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Metallica’s Influences: How They Reinvented Heavy Metal

Metallica stands as a towering figure in the history of heavy metal, shaping the genre’s trajectory and legacy. In the early ’90s, their influence was instrumental in thrusting heavy metal music into the mainstream, carving a path for countless bands to follow.

Metallicas influences, back and forth in a concise infographic

In the chart above, we explore the diverse array of artists that served as the guiding lights for Metallica’s creative power, alongside delving into the profound impact this iconic band had on subsequent musical generations.

Which Bands Shaped Metallica’s Sound?

Hailing from the realms of British heavy metal, punk, and hard rock, many bands left their mark on Metallica. Bands like Queen, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate, UFO, Misfits, The Ramones, and Thin Lizzy became fundamentals for the unique sound envisioned by these Trash-Metal heroes.


Queen’s 1974 track “Stone Cold Crazy” is often hailed as a precursor to speed metal. As you may probably know, Metallica have embraced this song in particular with their powerful renditions. But beyond that, guitarists James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett are ardent admirers of Brian May, drawing inspiration from his techniques. Queen, with their diverse styles, particularly in their early albums, left a lasting impression on Metallica’s music. You can even hear shades of Queen in Metallica’s iconic track “Master of Puppets.”

Of course, we have included Metallica in Queen’s influence chart.


Motörhead stands out prominently among Metallica’s influences. Led by the legendary Lemmy Kilmister, Motörhead’s lightning-fast, aggressive, and distorted sound deeply influenced Metallica’s trajectory toward thrash metal. For instance, when Metallica wrote “Whiplash” for their debut album “Kill ’em All” (1983), Metallica sought to channel Motörhead’s energy. Lemmy, revered as a “godfather” of the genre by Hetfield, left an indelible mark on Metallica’s sonic landscape.

Black Sabbath

The impact of Black Sabbath on Metallica is undeniable. When James Hetfield first listened to Black Sabbath‘s eponymous debut album, he was really impressed by how heavy, dark, and unusual it sounded. Metallica even had the honor of inducting Black Sabbath into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 2006, with Lars Ulrich acknowledging Sabbath’s profound influence in his speech. Metallica’s reverence for Black Sabbath is further evident in their covers of Sabbath’s timeless classics.

Thin Lizzy

Hailing from Ireland, Thin Lizzy left an indelible mark on hard rock and heavy metal. Their solid sound and harmonized guitars left a lasting impression on Metallica, with frontman Phil Lynott earning particular praise from frontman James Hetfield. Lynott’s compositions, especially tracks like “The Boys are Back in Town” and “Jailbreak,” resonated deeply with Metallica, with late bassist Cliff Burton being an avid Thin Lizzy follower.


The Misfits hold a special place within Metallica’s influences from the punk rock realm. Not only known for their fast and aggressive music style, but The Misfits also adopted a recognizable visual aesthetic inspired by horror movies. Bassist Cliff Burton, a fan of The Misfits, introduced their music to Metallica. This influence is evident in Metallica’s covers of The Misfits’ tracks on their “Garage Inc.” album (1998), including “Last Caress,” “Green Hell,” and “Die Die My Darling.”

If you want to know more about punk rock bands that influenced Metallica, you can learn more in our post about The Ramones’ influence chart.

Judas Priest and Iron Maiden

Metallica’s Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield have both acknowledged the profound impact of British metal pioneers like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest on their musical journey. The aggressive, fast-paced, and ambitious music of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest played a pivotal role in shaping Metallica’s thrash metal sound. Judas Priest’s departure from blues influences in their heavy rock style and Iron Maiden’s seminal albums like “Killers” (1981) and “The Number of the Beast” (1983) solidified their influence on Metallica and the broader heavy metal genre.


Emerging in the mid-1980s, Soundgarden proved to be a seminal band for the rock scene of the ’90s. Their heavy rock approach with alternative and psychedelic elements made them stand out. Metallica’s covers of Soundgarden’s songs and Kirk Hammett’s riff in “Enter Sandman” being influenced by them underscore Soundgarden’s significance in Metallica’s musical lexicon. For more insight, you can explore the Soundgarden influence chart.

Other notable bands that left their mark on Metallica include UFO, Mercyful Fate, AC/DC, and Deep Purple.

What bands were influenced by Metallica?

Other notable bands that left their mark on Metallica include UFO, Mercyful Fate, AC/DC, and Deep Purple.


From their eponymous debut album onward, Halestorm has seamlessly integrated Metallica’s heavy sound into their own musical identity. With blistering guitar riffs and ferocious energy, many of Halestorm’s tracks bear the unmistakable influence of Metallica. Lead vocalist and guitarist Lzzy Hale credits Metallica with introducing her to the world of heavy metal and igniting her passion for the genre.


Tobias Forge, the enigmatic leader of the Swedish band Ghost, is an unabashed Metallica aficionado, boasting an impressive knowledge of their discography. Ghost’s heavy, eclectic sound, infused with elements of hair and sleaze metal, owes a debt to Metallica’s pioneering work. For Ghost, Metallica’s influence extends beyond just music; their dark, Lovecraft-themed lyrics draw inspiration from Metallica’s own haunting imagery.

Alice in Chains

Jerry Cantrell, the guitarist and primary songwriter for Alice in Chains, is both a friend and a fan of Metallica. Cantrell has spoken highly of Metallica‘s self-titled album (often referred to as the “Black Album”), praising its composition and production. As Metallica transitioned towards a more polished sound, Alice in Chains found inspiration in their eclectic musical arrangements. This influence played a significant role in shaping Alice in Chains’ brooding, heavy sound, solidifying their position as one of the Grunge era’s heaviest bands.


Renowned for their complex compositions and intricate guitar work, Mastodon has drawn heavily from Metallica’s musical legacy. The harmonized guitars, a hallmark of both bands, reflect Metallica’s enduring influence on Mastodon’s sound. Guitarist Bill Kelliher attributes much of Mastodon’s musical inspiration to Metallica, particularly citing Metallica’s albums like “Ride The Lightning” (1984), “Master of Puppets” (1986), and “…And Justice for All” (1988) as formative influences.

Lacuna Coil

For Lacuna Coil, Metallica’s seminal album “Master of Puppets” was a pivotal influence in shaping their musical trajectory. Lead vocalist Andrea Ferro has spoken about the profound impact Metallica’s music had on Lacuna Coil’s sound. Likewise, Ferro’s counterpart, vocalist Cristina Scabbia, credits Metallica’s “Black Album” as her gateway into heavy metal. From their inception, Lacuna Coil drew from Metallica’s thrash metal roots, infusing their unique brand of gothic metal with elements of Metallica’s signature style.


Dimebag Darrell, the guitarist for Pantera, was a vocal admirer of Metallica, particularly praising Kirk Hammett for his aggressive and lightning-fast guitar style. Pantera’s own evolution from their early metal roots to a more commercially successful sound mirrored Metallica’s trajectory. Metallica’s influence on Pantera’s musical journey is undeniable, with both bands leaving an indelible mark on the heavy metal landscape of the ’90s.

System of a Down

System of a Down’s sound bears a striking resemblance to thrash metal, a genre that was gaining prominence thanks to bands like Metallica. Guitarist and composer Daron Malakian has openly acknowledged his debt to thrash metal, citing Metallica as a key influence. Similarly, vocalist Serj Tankian points to Metallica’s “…And Justice for All” as a formative influence on his musical development. As Tankian, this album is also highly regarded by John Dolmayan, SOAD’s drummer. Bassist Shavo Odadjian also holds Metallica in high regard, citing them as a source of inspiration for System of a Down’s unique sound.

Other bands influenced by Metallica include Sepultura, Slipknot, Kittie, Machine Head, Veruca Salt, Nightwish, and Irish hard rock outfit, Therapy?