Halfway through my list of the 300 metal albums that everyone should listen to and we’re finally moving on to those albums that are almost perfect, but leave just a little to be desired. Every album starting with #150 below would get 4 1/2 stars if i was ranking these on a scale of 0-5. With only an exception or two, these are albums that can be listened to from start to finish with no more than one or maybe two mediocre tracks somewhere in there but none that you really want to skip. Most pushed the boundaries of their genre or offered something unique to the fold to put them this high in the list. So let’s continue on, looking at the 300 albums that grace my iPod.
151. Black Sabbath, Mob Rules (1981)
Now I have to admit that while Heaven and Hell the year before was a return to form and a great introduction to Ronnie James Dio with the band, with Bill Ward not part of Mob Rules I kind of had that “here we go again” feeling but from the moment of that opening power cord of “Turn Up the Night” there was no doubt what would follow. As good as the opening track is, “Voodoo” separates itself from the pack with the awesome rhythm section of Geezer and Vinnie Appice and the creepy way that RJD extends the word “voodoo” in the chorus. “The Sign of the Southern Cross” is doom metal at its finest and the blistering riffs of the title track would be something the group wouldn’t get back to for years.
150. Bathory, Nordland I (2002)
It’s a total shame that Quarthon (the only member of Bathory at this point) had a heart attack and passed in 2004. As good as he was back in the day when he was creating black metal he perfected his craft when he switched to viking metal in the early ‘90s. After a dud or two the resulting two disc set – Norland I & II – released in 2002 and 2003 respectively put him back on top for a moment. Nordland I is brilliant, drawing from the viking lifestyle to great these majestic pictures of grand worlds, fire breathing dragons and fighting for your brother. The title track is nine minutes that feels like three. The riff on the track is just so damn fresh and the atmosphere put on top of the tunes just take you into another world. The catchiness of “Vinterblot” and the massive punch of “Great Hall Awaits A Fallen Brother” carry the album to greatness.
149. Agony Column, God, Guns & Guts (1989)
God, Guns & Guts is one of the more unique sounding records you’re going to see in this list. The debut album from Agony Column is based in basic heavy metal but adds a lot of twists and turns at every bend to create a pretty different sounding record. The title track is this crazed heavy metal mixed with thrash riffs pairing with psychotic vocals. “Snakebite” is a mix of Motorhead and groove metal while my favorite “4X4” has more of a straight punk vibe. This album was hard to place in the list because I don’t really care that much for the last three tracks. So to call this a 4 ½ star record was tough, but there are so many truly excellent tracks front loaded on this album that it got a bump up from me making it one of those exceptions that I mentioned in the opening.
148. Napalm Death, Diatribes (1996)
Well, it’s not often that you hear Diatribes mentioned as one of the top albums of all time let alone even one of the top albums in the Napalm Death catalog. But it’s really an overlooked gem. For me, looking at the career of Napalm Death you have to break it up into quality and influence. Metal critics nut all over Scum like it’s the greatest thing in the universe when if you really face the fact, it’s pretty shitty. No doubt it influenced a ton of bands, but that still doesn’t make it good. Napalm Death became good when they stripped away the grindcore and simply became an extreme metal band.
Whether you like this album or not depends on how you listen to your music I suppose. I usually like to listen to music by stripping away the name of the band and just hearing the music for what it is. It’s a hard thing to do sometimes as I too get the feeling a band should sound a certain way but it certainly helps to put together something like this list. Once Napalm Death simply became an extreme band they had some more melodic and accessible moments on pretty much every album, but Diatribes is still probably the most melody they’ve ever put on a disc. The riffs are immense as usual and Barney Greenway’s vocals are intense but the weird thing about this album is that every single track is in the 3-4 minute range with more verse-chorus-verse structure than ever before. I think this pissed a lot of fans of the group off. But again, take the name of Napalm Death off this record and it’s killer. “Greed Killing” and “Glimpse into Genocide” are the best one-two punch of any one of their discs and “Cursed to Crawl” is a complete headbanger.
147. Diamond Head, Diamond Head/”The White Album”/Lightning to the Nations (1980)
The debut Diamond Head record originally was self-titled with just a white sleeve hence the designation as “The White Album.” But over the years it has been re-released like 800 times by every dinky little record company in the world that has somehow bought the rights to the album that it’s sort of got the official name of the lead track, Lightning to the Nations.
As great as this monstrous slab of NWOBHM is, most people have probably only heard it thanks to Metallica sucking them off/paying tribute to them every chance they can get. Metallica has covered at least half the songs on the album, “The Prince,” “Helpless,” “It’s Electric” and of course “Am I Evil?” which goes down as the classic Diamond Head track.
They followed this up with Borrowed Time which some people consider their debut album since the self-titled record was released on their own (and I guess could be seen as a really good demo). It had half these songs and half new ones which was perfect fine. But then they went off the fucking deep end and released Canterbury in 1983 which is one of the biggest disappointments in the history of metal. Without a doubt, from the second track on, the album is unlistenable. And even after getting back together over the years they haven’t put out a damn thing worth listening to. Stick to these original tracks and you’re just fine.
146. The Body, All the Waters of the Earth Turn To Blood (2010)
All the Waters of the Earth Turn To Blood was one of the first metal albums I reviewed for this site and easily the first of 2010 that scared the shit out of me. And most of that defecation comes from the opening track.
The Body are a two piece sludge-doom band that create a blistering wall of sound from just guitar, vocals and drums. But it’s the angular rhythms and the quirkiness surrounding the songs that make this album great. “A Body” starts off the album with a female choir chanting beautifully for about seven minutes, which kind of puts you in a semi-relaxed state. And then The Body kick in the feedback, the guitar wail and ungodly screaming that completely just throws you into a different world than you were in. The sound you hear at the end of the opening track is mixed in throughout the other 39 minutes of the disc leading to the epic doom closing of “Lathspell I Name You.” The underlying sounds of the disc don’t vary much from start to finish, but that seems to be a calculated move on the Body’s part because the disc still pummels.
145. Enslaved, Ruun (2006)
If you want to hear some black Viking metal there really is no better place to turn than Enslaved. Every album they make sounds different from the last one, each time expanding on what you think black metal should sound like. Ruun ends up being a pretty basic album – black metal grit, a mix of clean and dirty vocals and simple melodic runs that make for a pretty easy to digest sound. “Path To Vanir” is a great example of what Enslaved brings throughout the disc. You get that instantly catchy riff and the overall Viking metal feel which breaks down into a dark screamy chorus giving you the best of what the group offers. There really isn’t anything fancy on this album which works to its advantage. It basically says “fuck you, I don’t care what you think I should be, this is what I am, open wide and vulnerable.”
144. Chemlab, Burnout at the Hydrogen Bar (1993)
Burnout at the Hydrogen Bar was the debut from Chemlab which still stands up today as one of the best industrial albums of the early ‘90s. The sounds on the album vary with the record essentially broken up into sections between interludes (or “Sutures”). “Suicide Jag” and “Chemical Halo” sound like a mix between Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine and late ‘80s Ministry while “Rivet Head” no doubt had influence on White Zombie as their track (also with “head” in the title) “Electric Head, Part 2” shares quite a few moments with the Chemlab tune. The album closer “Summer of Hate” is a loud, jagged and angry beast of a track that helps cycle the disc back around to the beginning to keep you in a constant loop of sound. And the banned album cover had singer Jared Louche shooting cocaine into his cock. That’s metal. Stupid, but metal.
143. The Obsessed, Lunar Womb (1991)
Scott Weinrich (better known as Wino) seems to have been in pretty much half the great doom bands in existence – Saint Vitus, Shrinebuilder, Place of Skulls, The Hidden Hand etc… but to me, the best album he was a part of was Lunar Womb with the Obsessed. The group was based in doom metal but had a definite classic rock influence to its style. Their self-titled debut in 1990 was a solid Sabbath-like effort but Lunar Womb took everything up a notch. The key to the record is Scott Reeder’s input. He plays bass like a fiend on this, giving all the songs this amazing crunchiness. It’s just a really juicy blend of doom and rock ‘n’ roll that’s hard not to like.
142. Morbid Angel, Alters of Madness (1989)
Man did Earache get a winner this time around. Morbid Angel jumped right out of the gate in 1989 with this ridiculously good death metal album that became the mold for hundreds of other bands. David Vincent’s near perfect vocals and Trey Azagthoth’s blistering riffs are always the focus of Morbid Angel’s music but at no point did the two come together better than right here. Not only was the production on the album excellent but the melodies were memorable and the lyrics comprehensible so any lover of extreme metal could access with music with relative ease. There is no Morbid Angel album that has better solos than this, heard in “Suffocation” and “Visions from the Darkside.”