3 Heavy Metal Bands that Shaped Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard

Though Seattle’s grunge bands scrubbed L.A.’s hair metal bands from MTV in the early ’90s, some of them were influenced by the bands they replaced.

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Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard recently revealed how heavy metal changed his life. He talked with DJ Matt Pinfield about the hard rock albums he listened to as a kid. The influence of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin on Soundgarden was obvious, but there aren’t many traces of Iron Maiden or Motörhead in Pearl Jam.

However, heavy metal created a pathway to punk rock for Gossard, who didn’t have the technical ability of the Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen. With punk rock, he could express himself without “being f—ing wizardly.”

Heavy metal was just another form of rebellion. It’s worth noting the Sex Pistols also dressed in costumes. Not so different from Mötley Crüe, who borrowed from the New York Dolls. Grunge bands were famously anti-image, but that, too, was a kind of fashion statement.

Below are three heavy metal bands that shaped Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard as a kid.

Mercyful Fate

Speaking with Pinfield, Gossard talked about his favorite heavy metal albums as a kid. He mentioned Mercyful Fate’s first two albums, Melissa and Don’t Break the Oath, referring to the band as “the greatest.” Pinfield asked about a lyric from Pearl Jam’s “Dark Matter,” which mentions Mercyful Fate’s singer King Diamond. Gossard said he didn’t know what the reference meant but added, “King Diamond, yes!” King Diamond is a Danish shock-rock singer known for his high-pitched screams and spooky makeup.

Mötley Crüe

While Eddie Vedder promoted his solo album Earthling in 2022, he spoke with The New York Times Magazine and revealed his disdain for ’80s hair metal bands. He singled out Mötley Crüe and their album Girls, Girls, Girls when referring to the era’s misogyny. Nikki Sixx shot back on Twitter, calling Pearl Jam “one of the most boring bands in history.” Gossard revealed how he, Jeff Ament, and Mike McCready had listened to hard rock bands like Mötley Crüe. He said he purchased their first album Too Fast for Love when it was released independently on Leathür Records, which he said sounded “punk-like.”


What attracted Gossard to Motörhead was how they connected punk rock and heavy metal kids. He noticed two disparate groups of music fans coming together and wondered, “What’s going on there?” He told Revolver Motörhead was “undeniably legit.” Gossard loved the band’s attitude, tempo, and execution, and he viewed Lemmy Kilmister’s sped-up blues delivery as tapping into an “artistic state of mind.” Ultimately, good songwriting drew Gossard to these bands.

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