Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Top 25 all-time best metal albums Pt. 2

Things get a little more complicated now. I feel solid on my numbers eight, nine and ten. Beyond that, I may raise some eyebrows. Just remember, if you disagree, you have no ear for music.

I kid. Sorta.

#8 Metallica - Ride the Lightening: I’m kind of upset at putting a Metallica album over a Megadeth album, but hell, it happens. As far as it’s importance, Ride the Lightening secured Metallica’s name in the lexicon of great metal acts. Sure, Kill ‘em All was a great album, but there were other bands doing similar things, and no one knew if they could follow up KEA with a solid sophomore release. Ride the Lightening shattered doubts and left many screaming for more. There is a feeling that permeates both this album and Master of Puppets. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but it’s in the production quality of the album. It’s not quite perfect, but at the same time, it’s perfectly not perfect. It’s an ambience that does creep up your spine, much as they describe in “Creeping Death.” Personally, I think Metallica got it so right with this album and Puppets, that I have been thoroughly disappointed with everything since.

#9 AC/DC - Back in Black: Hard choice between this one and Highway to Hell, but in terms of importance to the genre, no one can argue which album everyone has heard. A mega-mega-mega great selling album, there are songs on this album that are engraved on tombstones across the world. This is the album that urban legends get based on … (must assume a stoner voice in your head, think Spicoli) “You know that wreck they found the other day? You know, the one where dude had missing for like, a week … Well, the paramedics arrived on scene and Back in Black was in the stereo and it was still playing!” “No way!” “Way.”

The fact that the mass market has accepted AC/DC does not diminish their impact on the genre. Just means they’ve aged well. Or that they need to retire. Probably the latter.

#10 Judas Priest – British Steel: Another difficult choice because Screaming for Vengeance was very good. But, come on, “Breaking the Law” is on British Steel. What Priest song has more play, is more influential than that? “Living After Midnight” is also a hell of a song. I kind of hate to admit this, but I’m not that big of a Priest fan. Their influence and musical ability is undeniable, but I’ve always been rather pissed at their production quality. Here you have one of the arguably biggest metal bands ever and their recordings sound like they were recording inside of cardboard boxes. People always tell me, “Well consider the time frame and the equipment they had to work with.” Well, you know what? Screw you! The Ramones, hell The Sex Pistols were recording in the same time frame, with lower budgets and their production quality has always been spot fucking on. Why does this piss me off so much? Because every Judas Priest album up to Painkiller has Rob Halford’s voice sounding tinny and ball-less sounding guitars and low end. Just think if there was a fullness to the recording … this shit would have stomped any other band around. So, why are they #10 if I bitch about them so much? Because even with the crappy recordings people still sing their shit and know more about them than the Velvet Freakin’ Underground -- which had production up the wazoo (but suffered from HUGE amounts of suck).

#11 Guns and Roses - Appetite For Destruction: Sure, you can pull out the “Where are they now?” card, but during the ‘90s these guys ruled the airwaves. Everyone wanted to play Les Paul like Joe Perry … I mean Slash. This album really gelled with the public though. I think it was so strong that its popularity actually carried their next couple of releases (which may have had a couple of good songs, but only a couple). This album was so strong. Every song rocked as appropriate and balladed when appropriate. It latched on the world’s collective sense of what heavy metal/hard rock should be and put it out there on a platter. To this day I am hard pressed to think of an album where every single song was THIS good. Production levels high, every bit of every song seemed just so right, and all the musicians gelled together. Bands that lock together this well simply don’t last, or they put out as much crap as they put out good stuff. To bad Velvet Revolver sucks so hard.

#12 Megadeth - Rust in Peace: Holy crap this album rocks! Blisteringly fast, amazingly complex solo work and some of the tightest production levels ever (EVER) heard. From this album forward, Dave Mustaine set a standard for the studio that few bands have ever met. I remember, it was around the time of Countdown to Extinction that there was all this debate going on how there was actually more sound to an analog track than there was to digital and how digital, the compact disc, mind you – format was dryer or wasn’t as full as analog sound. Well, the debate rages on, but anyway, MTV had a spot on it. And Neil “Crazy Horse But Dumb As A Box of Rocks” Young was on talking about how horrible the CD format was, etc. They cut to a spot of Dave Mustaine who said (and I quote from memory), “Digital recording is amazing. If you don’t like it, you can’t play.” How freaking awesome if that? He’s saying, guess what, you know what all that freaking noise you’re hearing is, it’s your sloppy effin’ playing. You can hear it now instead of it being disguised by that old freaking super forgiving analog recording.

I digress. I could spends posts upon posts talking about recording quality and how the human ear can’t even possible discern the differences they’re talking about (in the sample rates, not quality of sound), but I’ll just get mad.

Back to RIP … this album rocks so hard! When it came out, I wore the tape out in about two weeks. I had to record a copy from a friend after that. I tried like mad to try and learn how to play songs off it, but it was too damn complex for me. Still is. I mean, if you have any doubts about Megadeth’s musical abilities, listen to this album, it’s damn near progressive metal. These guys pull no punches in speed or complexity of composition. Of course, when the track calls for it, the lay down some simple riffs also. It’s a matter of taste and Mustaine knows how to write a tasty lick. Can you tell who’s one of my favorite bands?

I remember the first time I saw the video for this album on MTV. It was great to watch Marty Friedman (who I had dug from his days with Cacophony) and Mustaine swap solos. There wasn’t anything to the video except them playing the song, and that was awesome.

Guys like Savatage had been doing this kind of melodic metal for a bit before Megadeth released RIP, but there’s always been something hokey about their stuff … I don’t know. Megadeth just got something right and all these high-musical-ability bands have been playing catch up since.

Well, that’s it for numbers 8 – 12. I honestly don’t know when I’ll get the next set up. Hopefully this’ll leave you salivating for more.

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