So you want to be a heavy-metal star? You’re going to need more than a sweet Flying V, arena-crumbling anthems and a decent pair of leather pants. It also helps if you have a “metal-sounding” name, preferably something that sounds vaguely European, larger-than-life and/or sinister.
Some of these 20 metal maestros lucked into their names by birth; others carefully chose a moniker to match their new metalhead identity. But however they came about their handles, it's almost physically impossible to shout their name at a concert without an accompanying fist pump or flash of the devil horns. These are the 20 most metal names in music.
Udo Dirkschneider, former Accept singer
Most metal moment: His slithery howling on Accept’s 1983 metal classic “Balls to the Wall.”
Nicko McBrain, Iron Maiden drummer
Most metal moment: In 2003 while on tour with Iron Maiden, McBrain was arrested in Wantagh, New York, for allegedly driving his Jaguar into a Jones Beach Theater parking lot attendant on purpose, after the attendant asked to see his VIP credentials a second time.
Lars Ulrich, Metallica drummer
Most metal achievements: The monumental Kill ’Em All, Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets troika.
Nikki Sixx, Motley Crue bassist
Most metal moment: On Dec. 23, 1987, Sixx overdosed on heroin and was pronounced dead before being revived with two shots of adrenaline. After shaking loose from his medical help, he bummed a ride home and shot up again, then wrote a hit song about the experience, “Kickstart My Heart.” (Honorable mention: Answering a journalist's question during a 1984 backstage interview by banging Crue drummer Tommy Lee's head into a table.)
Bobby Blotzer, Ratt drummer
Most metal moment: An incident involving Ozzy Osbourne, a shoe and the utilization of footwear in a manner for which it was never intended.
Yngwie Malmsteen, guitarist and solo artist
Most metal achievement: Melding his love of Deep Purple’s ’70s thud and Niccolo Paganini’s ornate 19th-century compositions to create neoclassical metal … also, surviving a 1987 coma-causing, arm-paralyzing car wreck to create the classic shred-fest Odyssey.
Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath singer and solo artist
Most metal moments: So many to choose from, but probably a three-way tie between: biting the head off of a real bat (which Ozzy thought was a fake, rubber bat) an audience member threw onstage during a 1982 Des Moines, Iowa, concert; biting the head off a live dove (which an intoxicated Ozzy totally knew was real) during a 1981 meeting with Columbia Records execs; and urinating on a monument at the Alamo in 1982.
Lemmy Kilmister, late Motorhead bassist/singer
Most metal achievement: 40 years of speed, Jack Daniels and groupie-devouring badassery, not to mention stockpiling an impressive Nazi memorabilia collection.
Gar Samuelson, late ex-Megadeth drummer
Most metal achievement: The brutal, jazz-dropped-off-a-skyscraper rhythms on Megadeth’s first two LPs, Killing Is My Business… and Business Is Good! and Peace Sells… But Who's Buying?
Carlos Cavazo, ex–Quiet Riot, Ratt guitarist
Most metal achievement: Faced with the daunting task of following Randy Rhoads as Quiet Riot’s guitarist, Cavazo played on the Los Angeles band’s breakthrough 1983 LP, Metal Health, the first heavy-metal album ever to top the Billboard 200 album chart. He even co-wrote several songs on the disc, including the hit title track.
Sebastian Bach, ex–Skid Row singer and solo artist
Most metal achievements: Simmering in bulging, shiny pants on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1991, and his hellish yelp at the beginning of the Skid Row track “Monkey Business.”
Jan Kuehnemund, late Vixen guitarist
Most metal moment: Her glorious, backlit, Aqua Net–built hairdo and sultry guitar solo in the “Edge of a Broken Heart” video.
Matthias Jabs, Scorpions guitarist
Most metal achievement: Getting the Scorpions gig after the band reportedly auditioned around 140 (!) other guitarists.
Blaze Bayley, ex-Iron Maiden and Wolfsbane singer, solo artist
Most metal achievement: Being Iron Maiden's frontman for, like, five years.
Angus Young, AC/DC guitarist
Most metal achievement: The “Highway to Hell” riff.
Zakk Wylde, ex–Ozzy Osbourne guitarist, solo artist, Black Label Society frontman
Most metal achievements: His transformation from pretty-boy guitar sidekick to grizzled-biker, denim-metal lord who won’t stop playing a guitar solo even when his hand is spewing blood.
K.K. Downing, ex–Judas Priest guitarist
Most metal achievements: “Electric Eye” dual-guitar daggers with Glenn Tipton, and holding his own in the leather-and-metal-studs department onstage with Priest singer Rob Halford.
Uli Jon Roth, ex-Scorpions guitarist and solo artist
Most metal achievement: Being Metallica guitar god Kirk Hammett’s own personal guitar god.
Eddie Van Halen, Van Halen guitarist
Most metal moment: The 102 seconds of atom-splitting guitar genius known as “Eruption” that literally reinvented rock guitar.
Klaus Meine, Scorpions vocalist
Most metal moment: Singing from inside a This Is Spinal Tap–style transparent pod at the beginning of Scorpions’ bombastic “Rock You Like a Hurricane” music video.