This week we continue looking at the almost perfect metal albums that grace my iPod counting down from #300 to the best headbanger ever made.
141. Saxon, Strong Arm of the Law (1980)
Strong Arm of the Law is by far my favorite Saxon album. Their third album is a killer slab of NWOBHM and the dual guitar attack of Paul Quinn and Graham Oliver is at its best here. “Heavy Metal Thunder” is just that — thunderous — and Biff Byford belts in “To Hell and Back Again.” But it’s the rollicking fun of the title track that really makes you want to pull out the air guitar and rock out. At just eight songs and 37 minutes it’s the perfect get in-get out album that doesn’t overstay its welcome.
140. Napalm Death, Order of the Leach (2002)
Yes sir, it’s another Napalm Death record. I’m totally backwards from other metal critics on these guys. I hated them back in the grindcore days but the longer they’ve existed, the better they’ve become. The last Napalm Death album to show up in this list was Diatribes – their most straightforward commercial sounding disc. Order of the Leach isn’t even close to that. Of all the albums Napalm Death has released in the last decade or so, this has to be the most brutal. The riffs are well constructed and have definite rhythm in them, but are completely punishing from start to finish. There’s no radio ready tunes, there are no laid back moments and no attempts at being anything but skull crushing. You listen to this to get out your aggression or right before you’re about to kick someone’s ass because Order of the Leach can’t really do anything except get your adrenaline pumping.
139. Neurosis, Through Silver In Blood (1996)
I wasn’t lying about the Napalm Death record before this either. My blood is pumping right now, almost to the point where I’m a little shaky, so it’s nice to have Neurosis here to slow down the pace a bit.
I know better than to say anything bad about Neurosis as they are a beloved band in the metal scene and really, there’s nothing bad to say anyway. Around this period, Neurosis were a progressive sludge band, killing you with great heavy riffs and then making your head spin with slower progressive doom passages. The 12-minute epic title track is a perfect introduction for what to expect on Through Silver In Blood. It’s heavy as fuck in part and makes you feel like a complete stoner in others all while Scott Kelly’s vocals remain menacing throughout. The whole disc has this evil, dark feel to it no matter what pace the music is being played at. Among many good Neurosis records, this one has to be the masterpiece.
138. Mistur, Attende (2009)
You don’t come across too many black metal bands six members strong. You only don’t see “rhythm guitar” called out too often in the credits, so right off the bat you know you’ve got something at least a little unique here. Attende is the debut from this Norse band that plays a raw brand of folk-black metal, with lyrics steep in Norse mythology and atmospheric keyboards throughout a melodic yet menacing sound. This definitely could be a very dark soundtrack to a movie with lots of medieval fighting over hills covered in snow. Axes and ball and chains flying everywhere, horses throwing off riders into a shitstorm of arrows until all combatants are lying on the ground bleeding and the ultimate warrior is standing in the center, camera circling him as he raises his arms in triumph. And hell, that’s what I get just from “Svartsyn,” the second track on the album. There’s a lot more where that came from in what is really an enjoyable black metal album.
137. Obituary, Cause of Death (1990)
I was always very torn on Obituary. John Tardy’s vocals can be a little silly at times, but what initially turned me off to the group was that the first thing I heard was some techno-ish remix of one of their tracks (I can’t remember which one to be honest, I just remember thinking how much of a joke it sounded like). Now of course, this was also back in a time when I really didn’t like death metal very much, so take it for what it is. But as I was listening to albums and compiling this list that very early Obituary was pretty decent. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s death metal was all about playing fast, something that Obituary doesn’t do. They almost add a doom element to their sound which is no doubt death metal, but more like a slow calculated attack rather than a straight mugging. “Dying” is one of the fastest songs on the album and has the most memorable of all the great riffs and it’s followed by the excellent “Find the Arise” which is probably has one of the slowest riffs mixed in with some blistering solos.
136. Samson, Shock Tactics (1981)
Overall, Samson were a pretty average group, especially after Shock Tactics was released. But from ’80-’81 they were NWOBHM at its finest. Founder and namesake Paul Samson could pound out a melodic guitar riff with the best of them and the band photos were kind of creepy with Barry “Thunderstick” Graham wearing an S&M mask all the time but Shock Tactics has one major thing going for it – the singer. Going by the menacing name of Bruce Bruce at the time, for two records Bruce Dickinson was the voice of the group. The young Dickinson here hadn’t yet taken his falsetto to another level and doesn’t sound nearly as free as he does in Iron Maiden, but the refinement works extremely well. “Earth Mother” is probably the best track the group ever performed and “Nice Girl” is a rollicking good time song. Bruce Bruce joined Maiden after this album and Samson never put out another disc as good as this again.
135. Jucifer, If Thine Enemy Hunger (2006)
Overall, as a group you can certainly debate if Jucifer is even metal. I wouldn’t label them as such even after time spent on Relapse records. Despite what I’ve always thought was a complete mismatch between band and label, ironically their best album was one of two they released on the label.
Jucifer has two members – G. Edgar Livengood on drums and bass and G. Amber Valentine on vocals and guitar and the two just happen to be married. From release to release they are all over the map with some really hard metal tracks, some trippy atmospheric stuff to full blown pop songs. Lately they’ve been dabbling in some grindcore too (which does not suit them well at all). If you like Jucifer you have to be willing to accept the fact that you really have no clue what to expect when you buy one of their albums. If Thine Enemy Hunger was their third full length album and first after they made the decision to jump from Velocette to Relapse in ’05. And I don’t know if it was a conscious decision on their part or Relapse nudging them a bit, but this is their hardest and most metal album to date. It’s also their most listenable. The best Jucifer songs start off very sludgy with just guitar and drums before they turn the amps up to 11 and there are many of them on this album. There are also some great rock riffs, like in the super catchy “Lucky Ones Burn.” “Hennin Hardine” is the key to understanding why these guys are good though. It starts off with just Mrs. Valentine on guitar and her sweet vocals before turning up the rock riffs and then breaking off into a killer metal groove in the chorus. It kind of sounds like the Bangles got tattoos and Harleys if you can picture that.
Their next album for Relapse (L’Autrichienne) was a brutal, unlistenable piece of garbage getting them dropped and their most recent indie release (Throned In Blood) wasn’t much better so here’s hoping they can back to the creativity and energy of If Thine Enemy Hunger.
134. Swans, Greed (1986)
If I’m being honest, which I always am – I’m not sure I’ve ever understood what the point of the Swans was after 1989’s horrible major label album the Burning World. Before that though, Michael Gira led the Swans into this gritty dark industrial-post-rock-no-wave experimentation that really was quite mind-bending. Greed is more easily found today as part of the Cop/Young God/Greed/Holy Money reissue of two albums and two EPs together as one. But I don’t like that as a whole as much as I like the stark minimalism of Greed on its own. The whole record is a jolting juxtaposition of sounds like something you’d picture as the music in the mind of a mentally deranged person. The repeated chant of “I’m your stupid child” in “Stupid Child” is absolutely haunting and this is also the first record to feature contributions from Jarboe which took everything up just a notch for the group. This is really a quite brilliant mind-fuck of dark industrial sounds.
133. Godflesh, Streetcleaner (1989)
While you can probably debate the metal-ness of the Swans to be included on this list, Godflesh had a similar feel early on and there’s no doubt this is some heavy industrial metal. Before moving into a dancier, dub-like sound, Justin Broadrick’s Godflesh was a pioneer in the world of harsh grating metallic sounds. “Christbait Rising” is a song that you can see both the original sound of Godflesh and the sounds they would start using in the Songs of Love and Hate era. It contains a dark lo-fi metallic guitar riff with a backbeat that could almost pass for hip-hop especially with the lyrics towing the line of being sung and rapped. “Locust Furnace” is most menacing of the tracks on the disc – dark, creepy and very minimal. The only drawback is that it drags on a little bit in the end otherwise it’s a great dark record.
132. The Lucifer Principle, Pitch Black Dawn (2007)
I’m not sure what everyone else is missing here, but the Lucifer Principle is pretty damn awesome. This album was self-released back in 2007 and they’ve since released another record on some small label called Apache productions. They seem to get the straight death metal label though there’s just way too much pure melody in these tracks to either not call them melo-death or technical death metal. I’m amazed that this is a self-released debut album as it sounds like these guys have been together for a long time. The dual guitars play well off each other, the double bass adds a unique crunch to the album and the vocals fit the style perfectly. The production is top notch as well. These guys should appeal to death metal and metalcore fans and we know there’s a billion metalcore fans out there.