Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Top 25 all-time best metal albums Pt. 4

Well, I lost a bit of steam there over the holidays. I’ve just been so lethargic during the past two weeks and it’s been difficult to bring myself back from the holiday edge.

I haven’t had much time for music listening the past two weeks either outside of Christmas related fare. We did have some long car rides, but I have to censor what music I play in the vehicle to appease the spouse and the children. Anywho, glad to be back and on with the list:

Quickly, a recap of 1-17:

#1: Slayer – Reign in Blood
#2 Megadeth – Peace Sells … But Who’s Buying?
#3 Metallica – Master of Puppets
#4 Pantera – Vulgar Display of Power
#5 tie Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind and Iron Maiden – Powerslave
#6 Black Sabbath – Paranoid
#7 Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard of Oz
#8 Metallica - Ride the Lightening
#9 AC/DC - Back in Black
#10 Judas Priest – British Steel
#11 Guns and Roses - Appetite For Destruction
#12 Megadeth - Rust in Peace
#13 Dream Theater - Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory
#14 Motley Crue - Shout at the Devil
#15 tie Ozzy Osbourne - No Rest for the Wicked and Black Label Society - The Blessed Hellride
#16 Danzig - Danzig
#17 Slayer - Seasons in the Abyss

#18: Dio - Holy Diver: I am no big fan of Dio, but his impact on the genre is undeniable. He popularized the operatic style of metal singing and is almost as iconic as Ozzy Osbourne. It’s fitting, I guess, as he filled frontman position in Sabbath after the Ozzman’s departure. Holy Diver is Dio’s best entry and is very listenable, even though I’ve always felt that Ronnie James has always sounded like an angry elf.

#19: Joe Satriani - Surfing With the Alien: The only instrumental album on the list. I tend to think that instrumentals can’t really compete against the bands with singers in heavy metal. Metal requires a singer to really give the song the depth and placement it needs. However, there are exceptions. Surfing With the Alien is the album that made guitar-based instrumental rock cool again. There were bands that pre-date (The Vultures), there are some who do it better, but there’s no one who has had the impact on instrumental guitar rock that Satriani has. He taught Steve Vai, Kirk Hammett, George Lynch and a litany of other guitar slingers. This is his main power in the field, not so much what he has written (though that is profound also) but how he has inspired others to new levels.

#20: Dokken - Back For the Attack: Once again straying into hair metal here, but Dokken served one blazing album with Back …. Their previous and later albums lacked the vitality of this entry. Something here really clicked. I think part of the problem with Dokken is that you had two very strong and distinct musical personalities attempting to dominate the spotlight. Don Dokken is a great singer and George Lynch is a great guitarist and they both wrote some good songs. But they butted heads often and it eventually led to their break up. Lynch went on to do some cool things with his own band The Lynch Mob and later with Dokken again.

Great tracks on the album include Lynch’s instrumental Mr. Scary, which is what really established him as a real guitar hero among a throng of pretenders, Prisoner, and Dream Warriors which was the title track for the third installment of the Nightmare on Elm Street films. A bit of trivia about that: For the video, Lynch was playing a skull and bones guitar. This guitar, in the video, had a neck by guitar manufacturer ESP. However the guitar was built by J. Frog (click here to see J. Frog guitars carried by Ed Roman Guitars and read more about the story). At the time (and currently, I believe) Lynch was sponsored by ESP and they threw a fit about him using a different guitar in the video. So he had to switch necks. This caused a huge stink and many folks thought ESP was making this guitar. They eventually did produce some, but far inferior to the J. Frog original.

#21: Tool - Lateralus: I love these guys for the music they produce. I think they’re the best band that the ‘90s produced. However, I hate them for the music and musician they have inspired. Emo most certainly predates them, but Tool gave the Emo genre a shot of caffeineadrenalinecrack in the ass. Which is funny, since Tool is most certainly not an Emo band. They have also inspired a plethora of “minimalist” musicians who for some ungodly reason think that playing one note for 20 freaking minutes is somehow cool.

All that said, Tool makes great music. I cannot believe how good their effing drummer is. Now, Danny Carey is a kook, but he is unbelievably good. Listen closely to Lateralus and you’ll swear that he’s multitracked some drum tracks. Amazingly enough, he plays it all live. There is some amazing polyrhythm going on here. What he does is so essential to Tool’s sound and power that it’s difficult to separate him from the band, or any member, honestly.

#22: Anthrax - Among the Living: Anthrax is a mainstay metal band to this day (in fact, they are back to their original lineup). It is unfortunate that their chosen name became controversial in recent years, but they have always stomped. And that is the best description of Anthrax’s tunes – music to stomp by.

Scott Ian (now a regular on whatever VH1 "Remember" show is playing) has a knack for writing these circular sounding rhythms that pound away at you. Just as you become accostomed to the rhythm, they change the pace with some blistering speed. Danny Spitz has always been one of the most off-the-wall lead guitarists. He obviously knows what he’s doing but plays off time, off key and discordant. Vocalist Joey Belladonna, drummer Charlie Benante and bassist Frank Bello are equally solid. Bello is especially memorable as he follows in the footsteps of amazing Maiden bassist Steve Harris.

Among the Living has excellent tracks on it like the title track, Caught in a Mosh and I Am the Law.

#23 Van Halen - 1984: This was a hard one, and further down the list than it should perhaps be. One of the reasons this is ranking toward the end of my top 25 is that I have a hard time thinking of Van Halen as heavy metal, even though they arguably are the granddaddies of most modern metal acts. In fairness, I felt that if I put Crue and Dokken on the list, I needed to put Van Halen on there also.

Some may disagree with my choice of album, but this album was better known and more influential than any other VH production. It was also the last to feature David Lee Roth.

Eddie Van Halen is responsible for so many of the things rock and roll guitarists do today. He popularized the Floyd Rose double locking tremolo system which allows those "dive bombing" guitar notes. It is because of Van Halen that you could no longer just "know how to play guitar" and be successful. After Eddie, you had to be a great guitarist. Then Randy Rhodes appeared and the two of them set the guitar playing world on its ear. There may have been experimental guys doing some of this stuff (Robert Fripp perhaps?) but this was mainstream stuff! These albums were going gold and platinum.

Anywho, Van Halen is heavier than I remember. Every time Hot For Teacher cranks up I think, "Oh yeah, Van Halen rocks."

#24 Deep Purple - Machine Head: The progenitors of Duh, duh, duh! Duh! Duh! Duh-duh! Duh, duh, duh! Duh … Duh-duh! -- the most well known chord progression in rock and roll. Ritchie Blackmore and crew really wrote some great stuff back in the day. They are equals with Rush in their influence on heavy progressive rock. I must say that I like their most recent incarnation with Steve Morse on guitar. I’ve always been a fan of the Dixie Dregs and the Steve Morse Band, so it was cool to see him six slinging with Deep Purple.

#25 Testament - Practice What You Preach: I’m not sure how I discovered Testament, but I had their first four albums. Not only was their music good, but it was fun also. They really skipped around the extremes of the genre, topic-wise, singing about everything from demons and the devil to the environment and the human condition.

What really made Testament a great band, to me, was Alex Skolnick’s guitar playing and how well the rest of the band aligned to his style. Skolnick went on to form his own jazz group but he still plays with Testament on occasion as well as subbing in on guitars in Savatage and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. But these guys made fantastic music that lives on in the best of today’s metal.


Well, that’s the list. There were going to be some honorable mentions because of my wishy washy nature, but this was far more mentally taxing than I ever thought it was going to be. Perhaps I’ll stick to top ten lists in the future. For now, this wraps up this list.

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