So this is it. The final week of False Metal, Dead where I took at a look at the 300 metal records which appear on my iPod. It retrospect I probably should have just done 100 instead, but the more and more I listened to some of these albums, they just begged to be mentioned in some capacity. If you missed any, you can search back in the archives and find the whole series or you can get a simple recap of the list here.
So if you go by my list of the 300, including the 10 below, the best year for heavy metal was 2009 which placed 17 albums in this list. But the best era for metal would have had to been between 1985-1989 which had 16, 16, 10, 16 and 14 albums respectively. And not counting the ’70s where it was debatable what was rock and metal once you got into the true metal era, 1998 seemed to be the lowest point with only two albums from that year making this list. Of course, this is simply one man’s opinion and since I already know I’m going to get one hatred filled comment on my #1 album, I’m sure this doesn’t gel with everyone — but that’s almost impossible to do with any list.
But without further ado – the 10 metal records that I believe are the finest ever made.
10. Nine Inch Nails, The Downward Spiral (1994/2004)
In part #29, I mentioned that The Fragile was my favorite NIN record until recently – well that recently was 2004 when the two disc deluxe edition of The Downward Spiral came out. These cash grabs don’t usually interest me but this set was brilliant. The second disc is good for one reason, easy acquisition of “Burn” which is one of Trent Reznor’s best tracks. But it’s the remastering of the first album that made the difference for me.
Since the album was released in 1994 and Reznor was already up on technology, remastering the disc in 5.1 surround sound didn’t make that much difference. Hence, most people will tell you the disc is basically the same. It’s not. There are changes on the disc, often extremely subtle – but to someone that has listened to the Downward Spiral 9000 times, it’s noticeable. Intros and outros tend to differ in length from the original but it’s the blips, bleeps and otherwise background noise that most people ignore that really caught my ear. Reznor added very slight noises or notes here and there to create the full vision he wanted from the beginning and although it’s not drastic, the changes made a perfect album really stand out even more. It was at that point that I bumped this gem up over The Fragile.
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9. Testament, Demonic (1997)
Enter 1997, with six albums already under their belt and popularity steadily in decline for the group, Testament change up their sound and put out a masterpiece of a record. The group had been changing over the years to a slower, groove sound but Demonic really brought a new sound to the group – and one that they would never do again. They moved away from political lyrics of recent years and back to occult themes and pretty much tossed the thrash out the window. A lot of people describe this as a death metal record thanks to Chuck Billy using all growls on the album. In reality it’s somewhere between death and groove metal – not too far from what Sepultura sounded like. It’s pretty insane how immense these riffs are throughout the disc and at the same time a song like “John Doe” was almost catchy enough to be played on the radio. Forget the name Testament on this record and just listen to it for the extreme metal throwdown it is.
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8. Slayer, Reign in Blood (1986)
So, this is the first of the albums that you’d expect to see in the top ten of all time. Listen, there’s a reason Slayer and Metallica are always at the top of these lists. They fucking slay. I’m not leaving them out just to be edgy or dissing them just to start controversy.
This is a genre defining record that could be placed in any spot all the way up to #1 since it’s the benchmark for the thrash and even speed metal. Between the title track and “Angel of Death” you could rip your head off headbanging to them. Strangely enough though, it’s not even my favorite Slayer record.
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7. Toxic Holocaust, An Overdose of Death (2008)
This is the most recent Toxic Holocaust record and so far the best thing Joel Grind has released. The first album was raw, the second album a little more polished and An Overdose of Death is the perfectly produced and crafted little brother of them both. Overdose is such a wild ride through punk and black metal that it’s hard to sit still listening to it. You want to pump your fists, you want to bash him over the skull with something and you definitely are left wanting more.
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6. Metallica, Master of Puppets (1986)
5. Metallica, Ride the Lightning (1984)
Master of Puppets vs. Ride the Lightning. At this point in the storied career of Metallica, it’s all about personal preference when talking about which one of these is better. I think every metalhead in the world understands that both of these albums are must owns and must listens from start to finish.
“Battery” is one of the best metal songs of all time and “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” has my favorite riffs on Puppets. But Ride the Lightningcontains “Fade To Black” man. It’s hard to argue with that track. And in comparing instrumentals, “The Call of Ktulu” beats “Orion” in my book.
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4. Slayer, Seasons in the Abyss (1990)
After they took a critical hit having slowed down for South of Heaven, Slayer came back a few years later and just cranked it back up to 11 and blew everyone out of the water with tracks like “War Ensemble” and “Dead Skin Mask.” “Skeletons of Society” and “Expendable Youth” are a couple of their most recognizable tracks and at 42 minutes, it has a tad bit more substance than Reign in Blood. And yet it’s still not my favorite Slayer album.
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3. Guns N’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction (1987)
What are we at with Appetite, 28/29 million copies sold at this point? Here’s the best debut record of all time and the record in 1987 that sounded like nothing else out. There was plenty of sleeze and glam at the time but despite Axl Rose teasing his hair, the music just was dirtier, grimier and technically more sound than your Poison’s and Warrant’s of the day. I used to run inside my Mom’s house to see MTV premiere the videos at the top of every hour and I remember debating on the bus if I had the copy of the album where “Paradise City” got louder after the whistle (I swear I did at the time but that was surely me just posturing). Though this had so many huge hits on it, “My Michelle” has always been my favorite thanks to the line “your Daddy works in porno / now that Mommy’s not around.” This changed the entire landscape of commercial metal at the time and still holds up very well today.
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2. Carcass, Heartwork (1994)
I remember going to the record store to pick this album up. It was the first Tuesday in 1994 that had significant releases and this was the first album of that year I went for. Strangely enough, I wasn’t even listening to metal back then so I have no clue what led me to buy the disc in the first place. But I felt in love on the first listen.
Heartwork is the album that not only changed Carcass forever but was the biggest breakthrough death metal had seen at that point. Carcass started out as a pure grindcore band before adding some melody into their previous work here and there. But in 1993 they recorded this masterpiece which removed all moments of grind and focused on melodic death metal. Melody in death metal was sparse back in 1994 and even when experimented with, it wasn’t to this level. Anyone that says death metal is always the same needs to listen to this disc. I can sing along to every tune even though I understand like two words (the lyrics are mostly medical terms that no normal human being would understand) and headbang like there’s no tomorrow. But what this record really did was say to the world, we can be brutal as fuck and still work in some real cool melodies. Unfortunately, their next album would be their last – and was Heartwork, minus the lyrics, which made it pedestrian. But this album was surely a genre changing moment in death metal.
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1. Slayer, God Hates Us All (2001)
I already know I’m going to take shit for this one but for my money this is not only the best metal album but the best album of any kind ever released. God Hates Us Alldoesn’t sound like any other Slayer record. Bypass that initial “oh shit are they trying rap-metal” feel out and what you get is 13 tracks of the most blistering riffs and angriest vocals ever put down on disc. I always go back to my second favorite song of all time – “Payback” with the lyrics; I’m gonna tear your fucking eyes out / rip your fucking flesh off / beat you ’til you’re just a fucking lifeless carcass / fuck you and your progress / watch me fucking regress / you want me to take the fall / now you’re nothing / payback’s a bitch / motherfucker!” as one of the greatest hate fueled metal lyrics of all time. When I’m having a bad day, I put this on in the car, loud as fuck and work out my aggression on the dashboard realizing that no matter how angry I am, I’ll never get this pissed off.
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- False Metal, Dead! 300 Headbangers, Part 29 (popdose.com)
- False Metal, Dead! 300 Headbangers, Part 28 (popdose.com)
- False Metal, Dead! 300 Headbangers, Part 27 (popdose.com)
- False Metal, Dead! 300 Headbangers, Part 26 (popdose.com)
- False Metal, Dead! 300 Headbangers, Part 25 (popdose.com)
- False Metal, Dead! 300 Headbangers, Part 24 (popdose.com)