There are definitely a couple of these lists available online if you want to have a good laugh. Not on my watch though! In the "DEFINITIVE" Top 10 Metal Albums of All Time, you won't find Van Halen, or Led Zeppelin, or any Grunge bands from the 1990s. I mean, I love them all, but this is a Top 10 METAL list. And METAL you will get!
Frankly, I'm kind of tired of the way music gets de-classified. Listen, I'm not against "de-classifying" music and movies and novels. Music is music, and we should love it all, but when I'm jonesing to find some new "Heavy Metal" vinyl, I don't necessarily want to search through hundreds of "ROCK" albums to find something of interest. Let me just walk on over to a "Metal" section, and I'm happy.
There are going to be some misses on this list... but it's a Top 10... unfortunately, they just can't all fit. And when we're talking about THE BEST, well, we're talking about THE BEST!!
10. BATHORY - BLOOD FIRE DEATH
In the late 1980s, a college radio station here in Toronto, at 88.1 on the FM dial (am I dating myself??) had a metal show one night a week (cannot remember for the life of me but I feel like it was a Tuesday). My buddy Carey taped the first 2 tracks from Bathory's Blood Fire Death from this radio show. The album leads off with a 3:00 intro of horses galloping and neighing through the cold vast landscape of Nordland... appropriately titled "Odin's Ride Over Nordland". A gentle picking of an acoustic guitar with a gentle hymn follows, and !!BAM!!, the low growl, and pounding drums, and crunching guitars of "A Fine Day to Die" blasts you in the face.... AND A LEGEND WAS BORN!!! One of the greatest metal songs ever, in my humble opinion. The rest of the album is fast and heavy and simply fantastic. Thanks for the find Carey!
9. CELTIC FROST - MORBID TALES
Celtic Frost has gone through quite a story arc in their music careers. For me, things started to go a little south with their release "Into the Pandemonium", but I can stomach it if the mood catches me right. After that, they just wouldn't make it on many metal lists... but prior...
I won't lie... this one kind of scared me with their track "Danse Macabre", as I was seeking darker and heavier music. This 6 Track release however, is by far their best offering, and quite frankly one of the best metal albums of all time. Hence the placement on this list. It's hard to pick a best offering, but I'll put "Procreation (of the Wicked)" at the top of the list. Brazilian thrashers Sepultura clearly agree as they covered this track on their Chaos AD release.
8. MEGADETH - PEACE SELLS... BUT WHO'S BUYING
This was the first time I had heard of Megadeth, only later to learn that frontman Dave Mustaine was a cast-off from metal giants (even at the time) Metallica. While Mustaine often struggled with his being booted out of Metallica for ex-Exodus guitarist Kirk Hammett, the metal world rejoiced. Clearly, without that moment in history, we would not have Megadeth. And they are EASILY one of the "BIG 4".
Peace Sells is the second offering in their catalogue and there is simply not one song that is used as filler. 8 tracks of sweet thrash metal from "Wake up Dead" about the troubles a man finds himself in with his girl (yikes), to "My Last Words" which is a great closer as we come full circle. Methinks I'll have to take a listen...
7. Iron Maiden - The Number of the Beast
The first recording with new lead singer Bruce Dickinson, Iron Maiden released The Number of the Beast in 1982. While I was only a wee lad at its release, it was generally known that great things were to come for this ensemble from the new wave of British Heavy Metal.
With the intro to the title track, narrated by Barry Clayton, a chill will run down your spine. "The Prisoner" also contains an intro taken from the television show of the same name followed by a crisp drum beat to make you step back and say "Wait!". Of course there is the track about the house of ill repute, being "22 Acacia Avenue", and with the epic closer "Hallowed be Thy Name", this album contains what are considered some of Iron Maiden's greatest songs of all time.
*EDIT* I had inadvertently stated that Vincent Price narrated the intro to "Number of the Beast", but was corrected by my buddy Mike that the voiceover was actually done by Barry Clayton, who passed away in December of 2011.
6. Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath
Just take yourself back to 1970. If you weren't around, you may have heard of the Hippie Love Movement from the late 60s. A movement to try to battle the wrongs of the Viet Nam war. The music of the time certainly spread the message of love. And then, in walks Black Sabbath. I mean, I can't even imagine what it was like for these guys to come onto the scene. Like this is heavy shit! Some may say that Deep Purple are the Godfathers of Heavy Metal, but I unflinchingly give the title to these monsters from England.
Black Sabbath's self titled debut warned of the darkness in the world at the time. Songs of war, crooked politicians, single mothers trying to feed their families, and also songs of hope with The Wizard. All with a completely heavy undertone. Way too heavy to carry. And completely fantastic!
5. Iron Maiden - Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
In 1988, Iron Maiden released their aptly titled 7th studio album. The apparently not so apparent concept album was the band's most successful release to date, gaining global praise. The Maidens had taken a major leap forward in their game, despite their huge leaps and bounds prior to this release. If there was ever a doubt as to this metal giant's ceiling, this album made it seem as though they couldn't possibly rise any higher. While I do not think they ever released a greater album after this one, their stock continued to rise, and now, 35 years later, they are clearly one of the biggest bands in the world and they continue to play sold out arenas.
Seventh Son starts off with a soft, poetic intro from lead singer Bruce Dickinson, before the classic maiden guitar, bass and drums kick in with an explosion. The gallopy bass and drums, the classic sound of Iron Maiden guitar solos and Dickinson's vocal range set the stage for one of the greatest metal albums of all time. The tracks come in as follows:
Infinite Dreams - a truly melodic number until the 3 minute mark when, well, you know...
Can I Play with Madness - the first single of this release, skyrocketed in the charts. Not typical for a Heavy Metal band
The Evil that Men Do - fitting, even for the world today
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son - the title track makes you wish the music will never end
The Prophecy - perhaps the weakest track on the album but not a weak track. This song still packs the same melodies, and vocal ranges as is typical with Iron Maiden
The Clairvoyant - my absolute favourite track on this album. The bassline on this is fantastic, and one of the many reasons I think Steve Harris is one of the best bass guitarists in the industry
Only the Good Die Young - all great things must come to an end... but you can just flip the LP over and start again
4. Metallica - Ride the Lightning
The follow-up to Metallica's debut album "Kill 'em All", "Ride the Lightning" was released in 1984. I'm not alone on this one, as many claim this to be the pinnacle of Metallica's library. You'll be hard pressed to find any fan (but specifically the ones who followed the band from the beginning) who does not like this album.
A number of Metallica's releases contain what would appear to be a heavy metal ballad, but be sure the crescendo leaves you feeling broke, beaten and scarred... As is the case with Metallica's story of the end of life with their track "Fade to Black", and it's simply, dare I say, perfect? But aside from the short 3:55 breather, the rest of this classic album will leave you exhausted, but wanting more.
Fight Fire with Fire - an eye for an eye
Ride the Lightning - capital punishment at its best
For Whom the Bell Tolls - bassist Cliff Burton shines on this, one of the many "war" songs in Metallica's library
Fade to Black
Trapped Under Ice - how do I get out of this hell??
Escape - "Out for my own, out to be free"
Creeping Death - with blistering riffs, considered one of the best Metallica songs ever
The Call of Ktulu - this 9 minute instrumental flows smoothly and graciously, and before you know it, it's over... a true masterpiece
3. Megadeth - Rust in Peace
I love the entire Megadeth catalogue. A few of their more recent releases often come across as a simple excuse to release an album, and of course, they're not all the best. From a collective, however, Dave Mustaine has released some of my favourite Heavy Metal music. But none are better than "Rust in Peace".
Many musicians have come and gone through the turnstiles of Megadeth, but with bandmates David Ellefson on bass, Marty Friedman on lead guitar and Nick Menza on drums, this was by far the best lineup. And they put together the third best metal album of all time with this 1990 release.
Mustaine is very vocal regarding his disdain for government, politicians, arrogance and corruption. And he let's it all out on this album. "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due" starts off this beauty with some of the greatest riffs of all time. The bands frontman doesn't shy away from his message throughout the 9 track release, as each track is just as intense as the opener. If you don't feel something after listening, you just may need to check your pulse to make sure you are alive.
Holy Wars... The Punishment Due
Hangar 18 - about one of the greatest government conspiracies of all time?
Take no Prisoners - take no shit!
Five Magics - the rhythm and bass line on this is masterful
Poison was the Cure - Dave's struggle with drugs
Lucretia - a good old fashioned ghost story
Tornado of Souls - some say this contains the greatest guitar solo of all time
Dawn Patrol - as you fall into the mundane, boring, day-to-day of life... we become moles, and destroy the Earth
Rust in Peace... Polaris - we've lived in a cloud of nuclear fear for decades... is it only a matter of time before our worst fears are realized?
2. Slayer - Reign in Blood
Perhaps I can call this 1B? I really struggle to put this 2nd... it's really second to none. But the battle is real folks. There can always only be one "best"... and so it should be. But the finish is thousands of a second later. Basically, the finish is the same.
This album is unrelenting. There are no melodic interludes. There is no ballad. There are no beautiful musical renditions. It's simply straight up, kick your teeth in heavy metal. It will leave you wondering what the hell happened for the past 29 minutes. That's right folks! At full length, this album clocks in at 28:55. But don't be scared... It straight up blasts a hole in your ear drums, and you will definitely NOT feel cheated. In fact, you'll need a long rest after it's over.
Angel of Death - 4:52
Piece by Piece - 2:03
Necrophobic - 1:41
Altar of Sacrifice - 2:50
Jesus Saves - 2:54
Criminally Insane - 2:23
Reborn - 2:12
Epidemic - 2:23
Postmortem - 2:45
Raining Blood - 4:58
1. Metallica - Master of Puppets
The creme-de-la-creme... and there is no debate. In 1986, Metallica not only released their masterpiece, they released the best metal album of all time. The 3rd studio album for the greatest rock n' roll band of all time came 2 years after their "Ride the Lightning" release. Despite the influences this album has had for 36 years, it didn't receive the chart topping status of other metal releases from the Iron Maiden's of the world. But there is simply not one bad song on this record. How many times can you say that? I'd wager that it's very few.
Master of Puppets was my first step into the thrash metal world. This was a realm far removed from my metal stepping stones of AC/DC, Black Sabbath, and Iron Maiden. I remember when I blindly purchased this album at 15 years old. My musical interests were flourishing and I needed something heavier than Motley Crue and Judas Priest.
I sat in my living room and placed the needle on the record, not knowing what to expect. I had heard the name "Metallica" but had not heard the music. Of course, in those days, there was no YouTube, or Spotify. And there was little to no radio coverage for this type of music.
As I heard the strum of guitar in the first seconds of the album, I waited with bated breath. At the 0:14 mark, the second guitar joins the fray. At 0:37, the crunch, the drums and the bass bring the whole thing to life, but still very melodic... until the riff at 1:05 punches you in the face. When James Hetfield's voice starts its rant at 1:29, I could only think "WOW!!!!!" and a huge smile overcame me... and it stayed for every second of the remaining 53 minutes. A new love was born!
Something that is a little hard to come by these days are the highlights of the musicianship, through guitar solos. But this albums blisters through solo after solo, unforgettable riff after unforgettable riff from Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield, bass lines from the greatest bass player of all time Cliff Burton (RIP) and the pounding, pounding, pounding on the skins from Lars Ulrich. Repeating oneself when writing a blog is a bit of a no-no, but I'll reiterate.... Metallica's Master of Puppets is a masterpiece. Plain and simple!!!
The Thing That Should Not Be
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