Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Ten Essential Metal Albums

UPDATE 1/8/2010: Check out my new list, The Top 50 Metal Albums of The Last Decade

After giving it some thought, here are ten albums every self-respecting metalhead should own. This list is by no means all-inclusive, but it does contain discs without which a person is not metal-literate.

Paranoid (1971) by Black Sabbath
Maybe it all started with Black Sabbath (1970), but metal solidified its position with this album. “War Pigs,” “Paranoid,” “Electric Funeral,” “Hand of Doom,” and the iconic “Iron Man” are all standby songs for decent God-[fearing/hating] metal bands to cover, and will continue to occupy their position of reverence.

Ace of Spades (1980) by Motörhead
You can’t really appreciate Metallica (or probably even White Zombie) unless you know where they came from. And this is the place. “Ace of Spades” is one of the iconic early metal songs. In metal there is a spectrum spanning from the most raw to the most refined, and Ace of Spades is the epitome of raw metal music.

Melissa (1983) by Mercyful Fate
Without Melissa, the heavy metal world would be only half as big as it is now. Without “Black Funeral” there would be no Cradle of Filth. Without “Into the Coven” there would be no Cannibal Corpse. Without “Satan’s Fall” there would be no Dimmu Borgir. Without “Melissa” there would be no Nightwish. Enough said.

Master of Puppets (1986) by Metallica
This is the most obvious inclusion on the list. This is, without a doubt in my mind, the quintessential metal album. It combines where metal has been with where it should go. It’s written and performed superbly. The first four tracks read almost like the top half of a top ten list: “Battery,” “Master of Puppets,” “The Thing That Should Not Be,” and “Welcome Home (Sanitarium).” Of course the greatest album by the greatest metal band of all time should be the number one metal album of all time. If you call yourself metal, and you don’t have this album, you can just crawl in your (pick one: [1] nu-metal sissy boy corner, or [2] elitist death/euro metal tower) and die. Next.

Vulgar Display of Power (1992) by Pantera
This is the purest distillation of the virtues of thrash metal. There is a melodic riff or two here, but the purest rage and heavy, high-speed riffs make you forget all about them. And Dimebag Darrell (RIP) revitalized the guitar solo as we know it. No metal fan should be without “Walk,” “This Love,” “By Demons Be Driven,” or “Hollow.”

Korn (1994) by Korn
Many people dismiss Korn as nu-metal (a term that has lost its meaning in a world of bands that clearly are not influenced by Korn). But being “nu” does not make it bad. Korn drew on the darkness of Alice in Chains, made it angrier, and added a D-tuned lower string to both guitars and the bass. How can any metal fan be well-rounded without a good dose of “Blind” and “Divine”? They brought metal to an entirely new generation and, despite their flirt with TRL in the late 90’s, they continue to deliver new and different heavy metal music to keep the world on its toes.

Dirt (1995) by Alice in Chains
Alice in Chains, with their serious sound and lyrics, heralded the death of the crappy metal bands of the 1980’s: Mötley Crüe, Firehouse, Slaughter, Van Halen, and the list goes on; they even mortally wounded Guns ‘N Roses. Let’s just hope another band will come along to do the same to Trapt, Nickelback, Staind, and their ilk. And this album is the perfect example of their dark, experimental sound.

Astro Creep 2000 (1995) by White Zombie
Without White Zombie, you don’t have Godsmack. Without White Zombie, you don’t have Disturbed. And without White Zombie, you don’t have countless other metal bands. “More Human Than Human” stands right next to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” on any list of the best 90’s metal songs. No, without White Zombie you can’t understand the better metal bands of today, and you will never understand the metal of the 90’s.

The Sickness (2000) by Disturbed
Though they came to fame through a cover of a crappy Tears for Fears song, they clearly draw on Korn and White Zombie as powerful influences. They took the heaviness of those two bands and built on the use of rhythm found in Korn to make something entirely new and beautifully staccato. The Sickness is clearly the best metal album of 2000, and one of the best ever.

Volume 3: The Subliminal Verses (2004) by Slipknot
For the 70’s we have Black Sabbath. For the 80’s and 90’s we have Metallica. And for the 00’s, Slipknot will be the premier heavy metal band. Slipknot (1999) put the ore on the anvil. Iowa (2001) heated the ore and hammered away, continuing the forging process for a new breed of metal gods. The Subliminal Verses captures the moment when the hot steel was tempered in oil. “Duality” is our generation’s “Paranoid.” “Before I Forget” is our generation’s “This Love.” And “The Nameless” is our generation’s answer to “Master of Puppets.” Watch for Slipknot to become the iconic, the next group to pummel the mainstream so hard with such powerfully well-written music that they can’t be ignored, the next group with its own music festival to match Ozzfest. If anyone can kill the current kings of crap in heavy metal, it is this nine-member monstrosity.

Is there anything I forgot? Did I make you mad by letting you know where Van Halen belongs? Or your current top 40 favorite that gets their songs on the Now CDs? Let me know.

UPDATE 1/8/2010: Check out my new list, The Top 50 Metal Albums of The Last Decade


  1. Mötorhead 'Ace of Spades' was awsome. I saw the band live a couple of times on that tour

  2. No Nirvana?

    I respectfully dissent.

  3. Oh, one could nit-pick here and there, but all-in-all, a fine list, so I say . . . . .

  4. "No Nirvana?"

    Since when is Nirvana concidered metal?

  5. I concur with Big Brother on the Nirvana issue. It's grunge, not metal. While some would claim the same on Alice in Chains, those people are silly and should never speak again of music.

  6. I suppose I am a silly person who cannot separate the subtle distinction between "Alice in Chains" as "Metal" with "Nirvana" which is so obviously grunge one would be an idiot for saying they're hardcore.

    Now, a defense of Nirvana as Metal.

    I agree that their most popular album "Nevermind" has little of anything to do with Metal. But their earlier work, Bleach and their later masterpiece, In Utero, are so obviously rooted in metal.

    Maybe we would be helped by a definition Kelly? What does "metal" mean? If your saying that Nirvana can't be metal you must have a different definition than I.

    (I understand you would never find Nirvana in the "metal" section at a Tower Records, but to me it has all the emotion and guitars that would make up metal) Sorry for the misused "quotes".

  7. I will attempt to adequately answer that question tomorrow.

  8. I have to say that half of this list is not metal at all. Nirvana? Not metal. I love them, but they are not metal. Closer to punk (especially Bleach). Neither is AIC or Zombie metal. They are hard rock. Your claim that without Zombie there is no (insert metal band here) is flawed. Without nomadic Druids on flutes, you have no Zombie. But that doesn't make the flute-playing nomads metal. While there can never be concensus on something as objective as a top 10 list (this was your list after all, not mine), I think it is wrong to lump just about anything with 4+bpm in the metal bucket.

  9. I can accept your claim that AiC is grunge rather than metal, but White Zombie? Did you ever even listen to them? It is 90's metal at its finest.

  10. Well. It seems that you have failed to cover all the different sub genres of metal.

    Progressive Metal
    etc etc etc

    Opeth, Children of Bodom and Slayer should all be there because they are some of the leading bands of their genres and are better than some of the bands on your list.

    I would say you list is awesome but doesnt show consider bands of other metal genres.

  11. This is a terrible list. You include Korn, Slipknot, and Disturbed yet no Slayer, Iron Maiden, or Megadeth. You sir fail.

  12. i agree, there can be no greatest metal list without megadeth or slayer. iron maiden, should be here as well as judas priest. what self respecting metal head doesn't give props to priest??? i totally disagree with the claims about disturbed and white zombie. white zombie rocks, but i wouldn't say they are as important as you make them out. n BTW, thank you for not including nirvana, i'm sorry but they are NOT metal (now, on the contrary, alice in chains IS SO metal).

    just my 2 cents.

  13. epic fail... " After giving it some thought, here are ten albums every self-respecting metalhead should own... " wtf, you should die fool. If I had time travelling machine, I would stop the making of Melissa album because acording to you, it spawned 4 uber-suck-ass bands. And wtf are korn, rzombie and slipknot doing on the list??? they have nothing to do with metal... sad that you were ever born. drop dead fool!

  14. I totally agree with anonymous. Essential? Some of these are garbage. Korn? Disturbed? Slipknot? Where's Priest? Iron Maiden? Megadeth? Slayer? Sepultura?

  15. WHERE THE FUCK IS AT THE GATES ??? You have fucking disturbed but not AT THE FUCKING GATES ??? Are you insane?

  16. Does anyone not know what "all-inclusive" means?

    "This list is by no means all-inclusive"

  17. The list is okay... but must get rid of Alice in Chains and replace it with Lamb of Gods Sacrament of Wrath now, both awsume metal albums. Where is Amon Amarth too, for viking metal they are the best. Megadeth, Cannabel Corspe and Children of Bodoms Are We Dead Yet should definately be on there but the list needs to be longer to fully encompass these great bands.

  18. There's something about a list titled 'metal' that only includes a limited range. Besides, I'd say Between the Buried and Me's Colors is better than many of these, as is Nightfall in Middle Earth, or Iwrestledabearonce's It's All Happening, or System of a Down, etc.

    I reckon it's time to celebrate the sheer diversity of metal.

    Also, I like Disturbed a fair amount, but The Sickness doesn't strike me as a great album. I find very few songs memorable, and very few songs musically engaging. Indestructible is better, and I only own those two.

    Still, I suppose

  19. You might want to check the date before you comment. Colors and Indestructible were not out yet when this was posted, and Iwrestledabearonce hadn't even formed yet.

    And, again, "This list is by no means all-inclusive." And I would probably change it a great deal if I wrote it today. I probably wouldn't include any Disturbed, but if I did it would still be The Sickness, which is easily their best, with Indestructible probably their weakest.