First of all...
there is NO way on earth to make a "toplist" of metal albums without pissing off half the metal population.
Believe me, I know. If there is one thing I can do in my sleep, it's piss people off.
So let me explain the criteria I used for this particular list.
If I had to take 20 of my very favorite, most-best-est metal albums on a deserted, "zombie-native" infested island, this is what I'd probably take...and believe me, I'd be pissed because I didn't have room for the rest, but every one of these I can listen to beginning to end without having to skip any sucky songs.
I picked what I like, or at least a portion of it, and before you murder me for leaving DIO out of the list, all I can say is that from an "album perspective" none of his albums really did RJD justice. His best work, collectively speaking, (IMHO) was that on the Sabbath material. I love "Last In Line," "Invisible," "Stand Up And Shout," "Holy Diver"...do I really have to go on? But the albums themselves just didn't kick it for me...as far as this list goes.
Dio aside (Deicide?), I have to disclose that there will probably be other lists...
I tried to refrain from duplicate entries from the same band, but come on...I can't do that with Sabbath. There's no way.
20 is such a limiting number.
I hate myself already.
Black Sabbath - 'Heaven And Hell'
This was the quintessential rebirth of the world's premier heavy metal band.
Dio was the only possible candidate for such an undertaking. How the fuck do you replace Ozzy???
Well, I don't know. But it worked.
When DIO opens his mouth, demons roar and scream forth...the voice is metal royalty, the music is metal masterpiece.
There isn't a negative to this album. Wall to wall perfection. Perfect storm. And that's why it is number one on this list.
Rest in peace, Ronnie James.
Black Sabbath - 'Sabotage'
The only reason, I guess, that this album takes a second to H&H above is that I wasn't exposed to older Sabbath until later on. If you want, pretend that this is number one on this list (either way works for me).
Talk about stoner metal...this is the album that launched a thousand bongs.
So many great songs on here, you can feel the cohesion within the group. The magic, the power.
1975, I was playing with my Evel Knievel action figure and watching Land Of The Lost and had no idea of the dark, foreboding presence Sabbath had established at this point. When I finally discovered it, I sold all my teeth and bowed in eternal reverence to the majesty and might that is Black Sabbath. If you can get through this album without some kind of emotional revelation, then you are less than human. Light up and listen again.
Slayer - 'Reign In Blood'
I once read an article in a magazine (Guitar World?) that had a "top 20 metal albums" type of thing....I think it was around 1991, and Reign In Blood was somewhere high on the list. The reviewer described this album simply as "29 minutes of pure, bombastic hellfire".
I honestly do not know how I can possibly improve on that.
On the drama side, lots of weird shit going down. Hanneman's untimely death to a fucking spider bite was almost unreal as it was reported on my local news (heavy metal didn't used to get press no matter WHO died), and then the whole alienation between Lombardo and King...Slayer has become a bastardized, corporate knock-off, much like Kiss (on a much smaller scale) but Reign In Blood, fueled by metal angst, alcohol, cocaine, and Satanic perversity, for all intents and purposes, slayed a generation.
Buy it. Download it. Live by it.
Judas Priest - 'British Steel'
From the very first notes of "Rapid Fire," you know what you are in for.
Priest established themselves with metal fans early on with Sad Wing Of Destiny, Stained Class, and Rocka Rolla, but British Steel brought the band to full-on metal maturity when MTV was getting ready to decide what bands would live past the 70s or perish.
Priest decided to be so absolutely fucking metal that it didn't matter.
They made the right choice.
Pantera - 'Vulgar Display Of Power'
Another "perfect storm" from finish to end.
The metal chemistry between brothers Vinnie and Dime, perfectly complimented by Phil and Rex, this CD slammed its way into my brain and nothing was ever the same after that. Some bands just move you. Not sure Pantera released one that wasn't a complete powerhouse. Vulgar Display certainly deserves mention.
Perfect display of metal.
R.I.P. Brother Dime.
Metal Church - 'Metal Church'
When I was 21, I was at the rehearsal space of the band my friend was in and they played a cover of "Metal Church" before I had heard the album itself. It was the darkest, most chainsaw-ripping, evil, powerful riff I had ever heard. Since then, this disc remains a classic. Top to bottom. Every track a slammer.
Church has done more since the first two albums, under Vandrepoof's strong hand, but really, who cares?
The power of the first two albums was perfected with the voice of David Wayne who screamed like a witch from Hell or morphed to smooth, soulful crooning, always powerful as the music.
R.I.P. Dave. A fantastic loss to music and to those who knew him.
Metallica - 'Ride The Lightning'
The bell tolling and the beginning riff of "For Whom The Bell Tolls" is my ringtone for my wife.
Darkness, speed, power, thrash, what more do you want? And what else can be said about Metallica?
My personal favorite, and still stands the test of time front and back.
Motorhead - 'Orgasmatron'
Lot's of people will say Ace Of Spades was Motorhead's best, and God knows it was difficult to choose, except that Orgasmatron was always my favorite. My wife? Not so much. While she is probably the coolest, late-80s thrash metal wife a guy could want, she thinks Motorhead is cool, but not this album so much. I know. What can you do? Since she's always been a real metal fan and not a groupie who slept with famous musicians (sorry Lars) for shallow emotional reasons, I have to respect her opinion. I don't agree with it, but I respect it.
A very dark production and a speed metal pace that would give a Jack Russell Terrier a heart attack, Orgasmatron has it all.
Damn it to Hell, another hero down.
Megadeth - 'Peace Sells'
The hook from the title track caught me like a helpless fish, and the rest of the album was no disappointment. Speed metal Mustaine-style. Brilliant, genius, metal-thrashing madness.
I spent many a hungover morning listening to side two (back when music had sides) just to get drunk all over again. But like the above albums, not a bad tune in the whole set.
Whaddaya mean it's too loud???
Iron Maiden - 'Number Of The Beast'
Back in the 80s when this came out, people flipped out. I mean they literally flipped out over the title track "Number Of The Beast." People thought that it was soooo Satanic. Kinda comical now to think that the only thing Satanic was the level of the public's ignorance. Kinda like today.
Maiden burst onto the scene with a very metal image, and the chops to back it up. An excellent album from an excellent band. Total classic.
Kreator - 'Pleasure To Kill'
German speed metal Kreator deliver the goods in this late 80s release full of destructive, demonic doom and gloom. The riff is king here, and there are many to choose from.
If you want an aggressive soundtrack to match an aggressive mood, maybe you hate the world and want to kill the whole thing or just want to boogie to some killer thrash while you do the dishes. This is the shit.
With songs like "Ripping Corpse," "Under The Guillotine," "Riot Of Violence," and "Death Is Your Savior," there is nothing mellow here. Just pure mayhem.
Overkill - 'Feel The Fire'
"Hammerhead" is the first track I heard off Feel The Fire, and I was sold. Bobby "The Blitz" Ellsworth's blood-curdling screams make you wonder how the fucking HELL he has done it all these years. While other thrash singers lose their throats after a few tours, Bobby keeps going.
Admittedly, production on later albums is richer and more polished, but the songs are all gold. The energy is brutal. All that and a bag of chips.
Testament - 'Low'
Back in the 90s, my singer and I wanted to create the perfect metal album; A metal work of art that would demolish people's souls, crush their brains, and stomp all of their pathetic remains into the ground.
Instead, Testament did it.
Turns out they did it again and again and again, but Low is unreal.
All hail the metal.
Sometimes you just don't know how low you can go.
Krokus - 'Headhunter'
80's Swiss metal outfit Krokus caught a lot of flack, and much of it, quite honestly, was well deserved.
We're not bullshitting anybody here, but in keeping with being honest means that there is no way you can overlook this album as a genuine metal achievement.
It has great production, great songs, great ambience, you name it. Powerful, loud Marshall Stack-melting material right here.
Proof? OK, here's some lyrics from the "Eat The Rich":
"...Just can't fight the temptation
It's become my inspiration
Gonna get myself an axe
Break some heads, break some backs"
-That's pretty metal right there.
I don't know what happened to Krokus, why it went South, or how they became one of the biggest jokes of the 80's metal bands, but whatever the hell they did to fuck it all up, they got this one right.
Suicidal Tendencies - 'How Will I Laugh Tomorrow...'
California slammers Suicidal Tendencies are one of the most musically gifted bands out there. Amazing grooves and tons of them coincide with teen angst, depression, whiney crybaby silliness, but pack such a direct punch to the ears, it's hard to stay angry at them.
Rocky George will forever be one of the most underrated shredders out there and he riffs without ceasing throughout the entire album.
Buy it. Download it, love it, but make sure you put away your guns, sleeping pills, six feet of rope...
Sepultura - 'Arise'
Speed Metal from Brazil. Brazil has a long standing reputation for having a violent culture, so with Sepultura, it's fair to guess before hearing the album that you are not going to hear any nancy-ass, sissy music.
Definitely good mood music for a major world war. In fact, I think they somehow managed to record one and fit it all on this disc.
Death Angel - 'Frolic Through The Park'
One of the freshest sounding thrash bands of the late 80s, Death Angel, slammed it loud, hard, and fast. Killer tracks include "Bored," "Confused," "Guilty Of Innocence," and a nice raunchy cover of "Kiss' Cold Gin."
Anthrax - 'Among The Living'
I don't know if the word Mosh is in the dictionary, but if it is, there should be a picture of Anthrax there.
Anthrax created a unique sound and style. A band fraught with shitty luck, yet have made an amazing impact on the world of metal (listen to me will ya? I sound like some kinda fancy journalist or something).
Among the Living, Caught In A Mosh, SDI The Horror Of It All...classic, pounding shit.
Danzig - 'How The Gods Kill'
Dark, mean, evil, scary...muscular.
Good ol' Glenn Danzig (all 5 feet of him) and his band of renown. The classic lineup with Erie Von - Bass, John Christ - Guitar, and Chuck Biscuits - Drums (R.I.P.)
More a hard rock album really, but it's so damn dark with evil overtones that it has to be metal, right?
Well it's here. It's there. It's in my wife's car as I write this.
Queensryche - '4 Song EP'
Queensryche fans will thrash me, but I care not. Hey Queensryche...what happened guys???
This brief little tease job that you gracefully bestowed upon the metal-thirsty souls of the 80s was followed up with over produced, overpolished, over-progged offerings like Rage For Order (I actually drove back to Budget Tapes and Records to try and get a refund from that one), and while you ended up making some damn fine music later on, you started out on a bit rougher road. Raw, thrashing, powerful speed metal with the voice of a god...oh wait.
That's what happened.
Bonus Entry: Scorpions - 'Animal Magnetism'
Scorps were integral in bringing the metal sound to the masses. The fact that they sang about chicks instead of Satan and killing people shouldn't heap them into the Def Leppard Category...
Bite your tongue.
German metal doesn't apologize.
German metal dudes do what they want and get laid in the process.
Don't fuck with Germans.
Let them make metal.
It's much better for all of us if we allow them a creative outlet.