We’re in the home stretch right now, finally reaching the top 100 metal records that I keep in rotation on my iPod. As with everything I get my hands on, I go big and I was going to do simply a Top 100 when I started this column but then half the records would be ones that everyone expects. I mean, will you see Master of Puppets? Reign in Blood? Of course you will and there’s only so much more to be said about those. But there’s also going to be some twists and turns along the way. But I still thought expanding it out to a great scope would lead to some unknowns being recognized and that’s what has happened. But now, we move into the 100 best metal records according to yours truly.
Need a recap of the previous 200? You can get that here. (download)
Just because we’ve moved into the top 100, doesn’t mean we’ve hit those elusive perfect 5-star records just let. I’m very picky in what I call perfect and while it will be more than a handful we’ve got a ways to go before that point hits. So once again all the albums week would get 4 1/2 stars out of 5 if I used that scale.
100. Zenith, Prisoner (1986)
There’s really not a whole lot of information out there about Zenith. They were a German band formed in 1984 and as far as I can tell released only Prisoner in 1986 before disbanding. Singer Tom Jackson was also in a French band called Nightmare around this time. I’d love to know why this group didn’t work out because this album is a damn solid traditional heavy metal record. Even the mid-tempo ballads and arena-lite songs are awesome. I’m a huge fan of “Sunrise” which certainly sounds like it could have been on the radio maybe a few years earlier. The album must be pretty rare these days and that’s judged simply by the fact that only 3 songs from the album have been posted on youtube. Everything is on youtube.
99. U.D.O., Animal House (1987)
Animal Housewas Udo Dirkschneider’s first record with his “solo” band after leaving Accept. Look, Herman Frank and Wolf Hoffmann were great guitarists in Accept and part of what made some of their music in the early ’80s so memorable. But a great big part of that was the awesome vocals of Udo. Although Russian Roulette in 1986 was a pretty good album with the former group – when he recruited his new band members and put Animal Houseout it was a like a renewed energy. This is a pure, top down, speeding down the highway fuck you all album. You might disagree, but I think this is the best album that Dirkschneider was a part of.
98. Black Tusk, The Fallen Kingdom (2007)
Listed as a demo in some places and their debut in others, if this is a demo it’s the best fucking one I’ve ever heard. They are usually listed under the genre of sludge metal, though they call themselves “swamp metal.” Now that they are part of Relapse records, they have slowed things down a little bit, but The Fallen Kingdom is an eight song blast of pure chaos in 2-3 minute form. It’s just a killer mix of heavy riffs, melody and the feeling that instruments are being thrown around the room. And if they aren’t being thrown around, I feel like I need to be throwing myself around when listening to this. It’s seriously hard to sit still on this one.
97. Tool, Lateralus (2001)
I know a lot of people don’t consider Tool metal, but I do and since it’s my list, they appear. Simple, right? Lateralus is the most challenging of all the Tool albums as there are just some crazy long prog passages with a billion time changes. While Undertow and Aenima hooked me right away with their awesomeness, Lateralus really took a long, long time for me to really dig. It’s more of a headphone-in-the-dark type listen. Hard tracks like “Parabola” and “Ticks & Leaches” rock out while transitioning into more trippy stuff like the title track or “Reflection.”
The really fascinating thing about this album is that there’s supposedly a lot of hidden meaning on the record and Maynard used the Fibonacci sequence on the title track so as each line has a certain number of words to fit the sequence. The Fibonacci sequence is based around the number 13 and there is a theory that if you reorder the tracks so that every two equal the number 13, it’s a better album. That order would be; 6,7,5,8,4,9,3,10,2,11,1,12,13. Try it, the album sounds very different in this order.
96. Opeth, Ghost Reveries (2005)
It’s hard for me to believe the Ghost Reveries came out way back in 2005. It seems like only yesterday that I fell in love with this album. There’s a lot more Opeth on the way in the top 100 but this is the record that got me into them and forced me to go back and examine their entire catalog, only to come to the conclusion that Mikael Akerfeldt and company will go down as one of the greatest metal bands to ever record. I’ve heard them called death metal, black metal and a hundred other things but some form of extreme prog-metal really works the best. What Opeth does so well on this record is switch from catchy hard-hitting riffs to mellow prog passages at the drop of a dime. And Akerfeldt has one of the best metal voices around being able to transition from a death growl to extremely melodic in the same manner. And even in the growl, you can understand the lyrics. There are so many great Opeth records, that it was hard to rank them and this gets the lowest of the rest you are about to see only because some of the mellow passages go on a little too long. But “Ghost of Perdition” and “The Grand Conjuration” are great songs and “Reverie/Harlequin Forest” is one of my favorite metal songs of all time thanks to one of the best metal riffs laid to disc on that track.
95. Nuclear Assault, Handle with Care (1989)
John Connelly and Danny Lilker were originally members of this New York thrash band. Game Over and Survive came before Handle with Care and provided the blueprint for this just rippin’ old school thrash record. It’s the last album they put out where they seemed to have this just reckless abandon in the studio and willing to let everything fly. After this, they lost some melody seemed to hold back a bit too much. But this is a rippin’ thrash album from a very under appreciated group.
94. Metallica, Metallica (1991)
What is there I can really say about this album that hasn’t said before? So, I simply will tell you how I feel about it. The only reason it’s not higher is that I’ve heard every song so many times that it’s simply a little old at this point. It would be one of those albums that might go down on my list as new things get added. And it’s not at all because of the quality. There’s no doubt this is a brilliant record and it would be top 5 if we were talking about influence on the metal world here, but we’re not. I am not in the camp that say they sold out. I am not in the camp that only Metallica music before this album was any good. Bands change, bands needs to live and make money and this made Metallica the biggest band in the world. Every song on the disc is fucking great. Every song on the disc will always be fucking great. Can I listen to “Enter Sandman” or “The Unforgiven” anymore without rolling my eyes? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the album was so great it put the metal world on its ass.
93. Megadeth, Rust in Peace (1990)
This is the bridge record for Megadeth, taking the best of the rippin’ raw thrash from the earlier records and polishing it up just a slight bit before making their way into commercial MTV territory with Countdown to Extinction. It’s a great album from start to finish and many an argument has been made that “Hangar 18” is the best Megadeth song and it definitely is spectacular. Last year for the 20th anniversary of the record, Mustaine and the gang played the album from start to finish which was very cool. I didn’t attend one of those shows but I did see them in the US theater simulcast of one of those European big 4 shows and Dave sucked ass. That doesn’t take away from how great this album is though.
92. Motley Crue, Dr. Feelgood (1989)
I just got finished reading the autobiography of Vince Neil, Tattoos and Tequila — and it was kind of weird how Vince barely mentioned this album at all since it was their most successful. I love Motley Crue as much as the next guy but I just don’t think any album before this was as solid start to finish. In the book Vince even said that Theater of Pain was a piece of shit. This is an album that fits the Crue drinking lifestyle perfectly. “When I get high, I get high on speed / Top fuel funny car’s a drug for me” from “Kickstart My Heart” is one my favorite crue lyrics. I mean, it seems so simple – but you’re talking speed as in MPH, you’re talking speed as in the drug and then of course Nikki Sixx had to have someone kickstart his heart from an overdose. The pace of it, the lyrics and the duel meanings really typify what the Crue was about. But the track that always made it for me was the fun “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away).” This is their one start to finish masterpiece.
91. Melvins, Bullhead (1991)
After three commerical records in a row, we’re back to the Melvins again. The big fact from this record is that bizarre Japanese stoner/ambient/anything band Boris took their name from the first track on Bullhead. This was their third full length and while it didn’t mark a drastic change in style for them following the grungy-sludge filled tracks of Gluey Porch Treatments and Ozma, it was the first time where there were less tracks and longer lengths. This also pushed the sludge element a bit further than the last two records as “Boris” and “Ligature” are almost pure mind drainers. That said a song like “It’s Shoved” was even quite upbeat for the gang. So it had a nice mixture of all the early Melvins elements.