Some people say that metal is one of those genres that are very “niche” and that it doesn’t have mainstream appeal, but there have been several bands that have proved that notion wrong. While the list of best-selling albums is typically dominated by pop artists including Michael Jackson and The Beatles, there have been plenty of successful metal groups that have made big waves on the charts.
Of all of the highest-selling albums of all time, you may be surprised to find out just how many of them would be considered metal. With millions of copies sold worldwide, these albums are iconic for having great hits from the start to the end. Here are the five best-selling metal albums of all time and what made them so beloved by fans worldwide.
1. Back in Black by AC/DC
In the Summer of 1980, AC/DC released their seventh studio album, Back in Black, with new frontman Brian Johnson. It showcases some of their greatest hits like Back in Black, You Shook Me All Night Long, Hells Bells, and Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution. The album is responsible for what some claim was the rise in the popularity of metal at a worldwide level. Back in Black has kept its place as the second best-selling album of all time and the number one best-selling metal album of all time, with an estimated 50 million copies having been sold worldwide.
2. Led Zeppelin IV by Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin IV by Led Zeppelin is one of the highest-earning metal albums of all time. Released in 1971, Led Zeppelin’s fourth studio album sold over 37 million copies worldwide. Some of the most popular songs on Led Zeppelin IV include Black Dog, Stairway to Heaven, and Misty Mountain Hop. It’s the band’s best-selling album and helped earn them the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and were honored at the annual Kennedy Center Honors.
3. Hybrid Theory by Linkin Park
Linkin Park’s debut studio album, Hybrid Theory, is one of the best-selling nu-metal albums of all time. Released in late 2000, the album sold 27 million copies worldwide, making it the best-selling debut album of the century and the second best-selling album worldwide in 2001. Some of the most popular songs featured include One Step Closer, Papercut, Crawling, and their biggest hit In The End. Linkin Park’s new sound, combined with incredible vocals by Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda, earned Hybrid Theory the #2 spot on the US Billboard 200.
4. Appetite for Destruction by Guns N Roses
Released in the Summer of 1987, Guns N Roses’s debut studio album Appetite for Destruction stands as the band’s most popular pieces of work and one of the best-selling metal albums of all time. Appetite for Destruction has sold over 30 million copies worldwide and features largely popular songs like Paradise City, Mr. Brownstone, Welcome to the Jungle, and Sweet Child o’ no Mine. The album reached #1 on the US Billboard 200 and Rolling Stones placed it #62 in the 500 greatest albums of all time.
5. The Black Album by Metallica
Metallica’s fifth studio album, Metallica, also known as The Black Album, was released in the Summer of 1991 and is one of the best-selling heavy metal albums of all time. The Black Album sold over 31 million copies worldwide, reaching 16x platinum in the United States alone. It also spent four consecutive weeks at the #1 spot on the US Billboard 200. A year after its release, The Black Album earned a Grammy for Best Metal Performance. Some of Metallica’s most popular songs are featured on the album, they include The Unforgiven, Enter Sandman, Nothing Else Matters, and Wherever I May Roam. All of which were solely written by the band’s frontman James Hetfield.