11-11-11 is National Metal Day which means it’s the day to celebrate one of the most enduring genres in all of popular music in heavy metal. Often dismissed by the critics and mainstream media at large, metal has managed to survive these many years since the release of Black Sabbath’s legendary debut album on February of 1970 on Friday the 13th. Since then, metal has flourished into many sub-genres and sub-culture that has kept the music going. To celebrate this amazing day, here is a list of what I believe are the 20 most essential albums in the world of hard rock and metal from 1970 to today.
Black Sabbath-Master of Reality
While the first album and Paranoid would be obvious choices, Master of Reality is easily the better album. Largely due to the fact that it shows a further progression of what metal can do in cuts like Sweet Leaf, Into the Void, and the very menacing Children of the Grave. While instrumentals like Embryo and Orchid show more of Tony Iommi’s talents as a guitarist, it is the band’s best album did with original vocalist Ozzy Osbourne.
Alice Cooper-Billion Dollar Babies
Alice Cooper in the early 70s was unstoppable as Billion Dollar Babies was Cooper at his peak with the original band he had back in the late 60s/early 70s. From the hit No More, Mr. Nice Guy to its blistering title track, it’s the quintessential album by Cooper that ranges from hard rock to cabaret in all of theatrics. Featuring Bob Ezrin’s wondrous production, it’s a record that really shows what Alice Cooper is all about in terms of humor and terror.
The album that really made it OK for metal to be something more than just dark and gloomy as Van Halen turned it into a party. From that instrumental Eruption that shows Eddie Van Halen wailing on that guitar as it then goes to this amazing cover of the Kinks’ You Really Got Me. It’s a record that is really about having fun as it is loud with its bombast rhythm section of drummer Alex Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony to the showmanship that is vocalist David Lee Roth. Van Halen is the kind of band that any metal fan must have to play at a party just so they can get laid.
AC/DC-Back in Black
It’s an obvious choice but it is the record that made AC/DC into superstars following the death of original vocalist Bon Scott. Yet, there’s a lot to what make this album one of the best records ever made from the opening cut Hells Bells to the crunching Rock N’ Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution. It is a perfect record that can get people to party with but also the kind of record that is just about having fun only the way Bon Scott would’ve wanted it.
While Iron Maiden has made a lot of great albums with vocalist Bruce Dickinson for many years, there are those that much prefer the work of original vocalist Paul Di’Anno. While Di’Anno’s vocal style is different from the more wailing style of Dickinson, there is an energy that can’t be compared due to what Di’Anno can do. Plus, the album has something that at the time during the British New Wave of Heavy Metal that was very different as it brought the energy of punk into the virtuosic world of metal that features the amazing dual guitar noodling of Dave Murray and Dennis Stratton. It’s one of those must-have records that metal fans should get along with everything else the band did with Bruce Dickinson.
Judas Priest-British Steel
You can’t get more metal than Judas Priest and who better to represent metal at its finest than the Metal God himself, Rob Halford. British Steel is widely considered their best album and who can argue with that other than Priest fans? It’s got everything expected from Priest in terms of performance that is led by Halford’s operatic vocals and the twin guitar work of K.K. Downing and Glen Tipton.
Motorhead-Ace of Spades
There can’t be a metal list without Lemmy and Motorhead. It wouldn’t be a metal list and metal fans would bitch about the lack of inclusion of Lemmy. While Motorhead has released so many albums, Ace of Spades remains their crowning achievement in terms of fast yet heavy rock that has an attitude. Lemmy’s vocals are definitely distinctive with its growling rasp while the guitar work of “Fast” Eddie Clarke and Phil Taylor’s hard-hitting drums are out of this world.
Black Sabbath-Heaven & Hell
If the late, great Ronnie James Dio hadn’t joined Black Sabbath following Ozzy Osbourne’s dismissal, Sabbath would’ve been done. With Dio at the helm, Sabbath not only came back with a new sense of energy but it made Dio into a metal icon. Songs like Children of the Sea, Neon Knights, its seven-minute track, and Die Young. It is a really heavy yet fiery album that is still timeless and powerful as it was back in 1980.
Ozzy Osbourne-Diary of a Madman
Before he became a reality star and a joke that appears in awful commercials with the Osmonds and fuckin’ Justin Bieber. There was a period when Ozzy Osbourne was menacing as the Prince of Darkness. While his solo debut Blizzard of Ozz might’ve been the typical choice, Diary of a Madman is the better album in terms of Ozzy’s performance as the vocalist along with a slew of amazing songs that is carried by the dazzling guitar work of the late Randy Rhoads.
Metallica-Master of Puppets
This is definitely the obvious pick as far as Metallica goes and let’s be honest. They haven’t made an album as good as this one though …And Justice for All, The Black Album, and Death Magnetic are still excellent albums. Yet, Master of Puppets is thrash metal at its best with its crunching title track while slower songs like The Thing That Should Not Be and Welcome Home (Sanitarium) show that the band can delve into dark lyrics while maintaining a sense of force into the music. It is what defines Metallica as one of the best bands in metal.
Slayer-Reign in Blood
Anthrax’s Scott Ian said if there was an idea of what Hell should sound like, it’s this album. It’s speed and thrash metal at its most brutal with an energy that is pretty fuckin’ insane. It’s an album that defines heavy not just in performance but power as the album from start to finish is intense with dark lyrics that is truly scary. And then there’s Raining Blood that is surely the most diabolical and insane song ever that will surely bum out those awful hippies.
Guns N’ Roses-Appetite for Destruction
The 80s may have been the big decade for metal but not everyone enjoyed the fact that it was surrounded by those awful hair bands. Then came Guns N’ Roses with their debut album where once Welcome to the Jungle plays. All of those spandex-wearing pansies said, “oh fuck”. It’s a brutal yet badass album that features such classics as Mr. Brownstone, Nighttrain, Out Ta Get Me, and the amazing Sweet Child O’Mine. It’s not a full-on metal album but it is badass enough for the guys to enjoy with songs that even the ladies can love.
Pantera-Cowboys from Hell
Metal would be dead if it wasn’t for Pantera as their major-label debut album Cowboys from Hell is truly one of the key albums of the 1990s. Featuring the amazing vocal growl of Phil Anselmo and the amazing guitar work of the late Dimebag Darrell. It is definitely an album that definitely takes the world of thrash and speed metal to a more sludgier sound with a bombast that felt new at the time. More than 20 years since its release, it’s an album that still holds up.
Rage Against the Machine-S/T
Many will debate whether or not Rage Against the Machine is metal but they did reinvent the music at a time when metal needed something new. While rap-metal eventually became something that fans don’t want to revisit, Rage did it right with their debut. Thanks to Tom Morello’s guitar work that acted like a turntable gone wrong and Zach de la Roca’s rapid-fire rhymes, they were the band that weren’t afraid to say anything as they had something to say politically and socially. Songs like Bullet In Your Head, Freedom, Know Your Enemy, and the #1 UK hit Killing in the Name that recently stopped some lame manufactured pop song from being number one that Christmas. Rage is purely fuck-you music at its finest.
Kyuss-Blues for the Red Sun
Probably one of the most overlooked acts of the 1990s in terms of metal, Kyuss was a band that really gave the stoner metal sub-genre something for metal fans to be excited by. Featuring future Queens of the Stone Age members Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri, it’s a record that dabbles into various dynamics from slow tempo grooves to very fast and heavy rock. It’s a record that is unlike anything and needs to be checked out more to a wider audience.
Sepultura was one of the 1990s premier bands in the metal scene as the Brazilian quartet that was led by Max Calvera at the time was unstoppable. Taking on the world of thrash metal with polyrhythmic beats based on their native Brazil, Sepultura brought something new as Chaos A.D. is considered to be their finest album of the Max Calvera album. While there’s elements of exotic, folk-driven material based on the band’s Brazilian background, there’s a lot of heavy yet intense material that gives reason into why Sepultura is one of the great bands of metal.
Type O Negative-Bloody Kisses
Vocalist/bassist Peter Steele will be missed as he’s already cultivated a great legacy of amazing music. The band’s second album is definitely their best work in terms of what Gothic metal should be though there’s more to it as it reveals Steele’s strange sense of humor with its weird interludes to the punk-inspired song like Kill All the White People and a very exotic cover of Seals & Croft song Summer Breeze. Yet, songs like Christian Woman and Blood & Fire show what this amazing band is all about as they will be missed.
Tool was among one of the key bands to come out in the 1990s in the age of grunge and alternative rock to reinvent the idea of what metal can be. While they can be called a progressive metal band, there’s more to what they are. The band’s second album remains their best due to songs like Stinkfist, Aenema, Third Eye, and many others as it is the first to feature then-new bassist Justin Chancellor along with the amazing drum work of Danny Carey and the blazing guitar work of Adam Jones. Then there’s Maynard James Keenan who is definitely one of the most original vocalists to come around as there is no one like him.
Queens of the Stone Age-Rated R
During that awful period of nu-metal and rap-metal during the early 2000s, thank goodness there was Queens of the Stone Age to keep metal alive. Featuring a stoner element to the music, there is something very different about Queens of the Stone Age as Rated R is their best album. With the evocative vocals of Josh Homme to the more intense personality of bassist Nick Oliveri, there is a lot about the album that works as there’s some humor and esoteric lyrics to the record. Yet, there is also a performance that wasn’t like anything in metal as they go back to riffs and power chords without trying to do something that everyone else was doing at the time.
Mastodon-Crack the Skye
Finally, we come to one of the recent new bands that has helped kept metal alive in a band from Atlanta in Mastodon. While this record might not seem like the one that hardcore fans would go for. Yet, it was their most accessible record to date while the album is about Rasputin that adds to the fact they were still being who they were. There’s a lot of amazing performances in that album while proving that metal can still be dangerous and complex as Mastodon is one of the bands that is making sure metal won’t go away easily.
Anyone who says that heavy metal is dead is clearly out of their fucking mind. Yes, rock music has been sucking ass for quite a while but heavy metal has managed to keep itself vital throughout these years. It’s a genre that really speaks to the outsider while becoming something of its own that people can enjoy. It’s music that endures while maintaining its edge no matter how much mainstream media and mainstream culture can dismiss it despite those awful Hot Topic stores. In this great day of National Metal Day, the best thing for anyone to do is play a metal album. Crank that fucker up to 11 and just go abso-fuckin-lutely crazy!
© thevoid99 2011