The best Canadian heavy metal bands of all time are an interesting topic because of their cultural relevance. Most fans tend to group Canadian music bands with American ones, even though they are separate countries. This is due to the similarities between the two nations and that they are right next to each other.
However, Canada has their own heavy metal music culture and history, with a lot of phenomenal bands. This list of the best Canadian heavy metal bands shows the musical diversity of that nation. The bands on this list can range from commercial, mainstream metal to much more experimental and extreme affairs.
There is much to like about the Canadian metal scene and this list is a prime example of that, which is why people should give it a shot. While some of the best Canadian heavy metal bands of all time are fairly popular, others are more obscure and deserve a chance from newcomers.
The 17 best Canadian heavy metal bands
As mentioned in other reports, this list is purely subjective and only reflects the author’s perception of the best Canadian heavy metal bands of all time. However, this list also tries to explain and justify each inclusion based on its achievements, historical impact, and its influence on the genre.
Of course, people are free to disagree and can comment on the selection. And if they know a few bands that should be on this list, feel free to mention them in the comments.
Which are the best Canadian heavy metal bands?
- Lee Aaron
- Strapping Young Lad
- Devin Townsend Project
- 3 Inches of Blood
- Skull Fist
- Unleash the Archers
A list of the best Canadian heavy metal bands would not be complete without Rush. Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart formed a band that was successful both musically and commercially. Rush is one of the greatest influences on progressive rock all over the world for its refined technique and iconic melodies. The band had a huge career for 40 years until they decided to end it in 2018.
There is an argument to be made that Rush is the greatest cult band of all time. This is a band that was always successful but never became the “it” thing. Geddy, Alex, and Neil built a musical behemoth that found success because of songwriting and hard work.
Rush is the best Canadian band of all time, without a shadow of a doubt.
It was a successful band between the 70s and 80s that broke up in 1993. Triumph oscillated its career between progressive rock, hard rock, and heavy metal, standing out for its good live performances. In its concerts, there was a good demonstration of technique and energy. Since their separation, they have reunited a couple of times for special events.
While is true that perhaps Triumph didn’t have the greatest commercial success, they were fairly big in the 80s. This band was also a good example of how to combine different rock and metal styles. The music this band made still lives on in the hearts of many and deserves a lot of praise.
There is no denying that the band Anvil was a pioneer in this country’s music scene and that is why they are among the best Canadian heavy metal bands. They have had an extensive career since their beginnings in the 70s and are still active. They had considerable success in the 80s but fell in the 90s, although they have been characterized by continuing with their same heavy and fast style.
It’s also worth pointing out that the band’s story was made into a documentary-style movie in the late 2000s, titled “Anvil! The Story of Anvil“. It showed all the different challenges they went through and how they have kept going since the 80s. The movie won several accolades and gave the band a degree of mainstream success.
While most of the band’s catalog deserves attention, 1982’s “Metal on Metal” album is a great place to start.
Just like in Germany or the United States, Canada also has its Big Four of thrash metal. Razor is one of them. The speed and strength of their songs make them one of the icons of speed and thrash metal in the country. The band started in the 80s although they broke up in 1992. However, they came back in 1996 and are still active, even if their release schedules are a bit complicated.
The great thing about Razor as a band is that it manages to change while still retaining its core elements. This is a band that is always heavy and to the point, but with a degree of musical experimentation that is always enjoyable. It’s a shame that it doesn’t get the credit it deserves beyond Canadian metal.
Be that as it may, Razor is still one of the best Canadian heavy metal bands of all time.
5. Lee Aaron
She is possibly one of the most important female singers in metal history. Her vocal range has allowed her to pursue a career that goes beyond heavy metal. Her lyrics are usually about metal and love.
Aaron is nicknamed “Metal Queen” because of her 80s album and the iconic title track, but the title in Canada is certainly fitting for her. She is Canada’s biggest export for female metal singers, and her career has been a testament to that.
Aaron is still going strong to this day and proving her worth as one of Canada’s most important rock musicians.
Very few bands in Canada have the career Voivod has had. This is not only one of the best Canadian heavy metal bands, but also one of the most unique. The constant changes in their sound are simply breathtaking and show how talented this group of musicians is.
Voivod started in 1982 and has had several member changes over the years. They have constantly changed their sound, sometimes being more complex (late 80s) and other times more straightforward (early 2000s). Voivod is considered one of the best Canadian heavy metal bands for its ability to excel in both heavy metal and trash, speed, and even progressive metal.
The thing about Annihilator is this band is not only a thrash metal colossus for Canada but also for North America as a whole. Although the band has had changes (a lot of changes) in its line-up, guitarist Jeff Waters has always maintained the band’s fast and energetic style that has characterized them.
This band has a lot of different albums and in many different styles but the debut, 1989’s “Alice in Hell“, is widely considered the best. It’s heavy, fast, and with some really complicated guitar work. Definitely a thrash metal masterpiece that deserves all the praise in the world.
Annihilator is also the Canadian thrash band that has sold the most albums and that is why, among many other reasons, it’s on the list of best Canadian heavy metal bands.
Despite its inconsistency over the years (they have broken up twice over the years), Exciter is considered one of the best Canadian heavy metal bands. They are considered one of the pioneers in the speed metal subgenre. The band’s name comes from a Judas Priest song.
Exciter has a lot of albums but there is no denying that the debut, 1983’s “Heavy Metal Maniac“, is a speed metal masterpiece. It has everything people looking for fast, raw, and heavy music is looking for. This album was also quite extreme when considering what was coming out in metal back in 1983.
9. Strapping Young Lad
This was a project that Devin Townsend started, where he basically played every instrument. Townsend used Strapping Young Lad as a way to experiment with rhythms and musical influences, and also to delve into different themes in his lyrics. The band was active between 1994 and 1998, and later between 2002 and 2007.
It’s difficult to pick a starting point with this band, so is best to start with the debut album, 1995’s “Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing“. As the band releases more albums, the more ambitious and complex it becomes. It is a very unique project and one of the best Canadian heavy metal bands of all time.
10. Devin Townsend Project
There is no denying that Devin Townsend is a genius. His body of work and musical curiosity speak for the man. He has different solo projects where he tends to extend his style outside of the progressive rock with which he is most identified.
It’s also worth pointing out that the Devin Townsend Project has been one of the most recent projects for Townsend to which he has dedicated most of his time. People can listen to a fascinating mix of hard rock, progressive, and new age, among other styles, on those albums.
11. 3 Inches of Blood
The band from Victoria has had a career that is as good as it is short and it is that good level that has them on the list of best Canadian heavy metal bands. 3 Inches of Blood started in 1999 and by 2015 they had already broken up, much to the disappointment of fans worldwide.
The good news is that a couple of reunion shows have already been announced for January 2024, so it is not ruled out that the band will get back together.
One of Canada’s best-kept musical secrets. And also one of the best Canadian heavy metal bands of all time because of its consistency and musical quality. A good, solid mix of metal and hard rock.
Helix has had a career spanning almost 40 years and had its highest commercial peak in the 80s with “Rock You“.
Although this group is not well-known in the current mainstream music scene, it has the recognition of great bands worldwide since they have toured with Whitesnake, Aerosmith, Motorhead, Kiss, and Rush, among others.
13. Skull Fist
It’s fairly obvious to say Skull Fist is one of the “youngest” bands on this list of the best Canadian heavy metal bands.
The band was formed in 2006 but has had a huge impact on the Canadian heavy metal scene. Skull Fist is considered a strong representative of the new wave of traditional heavy metal, a movement that has begun to gain strength in recent years.
Basically, Skull Fist is part of a wave of bands that play a music style similar to 80s Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Queensryche, Savatage, and many more.
14. Unleash the Archers
This is another “young” band that is standing out in the Canadian metal scene. Unleash the Archers has a style that mixes classic heavy metal with European power metal as well as touches of death metal. It’s a very interesting band in terms of musical influences and has a lot to offer for the newcomers.
The best Canadian heavy metal band most people never heard of. Sword is a band with an aggressive and raw but at the same time melodic style. They started in Quebec back in 1980 although they broke up in 1995. However, in 2011 they reunited for some shows and in 2022 they announced a new album, the first in 35 years and the third in the band’s history.
The 1986 debut album, “Metalized“, is a classic heavy metal masterpiece. It has strong riffs, great melodies, and solid songwriting. The very definition of an underground classic in the genre.
For those familiar with the death metal subgenre, Gorguts is a familiar name. The band from Quebec has been characterized by playing extremely technical and complex death metal. The passage of time has made the band’s sound evolve to that level, making them one of the best Canadian heavy metal bands.
It’s no secret that Kataklysm is another major representative of Canadian death metal. The band has had considerable success, even appearing on the Billboard Top 100 in the United States. Their style also adds a lot of technique and melody to death metal, something they have done since their beginnings in 1991.