We’re almost at the halfway point looking at the 300 metal albums on my iPod, that I think everyone should know. All the albums below would still get four stars on a five star scale but we’re going to get into that four-and-a-half star world in the next couple weeks. In the mean time, here’s numbers 170-162 for you to headbang to.
170. Testament, The Ritual (1992)
I’ll say the same thing I have in the past. I don’t care if a band changes their sound as long as they still kick ass (or all of sudden they now do kick ass). This is how I can explain away liking both eras of Metallica, the poppier records of Megadeth and this mid-period Testament music. The Ritual seems like their answer to the Black Album and released almost at the same time as Megadeth’s Countdown to Extinction– two albums that of course redefined the world of thrash. I can’t imagine it was easy to be a thrash band in 1992 as the genre was fading and bands like Testament probably feared for their musical life. So they created this rock album with melody (“Electric Crown”), some almost prog-like elements (“So Many Lies”) and ballads (“Return To Serenity”). There are some thrash moments but you could say this is their only non-thrash record. It’s not for everyone but I maintain it’s pretty underrated.
169. Melvins, Ozma (1989)
Three years earlier the Melvins made somewhat of a debut with Gluey Porch Treatments which over the years has been called one of the sludgiest albums ever made by various bands influenced by King Buzzo and his cronies. Ozma has to be close though. At times it feels like the band is playing in quicksand and Buzz can’t move his guitar to get another note out. At 35 minutes for 17 songs, it’s actually shorter than the massive debut and really just knocks you back into that quicksand yourself. Once you start the record it’s virtually impossible to turn it off until the last note.
168. Immortal, Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism (1992)
Immortal just has to be considered one of the best of the original true black metal circuit. The second album of theirs to be featured in this series, Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticismis the debut for the trio then made up of Abbath Doom Occulta, Demonaz Doom Occulta and Armagedda. Now you wouldn’t think they were very creative since the two main players chose the name surname for their stage act but they actually wrote some very interesting riffs and solid well thought out songs, especially this early in their career. This is grim, raw and pure early black metal at its finest.
167. Deicide, Scars of the Crucifix (2004)
If there are any Deicide fans reading this column at all they probably thing I’m crazy about now. In terms of reception by fans, I’m pretty much going in the opposite direction most people do. I’ve already talked about the ones that regularly get the great reviews and seem to now be moving on to those Deicide records that fans can’t decide on or they think just plain suck. Scars of the Crucifix is definitely one of the albums that the middle ground doesn’t seem to exist on. People who love it talk about the brutality and power of the disc and all the great riffs that are worked into a blistering 29 minutes. The people that hate it talk about having silly lyrics to songs like “Mad At God” and “Fuck Your God” (God takes a high hard one on this record) and the fact that Glen Benton recorded two vocal tracks – one in the death metal growl and one in a ridiculously high voice and layered them together on most tracks. Yes, that takes a moment or two to get used to but once you do, this totally kicks ass. And I don’t particularly understand how someone could think “Fuck Your God” is silly, after all the band is pretty satanic in its message.
166. Iron Maiden, The Number of the Beast (1982)
The Number of the Beast was the first record with Bruce Dickinson on vocals and one album before Nicko McBrain would join to form the most well known Iron Maiden lineup. Original singer Paul Di’Anno was pretty great in his own rights, but Bruce brought that operatic high pitch to the soaring guitar work of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith. The interesting thing for me about the Number of the Beast is that it sounds like a group that was unaware of how far they could push it and open up with their new singer and yet they still created a monster. “Children of the Damned” sounds like what Ronnie James Dio was doing with Sabbath at the time and the theatrics of the title track are awesome. But it’s really the monstrous soloing in “The Prisoner” and the unmistakable sound of “Run to the Hills” that make the record.
165. Armored Saint, Delirious Nomad (1985)
Delirious Nomad was an album that snuck up on me. It was on Chrysalis records which wasn’t exactly a metal label and the album cover features a too-cool-for-school dude with fire in the background and the album name shows up in letters like it was a ransom note. That doesn’t scream out “I’m a kick-ass metal record!” However, even I’m baffled why I didn’t bother with it until many years after its release in 1985. I loved March of the Saint from the year before but then I skipped right over and went to Raising Fear in ‘87. So it wasn’t until maybe 2002 that I discovered Delirious Nomad with the awesome “Aftermath,” “Conqueror” and the pretty groovy “Over the Edge.” As I’ve stated many times, I really love John Bush’s voice and the mix of the heavy and groovy on this record makes it my favorite Armored Saint album.
164. Black Sabbath, Dehumanizer (1992)
Hey now, didn’t I just talk about Dio and Sabbath two albums above? The lineup of Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice reunited for this one shot in 1992. Dehumanizer was coming off the Tyr album which featured Tony Martin on vocals and was critically panned. While there’s nothing even remotely memorable about the tracks on that album it’s also not quite as bad as it’s made out to be. But even so, it was impossible to see this one coming. Dehumanizer is a ballsy rocker with killer riffs and super catchy tracks like “Computer God,” “TV Crimes” and “I.” RJD sounded great as always and Iommi must have felt something while in the studio because he sounds totally envigorated here. No doubt it’s the best album they released after Dio originally left the band.
163. Helloween, Keeper of the Seven Keys, Part II (1988)
I kind of feel that if you’re going to like power metal than you have had to at least heard the Keeper of the Seven Keys set. Both part one and two of this are genre defining albums and while defining a genre doesn’t always mean the music is great, in this case it is. Helloween had the classic Kiske/Hansen (vocals and lead guitar respectively) lineup in tact for this and cranked out two brilliant records. Kiske’s voice is soaring and Hansen’s riffs are nearly the best he’s ever recorded. Part I is a little better only because it’s slighty more consistent than Part II but if you want to hear how power metal sounded before it got watered down this is a decent place to start.
162. Mad Capsule Markets, Mad Capsule Markets (1996)
The Mad Capsule Markets were a Japanese Hardcore band that started out with a punk style, moved to rock and metal and then later to electronic rock.. Their self-titled release is listed as a compilation of older material but I wouldn’t include a straight greatest hits on this list. Every track on the disc was rerecorded or remixed for this album so the reality is that they are pretty much all unreleased tunes. “Possess In Loop!” is a fist pumping chant along anthem even if you have no idea what the title means. “S.S. Music” (or Solid Sonic Music) takes their rock sound and starts introducing the electronic elements in and “G.M.J.P.” (or Good Morning Japanese People) is a catchy as hell electronic pop song. The album was never released in the US.