The Metal GRAMMY: Who Won And Who Should Have Won For Every Year
Tonight, the 62nd GRAMMY Awards will go down in LA, honoring artists whose work in music has changed the world in the past year. This also means there will be a new winner of the Best Metal Performance GRAMMY, an award whose entire history is checkered and dubious. As a rule, the Best Metal GRAMMY is less an honoring of relevant, talented individuals in the world of heavy music and more a chance for the Recording Academy to show the world how little they know about the genre other than that it continues to make money for some reason.
In honor of this long and frustrating tradition, we decided to look at every Best Metal Performance GRAMMY and examine who won versus who should have won. Here’s a breakdown of the last 31 years…
- Who won: Jethro Tull
- Who should’ve won: Metallica
The infamous snub. This was the first-ever metal GRAMMY, then titled Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance, Vocal Or Instrumental, and it showed just how out-of-touch the Recording Academy was with rock music as a whole. An eternal black eye on the awards.
- Who won: Metallica – One
- Who should’ve won: Metallica – One
Finally! Metallica’s win for the first-ever Best Metal Performance GRAMMY felt a little like an apology for the year previous, but hey, you can’t argue with One. Besides, this also showed the world just how important the more hardcore side of metal had become to the music industry.
- Who won: Metallica – Stone Cold Crazy (Live)
- Who should’ve won: Judas Priest – Painkiller
All right, guys, it doesn’t need to be Metallica every time. This is also an example of something the GRAMMYs loves doing with metal: using a live version of a song to either hand the award to a safe-bet band or give a classic act their lifetime achievement award. We all know Painkiller was the right choice here, but Judas Priest probably seemed too intense and old-school.
- Who won: Metallica – The Black Album
- Who should’ve won: Megadeth – Rust In Peace
It’s hard to argue against The Black Album, a massive record with endless staying power. That said, while Metallica were heading in a more rock-oriented direction, Megadeth were refining their thrash sound into something powerful and awesome. It’s understandable while the Academy sided with Enter Sandman, but we can’t help but wish Rust In Peace had gotten its due.
Everyone loves Nine Inch Nails, but they’re not really a metal band. Meanwhile, Ministry were doing something new within heavy music that was risky and evil. Interesting that industrial was the flavor of 1992.
- Who won: Ozzy Osbourne – I Don’t Want To Change The World (Live)
- Who should’ve won: White Zombie – Thunder Kiss ’65
Another live track that gave a classic artist a solid foot in the door. Granted, Ozzy and Black Sabbath certainly deserve their GRAMMYs, but let’s be real here: White Zombie were changing the face of ’90s metal. This feels obvious.
Soundgarden rule, but they’re definitely not metal. Meanwhile, Pantera were the metal band of the era, the one keeping the entire scene alive. Should’ve been Black Tooth Grins all around.
- Who won: Nine Inch Nails – Happiness Is Slavery (live)
- Who should’ve won: White Zombie – More Human Than Human
Nothing like a live track to give the most popular band in heavy music a place on the list. Again, NIN make fantastic music, but they just aren’t metal, and More Human Than Human was the heaviest track on the planet in ’96. It was also everywhere, featured in countless movie trailers and TV broadcasts — a clear sign that it wasn’t just crushing, but relevant. It’s hard to publicly laud a band whose whole persona surrounds corpses and boobs.
It makes sense that the Academy went with Rage here — they felt not only relevant, but socially conscious and interesting to boot. Korn, meanwhile, probably came off as creepy tweakers. That said, Tire Me feels a little random, while Shoots And Ladders is in many ways the track that defined Korn, making it the obvious choice.
- Who won: Tool – Aenema
- Who should’ve won: Tool – Aenema
No question. Tool were conquering the world in the late ’90s, as interesting as they were merciless. Aenema was a massive song from a massive album, that felt like a mission statement for the band. For once, they got it right.
- Who won: Metallica – Better Than You
- Who should’ve won: Rammstein – Du Hast
Even those who love Metallica’s Reload can admit that Better Than You isn’t their greatest moment. But Du Hast was everywhere when it came out, a pulsing declaration of the changing nature of heavy metal. That song changed history, while Better Than You is one of the less powerful from a record most people have never heard all the way through.
- Who won: Black Sabbath – Iron Man (Live)
- Who should’ve won: Black Sabbath – Iron Man (Live)
Sure, this is a live track being used to shoehorn a lifetime achievement award in for Sabbath. But it comes from the Reunion album, which was a massive milestone in heavy music. On top of that, if any band deserve a lifetime achievement award from the Academy, it’s Black Sabbath, so we’ll take it.
The Deftones are great, but Elite? Not a track we all know and love, even if it’s a strong one. Meanwhile, at the turn of the millennium, Slipknot were the biggest, most exciting band in metal. This one was pretty obvious.
- Who won: Tool – Schism
- Who should’ve won: System Of A Down – Chop Suey!
The 2002 GRAMMY is a close call. Schism is an awesome track, and Tool remained relevant and profitable in a way most bands never have. But SOAD were changing the game in 2001, and Chop Suey! is a song that will live on for ages. Neck and neck, but we know which one we’d pick.
- Who won: Korn – Here to Stay
- Who should’ve won: Slipknot – My Plague
See above. Korn’s Here To Stay is a cool, heavy track, but Slipknot were killing it around this time. My Plague is a track showing what no one else could think to do in metal in the early 2000s. Sorry, Bakersfield, but we gotta go Iowa on this one.
- Who won: Metallica – St. Anger
- Who should’ve won: Marilyn Manson – Mobscene
Let’s be real: St. Anger’s win was an example of the Recording Academy awarding an artist for making money rather than making good music. Metallica will always be one of the greatest metal acts in history (if not the greatest), but the world knows that St. Anger is far from their best material. Meanwhile, Manson was long overdue for some recognition given how much he’d given to the music industry.
- Who won: Motörhead – Whiplash (Metallica cover)
- Who should’ve won: Killswitch Engage – The End of Heartache
Motörhead are awesome, and it’s good that they are able to add “GRAMMY-winning” to their press releases now. But Killswitch were the new face of the metal scene at the time, and they weren’t on the ballot playing a cover of the Academy’s darlings. Proof that the kids have nothing to do with this selection process.
- Who won: Slipknot – Before I Forget
- Who should’ve won: Shadows Fall – What Drives The Weak
Once more, two great bands, but one obvious winner. Slipknot may be legendary, but Shadows Fall were definitely a more relevant and game-changing force within metal at the time. Another example of how the whole metalcore scene was underestimated.
It’s good that Slayer were finally acknowledged by the Academy (though they later left Jeff Hanneman off of their R.I.P. reel). We’re just not sure Eyes Of The Insane was the track they should’ve gotten one with. At the same time, Mastodon were reinventing the wheel in 2006, and Colony Of Birchmen is an absolute rager. Gotta go with the boys from Atlanta here.
- Who won: Slayer – Final Six
- Who should’ve won: Machine Head – Aesthetics Of Hate
New year, same thing. Slayer rule, but Final Six is solid at best. Aesthetics Of Hate, on the other hand, saw Machine Head doing bold new things that the metal scene was there for at the time. They deserved this one.
- Who won: Metallica – My Apocalypse
- Who should’ve won: Slipknot – Psychosocial
Even if you like My Apocalypse, how are you not going to give the award to the biggest single in heavy music for ages? Psychosocial was a mountain-mover, an earworm with lasting power, and feels like an obvious winner. Slipknot were robbed here.
- Who won: Judas Priest – Dissident Aggressor (live)
- Who should’ve won: Slayer – Hate Worldwide
Finally, Slayer got nominated for a track that deserved it — only do lose to a lifetime achievement award. Sure, Priest are awesome and it’s good they finally got a GRAMMY, but Dissident Aggressor isn’t even one of their greatest tracks (though it’s weirdly ironic that Slayer covered it).
- Who won: Iron Maiden – El Dorado
- Who should’ve won: Slayer – World Painted Blood
Another year, another GRAMMY honoring a band’s whole career. Iron Maiden will always be one of metal’s most legendary bands, and El Dorado is a strong track, but it felt at heart more about getting Maiden a GRAMMY than giving the song one. This one belonged to Slayer.
2012 - Combined Hard Rock/Metal Performance
- Who won: Foo Fighters – White Limo
- Who should’ve won: Mastodon – Curl Of The Burl
2012 and 2013 saw the GRAMMYs reconfiguring their categories, and Hard Rock and Metal were lumped together accordingly. That’s why Foo Fighters won an award reserved for harder stuff, and why Mastodon got snubbed. After all, it’s hard to compete with your rad, tasty stoner jam when one of the other bands in the running is one of the greatest rock bands of all time.
2013 - Combined Hard Rock/Metal Performance
We can’t really hate on Halestorm, who rose to impressive heights and fucking nailed it on this track. But Lamb Of God had by then become heavy metal’s most important young act, and were obviously beaten by the more palatable track. Thankfully, this was the last year of the combined categories, so metal could have its own spotlight once more.
- Who won: Black Sabbath – God Is Dead?
- Who should’ve won: Black Sabbath – God Is Dead?
Obviously. Black Sabbath’s 13 was undeniably massive, and the other nominees — Anthrax covering AC/DC, Killswitch Engage, Dream Theater, and Volbeat featuring King Diamond — just weren’t on their level. That said, it would’ve been awesome to see King Diamond accepting an award in front of the whole world.
- Who won: Tenacious D – The Last In Line (Dio cover)
- Who should’ve won: Mastodon – The High Road
Another example of What Were They Thinking? Tenacious D were, one expects, just the only band on the ballot that anyone in Hollywood recognized. But even their Dio cover wasn’t so amazing as to beat the other nominees this year. Come on, guys.
- Who won: Ghost – Cirice
- Who should’ve won: Ghost – Cirice
A rare convergence: a metal band who is commercially successful, culturally relevant, and the obvious choice for the award. There’s no denying that Ghost changed the face of metal with 2016 Meliora, to the point where even the Academy had to give them props. Well done.
- Who won: Megadeth – Dystopia
- Who should’ve won: Gojira – Silvera
The late 2010s definitely saw the beginning of the GRAMMYs showing that they actually understood metal — and showing that they were at least 20 years behind the times in the genre. Case in point: Megadeth are certainly a great band, and Dystopia was pretty cool, but Gojira were so obviously the genre’s champions around this time that their loss was a decidable snub.
- Who won: Mastodon – Sultan’s Curse
- Who should’ve won: Code Orange – Forever
Once again, the GRAMMYS get it right over a decade too late. Sure, it’s good that Mastodon finally got an award, but Code Orange were so obviously the band to go with here, as they were actively changing the genre as a whole. More proof that a metal band can only win a GRAMMY when they’ve been around long enough to earn the adjective “seminal” in every write-up.
- Who won: High On Fire – Electric Messiah
- Who should’ve won: High On Fire – Electric Messiah
Somehow, against all odds, it happened: Matt Pike won a fucking GRAMMY. Sure, High On Fire weren’t exactly the most young or relevant band among last year’s nominees, but they also play rollicking dirtbag thrash, which is not something that usually earns one massive acclaim in the entertainment industry. Could it be that the GRAMMYs have finally come to understand true metal? Guess we’ll find out tonight.
- Who won: Tool – 7empest
- Who should’ve won: Tool – 7empest
This one makes a ton of sense when you think about it. Fear Inoculum was a massive release, both artistically and commercially, but Tool’s inherent weirdness and darkness meant they’re just too hardcore for the Academy to give them Best Rock Song. If Tool had walked off empty-handed, it would’ve been too blatant a snub; instead, they got their due.