One hundred down and two hundred to go. Okay, so maybe I should have made this a top hundred or let DW do a 50Metal50 on this but man I’m enjoying going back to listen to all these albums again. As we cross into the top 200 we’re still in the 4-star land and have a while to go before we reach those 4-and-a-half-star albums. It’s a very eclectic week, so if you like metal of any kind, you should enjoy something here. Ten more great metal records that take up a piece of my iPod. Go!
200. Black Sabbath, Black Sabbath (1970)
Black Sabbath is possibly the first heavy metal album ever made, so to not include it here means I shouldn’t be doing this in the first place. It’s definitely not the best album Sabbath ever made and Ozzy sounds better on future albums but it’s hard to deny how heavy this is for being put out way back in 1970 and also being the debut from kids that would flip the music world on its ass. “The Wizard” is a brilliant blend of hard rockin’ and blues with Ozzy on the harmonica. And the title track and “N.I.B.” (Nativity In Black) are staples of the Sabbath catalog. I don’t notice bass playing very often but Geezer’s work in “N.I.B.” is a total highlight of the disc.
199. Cirith Ungol, One Foot In Hell (1986)
Apparently named after the high pass in Mordor where Shelob lived in Lord of the Rings, Cirith Ungol released four albums in 11 years and this is the first of three to appear in the list. I think most Cirith Ungol fans would agree in my assessment that while all four albums were pretty damn great each one after the debut went just slightly down a notch. One Foot In Hell is the third album and contains a little more doom oriented material than the previous album. The bass is kind of buried in the mix which gives it a bit of a hollow sound but songs like “Doomed Planet” and “Nadsokor” have tons of great riffs in them and Tim Baker’s nasally screams are as good as ever on this one.
198. Danzig, Danzig II: Lucifuge (1999)
Lucifuge was way more dynamic than the debut album, contained better songs and very well might be the best Glenn’s voice has ever sounded. “Long Way Back From Hell” and “Snakes of Christ” start off the album pretty rocking. “I’m the One” is a little acoustic ditty with a little boy making love to an older woman (the opposite of “Killer Wolf” in which the wolf’s pray is a little girl) but it’s really my favorite Danzig track that makes this album for me. “777” starts off mellow and dark with just John Christ’s guitar and Glenn singing before it turns into this fabulous rockin’ blues number in the chorus.
197. Evile, Enter the Grave (2007)
Evile was a breath of fresh air back in ’07 when they released Enter the Grave – one of the most brutal thrash metal records of the year. Almost every song has a ton of energy and some of the best modern thrash riffs you’re going to hear from anyone these days. The nice thing about some of these songs is that they let them build with the great riffs, like “We Who Are About To Die” which has at least three quality ones and a superb solo in the seven-and-a-half minute tune. The longer songs don’t meander into nowhere land and the shorter ones don’t give up on riffs before they are fully formed. It’s such a great debut that it makes their 2009 follow up incredibly disappointing as they removed a lot of the thrash and turned slightly towards a more heavy metal sound.
196. KMFDM, XTORT (1996)
I didn’t really know much about KMFDM until 1993 when they released Angst and had what might be their most well known song in “A Drug Against War.” After that album I went backwards and got all their material and got all the way to 2002’s ATTAK before giving up on them but ’90-’96 was really their only strong period as the earlier stuff feels underdeveloped and the newer stuff is just plain boring. I really don’t know what fans think about any of their albums as I’ve never dug that deep to find out, but XTORT to me is the entire package. It’s got heavy guitar riffs, catchy rhythmic programming and the best combo of male to female vocals of their career. After this it feels to me like Sascha Konietzko kind of lost the groove a little bit but I’m assuming he’s going to make music as KMFDM until he dies.
195. Axel Rudi Pell, Kings and Queens (2004)
Axel Rudi Pell was the lead guitar in Steeler – another group that shows up in this list. He plays a very traditional heavy/power metal guitar for his solo work, 13 albums strong. I’ve listened to all of them and everyone of them has a handful of really great tracks but Kings and Queens is the only one that is consistently good from start to finish. Most of his music is extremely over the top and cheesy (and in this case, that’s his style so it’s not necessarily a bad thing) but they all sort of sound like Europe once they became the “Final Countdown” band. In reality, the only thing that makes this album different from all his others is that there are no clunkers on it and I felt like Axel Rudi Pell really deserved to be on this list, so start here if you’re going to dig in.
194. Slipknot, Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses (2004)
Don’t be so quick to write these guys off because they have hit records and wear masks. They started off more in the new-metal vein than they are now, but even their second full length — Iowa — was much harder than their major label debut. Vol. 3 is loud and blistering alternative metal and incredibly dynamic on disc which with nine members, it best be. I maintain that Slipknot is good for the world of metal. They aren’t complete sell-outs, create actual metal that both rock kids and headbangers can enjoy and have probably turned a lot of people on to hard music that isn’t made by Shinedown. There is no better showcase for what the band brings to the table than here with crazy riffs intertwined with both growls and clean singing as well as anthemic choruses that everyone can relate to, just see “Pulse of the Maggots” or “The Blister Exists” for examples. Slipknot is the bridge between rock radio and underground metal and to me is one of the key bands that has really brought metal back into the spotlight in the decade or so.
193. Isis, Oceanic (2002)
Personally, I like the earlier, harder and sludgier Isis better than the more recent post-rock version of the group. I think Oceanic has all the part of Isis anyone needs. It combines the harder really rockin’ moments from Celestial and melds them with trippy atmospheric passages better than on any other record. Celestial has some of my favorite Isis songs on it, but Oceanic is the most consistent release. I think liking Isis comes down to two things; can you handle Aaron Turner screaming the whole time and do you think it fits alongside some of the more spaced-out mellow tunage? If you say yes to both, then there’s really no reason to not like at least some album from these guys.
192. Black Label Society, The Blessed Hellride (2003)
The Blessed Hellride is back when Zakk Wylde sounded like he was having fun with his music. I reviewed the latest BLS record when it came out and got ripped by fanboys for disliking it, but compare it to this and it’s not even in the ballpark. The riffs on this are immense and one listen to the solo in “Stoned and Drunk” says that Zakk was at the top of his game. And despite the fact that I’m tired of that signature sound with the pinch harmonics, this album still sounds fresh today and makes me want to kick the shit out of something. At random points I still sing “Doomsday Jesus” to myself and Ozzy singing on “Stillborn” was pretty much BLS’ lone shot at becoming a hit making machine. If you’re curious about Black Label Society start here and go backwards. 1919 Eternal and Stronger Than Death are pretty damn good albums as well, but this is your gem.
191. Annihilator, Alice In Hell (1989)
I felt the need to include this one here because it’s the start of the career of one of the greatest metal guitarists to ever pick up the axe. There’s more Annihilator to come way down the line so I don’t think it’s the best representation of Jeff Waters’s ability but it’s a classic thrash album that shows Waters as his least polished and more raw state. A song like “Word Salad” is pretty cheesy, but the Annihilator staple “Allison Hell” and the underrated “Burns Like a Buzzsaw Blade” make dealing with the salad tolerable. I’m a huge fan of Waters guitar playing and almost every Annihilator record although even I would admit that listening to his 13 albums in their entirety, there’s only one or two full gems in the group. What he does provide on every album though is enough really great material that skipping two songs doesn’t actually take away from the experience and I can’t say that for a lot of bands.