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Best Canadian Rock Bands of All Time

Best Canadian Rock Bands of All Time

The 16 Best Canadian Rock Bands of All Time: Legendary Artists from the Great White North

When you think of regional rock music, which country comes to mind? The UK? U.S.? While both countries spawned some of the most legendary bands, don’t forget about our friends in Canada!

I used to date a guy who lived in Montreal and spent a lot of time up there. I learned while there that they have one of the best rock and metal scenes I’ve ever discovered.

Are you ready to discover the best Canadian rock bands? While this isn’t an exhaustive list (because there are easily hundreds of them), I’m mentioning a few of my favorites.

It’s also important to note that Canada, specifically Montreal, has a legendary metal scene, so my favorite Canadian metal bands will go on this list, too.

arcade fire Best Rock Bands of the 2000s Best Canadian Rock Bands
Arcade Fire, Canadian rock band which started their career in 2000s

Selection Criteria

Since there are countless great rock bands from Canada, creating this list was difficult. While I prioritized my personal favorite artists, I narrowed down these bands based on these criteria:


No matter what type of rock music you like, Canada has a great band that plays that style. From radio-friendly pop-punk to thrash metal, I included artists from various genres to appeal to all music tastes.


Regardless of the genre, all these artists are excellent songwriters, composers, singers, and musicians. Whether they play underground death metal or chart-topping hits, these bands offer some of the best talent from the Great White North.


Some of these bands haven’t made an album in decades, while others are active today. But they all have recognizable names. Even if the artists are only underground legends, any Canadian band with notoriety will be on this list.

Fan Loyalty

That said, I also prioritized bands that built up a loyal fan base. Rock and metal music is extremely popular in Canada, and fans are always willing to discover new and different bands.

The best bands took advantage of this demand and attracted devoted fans. It’s also important to note that I’m not only mentioning bands that made it big and sold millions of albums — underground bands with a loyal following are also here.


Canadian rock and metal music spans multiple decades. In addition, various other genres, such as jazz and blues, also made their way to Canada throughout the decades.

As a result, Canadian rock music became very experimental. I looked for the most unique Canadian rock and metal bands you wouldn’t find anywhere else.

My Favorite Canadian Rock Bands

Are you ready to discover the best Canadian rock bands? Here are my top favorites.

16. Sum 41

  • Best album: All Killer No Filler
  • Best song: “Fatlip”
  • Years active: 1996 – present

First up is one of the most fun Canadian bands — Sum 41. Sum 41 was formed in 1996 and is from Ajax, Ontario. They succeeded immediately after releasing their first album, All Killer No Filler.

As a Canadian band, Sum 41 quickly became popular in their home country. They achieved various Juno Award nominations from 2001 to 2020, winning Group of the Year in 2003 and Rock Album of the Year for Chuck in 2005.

Sum 41 not only gained notoriety in Canada but also in the U.S.; the single “Fatlip” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Alternative Airplay Chart in America, and they gained serious airtime on MTV and various radio stations in the country.

In 2012, Sum 41 was also nominated for a Grammy for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance for the track, “Blood in My Eyes.”

I immediately loved this band when I first heard the single “Fatlip.” This is one of the major bands in 2000s-era pop-punk, and they quickly became synonymous as a party band.

Sum 41 is technically active today, but they have been on and off recently. On May 8, 2023, Sum 41 announced they would disband after a headlining world tour supporting their newest album, Heaven and Hell.

However, they have been teasing new music since then; on September 27, 2023, they released the single “Landmines,” and announced a signing to Rise Records.

15. Steppenwolf

  • Best album: At Your Birthday Party
  • Best song: “Rock Me”
  • Years active: 1967- 1972, 1974 – 1976, 1980 – 2018

Steppenwolf was a short-lived band. Formed in 1968, it comprised three members from Toronto, Ontario, and two from Los Angeles. They sold over 25 million albums worldwide and released some of the most influential music ever.

Most people are familiar with the single “Born to Be Wild,” which reached No. 2 on the Billboard Top 100 singles chart. But they have better songs, such as “Rock Me.” Steppenwolf is no longer active. They played their last show on October 14, 2018.

14. Loverboy

  • Best album: Get Lucky
  • Best song: “Working for the Weekend”
  • Years active: 1979 – 1988, 1989, 1991 – present

Canada certainly had their cheesy 80s band, and Loverboy takes that title. If you haven’t heard of this band, you likely heard the song “Working for the Weekend,” which became a one-hit wonder.

Loverboy was formed in Calgary, Alberta, in 1979, and achieved success in Canada and the U.S. Singles like “Working for the Weekend” achieved extensive radio airplay, and the band was a regular on MTV.

Singer Mike Reno also has a successful career outside of Loverboy and is best known for his duet with Heart’s Ann Wilson, titled “Almost Paradise,” which appeared on the Footloose soundtrack.

Loverboy is still active today. In 2022, they released the single ” Release ” and embarked on a tour with REO Speedwagon and Styx.

13. Theory of a Deadman

theory of a deadman Best Canadian Rock Bands
  • Best album: Scars & Souvenirs
  • Best song: “Bad Girlfriend”
  • Years active: 1999 – present

I remember when Theory of a Deadman first emerged with the single “Bad Girlfriend.” The song was fun and catchy, and I often listened to it.

I thought these guys would be the next mainstream success, but their other singles didn’t do much for me and didn’t attract the attention that “Bad Girlfriend” did. Still, I enjoy listening to that song, so I included Theory of a Deadman on this list.

Theory of a Deadman is a band from North Delta, British Columbia, formed in 1999. It became successful after another Canadian rocker, Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger, heard its demo and signed the band.

As I said, there was a time when Theory of a Deadman was promising. They earned the SOCAN No. 1 Song award for the track “Rx (Medicate).”

Still, they never achieved the fame that other bands on this list earned. That said, Theory of a Deadman is still active today. They released the single, “Dinosaur,” on October 20, 2022.

12. Pat Travers Band

  • Best album: Live! Go for What You Know
  • Best song: “Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights)
  • Years active: 1978 – present

Pat Travers is a classic musician who doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Travers was born and raised in Toronto and reached fame when he formed the Pat Travers Band in 1978.

He’s most famous for the single “Boom Boom (Out Goes the Lights),” which is now a rock n’ roll classic. Travers distinguished himself as a skilled guitar player and performer.

Pat Travers Band is still active today. He released his newest album, The Art of Time Travel, on August 19, 2022. He also still tours. I saw him live nearly 15 years ago, and he still put on an energetic performance.

11. Glass Tiger

  • Best album: The Thin Red Line
  • Best song: “Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone)
  • Years active: 1983 – 1993, 2003 – present

Another Canadian band that was big in the 80s was Glass Tiger. While they didn’t achieve the notoriety in the U.S., they made it huge in Canada. My Canadian ex would play this band all the time, and I was shocked I never heard of them before.

This is one of those bands you regularly hear at the grocery store. They wrote one-hit wonders that were both powerful and catchy, earning them a place in Canada’s music history.

Glass Tiger was formed in 1983 in Newmarket, Ontario. They succeeded with their first album, The Thin Red Line, which went quadruple platinum in Canada.

This album yielded two successful singles, “Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone” and “Someday.” While both singles also reached the top 10 in the U.S., they definitely didn’t receive the same recognition here as they did in Canada. Glass Tiger is still active today. They still perform and embark on international tours to this day.

10. Alexisonfire

  • Best album: Crisis
  • Best song: “This Could Be Anywhere in the World”
  • Years active: 2001 – 2011, 2012, 2015 – present

Alexisonfire is a post-hardcore band, formed during the height of the emo era. They formed in 2001 in St. Catharines, Ontario.

They succeeded in the emo and scene crowds with their debut self-titled album, which yielded singles such as “Pulmonary Archery.” It gained the platinum certification in Canada.

However, I discovered Alexisonfire with the release of their 2006 album Crisis. Their sound matured during this era, and you can hear that in a song like “This Could Be Anywhere in the World.”

This band became one of the most notorious from the emo era. They were nominated for countless awards and won many of them, such as a CASBY Award for NXNE Favourite Indie Band and a Canadian Independent Music Award for Best Video for “Pulmonary Archery,” both in 2004. Alexisonfire is still active today. They released their newest album, Otherness, on June 24, 2022.

9. Silverstein

  • Best album: Discovering the Waterfront
  • Best song: “Smile in Your Sleep”
  • Years active: “2000 – present

Silverstein is another one of the biggest Canadian bands from the emo era. The band was formed in 2000 in Burlington, Ontario, and named after author Shel Silverstein, whom the band admired. Silverstein released numerous albums, but they are best known for the 2005 album Discovering the Waterfront.

Because of this album’s success, Silverstein was nominated for a Juno Award for Best New Band in 2006. The album yielded singles such as “Smile in Your Sleep,” which became popular among emo fans of the era. Silverstein is still active today. They released their newest album, Misery Made Me, on May 6, 2022.

8. Triumph

  • Best album: Just a Game
  • Best song: “Lay It on the Line”
  • Years active: 1975 – 1993, 2008, 2019

When talking about 80s music, I prefer the heavy metal bands. That’s why I couldn’t make this list without mentioning arguably the most famous Canadian glam metal band, Triumph. Even if you’ve never heard the band name, you’ll likely recognize a song like “Lay It on the Line.”

Triumph was formed in 1975 in Mississauga, Ontario. They reached fame in the late 70s with the 1979 album, Just a Game, and continued building a fan base into the 80s.

Triumph also succeeded in the U.S.; Just a Game reached Gold status, and both singles, “Lay It on the Line” and “Hold On,” received airplay throughout the country.

Today, Triumph is considered one of the most influential bands in the genre. Guitarist and singer Rik Emmett is especially popular, praised for his talent and contributions to rock guitar playing.

Triumph disbanded for a long time but reunited to play on November 16, 2019, at Metalworks Studios in Mississauga. The band hasn’t released new music but said they will reunite every 11 years to play special shows.

7. Offenbach

offenbach Best Canadian Rock Bands
Photo from 1978
  • Best album: Traversion
  • Best song: “Je l’Sais Ben”
  • Years active: 1966 – 1985, 1996 – present

Since my ex-boyfriend is from Montreal, I was fortunate to be involved with the amazing music scene in this city and discovered some Quebecois bands that are largely unknown outside the region. Offenbach is one of the original rock and blues bands from the province, and they’re one of my favorites today.

Offenbach was formed in the mid-1960s in Montreal, Quebec. They originally had the name Les Gants Blancs (translates to “the white gloves”) but went through a number of name changes before settling on Offenbach.

They quickly gained notoriety with their 1972 debut album, Offenbach Soap Opera, which yielded iconic songs such as “Câline de Blues” (translates to “blues cuddles”).

The band became known for their skilled musicians, especially singer and organist Gerry Boulet’s powerful voice and the incredible guitar playing from Johnny Gravel and John McGale.

As a Quebecois band, one of their stand-out features is how they write and perform songs in French, though they have some in English.

Offenbach is still active today. They released their latest album, Renaissance, in 2018. Unfortunately, two legendary members, Boulet and McGale, have passed away.

6. Sword

  • Best album: Metalized
  • Best song: “F.T.W.”
  • Years active: 1980 – 1995, 2011 – present

One of the best bands to have come out of Canada is Sword — and no one has heard of them. Such a bummer. Another great part of being involved in the Montreal scene is so many of my friends loved this band and introduced me to them.

Sword is a heavy metal band formed in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Quebec (south of Montreal), in the early 1980s. In 1984, they signed to Aquarius Records and released their debut album, Metalized. The album yielded one of the best heavy metal songs ever, “F.T.W.” They toured with Alice Cooper and Motorhead and were even hand-selected to open for Metallica’s Master of Puppets Tour.

Honestly, these guys should have gotten bigger, and I have no idea why they never did. I did hear they broke up at one point, but I can’t find any information confirming this. If that’s the case, that’s probably why these guys didn’t get much further.

Regardless of why these guys didn’t become as big as other heavy metal bands, Sword is making a comeback, and more people are discovering this band. They have been more active and released their newest album, III, on November 25, 2022.

5. Skinny Puppy

  • Best album: Too Dark Park
  • Best song: “Spasmolytic”
  • Years active: 1982 – 1996, 2003 – 2023

Who knew the inventors of industrial music were based in Canada? Skinny Puppy was formed in 1982 and based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Multi-instrumentalist Kevin William Crompton (known by his stage name cEvin Key) formed Skinny Puppy as a side project with singer Nivek Ogre, but the band eventually became a full-time gig.

After the release of their 1984 EP, “Remission,” they developed a cult following. I would still argue that their album Too Dark Park is their most ground-breaking, where they band honed their unique sound. You can hear this in a song like “Spasmolytic.”

That said, Skinny Puppy didn’t achieve mainstream success but became legendary in the underground industrial and goth music spaces.

But they still became a major influence on various industrial and electronic bands; notable artists such as Nine Inch Nails credit Skinny Puppy as an influence.

Skinny Puppy embarked on their final tour in 2023, marking the end of the band. Still, Skinny Puppy went on to release 13 full-length albums, and electronic music wouldn’t be the same without them.

4. Rush

  • Best album: A Farewell to Kings
  • Best song: “Xanadu”
  • Years active: “1968 – 2018

Rush is the quintessential progressive rock legend, and numerous bands today have followed in their footsteps. In 1968, Rush was formed by bassist/singer Jeff Jones, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer John Rutsey in Toronto, Ontario.

The band went through multiple lineup changes, including the addition of legendary members bassist/singer Geddy Lee and drummer Neil Peart.

They achieved success in the mid-1970s with the albums Fly By Night (1975), 2112 (1976), A Farewell to Kings (1977), and Hemisphere (1978).

It’s hard to identify which album was their most influential, but I would argue 2112 and A Farewell to Kings. You can hear in the song “Xanadu” the progressive yet catchy songwriting that would become the band’s staple sound.

Today, Rush is arguably the most iconic progressive rock band worldwide. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, and the band members’ virtuoso talents are idolized by modern musicians. We can credit Rush for influencing other progressive rock and metal bands like Dream Theater.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck on January 7th, 2020, with the death of influential drummer Neil Peart. He died at 67 years old after battling glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer. Since then, the band’s future has been up in the air. While Lee and Lifeson have played occasionally together, nothing is set in stone how the band will, if they even will, continue playing without Peart.

3. Heart

  • Best album: Dreamboat Annie
  • Best song: “Magic Man”
  • Years active: 1973 – 1998, 2002 – 2016, 2019 – present

Before I discuss Heart, there’s debate about whether or not they’re a Canadian band. Heart, as an official band, was formed in Canada, so I will include them on this list.

The band was formed by American musicians, but guitarist Roger Fisher’s brother Mike was a “draft dodger;” he fled to Canada after he didn’t report for duty during the Vietnam War drafting.

One day, he crossed the border to America to visit family, and met singer Ann Wilson during a performance of one of the earliest incarnations of the band before they were called Heart (they had numerous names before Heart, such as Hocus Pocus and White Heart — I can’t find what the band was called during this time). Ann and Mike fell in love and moved with him to Canada. Soon, the rest of the band followed, including Ann’s sister, Nancy. Ann and Nancy joined the band, now called Heart.

The band started playing around Vancouver and released their debut album, Dreamboat Annie, in September 1975. The album sold 30,000 copies only within a few months of its release.

Heart became famous for its hard rock sound and skilled musicians — to this day, Ann Wilson is said to have one of the best voices in rock music, and Nancy Wilson is renowned for her virtuoso guitar playing. You can hear the band’s unadulterated talent in songs such as “Crazy on You.”

Heart prevailed in the 1980s but changed its sound to a more glam style. The band became famous for its ballads, such as “Alone.” Today, Heart has sold more than 35 million albums worldwide and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.

Since their heyday, Heart has endured many trials and tribulations. In 1995, Nancy Wilson originally left the band to focus on her family, and the band has re-formed and re-broken up ever since 2002.

In 2016, Ann’s husband, Dean Wetter, was arrested for assaulting Nancy’s 16-year-old twin sons. After, the two sisters stopped playing together.

For a while, Nancy Wilson formed her own band where she would play Heart material, but a few Heart shows are coming up where both sisters will reunite. Ann also has a number of solo projects, such as Ann Wilson and Tripsitter.

2. Mahogany Rush

  • Best album: Mahogany Rush IV
  • Best song: “Dragonfly”
  • Years active: 1969 – 2021

Mahogany Rush is one of the most influential, yet underrated, classic Canadian rock bands. To this day, guitar player and singer Frank Marino is hailed as a legend.

Mahogany Rush was formed in 1969 in Montreal, Quebec. They achieved success throughout the 70s, and Marino has been hailed as the “Canadian Jimi Hendrix” for the similarities in their soaring style of guitar playing. Mahogany Rush has a stronger jazz influence, giving their music more personality.

During this time, Mahogany Rush toured throughout Canada and the U.S. Mahogany Rush’s success also bled into the 80s, and their album Juggernaut was a success.

While Mahogany Rush released multiple albums, Mahogany Rush IV is my favorite and features some of their best songs, such as “Dragonfly.” Certain songs, such as “Man at the Back Door,” also have a stronger blues influence.

I can’t find anything that Mahogany Rush has been working on lately. Their last studio album, Eye of the Storm, was released in 2000. But fun fact: Frank Marino’s nephew, Danny Marino, was the lead guitarist of the metal band The Agonist.

1. Voivod

  • Best album: Killing Technology
    Best song: “Tornado”
    Years active: 1982 – present

The best Canadian rock band is no other than heavy metal legends Voivod. Formed in Jonquière, Quebec, in 1982, Voivod underwent numerous sound changes. Their earlier albums, such as 1984’s War and Pain, were more reminiscent of thrash metal.

But today, Voivod is best known for its unique blend of sci-fi progressive metal, a sound they pioneered with the album Killing Technology. You can hear this in the song “Tornado,” with the blend of thrashy drumming but obscure riffs.

Today, Voivod is one of the most influential metal bands. All members, specifically drummer Michel “Away” Langevin and guitarist Dan “Chewy” Mongrain, are some of the most influential musicians in the genre. Voivod also had other notable musicians in its lineup, such as Metallica bassist Jason Newsted.

Voivod is still active today. Their latest album, Synchro Anarchy, was released on February 11, 2022. From what I hear, they are working on more new music.

Honorary Mentions

nickelback Best Canadian Rock Bands

This isn’t an exhaustive list of Canadian rock bands. I’m biased and prefer the heavier bands, but countless others deserve a mention. Here are some other Canadian bands to check out, if you haven’t yet:

  • Neil Young
  • Saga
  • Simple Plan
  • The New Pornographers
  • April Wine
  • Metric
  • Cowboy Junkies
  • Barenaked Ladies
  • Bachman-Turner Overdrive
  • Nickelback
  • The Guess Who
  • Blue Rodeo
  • The Tragically Hip
  • Arcade Fire
  • The Band


Question: What’s the biggest Canadian rock band?

Answer: It should be no surprise that Nickelback is that band. With the single “How You Remind Me,” Nickelback gained global recognition. When they released the 2017 album Feed the Machine, they sold 50 million albums worldwide.

Question: What’s the best-selling Canadian band of all time?

Answer: Rush takes that title. They earned three multi-platinum, 14 platinum, and 25 gold records. This makes them one of the best-selling rock bands in Canada and globally — so much so that Rush is spot three behind The Beatles and Rolling Stones for selling the most consecutive platinum and gold records by a rock band.

Question: How many Canadian bands are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

Answer: Five musicians and bands: Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Rush, The Band, and Leonard Cohen. That number is six if you count Heart.

Bottom Line

Canada is one of the most underrated countries in terms of rock music. We can credit The Great White North for numerous rock bands, whose genres range from heavy metal to pop punk. Creating this list was difficult, but I think Voivod is the best band to come out of Canada.

Mahogany Rush, Heart, and Rush follow close behind, and there have been numerous classics and newer bands from all over the country. I hope I helped you reflect on the best Canadian rock bands and even introduced you to some!

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