So, I’ve listened to thousands of metal albums both old and new and at some point decided to start making a list of the top albums I’ve heard. It started out as a top 50, then 100 and somehow made it all the way to a top 300. And what’s a list if you can’t share it with friends and strangers, so here you have – False Metal, Dead! – the 300 metal albums that appear on my iPod, ranked for your pleasure.
A couple of things should be pointed out about this list; There is not much from the ‘70s on it. Face it, it was tough to define what metal and rock was in the decade. It wasn’t until the tail end of the decade and first part of the ‘80s that clearer definitions started revealing themselves. And I hate the ‘70s.
Influencing a billion metal bands does not necessarily make you metal. Hence, no Zeppelin and no AC/DC. Many people consider them metal ; I do not. They are both rock groups. Feel free to include them in your list, but for me, I tried to make sure the list contained metal albums only.
That said, Industrial and nu-metal are metal. So yes, I’m saying Limp Bizkit is more metal than Zeppelin. I know that’s kind of fucked up but it is what it is. It’s not like Fred Durst is appearing on this list either.
Yes, Metallica will appear many times on this list. I’m not attempting to be edgy and unique, just present 300 great metal albums. And Metallica belong on that list as many times as you’ve seen them on every list, maybe more.
And finally, I am under no illusion that you will think this list is perfect nor do I think this is any type of definitive list of the best albums ever made. It is impossible to please everyone with one of these things, but I hope you can at least get some enjoyment, because well…everyone likes lists.
So, let’s start with the first ten headbangers. False Metal, Dead!
Vol. 4 is the first really diverse album in the Sabbath catalog. Heavy psychedelic-stoner riffs are mixed in with one of their most well known songs, “Changes” – a piano-driven ballad later remade with his daughter Kelly. The key track though is really “Supernaut” which has one of the best guitar riffs ever written by Tony Iommi.
It ends up being a little two psychedelic for my tastes but there’s no denying the diversity of songs makes for an enjoyable listen.
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299. Flotsam and Jetsam, Doomsday for the Deceiver (1986)
There’s many reasons you should know this record. For one, it’s a thrash masterpiece. Secondly, it’s the only Flotsam and Jetsam album Jason Newsted appears on and thirdly upon release it got the first ever 6K rating from Kerrang! magazine which at the time meant quite a bit in the world of metal.
Newsted wrote a lot of material on the record including most of the lyrics and while I’d like to say that he really didn’t have much to do with the album being so good so as to not sound like I’m sucking on the teet of Metallica this early – I have to admit that there’s no other Flotsam and Jetsam album that even comes close to their debut.
I’m a stickler for vocals in metal – meaning paring the right voice with the right musical style. I don’t care too much about lyrics because half the metal singers in the world you can’t understand anyway. But I love the fact that Eric A.K. has the tone needed for their type of thrash while not being too over the top with his falsetto (which occurred way too much in the ‘80s; thanks King Diamond!)
The album impressively mixed short bursts of thrash energy like “Descecrator” with epics like the 8+ minute title track. And oddly enough the fourth track on the album is called “Fade to Black”, just like Newsted’s future band had on Ride the Lightning. Hmmm.
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298. Bywar, Heretic Signs (2003)
Bywar is an old school Brazilian Thrash Metal band that sounds like they came right out of 1989. One of three albums they released on Kill Again records (slogan: Metal to Kill Bastard Posers) which back then had a handful of original material but now seems to focus more on classic thrash re-releases.
This release isn’t even the best in the Bywar catalog but nevertheless is a total headbanger from start to finish. The blistering riffs in “Inquisition” and “Cerebral Death…Almost Decreted” are simply beasts, reminiscent of old school Kreator. Unfortunately, they really haven’t made much of a name for themselves outside of their native land.
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297. Blitzkrieg, A Time of Changes (1985)
Okay, so let’s break down the weird history of Blitzkrieg. They formed in 1980 and released a three song demo which included the songs “Blitzkrieg”, “Inferno” and “Armageddon”. Then they signed to the awesome Neat label and put out a 7” with “Blitzkrieg” and a new song called “Buried Alive”. They followed that up in ’81 with a self-released cassette that contained three new songs and all three songs from the original demo. Then they broke up.
Out of nowhere, singer Brian Ross reforms the band in 1985 with only him and the original guitarist back in the fold and releases A Time of Changes – which of course includes all three songs from the demo again and one of the tracks from the previous cassette (as well as five new tracks). Then they didn’t bother writing anymore new material until 1991 when Roadracer (former name for Roadrunner) releases the 10 Years of Blitzkrieg EP which of course has the “Blitzkrieg” song on it. So that made 5 consecutive releases with this fucking song. It is damn good, but Christ.
Interestingly enough, they might still be around as they decided to keep making music through an every changing cast of band members and released their latest album in 2007.
I know not of what they sounded like after this release, but with this album and before it, they were a fine slab of NWOBHM. Metallica regularly cites them as an influence and even recorded one of their songs for the Creeping Death EP – naturally, “Blitzkrieg”.
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They started out back in 1990 with more of punk sound and slowly turned into an electronic band by the time they broke up in 2005. Digidogheadlock used a lot of electronic and pop experimentation to go with their somewhat metal riffs. It was the eighth album in their catalog and the first to really signify a significant change in their sound. Listening to the record you can hear the influence of a lot of industrial metal bands and by this record they would fall under the genre of Japanese Hardcore. Alex Empire of Atari Teenage Riot even took them under his wing for a bit and got them a little recognition.
The tracks on Digidogheadlock range from the industrial nature of “Crash Pow” to the hardcore merged with the Nu-Metal sound of “Have No Fear”. It’s a wildly eclectic record from a group that all metal fans should at least give a shot.
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295. Defiance, Product of Society (1989)
Defiance get lumped into the huge “second-tier” of Thrash Metal bands but if you remember back to the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, they didn’t even get that much respect.
After putting out a couple demos in the late ‘80s, Defiance got signed to Roadracer/Roadrunner records and released Product of Society. There was all kinds of bullshit with the album and the band at this time. Roadracer forced them to get their record produced by Jeff Waters, the mastermind behind Annihilator. It sounded good on paper, but the story is that Waters was unprofessional and made them turn all their guitars down, leading to thin sounding guitar riffs (seeing that Waters is one of the greatest metal guitarists alive, this is kind of odd to me). The band ended up not being pleased with the sound at all. Then lead singer Ken Elkington flaked out on them and the band fired him. So you’ve got all this turmoil with the band and the record. Funny thing is, it’s damn good.
The production is not the best I’ve ever heard, but it’s not terrible either. In fact it’s even more consistent than their next record and musically they were a pretty talented band. The big knock on them were that they sounded like Testament. First it was the riffs they used, then their next singer Steev Esquivel supposedly sounded like Testament singer Chuck Billy – so no matter what they did at the start, they couldn’t seem to get out from under the shadow of the bigger band. They finally moved away from that when they started adding some prog elements to their sound in the early ‘90s but that’s also when they started to decline. Sounds like Defiance got the short end of the stick, but this debut is definitely worth your time.
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294. Ozzy Osbourne, Scream (2010)
I know what you’re saying here – “Steed, you’re a fucktard. How the hell could an Ozzy record from 2010 be one of the metal albums I need to listen to?” I know, I know – you’d never expect it, but the Prince of Darkness cranked out a good one this June.
It was addition by subtraction in this case as Zakk Wylde was no longer recording with Ozzy at this point. Zakk’s great, no doubt – but five Ozzy records later everything was starting to blur together. Add Firewind guitarist Gus G. into the fold and an epic power metal feel to the songs, coupled with an invigorated Ozzman and you have his best album in a decade. No shit.
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293. Godflesh, Songs of Love and Hate (1996)
Singer, guitarist and Godflesh founder Justin Broadrick has always had some interesting musical ideas. Having been part of Napalm Death for what’s considered the groundbreaking Scum album, he then created Godflesh. His first few records as Godflesh were dark, sludgy, industrial almost doom albums. By the time ’96 rolled around he had switched from using a drum machine to live drumming from Brain and added more electronics and elements of hip-hop into his music.
Following this album his guitar oriented material would wane and Godflesh became more of a drum & bass group.
For Songs of Love and Hate though, Godflesh put out a ton of crunchy distorted guitar riffs, one of the best rhythms of their career in lead track, “Wake” and a great head bobber in “Hunter”.
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292. Hexx, No Escape (1984)
Hexx went through a few incarnations in their career. They started out as Paradox until 1983 when they became Hexx. No Escape was their debut album and while they were considered a speed metal band – their speed wasn’t exactly impressive. No Escape sounds more like a simple early ‘80’s power metal record and you’d be led to believe that if they had gotten bigger, they would have turned into…well, Europe.
Instead, after their singer left the band in ’86 they recruited a new voice and added a slight death metal influence into their sound. At least it’s deathier than this. No Escape is still a pretty bitchin’ slab of metal and riffage even if it sounds way dated today.
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291. Helloween, Helloween (1985)
By all accounts I probably shouldn’t like this record, also known as the Mini-LP. But as you will see many times throughout this list I tend to enjoy a lot of albums critics think are shit.
The EP is five tracks (six if you got the picture disc LP) of Helloween before they established the known power metal sound you heard on the Keeper of the Seven Keys set. In fact, the disc isn’t even power metal – it’s more speed metal than anything else and sung by guitarist Kai Hansen. Critics seem to hate both this record and their first full length – Walls of Jericho – mainly because of Hansen’s voice. Almost every review of this EP says something about Hansen not being a good power metal singer, which is true. And since this is speed metal, I’m not sure how it applies. In fact, when they switched to power metal, Hansen stopped singing.
Is this the best Helloween album? Of course not. Is it an interesting look at how they began? Hell yeah.
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