Rolling Stone recently revealed what they consider to be the 100 greatest metal albums of all time, and as such lists go, it’s both comprehensive and accurate.
The likes of Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power and Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss –two of my own personal favourites- are both accounted for in the Rolling Stone list, as were a whole bunch of albums I was excited to discover that I’d never even heard of.
Because that means there’s a lot of potentially awesome music that I now get to check out for the first time, but we’ll save that for another time.
Today, inspired by Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Metal Album of All Time, I wanted to offer my own take on what I consider to be the metal genre’s very best works of art.
For the sake of brevity, however, I won’t subject you to 100 albums, but will instead stick to just the very top ten.
Without further ado, here’s the first part of what I consider to be the metal genre’s all-time greatest albums.
10: Iron Maiden – The Number of The Beast
Whilst most of the albums on this list were an absolute no-brainer, I must admit that I spent a good while debating with myself about which one would actually get the ball rolling here.
In the end, the honour had to go to Iron Maiden’s 1982 effort, The Number of the Beast.
The band’s third album in total, and their first with long-time frontman, Bruce Dickinson, ‘Beast is a glorious and grandiose affair which is responsible for some of the band’s most well-known hits.
The title track, Run to the Hills, and Hallowed Be Thy Name all come from this album, but they aren’t the only reasons to get excited about it.
Children of The Damned and The Prisoner are also magnificent pieces of music, sounding for all the world as though the combined spirits of the Great Composers had wrapped themselves in a leather jacket, plugged in an electric guitar, and let rip.
9: Megadeth – Youthenasia
I’m aware that many people consider 1992’s Countdown to Extinction and the 1986 classic Peace Sells…but Who’s Buying? to be Megadeth’s all time best releases, but as a casual fan -at best- of Dave Mustain’s band, I’ve only ever bought one Megadeth album, and I absolutely loved it.
That album was Youthenasia, the band’s 1994 opus that gave the world A Toute Le Monde, arguably one of the best tracks the band ever wrote.
As much as I loved that song, it wasn’t the only thing that compelled me to listen to this album repeatedly for months -yes months- on end.
It was the whole thing; the dominant bass that rumbled like the eruption of a mighty volcano, the soaring, anthemic riffs that retained a distinctly metal bite, the shotgun blast of the bass drum and the trademark snarl of Mustain’s unique vocals.
This was more than just your typical thrash album. This was genuine, balls-to-the-wall arena rock presented as thrash, delivered into an atmosphere of haunting darkness yet moving all the whole towards a glimmer of light that represented hope, valour, and victory.
Today, this remains the only Megadeth album I ever purchased, because, with tracks like Train of Consequences, Elysian Fields, Blood of Heroes, and the aforementioned A Tout Le Monde, why would I ever need any other?
8: System of a Down – Self Titled
Rolling Stone only give the nod to the American-Armenian rockers once on their list, ranking 2001’s Toxicity in the number 27 spot.
Sure, that album contains some tremendous tracks on it, yet for this fan, it serves more as a representation of its era than as an all-time classic.
Meanwhile, the unbridled insanity of the bands 1998 debut is both timeless and -given the current political climate- as relevant today as it was 19 years ago.
In last month’s 52 Songs That Changed My Life post about the song Sugar, I wrote that the song was:
All ballistic ranting and raving about some guy named ‘Sako’ and big, fat riffs that bounced off the walls as though in the throes of a violent fit in a padded room at the asylum.
That only goes a small way to describing the pure bat-shit-crazy brilliance of an album that is as angry and aggressive as it is beautifully eccentric and wholly eclectic.
Drawing influences from speed, thrash and nu metal, as well as from traditional Middle Eastern and Eastern European cultures, System of a Down is mad, bizarre, and an absolute joy to listen to from start to finish.
7: Orange Goblin – Time Travelling Blues
Orange Goblin’s 1997 debut, Frequencies From Planet Ten was as solid a debut as you could ask for, full of rollicking huge riffs and tripped out jams like The Astral Project, Saruman’s Wish, and Aquatic Fanatic.
It wasn’t until the following year, however, when the stoner metal demons released Time Travelling Blues, that they really hit on something special.
Surfing along the astral plane with a bevvy of dirty, sleazed up blues riffs in one hand, a palate of otherworldly imagery in the other, and their Black Sabbath influences worn proudly on their sleeves, Orange Goblin created an absolute masterpiece in Time Travelling Blues that still sounds as good today as when it first crashed into the musical landscape the way a blazing meteor crashes into the ocean.
It is loud, ferocious album, with an oddly ethereal quality which belies the brutality of its songs.
6: Metallica – Ride The Lightning
It was obvious from the very moment that I started thinking about this list that it wouldn’t take long for Metallica to crop up.
In fact, I’ll be honest with you, I really had to contain myself to just two mentions of one of my all time favourite bands lest this whole thing turns into ’10 Metallica Albums’ instead.
So it is that the first of our two mentions comes in the form of Ride The Lightning, an album, that was largely responsible for making Metallica the very centre of my universe throughout much of my teenage years.
Back in April, I wrote a post called 52 Songs That Changed My Life ~ 16: Metallica – Creeping Death, in which I spoke about how I can still vividly recall the first moment I heard this album – it was one Monday evening after school, still wearing my school uniform whilst waiting for Nan to cook dinner, rocking out in my bedroom.
I think I explained the impact it had on me best in that original blog post back in April, so here it is again:
It was in that room that I first fell in love with this album in a way that I’ve only fallen in love on a handful of occasions since.
I loved the breakneck pace and whirling sirens of opening track Fight Fire With Fire, I loved the deep sense of foreboding that made For Whom The Bell Tolls the classic it is today, the heartbreak and despair of Fade to Black, and the manic guitars of tracks like Ride The Lightning and Trapped Under Ice.
This was more than just an album, it was a call to arms that demanded I pledge my undying loyalty to heavy metal.
That Monday evening, in that bedroom, whilst listening to this album, I did just that, and haven’t looked back since.
This was Part 1 of my list of the Top Ten Greatest Metal Albums of All Time. Part Two, running down albums 5 – 1, will be published next Friday, July 21st.