We chose the bands on this list because we define them as heavy metal. From nu metal to glam to traditional heavy metal to even progressive metal, there are a lot of genres represented here. If a band wasn’t featured on the list, like Led Zeppelin or Def Leppard, it’s because we they don’t fit the criteria for what most people consider heavy metal. Even though some considered Bon Jovi metal in the 80′s, looking back, it’s pretty clear they were a hard rock band. The same can be said of Zeppelin, while bands like Nickelback and Creed are post-grunge. Lastly, we left out most grunge bands. That’s a very gray area we decided to avoid, so you won’t be seeing Pearl Jam, Nirvana, or STP here either. Most everyone can agree, while great and very influential, aren’t really metal.

Regardless, this list below shows the best selling metal albums of all time, all the way down to triple platinum status.

Guns N’ Roses Appetite for Destruction

18 x platinum

Guns N' Roses Appetite for Destruction

It’s hard to imagine how the rock/metal landscape would be like today if Appetite for Destruction were never released. Would the different sound from grunge bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam have succeeded if the more traditional, stripped-down heavy metal style of Guns N’ Roses had never become popular first? GN’R made massive contributions to the 80′s metal scene, and helped deflate the glam metal bubble and expose the lameness of the decadent fashion show that glam had become. It wound up selling over 18 million albums in the process, though the band’s career as a functioning five piece featuring Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan, and Steven Adler would be short lived. Appetite’s greatest hits were “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Paradise City,” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” with “Mr. Brownstone, ” “Nighttrain,” “My Michelle,” “It’s So Easy,” and “Rocket Queen” also receiving some spins. To this day, it is revered as one of rock and heavy metal’s greatest albums.

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Metallica – Metallica

16 x platinum

Metallica The Black Album

Metallica‘s best selling album is, at most times, not considered their best album. While The Black Album, aka Metallica, is a legendary foray into hard rock, the band that brought you Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets had taken a much lighter, pop-centric approach to their 1991 album produced by Bob Rock. Rock, who also produced Motley Crue’s successful Dr. Feelgood album, had a hand in creating the more radio friendly atmosphere all over The Black Album. This led the band from being a well-known thrash metal band to a best selling rock artist, which paid off in the sum of 19 million albums (more if you count international sales, but who’s counting).

Metallica led the charge with the enormous hit “Enter Sandman,” which set the tone for a band with a redefined sound in a new era of music. There was a lot more harmony, a more stripped down, root heavy metal sound, and most noticeably, the inclusion of several ballads like “The Unforgiven” and “Nothing Else Matters.” It all added up to wide audience appeal, which broadened their fanbase substantially. Not only did Metallica become the best selling album of the Soundscan era, but it helped other older albums from Metallica reach multi platinum status. To say this album changed things for Metallica would be putting it lightly. Up ahead for Metallica: Load, Reload, S&M, and St. Anger.

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Kid Rock – Devil Without a Cause

11 x platinum

Kid Rock - Devil Without a Cause

Kid Rock declared in his song “Bawitdaba,” “Devil Without a Cause… I’m going platinum!” He actually went Diamond, which is over ten million copies sold. While to the casual listener, Kid Rock seemed to appear out of nowhere in 1998, he had released four albums before Devil Without a Cause, dating all the way back to 1990. Striving for major label attention, Kid Rock was signed to Atlantic in 1997, and began to work on more songs for Devil Without a Cause. His blend of hip-hop and rock fit in perfectly with the emerging nu metal movement of 1998.

Initially the single “Welcome 2 the Party (Ode to the Old School)” was released without much notice, but was followed by the much more successful rap-rock “I Am the Bullgod.” Later, the “Bawitdaba” was released as a single, with Kid Rock famously performing with Aerosmith and RUN-DMC on the MTV Video Music Awards in 1999. Rock radio embraced the song “Cowboy” in 1999, a country, southern rock, and hip-hop fusion. The album’s highest charting single, “Only God Knows Why,” one of the first songs to notably use the autotune affect, reached #19 on the Billboard Top 100.  The laid back party anthem “Wastin’ Time” was released in 2000 as the album’s final single. Following Devil Without a Cause, Kid Rock began to change his style to a more country, blues, and southern rock oriented sound, all but abandoning the original rap-metal sound that made him famous.

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Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory

10 times platinum

Linkin Park Hybrid Theory

The final entry from into the Diamond Certification club (10 million albums sold) in the metal world is Linkin Park. No other band, not even Korn or Limp Bizkit at the height of their popularity, matched the success of Linkin Park during the nu metal era. Linkin Park may hold the distinction of the last metal band ever to sell 10 million copies, unless we see another incredibly popular metal movement (not to mention it would have to combat downloading). Hybrid Theory gained a huge following with the single “One Step Closer,” and the success just snowballed with “Crawling,” “Papercut,” and the crossover hit “In the End” (which at the time was played on Top 40 radio). The unexpected success of the album catapulted Linkin Park to headlining status nearly overnight, while their subsequent albums reached multi platinum status in the following years.

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Metallica – …And Justice for All

8 x platinum

Metallica And Justice For All

The first album to feature bassist Jason Newsted was …And Justice For All, the eight times certified platinum album which featured the most radio requested Metallica song ever, “One.” While the album went light on the bass (listen to see if you can hear it at all), that didn’t impact album sales. “One” was accompanied by Metallica’s first ever music video released for MTV airplay, which was the only song truly embraced by rock radio from the album (though “Harvester of Sorrow” was released as the first official single).

At the time of the album’s release, it reached #6 on the Billboard 200, and was certified Platinum. Over the years, as Metallica’s popularity grew after the release of The Black Album, the sales numbers grew as the album stayed within the Billboard Top 200. This makes the album a rarity in the world of rock and heavy metal, since it had only one song that received radio airplay, yet still managed to sell 8 million copies in the United States.

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Whitesnake – Whitesnake

8 x platinum

Whitesnake self titled album

No music video for an 80′s glam metal band were as memorable as Whitesnake‘s “Here I Go Again ’87,” featuring model Tawny Kitaen sprawled out on singer David Coverdale’s Jaguar XJ. The single “Here I Go Again” reached #1 on the Billboard 200. The second single, “Is This Love,” reached #2 on the Billboard 200 in the US. Changing Whitesnake’s musical style from a blues-rock oriented band with roots from Deep Purple to a hard rock/glam band in the 80′s paid off for Coverdale, with the album selling 8 million copies in the U.S. Like many rock bands that have an album near the top of the Billboard 200, the success of the Whitesnake album resurged interest in their prior release, Slide it In from 1984, which went from Gold to Double Platinum. The bluesier single “Crying in the Rain” was released later that year, which was a minor hit. The single “Still of the Night” was the fourth single released, and again featured Tawny Kitaen scantily dressed, while the song itself sounded like a heavier, glam metal version of a Led Zeppelin song. The song was said to be a track leftover from Coverdale’s days in Deep Purple. The song flip flops back and forth between hard rock, metal guitars, and hard blues riffs, spliced with 80′s effects and outstanding guitar work by guitarist John Sykes. Finally, the song “Give Me All Your Love” was released as the final single in 1988. It was a metal influenced track with more great solos by John Sykes with a pop rock chorus.

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Limp Bizkit – Significant Other

7 x platinum

Limp Bizkit Significant Other

At the height of nu metal in1999, Limp Bizkit released their most famous album, Significant Other. It was a departure from their debut album, Three Dollar Bill, Yall$, and was highly anticipated at the time for featuring a parade of popular rock performers at the time: Scott Weiland, Eminem (the song did not wind up on the album), Les Claypool, Method Man, Aaron Lewis of Staind, and Jonathon Davis of Korn. The single “Nookie” was massively successful upon its release in June of 1999. The video borrowed the theme of The Beatles’ famous rooftop performance and U2′s video “Where the Streets Have No Name” in their own way, which resulted in Durst being “arrested” during the video shoot.

Significant Other contained several other popular singles in 1999, including Re-Arranged and N 2 Gether Now. Based on the success of the album, the Limp Bizkit rushed to the studio to record their follow-up album, Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water.

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Guns N’ Roses – Use Your Illusion I

7 x platinum

Guns N' Roses Use Your Illusion I

Perhaps Guns N’ Roses were smart for choosing to release two albums instead of a single album in 1991. That way they get to appear twice on this list for the same two part album. Often times purchased together, Use You Illusion I was backed by the two very successful videos and singles, “Don’t Cry” and “November Rain.” Other songs were released as singles, including “Live and Let Die,” “Dead Horse,” “The Garden,” and “The Garden of Eden.” At the time of Use Your Illusion were both released, GN’R were at the top of their game, with heavy MTV rotation for videos like “Don’t Cry” and “Estranged,” as well as headlining tours and the infamous double billing with Metallica.

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Guns N’ Roses – Use Your Illusion II

7 x platinum

Guns N' Roses Use Your Illusion II

The initially higher charting of the two albums, Use Your Illusion II contained the lead single “You Could Be Mine,” a leftover track from Appetite for Destruction. Many of the band’s best known songs are from Use Your Illusion II, including “Estranged,” “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” “Yesterdays,” and “Civil War.” The cover of Use Your Illusion II is identical to I, except with a purple and blue color scheme. Together, these two albums sold a combined 14 million copies, which would actually if totaled together, would bump them to the number three spot on this list. Unfortunately, this would be their last album of original studio material with the original lineup.

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Metallica – Master of Puppets

6 x platinum

Metallica Master of Puppets

Metallica’s most revered album, Master of Puppets, has influenced just about every heavy metal band that has come after them. From the start, “Battery” surges with thrash energy, while songs like “Orion” show off the virtuosity and musicianship of each of its members. This is the last album to feature the late, great bassist Cliff Burton, and contains the radio favorites “Master of Puppets” and “Sanitarium.” The album is so popular with fans that usually at least four songs from the album are played each night at their shows.

More importantly, Master of Puppets, released on February 24, 1986, provided the complete antithesis of what was going on in Los Angeles with heavy metal. While Cinderella, Great White, and Ratt were commercially hitting their peak, Metallica’s masterpiece represented “true” heavy metal, and legitimized the genre instead of corrupting it.

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Metallica – Ride the Lightning

6 x platinum

Metallica Ride the Lightning

Metallica’s entire back catalog of work received a huge sales boost after the popularity of The Black Album. More people began to discover the thrash classic Ride the Lightning, which featured “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Fight Fire with Fire,” and “Call of the Ktulu,” a track co-written by Dave Mustaine. The song “Creeping Death” is a fan favorite, being performed live at many concerts. The song “Fade to Black” was a foreshadowing of the band’s ability to write appealing metal crossover tunes, as would be further explored on The Black Album. Fans consider this album one of their best. It’s sometimes a toss-up between this one and Master of Puppets.

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Limp Bizkit – Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water

6 x platinum

Limp Bizkit Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water

Despite Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water‘s ill reception from critics, the album boded well with the band’s base of fans, and received significant radio airplay for its songs. It was quickly (and wisely) recorded following the success of Significant Other, only one year later. The album contained two lead singles which were released at the same time, “My Generation” and “Rollin’,” both of which performed well on rock radio.”Take a Look Around” was released months before to help build anticipation of the album. The success of the album was assisted by several popular music videos of the era, including “My Way” and “Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle Mix). The album produced a final single, “Boiler.” After Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water, guitarist Wes Borland left the band, while the band’s popularity quickly descended following nu metal’s wane in popularity.

Of all of the albums on this list, this one has to be the most perplexing as to why.

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Quiet Riot – Metal Health

6 x platinum

Quiet Riot Metal Health

Metal Health by Quiet Riot was the first true heavy metal album to not only top the charts, but to go multi platinum. Metal Health went six times platinum, and was driven by the success of the gigantic hit, “Cum on Feel the Noize.” This song is a cover of a Slade song which was a hit in the U.K., but Quiet Riot made it their own, driving the single to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the album to #1 on the Billboard Top 200. The title track also became a metal anthem for the ages, titled “Metal Health (Bang Your Head).” The album isn’t known as much for the musicianship, but for placing the spotlight on the L.A. metal scene of the early 80′s. Following this album’s success, a slew of glam metal bands following in Quiet Riot’s footsteps began to receive more attention, including Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Twisted Sister, Ratt, and W.A.S.P.

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Motley Crue – Dr.Feelgood

6 x platinum

Motley Crue Dr. Feelgood

Rounding out the metal bands that went six times platinum is Motley Crue‘s Dr. Feelgood, released in September 1989 and produced by Bob Rock. Dr. Feelgood had a more polished, refined, and rock radio friendly sound that received high praise from critics and fans. It was also their first album post-rehab, and featured Steven Tyler, Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Sebastian Bach, and Bryan Adams on backing vocals on select tracks.  It contained five hit singles, including “Dr. Feelgood,” the first single which reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100, followed by the heavy hitter “Kickstart My Heart.”  In 1990, the band released the ballad “Without You” as a single, which reached #8 in the US, followed by “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away),” and “Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.).”

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Soundgarden – Superunknown

5 x platinum

Soundgarden Superunkown

Superunknown was released at the height of grunge, and though it’s debatable whether Soundgarden are a grunge band, alternative metal band, or just a plain old heavy metal band, the album resonated with a great number of people. While Pearl Jam is clearly not metal, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden were the two heavier of the big four “grunge” bands. Released on March 8, 1994, the album reached #1 on the US Billboard 200. Five singles were released from the album, including “Spoonman,” “The Day I Tried to Live,” “Black Hole Sun,” “My Wave,” and “Fell on Black Days.” The title track, “Superunknown,” also receives radio airplay. The album was hailed as their most diverse release, with the lyrics focusing on death, seclusion, depression, suicide, and substance abuse — all very dark themes that fit in with the grunge movement.

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Skid Row – Skid Row

5 x platinum

Skid Row debut album

The eponymous debut album from Skid Row was an instant smash, showcasing the vocal abilities of singer Sebastian Bach. The band had a connection with Jon Bon Jovi in the early days, which helped the band receive more exposure through opening tour dates for Bon Jovi. Skid Row reached #6 on the Billboard 200, selling five million copies in the process. It’s success was due to the three massively popular singles, “18 and Life,” “I Remember You,” and “Youth Gone Wild,”  which reached #4 and #6 on the Billboard Hot 100. Two of the singles were formula power ballads, with hints at a harder edge than some of the other glam bands at the time. The first single, “Youth Gone Wild,” was a more forward hard rock song. Their follow-up album, Slave to the Grind, was a more metallic departure from their debut that also went double platinum.

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Metallica – Load

5 x platinum

Metallica Load

Coming off the heels of their 16 times platinum album, The Black Album, Metallica embarked on a three year tour, followed by a break, then regrouping in the studio in mid 1995. Like The Black Album, Load shifts towards a more rock oriented plane, influenced by the popular grunge and alternative metal world that was popular during the recording of the album. Load was seen as a huge disappointment to Metallica’s die hard fans, while they also gained new fans in the process. This experimental album contained no traces of thrash metal, which proved to be a winning experiment. It sold five million copies, driven by the success of the singles “Until it Sleeps,” “Hero of the Day,” “Mama Said,” and “King Nothing.” Other songs also received significant radio airplay, including “Bleeding Me” and “Ain’t My Bitch.” Load was a commercial success, though not as popular as …And Justice For All or The Black Album.

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Korn – Follow the Leader

5 x platinum

Korn Follow the Leader

Korn‘s breakthrough mainstream moment occurred with the release of Follow The Leader in 1998. The album was hyped by two singles, “All in the Family,” which featured then upcoming band Limp Bizkit, and the disco driven beat of the single “Got the Life.” While those two songs were popular, their next single and the accompanying music video would be what would put Korn on the map. “Freak on a Leash” featured a breakthrough video of a bullet splicing through different scenes. Korn also collaborated with the hip group The Pharcyde on the track “Cameltosis,” and with rapper Ice Cube on the track “Children of the Korn.” The success of Follow the Leader would encourage dozens of other nu metal bands to emerge and copy the style of Korn throughout the late 90′s and early 2000′s.

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Staind – Break the Cycle

5 x platinum

Staind - Break the Cycle

Staind reached their commercial peak in 2001 with their third album, Break the Cycle. Its first single was “It’s Been a While,” which continues to be the band’s biggest hit single. It propelled the album to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200, and stay there for three weeks. It was certified five times platinum, and contained the singles “It’s Been a While,” “Outside,” “Fade,” “For You,” and “Epiphany.” Released weeks after 9/11, the music video for “Fade” was banned temporarily by MTV in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center due to footage of a clock tower crumbling piecemeal to the ground. With Break the Cycle, the band set forth on a path that was less nu metal, and more hard rock. They continued with this experimentation on their next album, 14 Shades of Grey, as well as Chapter V, both of which would also debut at #1 on the Billboard 200.

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Open Up and Say Ahh.. Poison

5 x platinum

Poison - Open Up and Say Ahh!

Poison’s biggest hit, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” can be found on their album Open Up and Say Ahhh… The album reached #2 on the Billboard 200, denying Poison a number one album because of the much more successful releases, Appetite for Destruction (Guns N’ Roses), New Jersey (Bon Jovi), and Hysteria (Def Leppard). The single “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” was one of the biggest rock hits of the 80′s, and hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for three straight weeks, beginning on Christmas Eve in 1988. The album also contained the hits “Nothin’ but a Good Time,” “Fallen Angel,” and the cover song “Your Mama Don’t Dance.” It was Poison’s most successful album, and epitomized the glam metal movement at the time.

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Metallica – S & M

5 x platinum

Metallica S&M

Who knew that S&M went five times platinum? This just goes to show that Metallica has a massive army of fans willing to buy just about anything the band puts out. S&M was backed by the the San Francisco Symphony, an idea that was originally thought of by Cliff Burton. Orchestral backing was provided to songs like “Nothing Else Matters,” “Master of Puppets,” and even “One.” This double album must have been a big Christmas gift for 1999, since it was released in late November of ’99, and people were still buying CDs back then. The only single from the album was their version of “Nothing Else Matters” and the new song “No Leaf Clover,” which was a minor hit.

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Metallica – Garage INC

5 x platinum

Metallica Garage INC

Garage INC was released in 1998, a double album entirely consisting of cover albums. This was one of a string of Metallica albums in the 90′s that went five times platinum. Garage INC contained many cover songs that were released on the $5.98 Garage Days EP of 1987, which … Disc I consisted of new cover songs by Black Sabbath, Diamond Head, The Misfits, Thin Lizzy, and Lynrd Skynrd. The first single, “Turn the Page,” a cover from classic rock icon Bob Seger, was a hit, as well as “Whiskey in the Jar” by Thin Lizzy.

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Guns N’ Roses – Greatest Hits

5 x platinum

Guns N' Roses Greatest Hits

Released without the band’s consent, Guns N’ Roses Greatest Hits was a compilation released in 2004 that contained 14 songs. Band members Axl Rose, Duff McKagan, and Slash objected to the track listing, while Rose claimed it would sidetrack work on his then unreleased album, Chinese Democracy. Filing a joint lawsuit (though the band members never spoke to each other) did not help matters, with Geffen releasing the album. It went to #1 in the UK upon its release, and #3 on the Billboard 200 in the USA. The track listing contains most of their best known songs, but contains five cover songs as well: Live and Let Die, Sympathy for the Devil, Ain’t it Fun, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, and Since I Don’t Have You. The album has been criticized for its exclusion of original GN’R compositions like “Estranged,” “Nighttrain,” “Mr. Brownstone,” “Used to Love Her,” “My Michelle,” and “Rocket Queen.”

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Guns N’ Roses – GN’R Lies

 5 x platinum

Guns N' Roses - GN'R Lies

Lies was the band’s EP offering to tide over fans while they worked on new material. GN’R Lies featured the four songs from the very rare Live Like a Suicide EP from 1986. The second half of the EP was all acoustic, with three new songs and one remake of a song from Appetite for Destruction. The “live” songs, which were actually studio songs made to sound like live recordings, were “Reckless Life,” “Nice Boys,” “Move to the City,” and a cover of the Aerosmith classic, “Mama Kin.” The four acoustic songs were the hit “Patience,” followed by “Used to Love Her,” “You’re Crazy,” and the controversial “One in a Million.”

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Alice in Chains – Dirt

4 x platinum

Alice in Chains - Dirt

Dirt was the masterpiece album that cemented Alice in Chains as one of the most talented metal acts of the 90′s, though it didn’t hurt that the music was very different from anything released before it. Much like Nirvana’s Nevermind, Dirt was culturally significant, helping to change the musical landscape of rock radio in 1992. The lyrics on most of these tracks are written by Layne Staley, like the agonizing, brooding “Angry Chair.” Other songs received their own music videos, like “Dam That River” and the eerie rocker “Would?”, as well as the album opener, “Them Bones.” Six of the tracks from the album received constant radio attention, making the album an instant classic, and selling four million copies in the USA alone.

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Black Sabbath – Paranoid

4 x platinum

Black Sabbath - Paranoid

Recorded only four months after their debut album, Black Sabbath‘s most well known release, Paranoid, was released in 1970 in the UK, 1971 in the USA. Three of their best known songs, “Paranoid,” “Iron Man,” and “War Pigs” are the big hits of this album, though it also features favorites “Planet Caravan” and “Faeries Wear Boots.” In the USA, Paranoid received virtually no radio airplay, yet, by word of mouth, it sold four million copies in the USA. Sabbath would later start to receive airplay later on in the 70′s as their popularity grew. Paranoid has influenced a huge number of heavy metal bands, including Metallica, Pantera, Soundgarden, Megadeth, Type O Negative, White Zombie and Slayer.

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Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral

4 x platinum

Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral

The Downward Spiral is the most successful release from Nine Inch Nails, selling four million copies in the USA since its release in 1994. The follow up to the debut album Pretty Hate Machine and the successful 1992 EP Broken, The Downward Spiral was Reznor’s full length album major label debut. In contrast to Pretty Hate Machine, The Downward Spiral showed much more aggression and heavy metal influences. It is highly regarded as one of the best industrial metal albums of all time, one of the best  rock albums of the 90′s, and the best work of Nine Inch Nails. The single “Closer” was the album’s most popular, which had a memorable video that received heavy rotation on MTV. The video contained controversial footage of severed rotating pig heads, S&M gear, a monkey tied to a cross, a beating heart spraying in time to the beat of the song, and Reznor spinning in air on his back, all inside of an old dungeon-like laboratory.

Other singles and songs from the album that received radio attention were “Hurt,” which was famously covered by Johnny Cash, as well as “Mr. Self Destruct,” “Piggy,” and “March of the Pigs.”

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Linkin Park – Meteora

4 x platinum

Linkin Park Meteora

On fire from the certified Diamond (10 million copies sold) album Hybrid Theory, Linkin Park recorded their sophomore album Meteora in April of 2002. Driven by the success of the first single “Somewhere I Belong,” the new album was met with critical praise. Linkin Park stuck to the nu metal template of Hybird Theory, but did wind up using more technical aspects in some of the songs.  The success continued for Meteora with the subsequent singles “Faint,” “Numb,” “From the Inside,” and “Breaking the Habit.”

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Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard of Ozz

4 x platinum

Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard of Ozz

When Ozzy Osbourne went solo following his dismissal from Black Sabbath in 1979, he made his first duty to find the perfect guitarist. He found that in Quiet Riot’s Randy Rhoads, the virtuoso responsible for the cunning licks of “Crazy Train,” and “Mr.Crowley.”  The album went on to contain many more songs that would receive radio attention down the line, like “I Don’t Know,” “Goodbye to Romance,” and “Suicide Solution.” The latter was infamously part of a lawsuit by the family of John McCollum, who sued that the lyrics to “Suicide Solution” convinced him to kill himself. The plaintiffs lost, and Osbourne was cleared of all charges.

Blizzard of Ozz stands as the ultimate solo Ozzy Osbourne album, solidifying his status as the Godfather of heavy metal.

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Motley Crue – Shout at the Devil

4 x platinum

Motley Crue - Shout at the Devil

Motley Crue were the first band of the early 80′s to have a specific look and sound that became copied again and again throughout the rest of the decade. The band achieved success with the title track “Shout at the Devil,” and produced moderate hits in “Looks That Kill” and “Too Young To Fall in Love.” This cemented the careerBy 1997, the album was awarded quadruple platinum status.

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Motley Crue – Girls, Girls, Girls

4 x platinum

Motley Crue - Girls Girls Girls

The third straight album for Motley Crue to go quadruple platinum was Girls, Girls, Girls, which had the two major hits “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Wild Side.” Other than those two songs, the album had no other hits besides the low charting “You’re All I Need,” which shows just how big of a song “Girls, Girls, Girls” was (and is).

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Ozzy Osbourne No More Tears

4 x platinum

Ozzy Osbourne - No More Tears

A decade after his debut solo album, Osbourne released No More Tears. While he had achieved triple platinum status with Diary of a Madman and Bark at the Moon, No More Tears contained some of the biggest hits of his career. There were two main songs on the album responsible for the album’s success: “No More Tears,” a heavy metal masterpiece, and the ballad “Mama, I’m Coming Home.”

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Motley Crue – Theater of Pain

4 x platinum

Motley Crue - Theater of Pain

Their third album (and also their third album to reach quadruple platinum status), Theater of Pain reached a new height of commercial appeal with the release of the song “Home Sweet Home.” The song starts with a piano interlude, then comes in with clean vocals courtesy of singer Vince Neil. It builds to a crescendo where the guitars and drums kick in, followed by a guitar solo, repeat of the chorus, and a piano outro. This is the blueprint of what would become known as the “power ballad,” which catapulted many bands into superstardom in the 80′s. The other breakout single from the album was “Smokin’ in the Boys Room,” a cover of a song by Brownsville Station.

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Disturbed – The Sickness

4 x platinum

Disturbed - The Sickness

Nu metal was already a phenomenon in 2000, when The Sickness, Disturbed’s debut album was released. The Sickness, which capitalized on the popular nu metal movement, also contained some hard rock and heavy metal elements that would hint at their future music. The Sickness became a hit upon its release, with “Stupify” receiving constant radio airplay in 2000. The songs “Down With the Sickness,” “Voices,” and “The Game” were subsequent singles released. Some of the songs had a sort of rap-metal like quality, like “Voices,” while lyrically focusing on topics like abuse, depression, and isolation.

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Godsmack – Godsmack

4 x platinum

Godsmack

There was a gaping hole left in the world of rock following the hiatus of Alice in Chains in the mid 90′s. Godsmack’s attempt to fill that void would prove a lucrative effort with their debut album, Godsmack. Initially released without the backing of a record company, their debut All Wound Up sold out in local New England record stores, prompting the attention of record labels. They were signed to Universal Records and released their self titled debut album in 1998. The album went on to sell four million copies, driven by the success of the single “Whatever,” released in February of 1999. Other singles included “Keep Away,” “Voodoo,” and “Bad Religion.” It would be Godsmack’s most successful album, but would receive its fair share of criticism for drawing heavy influence from Alice in Chains and Metallica.

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Triple Platinum Albums

And now, we’re on to the triple platinum albums from metal acts. There are a far greater number of albums that have gone triple platinum than quadruple, with 23 of them being listed below. The genres range from nu metal to thrash to glam, but they do have one thing in common: they were all released before 2003. The year 2003 was the year that the music industry began to see a major decline in sales.

Metallica – Kill ‘Em All

3 x platinum

Metallica Kill 'Em All

The most thrashy album of all of Metallica’s studio albums, Kill ‘Em All, originally titled “Metal Up Your Ass,” was Metallica’s finest hour. After some lineup changes, the group settled on James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Cliff Burton, and Kirk Hammet to round out their founding lineup. The album was released on Megaforce Records, eventually being re-released on Elektra Records later on. The album drew some buzz upon its release, but sold many more copies once their magnum opus, Master of Puppets, was released in 1986. Fans yearning for more Metallica sought out their older material, which drove Kill ‘Em All to triple platinum status by 1999. Kill ‘Em All was the first album by the “Big Four” of thrash to be released, setting the benchmark for other upcoming thrash bands. Successfully combining heavy metal from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal with punk rock, tracks like “Seek and Destroy,” “Whiplash,” “Hit the Lights,” “Jump in the Fire,” and “The Four Horsemen.” Bonus editions later included the live favorite cover of the Diamond Head song “Am I Evil,” as well as Blitzkrieg’s “Blitzkrieg.”

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System of a Down – Toxicity

3 x platinum

System of a Down Toxicity

System of a Down released the most eclectic, avante garde form of metal in 2001 with their most popular album produced by Rick Rubin, Toxicity. Album sales were due to the success of three big singles: “Chop Suey,” “Toxicity,” and “Aerials.” The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, as well as in Canada, eventually selling 3 million copies. Toxicity was released just a week prior to 9/11, and was subsequently recommended it be banned by Clear Channel Radio for content which some may have seen as offensive during that sensitive time. The single “Chop Suey” received major radio airplay in 2001, and as of today, has an astounding 150 million views on YouTube, making it one of the most popular heavy metal songs of all time on YouTube.

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Queensryche – Empire

3 x platinum

Queensryche Empire

The fourth album by Queensryche, Empire, was a departure from the concept approach of their previous album, Operation: Mindcrime. It also contained some of the band’s biggest hit singles: “Jet City Woman,” “Silent Lucidity,” “Anybody Listening?,” and the title track, “Empire.” Released in 1990, this album had a darker, more technical edge (along with better songwriting) that was in direct opposition of the popular glam metal popular at the time. Riding high on the momentum of the platinum 1988 album Operation: Mindcrime, all eyes were on Queensryche to release a powerful follow-up. Silent Lucidity was a major hit, reaching #9 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it their most popular song.

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Scorpions – Love at First Sting

3 x platinum

Scorpions Love at First Sting

The Scorpions massive hit “Rock You Like a Hurricane” is largely responsible for 1984′s Love at First Sting, the band’s ninth studio album going triple platinum. “Big City Nights” and “Still Loving You” were also big radio songs that were some of Scorpions best known songs. For “Rock You Like a Hurricane” alone, which consistently is ranked as one of the best hard rock/metal songs of all time, this album deserves its triple platinum status.

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Tool – Aenima

3 x platinum

Tool Aenima

In 1996, Tool released their long awaited follow up to Undertow. Before Aenima, Tool were best known for their hit song and video “Sober.” They proved audiences and critics wrong that were quick to dismiss them as one-hit-wonders by releasing Aenima, which sold over 3 million copies. The first single, “Stink Fist,” had to be changed for MTV, so it was renamed “Track 1″ on the video. The songs that solidified their career were on Aenima, including “H,” “Eulogy,” “46&2,” and “Aenema.”

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Twisted Sister – Stay Hungry

3 x platinum

Twisted Sister Stay Hungry

Twisted Sister’s one and only successful album went triple platinum thanks to the singles “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock.” The MTV videos for these two songs were huge hits, which helped the band sell a lot more albums than from just rock radio exposure alone. “We’re Not Gonna Take It” remains an iconic metal anthem for the ages.

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Metallica – Reload

3 x platinum

Metallica Reload

 

In 1997, Metallica released Reload, the companion album to 1996′s Load. Stylistically, Reload is identical to Load, but doesn’t pack as much of a punch. “The Memory Remains,” “Fuel,” and “The Unforgiven II” were the hit songs from Reload, which was embraced by alternative rock radio in the 90′s.

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Europe – The Final Countdown

3 x platinum

Europe The Final Countdown

Europe released their best selling album The Final Countdown in 1986, which is often labeled as glam metal. Their haircuts were ridiculous in their videos, and clearly had some American glam metal influence. Their big hit was the inescapable “The Final Countdown,” which featured a brassy keyboard synthesizer hook and a pop chorus. While this album leans more towards hard rock than glam metal, the album has other cuts and cliches like “Carrie” and “Rock the Night” which feature some glam elements.

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Korn – Issues

3 x platinum

Korn Issues

The definining moment in many band’s careers are following up their breakthrough album. Follow the Leader was a monumental moment for Korn, and all of the nu metal copycats were watching. Korn responded by removing the hip hop element from Issues, making this release more alternative metal than nu metal. The lead single “Falling Away From Me” was a big hit, with the accompanying video receiving a lot of MTV attention. “Make Me Bad” and “Somebody, Someone” also received radio airplay.

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Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine

3 x platinum

Nine Inch Nails Pretty Hate Machine

The debut album from Nine Inch Nails was a synthpop-industrial rock masterpiece, praised for its originality and catchy grooves. Released in late 1989, the world got their first taste of NIN with “Down In It,” the first single from Pretty Hate Machine. The second single, “Head Like a Hole,” would prove to be their most popular song from the album, with “Sin” being released later in 1990. After the success of the album, radio stations began to play “Sanctify” and “Terrible Lie,” making it the NIN album with the most radio hits.

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Poison – Look What the Cat Dragged In

3 x platinum

Poison Look What the Cat Dragged In

Don’t puke, this really sold three million copies, an unimaginable feat for the most contemporary pop, country, or hip-hop superstar of today. Poison’s Look What the Cat Dragged In was their debut album, featuring the band at their very most glam on the album cover (and maybe the origination of the duck lips pose?). The album caught a lot of flack from “real” metal fans, but the sales numbers don’t lie. People liked it. The album contained four big singles: “I Want Action,” “Cry Tough,” “I Won’t Forget You,” and “Talk Dirty to Me.”

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Poison – Flesh and Blood

3 x platinumPoison Flesh and Blood

Poison’s third studio album, Flesh & Blood, also hit triple platinum status in 1991. Like their previous album, it hit #2 on the Billboard 200. The success of the album was largely driven by the singles “Unskinny Bop” and “Something to Believe In.” The final single from the album, “(Flesh & Blood) Sacrifice,” was released in July 1991, just two months before the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind. After this album, the rock and metal landscape would be entirely different, and Poison would fire its guitarist C.C. DeVille. Their next album failed to reach the success of Flesh & Blood, only reaching gold status.

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Rob Zombie – Hellybilly Deluxe

3 x platinum

Rob Zombie Hellbilly Deluxe

After the massively successful Astro Creep 2000, White Zombie seemed to be at the height of their career. When White Zombie singer Rob Zombie released a solo album in 1998, it sold even better than its predecessor Astro Creep, based largely on the song “Dragula,” but also “Living Dead Girl” and “Superbeast.” The album boosted Zombie to cult metal status, with several platinum albums to follow.

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Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine

3 x platinum

Rage Against the Machine

The debut album from Rage Against the Machine released in late 1992 was the introduction of rap metal in a time when alternative, grunge, and hard rock were dominating the airwaves. The predecessor to nu metal, RATM gained cult status for the songs “Bombtrack,” “Killing In the Name,” “Bullet in the Head,” and “Freedom.” These songs were practically inescapable during the mid 90′s.

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Rage Against the Machine – Evil Empire

3 x platinum

Rage Against the Machine Evil Empire

Rage garnered themselves another triple platinum status album with the release of Evil Empire in 1996. Touring extensively between the two albums, they released the song “Bulls on Parade” months prior to the release of Empire. The single was a massive hit, pushing the album to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 in April 16, 1996. It was followed by the success of the aggressive singles “People of the Sun,” “Down Rodeo,” and “Vietnow.”

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Cinderella – Night Songs

3 x platinum

Cinderella Night Songs

If you know the right people, doors can open. Cinderella opened for Bon Jovi on the Slippery When Wet tour, which was the most successful album at the time, immediately shining a spotlight on glam metal act Cinderella in 1986. The song “Nobody’s Fool,” a typical 80′s power ballad, was a big hit for Cinderella, hitting #13 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album Night Songs peaked at #3.

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Cinderella – Long Cold Winter

3 x platinum

Cinderella Long Cold Winter

Just like Night Songs, sales of Long Cold Winter (1988) were largely the result of the success of just one single. In this case, it was “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone).” While the album spawned other successful singles, none had the staying power of “Don’t Know What You Got.” Long Cold Winter saw the band embarking on a more blues oriented path, straying from the glam metal style that made them popular. Their third album, Heartbreak Station, released in 1990, went platinum, while their fourth album, Still Climbing (1994), charted at #174, and quickly dropped from the charts.

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Papa Roach – Infest

3 x platinum

Papa Roach Infest

“Cut my life into pieces / This is my last resort…” When you heard those opening lines back in the day, you knew to change the station crank it up. Papa Roach’s triple platinum album Infest sold incredibly well in the year 2000, backed by three popular singles, “Last Resort,” “Broken Home,” and “Between Angels and Insects.” This album piggybacked on the very popular rap metal movement which was at its peak in 2000, helping Infest album sell over three million copies in the USA. All three successful singles also saw round-the-clock airing of accompanying videos on MTV. Over their next two albums, Papa Roach would entirely abandon rapping in favor of traditional alternative metal, while later reincorporating rap metal elements on their 2012 album The Connection.

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P.O.D. – Satellite

3 x platinum

P.O.D. Satellite

P.O.D., much like Papa Roach, were in the right place at the right time. Nu metal was at its absolute peak in 2001 when Satellite was released. Their prior album, The Fundamental Elements of Southtown, had already gone platinum, leading to much anticipation for their next album. Their first single, “Alive,” was well received, with constant MTV airplay for its positive message. Even more successful was the second single, “Youth of the Nation,” which was inspired by school shootings. The next two singles, “Boom” and “Satellite” received plenty of airplay throughout 2002, leading to a triple platinum album for P.O.D.

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Audioslave – Audioslave

3 x platinum

Audioslave debut album

It was an unlikely pairing no one ever dreamed of.  Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell joined up with Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilke of Rage Against the Machine, resulting in one of the first supergroups of the 2000′s. With the demise of both of these major bands while at their peak, it was only logical that they would continue. While some of their material sounded much like you’d expect: Rage with Cornell singing, the band evolved into their own over the years. Their debut album, however, remained their bestseller for the songs “Cochise,” “I Am the Highway,” “Like a Stone,” and “Show Me How to Live.” These songs were played extensively on rock radio, resulting in a triple platinum album for Audioslave.

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Ozzy Osbourne – Diary of a Madman

3 x platinum

Ozzy Osbourne Diary of a Madman

Diary of a Madman is where Ozzy and Rhoads really found their stride, along with uncredited members of the time Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake. The songs “Over the Mountain,” “Flying High Again,” “You Can’t Kill Rock and Roll,” and “Diary of a Madman” were all played on rock radio, resulting in another album three times platinum for Ozzy.

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Ozzy Osbourne – Bark at the Moon

3 x platinum

Ozzy Osbourne Bark at the Moon

The third solo album from Ozzy was the first one without acclaimed guitarist Randy Rhoads. It was a difficult time for the Osbourne camp, but due to the successful single backed by regular MTV airplay, the album Bark at the Moon went triple platinum. Surprisingly, the album has but one successful radio single, which is telling of the popularity of Ozzy then and now.

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Ratt – Out of the Cellar

3 x platinum

Ratt Out of the Cellar

The debut album from Ratt was a significant part of the glam metal movement that occurred in the mid 80′s, thanks in large part to the highly successful single and MTV video “Round and Round.” The songs “Back for More,” “Lack of Communication,” and “Wanted Man” were also successful singles for this triple platinum album, which is also Ratt’s most successful.

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What do you think of the albums featured here? Were you surprised by the list? What bands aren’t featured that you think should be? There are some obvious ones that didn’t make the cut, like Slayer, Pantera, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Megadeth. Which albums are your favorites, and which sell more copies than you think they deserve to? Let us know in the comments.

Best selling albums of all time (covers)

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Artik Chauhan October 26, 2013 at 6:18 pm

ALICE iN CHAINS!!! Awsome

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dko October 28, 2013 at 2:59 am

Very Good!!!

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John March 23, 2014 at 9:23 pm

Rust in Peace? Vulgar Displag of Power? Reign in Blood? Painkiller? Death Magnetic??????

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Mike March 24, 2014 at 9:57 am

I know it sucks doesn’t it? US metal sales are definitely not great.

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the perfect one April 21, 2014 at 12:28 pm

guns and roses is not metal though, so, we can exclude them. that means metallica is the biggest selling of all time.

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Mike April 21, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Thanks for the comment, but they are absolutely considered metal, especially Appetite For Destruction. They are closer to the hard rock side of things for sure but so is The Black Album.

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Jose Cruz August 22, 2014 at 5:06 pm

I would regard as proper heavy metal among the ones that went 6 times platinum or more only the Metallica albums Master of Puppets, Ride the Lightning and Justice for All.

I am a purist who thinks heavy metal is only proper heavy metal, like Judas Priest from 1976 to 1978.

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Jose Cruz August 22, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Though it is subjective the distinction between heavy metal and non-heavy metal but I wouldn’t consider Korn, AC/DC and Gun’s and Roses heavy metal. This looks like more a list of best selling albums that feature heavy guitar distortion.

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Mike Lawrence August 23, 2014 at 10:52 am

Korn is nu metal, Guns’ first album is definitely metal and yes AC/DC is probably more hard rock but I’m pretty sure they’re not on this list anyway,

mark May 6, 2014 at 5:55 pm

AC/DC?????

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Mike Lawrence May 7, 2014 at 9:34 pm

Hard rock, not metal

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Hari May 17, 2014 at 5:56 am

I don’t think GNR was metal. They were a hard rock group.

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Mike Lawrence May 17, 2014 at 6:35 am

They were also considered metal, especially on Appetite for Destruction.

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David H August 13, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Def Leppard? Only band on this list with TWO 10x platinum selling albums. Yes, they have moved closer to hard rock, but Pyromania is as “heavy” if not heavier that Appetite.

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Ian August 15, 2014 at 9:22 am

Good call David. Some of the exclusions are strange like Leppard but Whitesname 1987 is in (which i love). Also it says Quiet Riot influenced Leppard. What? Pyromania was already multi platinum when Metal Health was released and Pyro was Lep’s 3rd album.who influenced who?

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Mike Lawrence August 16, 2014 at 6:42 am

Metal Health was also Quiet Riot’s third album. Riot released their first two albums in 1977 and 1978. Those both came before Leppard’s debut in 1980. Therefore they were a huge influence on Leppard. Also Pyromania and Metal Health were released in the same year.

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Ian August 15, 2014 at 9:23 am

Meant to type whitesnake

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mark August 19, 2014 at 11:54 am

Why arent there any megadeth albums here, 6 or 7 of them went platinum and they certainly outsold crap like Korn, Poisen or Ratts material

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Mike Lawrence August 20, 2014 at 7:57 am

Yes platinum, but this list only contains bands that are 3x platinum or higher in the U.S. None of Megadeth’s albums hit that mark. Although we agree with you that they damn well should have.

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Eduardo Moran August 24, 2014 at 9:16 pm

Lo mejor del heavy esta en Europa. Aunque no lo crean falta el álbum de queen (QUEEN II) el único albun heavy de la legendaria banda de rock. Muy infravalorado y igual que su antecesor (QUEEN I). Escúchelos y sabrán de lo que hablo. Mejores de mucho ellos son (RUST INT PEACE) (PAINKILER) (MELISSA) (SAD WINGS OF DESTINY) (POWERSLAVE) (THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST) (DENFENDERS OF THE FAIT) (PARANOID) (MASTER OF REALITY) (HEAVEN AND HELL) (THE ULTRA-VIOLENCE) (THE TIME OF THE OATH) (BLIZZARD OF OZZ) (SWALLOWED IN BLACK) (DENIM AND LEATHER) ((ACE OF SPADES) (MACHINE HEAD) y me quedo corto…. Y si se trata de Gringolandia, recuerden (RUST INT PEACE en mi opinión el mejor disco de Trash de la historia) (HOLY DIVER) (VULGAR DISPLAY OF POWER) (REIGN IN BLOOD) (VAN HALEN) y tambien me quedo corto…. en ves de que colocan casi toda la discográfica de Metallica (LA TIENEN EN BANDEJA DE PLATA)

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Blayze October 18, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Half these albums aren’t even Metal…Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, and Kid Rock were never, ever metal. Just because people who know metal apply that label to something doesn’t make it true. And really GNR were not/are not metal either but at least they were a kick ass hard rock band with some metal influences.

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Mike Lawrence October 20, 2014 at 10:37 am

That’s your opinion and we appreciate it but LB, Linkin Parks’s first few albums and Kid Rock’s Devil Without A Case can all, fortunately or unfortunately however you want to look at it, be considered metal. Nu Metal is a metal subgenre so they count. Just like glam metal is a metal subgenre even though some purists would not consider that metal either. Is nu metal as heavy as the other stuff? Certainly not but it is still classified as metal. Also Guns N’ Roses were hard rock in some ways but Appetite For Destruction is metal through and through. Just listen to the raw power and riffs contained on that album. The Use Your Illusions also have a lot of metal influence in them.

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sabrina October 22, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Metal,heavy metal,rock,hard rock,speed metal, think of the times they came out. I feel the list is right on the mark. Good job.

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