Monday, December 19, 2005

Top 25 all-time best metal albums Pt. 1

Okay, my online bud Crotalus has asked me to compile a best-ever list of metal albums. He suggested top 50. Well, I don’t have time for that – heck, top 25 is hard enough.

When I first started thinking about how to go about compiling the list, I thought I’d just narrow down my top 25 and put them “in no particular order.” Though, I guess that’s kind of cheating. So, I have decided to commit to a list. My criteria was threefold: What did this album mean to metal? What did this album mean to me? Did it really rock?

I mean, think about it. There are albums out there that people go on and on about how important it was. But, when you finally get to sit down and listen to it, it sucks. So, if I left off one of your favorite metal albums, it probably sucks. Also, I guess I should add – as though you couldn’t guess – that there’s nothing subjective to this list. This is my opinion. I am, of course, entirely right though.

You probably know what my top three are going to be, based on my last post. Oh, I was going to hyperlink the entries and have piccies and all that, but I didn’t.

So, here’s part 1. It’s one through seven. Why through seven? Because it’s how far I got before I got too busy to continue. More entries as I get to them.

#1: Slayer – Reign in Blood: Organizing the top three was probably more difficult than the rest of the list. Each of my top three albums tremendously impacted metal, but Reign in Blood redefined speed metal. At the time, it was faster, heavier, darker and more gruesome than anything before it. What’s really amazing is that the band’s guitarists, Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman – were entirely self-taught guitarists and didn’t know any formal scales. This explains the off-key and off-time guitar solos that permeate the album. However, in this rare case, instead of detracting, this dissonance added to the strength of the album. Reign in Blood is in many ways still the benchmark against which speed metal bands measure themselves.

#2 Megadeth – Peace Sells … But Who’s Buying?: It was really hard to put Slayer in the first spot because Peace Sells … is actually my favorite of the top three. However, I felt that Slayer nudged ahead of Megadeth because of that album’s influence on the genre. Megadeth is metal’s maestro. Lead singer/guitarist Dave Mustaine has always had the ability to find some of the best musicians out there and work them well into his compositions. This album features heavy, fast songs with lots of complex melodies and intricate guitar work. The bass line for the title track was intro music for MTV news for many years. If this album had the production value of some of Megadeth’s later albums, this would definitely be the #1 album.

#3 Metallica – Master of Puppets: Metallica, whether writing fast, aggressive music or more consumer friendly heavy tunes, has always had the knack for coming up with catchy riffs. Songs that stick in your head and are very enjoyable to listen to. Master of Puppets is, to me, their crowning achievement in music writing. The dark side to this is that it was the last album to feature bassist Cliff Burton, who died on the tour for this album. And that fact in no small way effects fans emotions toward this album. However, it doesn’t detract from how good this album is. There is no dull moments, every track from beginning to end is fresh and vibrant and is probably the band’s best-ever mix of musicianship and consumerism.

#4 Pantera – Vulgar Display of Power: There is no album heavier than this. It’s as simple as that. The title is amazingly apt. There was a visceral power to Pantera that very few bands ever possess. Dimebag Darrell’s guitar work is at it’s best on Vulgar Display … with such powerhouse songs as Walk and This Love shredding your senses. You can feel Phil Anselmo’s anguish as he belts out the vocals. There may be and may have been better musicians than Pantera, but there has never been a band alive that can make you feel exactly what they are feeling. There has never been a band before or since that can translate a boot to the freaking head like Pantera. Perhaps that’s a good thing.

#5 tie Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind and Iron Maiden – Powerslave: There are those who would argue that Number of the Beast is a better album, but they’re wrong. These are my two favorite Maiden albums and I think they best capture the band’s musical and songwriting abilities. Every member of this band is tremendously gifted in what they do and work well together. This #5 spot goes to Iron Maiden in general, really, but I just like these albums a lot more than the other stuff. I think they should probably have called it quits after Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, but they keep putting out stuff. If they continue, they’ll probably wind up slipping further down the list.

#6 Black Sabbath – Paranoid: Wow, it was hard to narrow down what Sabbath album I wanted here. I mean, I knew I wanted #6 to be Sabbath, and I had originally put We Sold our Soul for Rock and Roll, but since that’s a greatest hits album, I decided it was kind of cheating. So, I went with Paranoid on the strength of the title track, War Pigs, Iron Man, and Fairies Wear Boots. Great stuff. These songs probably defined what metal was to become. The use of power chords in minor keys set the mood that would permeate metal albums to this very day. There is probably no band that has been more influential on metal music.

#7 Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard of Oz: Blizzard … is a highly influential album for a couple of reasons. First of all, it is the first solo Ozzy album. Second, it’s an amazingly good album. Third, it featured guitarist Randy Rhodes who died just a couple of years later. While he also worked on Diary of a Madman, it was this album, for Rhodes and Ozzy, where everything clicked at that “greatest ever” level. Rhodes inspired a new breed of guitarist. His extremely clean, neo-classic style can be heard in guitarists ranging from Yngwie Malmsteen to the guys from Papa Roach. While Eddie Van Halen was probably the first hard rock/metal guitar virtuoso, Rhodes was the first neo-classicist.

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