The Wide World of Heavy Metal Bands and Genres

You might be surprised where some of the biggest heavy metal bands and genres in the world are from—and what countries have the most metalheads. (Psst: Check out our list of essential Metal bands at the end of this article.)

The Wide World of Heavy Metal Bands and Genres
Wyatt Marshall
Wyatt Marshall
November 25, 20229 min read
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Even if it’s not in your regular rotation, you know Heavy Metal when you hear it—and you can picture its jean- and leather-bedecked fans. While legions of heshers dutifully pack stadiums the world over to see the genre’s living legends perform year after year—the double-headlining duo of Mötley Crüe and Def Leppard achieved the fifth-highest average box office gross per city among all music tours this year, beating out the likes of Ed Sheeran, Kenny Chesney, and Harry Styles, and road warriors Iron Maiden ranked 12th—the nuances and myriad subcultures and subgenres that exist beneath the Heavy Metal banner are at arm’s length from mainstream popular music.

Iron Maiden's top cities on digital platforms are primarily located in Latin American markets.

For listeners of a certain age and nationality, that could be due in part to the fact that in recent decades metal has received limited radio airplay in the United States, save for Hair Metal throwbacks and a distinct Nü-Metal offshoot that broke into the mainstream (and your local gym). Yet the genre holds a large cultural sway, whether as universal adrenaline fuel or as a foundational character trait for a misunderstood Stranger Things hero. And its fans are fiercely loyal—a 2015 Spotify study declared Heavy Metal fans to be the most loyal fans of any genre. Looking at Metal listening data from around the world, we can follow the undercurrent that bubbles beneath the surface, transcends borders, and unites subcultures with the power of the riff.

Taking a global view and measuring by the average number of monthly Spotify listeners for Metal acts, Latin and South American megacities show their Heavy Metal colors, with Sao Paolo, Mexico City, and Santiago at the top. In these cities, Metal artists have seen on average more than 2.5K monthly listeners on Spotify over the last three years, and those listener bases have listened to more than 3.8K artists.

The World's Most Diverse Metal Cities

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While we might expect that the average number of monthly listeners for Metal bands would be considerably higher in some of the world’s largest metropolises, what is notable is the breadth of the listening in these supercities. In comparatively smaller yet still large neighboring cities Rio de Janeiro and Guadalajara, Metal bands have seen on average a relatively modest 2K monthly listeners, but, more notably, those audience bases have listened to considerably fewer artists—1,425 artists in Guadalajara and 1,050 in Rio de Janeiro per month. And in Belo Horizonte—home to the influential band Sepultura and its esteemed offshoots, and where the average metal artist sees 2,160 monthly listeners—listeners have spread their listening across just 400 artists.

Sepultura's top cities on digital platforms are primarily located in Latin American markets.

The breadth of listening in select cities points to thriving regional Heavy Metal scenes. At the highest end of the spectrum of the Top 50 cities in terms of average monthly listeners for metal acts, Chicago stands out as the most voracious, with Chicagoans listening to more than 4.6K different Metal bands each month.

It takes waves of new bands to sustain this kind of listening, and while it doesn’t necessarily offer the same prospect of riches and celebrity that await breakout artists in dominant mainstream genres like Hip-Hop and Pop, legions of new Metal bands enter the fray every year. Over the past three years, the number of Metal artists in Chartmetric’s databases has doubled, with more than 100K acts currently accounted for. And though legacy Metal acts and early aughts Nü-Metal dominate global listening consumption, some cities lean further into discovery than others, giving smaller and up-and-coming bands a go and keeping the Heavy Metal flame burning bright.

Children of Bodom's top cities on digital platforms are split between Northern Europe, Latin America, and the United States.

It’s no surprise that Metal-mad Scandinavia, the birthplace of one of Metal’s most extreme subgenres, Black Metal, as well as influential regional brands of Death Metal, is near the fore. In Finland, home to the highest number of Metal bands per capita (42 per 100K people) and where Metal regularly populates the charts, listeners in Helsinki embrace the new and relatively unknown. In a given month, Metal fans in Helsinki are listening to more than 4K different Metal artists, and they’ve got homegrown heroes on heavy rotation. Finnish bands like the Death Metal pioneers Amorphis (who branched out into more accessible sounds following their first few albums), Folk Metal band Korpiklaani, and the disbanded Melodic Death Metal act Children of Bodom are regularly among the Metal bands with the most monthly listeners on Spotify in Helsinki, but they don’t crack the Top 100 in other top Metal markets. And among the Top 50 cities for Metal listenership globally, artists who released their first album after 2010 have seen the highest number of monthly listeners in the Finnish capital over the last two years, illustrating the appetite for new Metal. Finnish listeners also seek out and listen to unsigned artists in some of the largest numbers among top Metal cities. All told, with a metro population of a little over a million, Helsinki Metal fans listen to nearly as many bands as Metal listeners in the much bigger, and also Metal-heavy, markets of Mexico City and Los Angeles.

Top Metal Cities for New and Unsigned Artists

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Other top Metal cities skew even further toward embracing recent releases, but without the same scale and breadth that Helsinki brings to the table. In Birmingham, England, the birthplace of genre pioneers Black Sabbath, and Brasilia, the average date of first release—a proxy for a band’s age—for top Metal bands was 22 and 23 years ago respectively, compared with 28 years in Helsinki. Meanwhile, in Sao Paulo, Mexico City, Sydney, and other cities, the classics hold considerable sway, and the average date of first release for top bands was more than 30 years ago. While Birmingham gave us Sabbath, these days Metalcore and other Alternative offshoots have taken hold there, with postmillennial acts like Bring Me the Horizon, Trivium, and Bullet for My Valentine among the most popular with Spotify Metal listeners. In Sao Paulo and Mexico City, by comparison, veterans like Metallica, Scorpions, and Metal progenitors KISS are Top 10 staples.

Black Sabbath's top cities on digital platforms are split between Northern Europe, Latin America, and the United States.

Those veteran bands are among the top acts globally, too, and there isn’t a whole lot of movement at the top. While it’s intriguing to see Metallica become the highest-ranked Metal band by Chartmetric Artist Score, an aggregation of listening and social media engagement, in the third quarter of 2022 following their memorable Stranger Things sync, the most striking shift at the upper echelons of Metal in recent years has come, fittingly, from Scandinavia. The theatrically subversive Swedish Metal band Ghost has ridden infectious, Pop-savvy retro Psychedelia and a few viral moments to break through into the mainstream, becoming the eighth most popular Metal band in the world as measured by Chartmetric Artist Score. Despite landing successively higher debuts on the Billboard 200 with each successive release, the band’s Chartmetric Artist Score only began to rub shoulders with those of the heavyweights of the genre in the second half of 2022.

Top Metal Artists in the World

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And that score doesn’t fully capture the magnitude of Ghost’s movement—Metal fans don’t just stream, they buy physical albums at high rates across formats and push Metal releases to the top of album sales charts. When Ghost’s most recent record, Impera, was released in March, it topped Billboard’s Top Album Sales chart with 62,500 units sold and slotted in at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. The Progressive Metal band Gojira, hardly a household name, also earned the top Album Sales spot in 2021 with their album Fortitude, beating out DJ Khaled’s Khaled Khaled in physical sales when they debuted.

During this period, Ghost’s Chartmetric Artist Score jumped significantly, rising from the 63rd-highest score among Metal artists to the 17th. It’s been a stunning rise, one that kicked into an even higher gear in recent months after the band’s 2019 song “Mary on a Cross” went viral on TikTok, earning the kinds of sped-up and “slowed and reverbed” remixes usually reserved for Pop and Hip-Hop tracks. The song subsequently shot up to No. 90 on the Billboard 100 in September on the back of 6M streams in the United States.

While Metal’s origins and some of its best-known acts reflect an international makeup, when it comes to global consumption, the United States has produced the lion’s share of top Metal bands. Measured by Chartmetric Artist Score, the US regularly accounts for well over half of the top Metal bands globally and has become even more dominant in this regard since 2020. The rest of the Top 10 countries for producing Metal stars reflects the genre’s origin story, with the United Kingdom, home to Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and many more, in second, with some distance between second and third.

Top Metal Artists by Country of Origin

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Though there is considerable concentration in terms of where today’s global superstars have come from, a Metal fan looking for some of the most exciting Metal being made today would want to keep tabs beyond the English-speaking world. Regional hotbeds with thriving undergrounds exist the world over, from new evolutions of Black Metal taking shape in the Netherlands to hordes of brutal Death Metal bands that call Indonesia home. Notably, South and Latin American countries don’t appear in the Top 10 superstar-producing markets despite being some of the largest markets in terms of the average number of monthly Spotify listeners for Metal acts and hosting vibrant local Metal scenes.

Seen from a distance through the lens of listening data, Metal shows to be a truly global genre, with regional hotspots reflective of particularly fervent fandoms and active scenes. As a relatively young sound, given the explosions of subgenres and scenes in the 1980s and '90s, many of Metal’s greats who laid the blueprint are still at it, and their cultural capital is massive—living legends like Metallica and the rest of the Big Four, Sabbath, and Maiden are the lingua franca across Metal markets (along with radio-ready Nü-Metal). But the underground is alive and well, and breakouts like Ghost show there’s room to bring new sounds to the main stage. So while Heavy Metal’s heroes will always bring out the faithful en masse, the culture’s grassroots continue to thrive, pushing distorted riffs into new and unexpected territory year after year.

Listen to the artists

Iron Maiden

  • Chartmetric Artist Rank: 870
  • Subgenre: New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM)
  • Hometown: London, England

“The Number of the Beast” (1982; Live at Rock in Rio 2001)

Black Sabbath

  • Chartmetric Artist Rank: 513
  • Subgenre: Classic Metal
  • Hometown: Birmingham, England

“War Pigs” (1970) 


  • Chartmetric Artist Rank: 139
  • Subgenre: Thrash
  • Hometown: Los Angeles/San Francisco, United States

“Master of Puppets” (1986)


  • Chartmetric Artist Rank: 939
  • Subgenre: Classic Metal
  • Hometown: Linköping, Sweden

"Square Hammer" (2016)


  • Chartmetric Artist Rank: 7,386
  • Subgenre: Groove/Thrash Metal
  • Hometown: Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Chaos A.D. (1993)


  • Chartmetric Artist Rank: 308,657
  • Subgenre: (Atmospheric) Black Metal
  • Hometown: Bennekom, The Netherlands

Gegrepen Door de Geest der Zielsontluiking (2021)


  • Chartmetric Artist Rank: 544,379
  • Subgenre: (Atmospheric) Black Metal
  • Hometown: Nijmegen, The Netherlands

“Merode” (2020)


  • Chartmetric Artist Rank: 751,936
  • Subgenre: (Brutal) Death Metal
  • Hometown: Bekasi, Indonesia

Altar of Decomposed (2021)


  • Chartmetric Artist Rank: 19,244
  • Subgenre: Melodic Death Metal/Heavy Metal
  • Hometown: Helsinki, Finland

Tales From The Thousand Lakes (1994)


  • Chartmetric Artist Rank: 78,447
  • Subgenre: Folk Metal
  • Hometown: Helsinki, Finland


Children of Bodom

  • Chartmetric Artist Rank: 16,705
  • Subgenre: Melodic Death Metal
  • Hometown: Espoo, Finland

Follow The Reaper (2000)


  • Chartmetric Artist Rank: 6,382
  • Subgenre: Groove/Death Metal
  • Hometown: Ondres, France

“Born For One Thing” (2021)


  • Chartmetric Artist Rank: 3,292
  • Subgenre: Metalcore
  • Hometown: Orlando, United States

“In The Court Of The Dragon” (2021)

Bring Me The Horizon

  • Chartmetric Artist Rank: 603
  • Subgenre: Metalcore
  • Hometown: Sheffield, England

“Shadow Moses” (2013)

Bullet For My Valentine

  • Chartmetric Artist Rank: 2,767
  • Subgenre: Metalcore
  • Hometown: Bridgend, Wales

“Tears Don’t Fall” (2009)