12 Of The Greatest And Most Famous European Rock Bands

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

We can all think of a few staple rock bands but probably did not know they came from Europe. European rock bands, especially when sung in their native language, can have a distinct sound.

The contributions these bands have made to the music scene is undeniable. In truth, the rock genre would not be the same without them.

Here, we’ve listed 12 of the greatest and most famous European rock bands of all time. Read on to learn about them.

1. The Rolling Stones

Formed in England in 1962, the Rolling Stones are one of the most enduring bands of the rock era, with six decades of accolades and albums under their belt.

Their music is rooted in early rock and roll, rhythm, and blues, with early international hits including “Get Off of My Cloud,” “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” and “Paint It Black.”

The Rolling Stones are among the highest-selling bands of all time, with 200 million units sold worldwide. Several magazines rank them as one of the greatest bands ever, not just in the rock genre, having won three Grammys and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

2. The Beatles

No rock band list is complete without the quartet from 1960s Liverpool. The Beatles experimented with and combined elements of skiffle, beat, rock and roll, folk, and hard rock to create one of the most iconic discographies ever.

Hits like “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Love Me Do,” “Here Comes the Sun,” and “Hey Jude,” are among the best that exhibit their unique fusion of sounds.

The Beatles sold over 600 million copies of their music worldwide, with 15 number-one albums on the UK Albums Chart, 20 number-one hits on the US music charts, 7 Grammy Awards, and many more accolades.

3. Roxette

Sweden-born Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle formed Roxette in 1986 and received instant acclaim with their second album, Look Sharp!

Both artists had already succeeded as solo artists and with other Swedish singers, but when they recorded the single “Neverending Love,” it became a hit single in Sweden, and the rest is history.

The duo has sold over 75 million records worldwide, with “It Must Have Been Love” and “Listen to Your Heart” continuing to play on the radio. Over 10 million of their records are certified Gold and Platinum in Germany, the US, and the UK.

4. Lacuna Coil

Formed in Italy in 1994, Lacuna Coil’s catalog includes nine studio albums, one video album, two albums of live tracks, and several other musical compilations.

They’re known best for combining guitar lines with dual male and female harmonies, with the guitar more heavily mixed in. Their 2012 album, Dark Adrenaline, made it to #15 on the Billboard 200.

Lacuna Coli’s works has won several accolades over the years, including the Metal Hammer Award for Best International Band and for Best Live Act. Their album Dark Adrenaline also received a Best Album award at the Metal Female Voices Fest Award in 2012.

5. Volbeat

The Danish band Volbeat was formed in 2001 by Michael Poulsen and a few of his friends. They’re known to mix heavy metal and rock and roll to create their unique sound.

Their debut album gained them great acclaim; however, Volbeat did not stop there. Their next seven albums were all #1 hits and multi-Platinum certified.

Both their second and third albums won Metal Album of the Year from the Danish Metal Awards, while their single “Room 24” received a Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance.

As with most bands, they’ve had lineup changes over the years, but Volbeat is still active today, with their most recent release being the single “Temple Of Ekur.”

6. U2

Like many other European rock bands, the Ireland-based U2 is known for its ambitious live performances and bestselling tours. Their frontman, the iconic Bono, is also known to involve audiences on stage.

The band formed when all the members were teenagers and created hit singles like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Pride (In the Name of Love),” which also started a long stream of politically and socially charged songs.

Their album in 1987, The Joshua Tree, was their most critical and commercially successful album, which produced US #1 singles like “With or Without You” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”

7. Rammstein

Our next group, Rammstein, is one of the most distinguished bands in the hard rock genre, having retained the same five members since 1994 and gaining a following through incredible live performances featuring pyrotechnics.

Their debut album, Herzeleid, came out in 1995 and peaked at #6 in Germany, with their second album, Sehnsucht, debuting at #1.

The all-German band has continued to release many number-one albums with Gold and Platinum certifications worldwide. Several of their singles have reached top-five chart spots as well, such as “Sonne,” “Meine Teil,” and “Amerika.”

8. Gojira

From Landes, France, we have Gojira. The band combines philosophically and environmentally-themed lyrics with their death metal styles, often giving powerful live performances.

They produced a few successful studio albums throughout the 2000s but received widespread acclaim in North America for The Way of All Flesh in 2008, which charted on the Billboard 200. The band produced several other albums that climbed up Billboard‘s charts, like L’Enfant Sauvage in 2012 and Magma in 2016.

“Another World” became their first Billboard-charting single in 2020, leading to other albums gaining acclaim in the US. Gojira even became the first French band to top the Billboard Hard Rock Albums chart and the loudest concert ever recorded at the Stade de France.

9. The Hives

Swedish band the Hives was formed by Randy Fitzsimmons, who recruited other members. They were one of the bands that gained acclaim during the garage rock revival of the early 2000s.

Though their first album was a flop, they had mainstream success with their 2000 album, Veni Vidi Vicious, and its single “Hate to Say I Told You So.” Their third album, Tyrannosaurus Hives, was an even better success as it reached #1 on the charts.

Their music has also featured heavily in video game promotions, like “Come On!” which became the theme for Xbox One’s invitation commercials, and “1000 Answers” in FIFA 12.

Critics have praised the Hives as one of the best live rock bands ever. The members always dress in matching outfits to show they belong together and connect to the audience.

10. Nightwish

Despite the rotation of band members, Nightwish has solidified itself as one of Finland’s most successful bands. Their music tends to mix soaring symphonic sounds with an operatic female vocalist, which the often fantastical music and lyrics are centered around.

The Finnish band debuted in 1997 with success. However, after their second album, Oceanborn, they continuously released chart-topping, multi-Platinum albums.

With seven #1 albums, you can imagine how many hit singles they have. There’s a lot, in fact, but among the best are “Ever Dream,” “Nemo,” and “Amaranth.” To the excitement of fans, Nightwish shows no stopping in creating high-charting songs.

11. Behemoth

Despite the controversy over whether their lyrics promote the occult and Satan worship, Behemoth retains its presence on the Polish music scene. The band formed in 1991 but received widespread acclaim in the early 2000s.

Their seventh studio album, Demigod, ranked #15 on the Polish album charts and was nominated for a Fryderyk Award in 2004.

The band won the most awards and nominations in 2010, with their eighth studio album, Evangelion, winning the Fryderyk Awards for Best Heavy Metal Album of the Year, Best Cover Art, and Best Production of the Year. The group even won Best Band of the Year that year too.

12. Black Box Revelation

Finally, we have Black Box Revelation. The band became prominent in Belgium around the same time as the Hives, joining the garage rock band revolution.

They began recording their album Set Your Head on Fire in 2007, and got 30,000 downloads in Belgium, followed closely by their single “I Think I Like You,” which climbed the charts fast.

Their second album, Silver Threats, topped the Flemish Ultratop albums chart in 2010 before the band won two Music Industry Awards for Best Live Act and Best Rock/Alternative Music the following year. Many television shows heavily feature their music, like Sons of Anarchy, Teen Wolf, and Entourage.

Summing Up Our List Of Famous Rock Bands From Europe

Rock encapsulates so many genres of music that it’s hard to narrow down all the legendary bands within it. That’s the best part about the genre since there are many themes and musical styles to choose from.

We hope this list will inspire you to check out these bands’ work and expand your musical palette. All are worth a listen.

However, our list is far from complete. Who have we left off? Let us know and we’ll add them!

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.