So we’re finally there. We’ve reached the point where “perfect” metal records start showing up. There are a total of 46 metal albums that I would consider flawless from front to back and since we’re in the top 50 this week we’re going to start seeing them. Some obvious ones will be present but hopefully there will be enough to show you that I took this list very seriously and didn’t just copy shit from 100 other sites. So, let’s bust out 10 more metal records and start looking at the top 50 headbangers on my iPod.
50. Cirith Ungol, King of the Dead (1984)
Cirith Ungol was a killer fucking group. They only released four albums in the existence and the first three hit this countdown. King of the Dead was their second and marked a change in sound for them. Frost & Fire came out in 1980 and had a calculated commercial appeal to it but didn’t fare well on radio. So for the follow up four years later, Cirith Ungol just simply put a killer metal record out there and didn’t give a fuck if anyone liked it. It was dirty, grimey and not radio-friendly at all. Just like metal should be.
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49. Black Sabbath, Master of Reality (1971)
I almost feel like I’m committing some kind of sin by calling no Black Sabbath record perfect. This is the final of eight Sabbath records in the 300 and their best. The riff that permeates “Sweet Leaf” is known world wide and the album was dark and probably the heaviest one they put out over their illustrious career. The drumming in “Children of the Grave” is incredible and Ozzy voice was the best it had ever been. They build off the great first two albums and while I don’t think they ever reached this level of greatness again they were able to stay almost as good for at least 4 or 5 more years after this.
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48. 3 Inches of Blood, Fire Up the Blades (2007)
My second favorite current band, I’ve seen 3 Inches of Blood three times in the last 3 years now and each time they kicked total ass. Fire Up the Blades is a near masterpiece of epic fantasy metal. Roadrunner got Joey Jordison from Slipknot to produce the record which I was really scared of, but the sound turned out great. The energy is amazing on this album, Cam Pipes’s falsettos are out of this world and Jamie Hooper’s screams underneath compliment them awesomely. Hooper destroyed his voice on this tour and left the band afterwards. He was a key part of this album that’s missing on the follow up.
Every now and then I just break into the chrous of “The Goatriders Horde,” “Impervious to fire / Impervious to steel / Merciless vengeance / Dealt by their strike.” No one has a fucking clue what I’m talking about but that’s their loss. If you aren’t familiar, please learn.
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47. Mastodon, Leviathan (2004)
The second Mastodon record was the album that put them in the spotlight for good. And now every metal critic seems to think that every note is spot on perfect in everything they do. I don’t necessarily agree with that but I can’t deny they are a damn good band, tight as hell and so powerful. Of their four albums I think Leviathan is the best because at that point they hadn’t yet had the critical acclaim to pretty much do anything they wanted – which continues to mean expanding on their progressive nature and going off on crazy ten minute tangents. Other than the 13 minute “Hearts Alive” at the end of the disc, for the most part the rest of the songs are three minute bursts of fire, led by two of their signature songs, “Blood and Thunder” in which Neil Fallon from Clutch has some vocals on and “Iron Tusk” which is the first song I remember that really turned me on to them.
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46. Rage Against the Machine, Rage Against the Machine (1992)
They may have only had four albums, one of which was a covers record, but if the label of rap metal sticks with these guys (as it should) then they are the best rap metal group that ever recorded without any question. This blew me away back in 1992 when the video for “Freedom” was played every hour on the hour on MTV. And then it provided me with one of my most memorable moments in ’93 when I was reading the morning announcements over the loud speaker at my high school. Before I started reading we played the national anthem. The cassette recording of it had been missing for a few days but then showed back up randomly at one point. Thinking nothing of it, I put the tape in and 3/4 of the way though it cuts into “Killing in the Name” and repeats the most famous lines of the record, “Fuck you / I won’t do what you tell me” over and over again. Still the most memorable moment of my high school years. I owe Russ a big thanks for that. I know it was you buddy. And thus starts the list of “perfect” metal records.
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45. Bathory, Blood Fire Death (1988)
We’ve talked before about the brilliance of the now deceased Quarthon and his output as Bathory but here’s where he really took off for me and many others. The first three Bathory records were good black metal but at the time I didn’t really care for black metal at all. But then Blood Fire Death has an epic battle on the cover, opened up with a grand, orchestral instrumental and moved into new territory. It’s now considered the first Viking Metal record and really the standard that all Viking Metal is compared to. And Quarthon was a clever bastard too, as each verse on “The Golden Walls of Heaven” consists of five lines and the first letter of each line of the verse spells out “Satan.” Then the first letter of each line of “Dies Irea” spells out “Christ the Bastard Son of Heaven.” So the black metal influence was still present for sure. He would go full blown Viking on his next album, but this really is a blueprint for the genre.
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44. Burzum, Filosofem (1996)
Filosofem is more like an experience than just a plain old regular listen to a metal record. Varg himself has come out and said this album is far from perfect and kind of weird so of course I think it’s a masterpiece. It was recorded in 1993 but then put on hold when he went to jail. It was released three years into his prison sentence and would be the last album with guitars on it until he got out of the slammer.
The key track here is “Dunkelheit” (German) or “Burzum” (Norwegian) which is the first track he ever recorded but it was never up to his standards to release it before this. It’s a mesmerizing, moving and minimal piece highlighted by some of the best keyboard word in any metal recording. The sound on this is simply amazing – the production makes the guitar sound thin and fuzzy almost like a wall of static throughout the electric tunes. If there’s any problem that I’ve heard people mention over the years is that after this fuzzed out white noise for like 35 minutes, “Rundgang Um Die Transzendentale Säule Der Singularität” is a 25 minute ambient track featuring mostly just a lone keyboard with only a hint of guitar here and there. Personally, I think it’s an absolutely beautiful tune on a brilliant slab of black and ambient metal.
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43. Piledriver, Metal Inquisition (1985)
Piledriver played a combo of power and thrash metal that was pretty unique for the time. The riffs were blistering and the vocals from the guy simply known as Piledriver were really interesting. They ranged from screaming to melodic and all the while he did spoken narratives and made a whole mess of strange noises. Looking at the cover you think it’s going to be straight mindless thrash, when in reality you get more of a power metal album and the lyrical topics are all over the map.
Whether it’s lamenting about how you need to be a metalhead in the title track, “And if you’re not a metalhead you might as well be dead / We’re the metal inquisition / We sentence you to death / by guillotine!” with the sound of the death contraption being raised up and then let go, to both the devil and aliens having their way with you (“Sex with Satan” and “Alien Rape” respectively) to having relations with corpses in “Sodomize the Dead” which consists of only screaming, farting and repeating the title over and over again, you get quite a diverse and unique recording.
Interestingly enough about this album as well — there’s five people listed on the album sleeve as playing on this record, but from what I understand all instruments were played by Leslie Howe who would later go on to be part of the very different Artificial Joy Club and also Sal’s Birdland.
Piledriver broke up after just two records, but made a comeback in recent years — now known as The Exalted Piledriver.
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42. Windir, 1148 (2001)
Norway’s Windir is black metal in its roots but incorporates a lot of folk into their sound as well. They released four albums in their run up until 2004 when singer Valfar went out for a walk and never came back, getting caught in a snow drift and dying of hypothermia. 1148 was their third album and is their best by far combining great production with killer riffs and a darkness not felt on the other records. I normally don’t just copy full lyrics to a tune, but “The Spiritlord” was really the track that drew me to this album.
“It is he who holds the power / It is he who reflects the will / It is he who reigns the masses / It is he who urges to win / It is he who lights the fire / It is he who controls the flame / It is he who breeds hatred / It is he who withstands pain / The endless gap between servant and lord will grow stronger within us all / It is he who decides the course / It is he who takes the step / It is he who moves forward / It is he who worships himself / The endless gap between servant and lord will grow stronger within us all / From order raises chaos / In chaos there is progression / In the ruins of man’s ashes / Sprouts the resurrection / A dark narcissistic dimension / A new world to come / The end of civilization / The arrival of the Spiritlord / It is he who lights the fire / It is he who controls the flame / It is he who breeds hatred / It is he who withstands pain / Altered perception a moral decay / A feast for the vultures circling over their prey / No care for others an individual war / Where you are enslaved or become the Spiritlord.”
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41. Motörhead, Ace of Spades (1980)
Lemmy, Fast Eddie Clarke and Philthy Animal vs. Lemmy, Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee. Man, it’s hard to figure out which lineup is the best one he’s put together. This one featured the former and man does it kick major ass. While Motörhead albums continue to be great 30-some odd years later they do sound quite similar in nature these days. Ace of Spaces doesn’t at all. This is a kick your ass and take names type album with the iconic title track as well as “Shoot You in the Back” and one of my all time favorites, “(We Are) The Road Crew.” Just fucking killer.
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