ACDC, ‘Back In Black’ (1980). If you appreciate simple composition, throat-ripping vocals, thumping chords and lashing drums, get this. The list that follows is taken from ‘The 100 Best And Absolute Greatest Heavy Metal Albums In The World Ever’ by Jaclyn Bond. It’s available now from Amazon.
Pantera, ‘Vulgar Display Of Power’ (1992). One of the most brutal and genre-changing albums ever released. Best played in a bad mood. Fact: The guy getting punched on the album cover was paid $300. It took 30 punches to get it right.
Alice In Chains, ‘Dirt’ (1992). At times acoustically gloomy, often desperate, the album is a depressing, harrowing journey. Fact: Alice In Chains contributed the song ‘Would?’ to Cameron Crowe’s 1992 romantic comedy film ‘Singles’.
Arch Enemy, ‘Burning Bridges’ (1999). Technically splendid and catchy as hell, ‘Burning Bridges’ proves that intelligent musicianship and melodic brutality are not mutually exclusive. Fact: Vocalist Angela Gossow gave guitarist Michael Amott her demo tape while interviewing him for a German webzine.
Black Sabbath, ‘Heaven And Hell’ (1980). Goodbye Ozzy, hello Ronnie James Dio. Fact: Bill Ward claims to have “no memory” of making the album due to his chronic alcoholism.
Black Label Society, ‘Hangover Music Vol VI’ (2004). A veritable showcase of Zakk Wylde’s innumerable talents. Fact: BLS have never played any of the songs on this album live.
Benighted, ‘Icon’ (2007). The fifth studio album from death metal’s best kept secret. fact: Icon is supposedly an acronym for Infinitive Conscience Of Nothingness.
Deftones, ‘Around The Fur’ (1997). After their Korn-ish debut ‘Adrenaline’, this put Deftones on the map as one of the most important bands in the alternative metal scene. Fact: The song ‘Head Up’ was written by Chino Moreno and Max Cavelera from Soulfly about the loss of Cavalera’s stepson, who was a good friend of Chino’s.
Guns N’ Roses, ‘Appetite For Destruction’ (1987). Mike Clink’s crystal clear production on this album still stands up as one of the best in hard rock. Fact: The band originally intended to leave ‘Sweet Child O’Mine’ off the album.
Black Sabbath, ‘Paranoid’ (1970). The title track features one of the most recognised riffs in metal history. Fact: ‘Hand Of Doom’ was written as a warning against heroin abuse.
Iron Maiden, ‘Piece Of Mind’ (1983). The thematic content is pure Maiden: intelligent, creative and stimulating. Fact: Nicko McBrain recorded a hidden message at the beginning of ‘Still Life’ that can only be understood when played backwards.
Accept, ‘Balls To The Wall’ (1983). With a title and cover art that could be mistaken for a gay porn film, ‘Balls To The Wall’ raised eyebrows, but nonetheless became Accept’s highest selling album. Fact: The title track features on the soundtrack to ‘Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories’.
Black Sabbath, ‘Black Sabbath’ (1970). A haunting, historically significant debut. Fact: ‘The Wizard’ was inspired by by the character of Gandalf from ‘The Lord Of The Rings’.
Candlemass, ‘Nightfall’ (1987). Mesiah Marcolin’s grandiose vocals are the very essence of doom. Fact: Candlemass achieved mainstream recognition (of a sort) in 2005, when they were awarded a Swedish Grammy.
Deep Purple, ‘Machine Head’ (1971). Fact: When Roger Glover mentioned his idea for a song called ‘Smoke On The Water’, Ian Gillan dismissed it with the statement: “Sounds like a drug song.”
Despised Icon, ‘The Ills Of Modern Man’ (2007). One of the bst examples of deathcore, one of the less celebrated subgenres of heavy metal.
Entombed, ‘Wolverine Blues’ (1991). Purists cried ‘sell-out!’ but naysayers take note: metal does not have to give you nosebleeds. Fact: In 2001, Entombed worked with the Royal Swedish Ballet on a production entitled ‘Unreal Estate’.
Dream Theater, ‘Images And Words’ (1992). Though Dream Theater have been flying the flag for prog-metal since 1985, this album defined them. Fact: Before settling on Dream Theater, the band toyed with the names Glasser, Magus and M1.
Exodus, ‘Bonded By Blood’ (1985). Thrash at its finest. Fact: Vocalist Paul Badoff died in 2002 after suffering a stroke.
Dio, ‘Holy Diver’ (1983). A landmark album in heavy metal history. Fact: Dio took his stage name from mafia member Johnny Dio.
Death, ‘Human’ (1991). Eight of the best tracks in death metal. Fact: Despite being hailed as one of the forefathers of death metal, Death frontman Chuck Shuldiner reckons the label is meaningless: “Death is just a metal band.”
Deicide, ‘Deicide’ (1990). If you like it heavy, Deicide deliver. Fact: Frontman Glen Benton has an inverted cross branded onto his forehead.
Gamma Ray, ‘Land Of The Free’ (1995). The definitive power metal album. Fact: ‘Afterlife’ was written in memory of Helloween drummer Ingo Swichtenberg, who committed suicide in early 1995.
Godsmack, ‘IV’ (2006). Strings, mandolin and harmonica make this a unique release in the heavy metal genre, one that helped Godsmack transcend the influence of Metallica and Alice In Chains.
Gojira, ‘The Way Of All Flesh’ (2008). A cataclysmic album boasting twelve tracks of raging fury. Their 2005 album ‘From Mars To Sirius’ is worth a listen too.
Unearth, ‘lll: In The Eyes Of Fire’ (2006). Awesomely heavy, skilfully executed melodic metal. Fact: One of Unearth’s founding members Mike Rudberg once played a show at SXSW completely nude.
Alice Cooper, ‘Billion Dollar Babies’ (1973). No one does nightmare meets vaudeville like Alice Cooper, and this is his best record. Fact: the original vinyl release came with a mock billion dollar note featuring the band on the front.
At The Gates, ‘Slaughter Of The Soul’ (1995). The most influential melodic death metal ever, paving the way for nu metal and metalcore. Fact: Since disbanding, members of At The Gates have gone on to create The Haunted and Cradle Of Filth.
Judas Priest, ‘British Steel’ (1980). Ridiculously catchy and heroically energetic, ‘British Steel’ is one of the best party albums ever made. Fact: The album was recorded at Tittenhust Park, the former home of Ringo Starr.
Hammerfall, ‘Legacy Of Kings’ (1998). Helloween meets Manowar and King Arthur. Fact: Frontman Joacim Cans competed in a Swedish TV show called ‘Clash Of The Choirs’. His choir team won the competition.
The Haunted, ‘Made Me Do It’ (2000). Get ready to be smacked in the head with a two-by-four of metal genius – a little bit Slayer, a little bit At The Gates, a whole lotta thrash.
Helloween, ‘Keeper Of The Seven Keys Pt ll’ (1988). A rare example of a follow-up that is better than the original, largely thanks to the stunning vocals of Michael Kiske.
In Flames, ‘Whoracle’ (1997). This fortified In Flames’ reputation as melodic death metal superheroes and pillars of the Gothenburg scene. Fact: ‘Everything Counts’ is a cover of the 1983 Depeche Mode track.
Metallica – ‘…And Justice For All’ (1988). You can’t hear the bass, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t rock. Fact: ‘One’ was the first Metallica track to spawn a video.
Iron Maiden, ‘The Number Of The Beast’ (1982). Pure metal mythology in action. Fact: Bassist Steve Harris has the band’s mascot Eddie tattooed on his arm.
All Shall Perish, ‘The Price Of Existence’ (2006). 43 minutes of savage, genre-hopping aggression. Fact: In September 2008, All Shall Perish became the first US band to tour Siberia.
Iron Maiden, ‘Powerslave’ (1984). Opens with ‘Aces High’, one of Iron Maiden’s greatest singles. Fact: ‘Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’ is based on the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem of the same name.
Dark Tranquility, ‘The Gallery’ (1985). Disciples of Dark Tranquillity have been known to refer to ‘The Gallery’ as The Bible. Fact: The band were initially known as Septic Broiler.
Isis, ‘Panopticon’ (2004). Epic in every sense of the word. Fact: the album contains high-brow references to philosopher Michel Foucault and Victorian liberal campaigner Jeremy Bentham.
Judas Priest, ‘Painkiller’ (1990). Judas Priest’s heaviest album, and one of the best speed metal albums ever released. Fact: Rob Halford left the band after this album to form Fight. He returned in 1993.
Killswitch Engage, ‘The End Of Heartache’ (2004). Tore the scene apart with its something-for-everyone approach to metalcore. Fact: Vocalist Howard Jones is one of the few black singers in metal.
King Diamond, ‘Abigail’ (1987). A creepy concept album that’s almost as ostentatious as King Diamond himself. Fact: King Diamond has been known to use a microphone handle fashioned from human bones.
Kiss, ‘Kiss’ (1974). Tight, catchy, and (for its time) heavy as lead. Fact: Gene Simmons frequently set his hair alight during his “fire-breathing” stage antics.
Kiss, ‘Destroyer’ (1976). Love them or hate them, Kiss filled arenas and sold records beter than most bands could ever dream of doing.
Slayer, ‘Reign In Blood’ (1986). The album’s antecedents may be in mid-80s hardcore punk, but it also anticipates something faster, louder and badder, practically inventing death metal in the process. Fact: Tori Amos covered ‘Raining Blood’ on her 2001 album ‘Strange Little Girls’.
Korn, ‘Korn’ (1994). Their debut was energetic, eclectic and difficult to classify in any particular subgenre. Fact: Korn were featured in a 1999 episode of ‘South Park’, mimicking the cast of ‘Scooby Doo’.
Korn, ‘Follow The Leader’ (1998). Cohesive, catchy and remarkably accessible. Fact: Korn’s alcohol bill for the ‘Follow The Leader’ sessions was $27,000.
Kreator, ‘Pleasure To Kill’ (1986). Their sophomore release created the thrash wellspring from which many succeeding thrash bands would siphon inspiraton. Fact: Kreator formed in 1982 under the name Tormentor.
Lamb Of God, ‘Sacrament’ (2006). A melancholic, atmospheric masterpiece. Fact: Guitarist Willie Adler has a tattoo of chicken dinner on his stomach.
Machine Head, ‘The Blackening’ (2007). Ambitious and complex, this album finally cemented Machine Head’s place among the heavy metal elite. Fact: The US edition features cover versions of Metallica’s ‘Battery’ and Iron Maiden’s ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’.
Mastodon, ‘Leviathan’ (2004). An elegant mixed-bag of pure metal and one of the best albums ever to grace the scene. Fact: ‘Leviathan’ is a concept album based on Herman Melville’s great whaling novel, ‘Moby Dick’.
Mayhem, ‘Wolf’s Lair Abyss’ (1997). Some of the most ferocious and and unrelenting black metal ever committed to tape. Fact: In 2003, a fan suffered a fractured skull after a sheep’s head flew off stage during a Mayhem gig.
Megadeath, ‘Rust In Peace’ (1990). A record every metal guitarist should own. Fact: Megadeth was formed by Dave Mustaine as revenge against Metallica, who fired him.
Mercyful Fate, ‘Don’t Break The Oath’ (1984). The band split after releasing this, a record that brought the promise of a new world order to metal fans. Fact: ‘Melissa’ is the name of a human skull that frontman King Diamond took on stage with him.
Meshuggah, ‘Destroy Erase Improve’ (1995). Redefined the spheres of thrash and insustrial metal. One of the most influential albums of the 90s.
Metallica, ‘Ride The Lightning’ (1984). Metallica’s second album – and what an album it is. Fact: ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ pays homage to Ernest Hemingway’s novel of the same name.
Metallica, ‘Metallica’ – aka The Black Album – (1991). If you don’t like this album, you are dead inside. Fact: ‘The God That Failed’ describes how James Hetfield dealt with losing his mother to cancer.
System Of A Down, ‘Toxicity’ (2001). This heavily politicised album has all the power and intensity of a head-on collision. Fact: SOAD have been on “permanent hiatus” since 2006.
Monster Magnet, ‘Powertrip’ (1998). A delightfully squalid, sludge-encrusted hell-ride. Fact: The name Monster Magnet was taken from a toy produced by Wham-O in the 1960s.
Morbid Angel, ‘Blessed Are The Sick’ (1991). Labyrinthine arrangements, unconventional time signatures and atonal riffing mark this out as an enthralling addition to the metal canon. Fact: Morbid Angel are the third highest selling death metal band of all time.
Motley Crue, ‘Shout At The Devil’ (1983). The quintessential 80s heavy metal album. Fact: Nikki Sixx’s real name is Frank.
Motorhead, ‘Ace Of Spades’ (1980). Begs to be played at deaf-defying volume, at least once a week. Fact: Lemmy once worked as a roadie for The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Napalm Death, ‘Utopia Banished’ (1992). 39 minutes of throat-slitting aggression and flat out power from the influential Birmingham band.
Neurosis, ‘The Eye Of Every Storm’ (2004). Pianos? Bells? Neurosis’ eighth release is heavy without being aggressive, and metal without causing puncture wounds. Fact: When Steve Von Till isn’t playing/singing in Neurosis, he works as an elementary scholl teacher.
Nightwish, ‘Once’ (2004). Steeped in fantasy, fairytales and unsettling dreams, ‘Once’ finds its home in the obscure category of symphonic power metal. Fact: Vocalist Tarja Turunen was a judge on the Finnish version of ‘The X Factor’.
Opeth, ‘Blackwater Park’ (2001). An aural challenge that requires one’s complete and unwavering attention to appreciate fully.
Ozzy Osbourne, ‘Blizzard Of Ozz’ (1980). The brilliance of this album is almost entirely down to superhuman guitarist Randy Rhoads. Fact: Ozzy was sued over the track ‘Suicide Solution’ after it was claimed that subliminal messages in the song caused the suicide of teenager John McCollom.
Ozzy Ozbourne, ‘Bark At The Moon’ (1983). After Randy Rhoads died, former Dio guitarist Jake E.Lee took over, resulting in another spectacular record.
Paradise Lost, ‘Draconian Times’ (1995). Paradise Lost pioneered the goth metal scene, influencing the likes of Nightwish, Lacuna Coil and Katatonia.
Queensryche, ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ (1988). One of the first progressive metal albums ever, and a great leap forward in the genre of concept albums. Fact: After his departure from the band, Chris DeGarmo became a professional charter pilot.
Rammstein, ‘Mutter’ (2001). A dazzling 45-minute ode to wretched self-loathing. Fact: The band’s name translates as “ramming stone”.
Rage Against The Machine, ‘Rage Against The Machine’ (1992). The album’s powerhouse drumming and beefy bass lines will murder your stereo thanks to Garth Richardson’s immaculate production. Fact: ‘Killing In The name’ contains just six lines of lyrics.
Rainbow, ‘Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll’ (1978). Incorporates catchy blues rock, elements of funk and of course the heavy driving force of pre-80s metal. Fact: The name Rainbow was inspired by the name of a Hollywood bar and grill.
Saxon, ‘Strong Arm Of The Law’ (1980). One of the best albums to arise from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Fact: Saxon were originally called Son Of A Bitch.
Behemoth, ‘Demigod’ (2004). Intensely aggressive, almost to the point of being frightening. Fact: Behemoth were reported to Polish officials as alleged Satanists by a religious pressure group called the Committee for Defence Against Sects.
Sepultura, ‘Chaos A.D.’ (1993). Along with Pantera’s ‘Vulgar Display Of Power’, this album formed the bedrock of the style known as groove metal.
Skid Row, ‘Skid Row’ (1989). Their hair was big, their lyrics inane – but Skid Row were undeniably heavy for their time. Fact: After Skid Row, frontman Sebastian Bach performed in the Broadway musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’.
Slayer, ‘Seasons In The Abyss’. More accessible than previous releases, yet retains the grievous-bodily-harm flavour intrinsic to their output. Fact: Slayer began their career playing covers of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest songs at parties in Southern California.
Slayer, ‘God Hates Us All’ (2001). Shrieking atonal solos, punishing drums – this is Slayer at their most vicious. Fact: Vocalist Tom Araya killed time during recording sessions by reading books about serial killers.
Slipknot, ‘lowa’ (2001). Strikes a neat balance between technicality and catchiness, resulting in an MTV-friendly air-drummer’s wet dream. Fact: ‘Iowa’ reached Number 1 on the UK album charts, beating The Strokes’ ‘Is This It’ to the top.
Testament, ‘The Legacy’ (1987). An album that left its mark on metal as the perfect thrash debut.
Tool, ‘Xenima’ (1996). Eventually going triple-platinum, this album is, in a word, perfect. Fact: Vocalist Maynard James Keenan appeared on stage with Tori Amos in 2997, accompanying her on the song ‘Muhammed My Friend’.
Trouble, ‘Manic Frustration’ (1992). Despite bing catchier and tighter than their previous releases, sales were dismal and Trouble were dropped by their label. Fact: Singer Dave Wagner appeared on Dave Grohl’s heavy metal side project Probot in 2004.
Type O Negative, ‘October Rust’ (1996). Atmospheric keyboards combined with Sabbath-inspired riffing make for a rich, dark composition. Fact: Frontman Pete Steele once posed nude for ‘Playgirl’ magazine.
Metallica, ‘Master Of Puppets’ (1986). Their masterpiece. Fact: ‘The Thing That Should Not Be’ is based on HP Lovecraft’s horror stories.
Van Halen, ‘Van Halen’ (1978). One of the few metal albums to reach diamond status, marking 10 million copies sold. Fact: Bassist Michael Anthony was replaced in 2006 with Wolfgang Van Halen – Eddie Van Halen’s son.
Venom, ‘Black Metal’ (1982). Despite helping spawn the genre of the same name, ‘Black Metal’ has more in common with early hardcore punk bands such as Black Flag and Minor Threat. Fact: Henry Rollins once described Venom’s live show as “like seeing Spinal Tap… I expected them to go into ‘Sex Farm’ any second.”
AC/DC, ‘Highway To Hell’ (1979). It has the one thing ‘Back In Black’ doesn’t have: Bon Scott on vocals. Fact: Bon Scott died shortly after recording this album: his final words on the record are “shazbot, nanoo, nanoo.”
W.A.S.P, ‘W.A.S.P’ (1984). 38 minutes of mammoth metal anthems. Fact: Blackie Lawless was once injured during a live show after his spark-firing cod-piece malfunctioned.
White Zombie, ‘Astro Creep: 2000 – Songs Of Love, Destruction And Other Synthetic Delusions Of The Electric Head’ (1995). In 1995, grunge was dying and metal was in need of something else – which White Zombie provided. Fact: Rob Zombie went on to become a successful horror film director.
Yngwie Malmsteen, ‘Rising Force’ (1984). The debut solo album from the greatest neoclassical six-string slinger alive today. Fact: Malmsteen started his first band, Track On Earth, at the age of 10.
Marily Manson, ‘Antichrist Superstar’ (1996). Dark, aggressive and surprisingly catchy for such a nightmarish soundscape. Fact: The original sleeve, featuring a naked ‘angel’, was banned by many record stores.
Dimmu Borgir, ‘Death Cult Armageddon’ (2003). A right of passage for any fan of Scandinavian black metal. Fact: Before becoming a musician, guitarist Silenoz worked in a kindergarten.
The Dillinger Escape Plan, ‘Miss Machine’ (2004). An innovative, clever album – although Greg Puciato’s decision to sing (as opposed to just screaming) caused some fans to mutter “sell out!”
Cradle Of Filth, ‘Damnation And a Day: From Genesis To Nemesis’ (2003). Featuring a 40-piece orchestra and a 32-strong choir, this was grand, dark and damning.
Bruce Dickinson, ‘The Chemical Wedding’ (1998). 57 minutes of atmospheric, William Blake-inspired brilliance. Fact: The title track of Dickinson’s album ‘Tattooed Millionaire’ was written about Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx, who slept with Dickinson’s (now ex-) wife.
Carcass, ‘Heartwork’ (1993). Steering away from gore-obsessed grindcore, Carcass eveolved into a dynamic, melodic death metal album. Fact: Two members of Carcass had a guest appearance on Red Dwarf as members of Lister’s fictional band Smeg And The Heads.
Cannibal Corpse, ‘Tomb Of The Mutilated’ (1992). A new brand of brutality was born. Fact: The liner notes feature quotations from serial killer and child molester Albert Fish. For more on these albums, pick up ‘The 100 Best And Absolute Greatest
Heavy Metal Albums In The World Ever’ by Jaclyn Bond. It’s available
now from Amazon.
Danzig, ‘Danzig’ (1988). Rick Rubin’s production put Glenn Danzig’s voice front-and-centre, conveying Danzig’s stripped-back sound in which every old-school riff and sorrowful lyric is audible and profound.
Anthrax, ‘Among The Living’ (1987). Arse-kicking anthems like ‘Caught In A Mosh’ saved the 80s from hair metal and created an army of devotees. Fact: Anthrax dedicated ‘Among The Living’ to Metallica bassist Cliff Burton, who had died the previous year.