I really can’t make a “Top Ten” list because it’s just too damn hard! I had a difficult time as it was coming up with this list…
Also, I noticed when writing this post that most of the albums that are my favorite aren’t necessarily the best album of a given band, but they mean more to me than the alleged “classics”. You’ll see what I mean in my post. Also, I noticed that my favorite albums were indeed the ones with the highest “nostalgia value” for me…classics that got me into metal in the first place. While there’s no “Painkiller” or “Rust in Peace”, the following albums are absolute classics in my mind, which, I believe, is kind of the point Judge Dredd was trying to make in organizing us to do these posts in the first place.
So here we go! In no particular order…
Enthrone Darkness Triumphant (1997) – Dimmu Borgir
What a killer album! I know this sounds kind of pathetic and sad, but one of the best memories in my life was when I was like 16 and I had gotten really stoned, and I was listening to this CD on my headphones and drawing Dungeons and Dragons maps on graph paper in my room…I hate to say it, but it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. This was probably the first real metal band I ever checked out (back when they were still semi-underground circa 2001), and it was this album that proved to me that metal was the best music in the world. Yeah, “EDT” is incredibly cheesy, but at 16 I totally ate this shit up. I never got into the whole Satanism thing myself, but I was relatively fanatical when it came to this band…being pretty cheap, I never actually bought this album, but I did download every Dimmu Borgir song and video that I could find on Kazaa (yup, fucking KAZAA!). I guess I just really dug their sound, especially Stian Aarstad’s haunting keyboard lines, the beautiful yet aggressive melodies, the frantic drumming, awesome song titles like “A Succubus in Rapture”…I could go on and on.
Still Life (1999) – Opeth
I had a tough time choosing between this album and Orchid, but I decided to choose Still Life. While I think it’s definitely not their best album, I love it the most for a number of reasons. For one, it’s the first album I ever heard of theirs. I remember first hearing them at a buddy’s house when I was about 15 or so…we were taking a break from playing Dungeons and Dragons (haha it’s seriously not all I did in high school, I swear) and my buddy Tony handed me some headphones and was like, “Dude…listen to this shit.” Tony had been pretty influential in getting me into metal, being one of a few friends to introduce me to the likes of In Flames, Emperor, and Dream Theater, and so at this point he knew Opeth would blow my dick off, which they did. I remember for my 16th birthday making my parents take me to Kansas City to see Brotherhood of the Wolf (I don’t remember why it was just my parents and me, maybe it was a school night or something) as it wasn’t playing in Lawrence, and since my mom had also special-ordered me this CD from Hastings for my birthday I listened to the whole thing on the way to the movie and on the way back home…it just went so well the movie too, the medieval atmosphere, the beautiful acoustic passages, the rage in Mikael Åkerfeldt’s harsh vocals, and the cool lyrics that went along with the album’s storyline. At the time I had never heard anything like Still Life, and Opeth continues to be one of my favorite metal bands.
Whoracle (1997) – In Flames
The first metal show I ever went to was at the Bottleneck in Lawrence with In Flames, Killswitch Engage, Sentenced, and Dark Tranquillity. What’s funny is that I remember being overall pretty disappointed with In Flames’ performance…even though I was 16 I could still tell when a band just wasn’t putting forth much effort in their stage performance…I’m pretty sure the band was moderately trashed and probably burned out on touring, whereas Killswitch Engage really opened my eyes as to what an American metal band was capable of (of course, this was in 2002 when they were still relatively underground). In Flames had also just farted out Reroute to Remain and Anders had decided it would be a great idea to get dreadlocks, and so clearly the band was on the decline anyway but I was still expecting to see a quality performance that equally matched the quality shit that I was hearing on their albums, Whoracle being my favorite. When I first heard this album, I had never heard anything like it…MELODIC death metal?! The genre has become pretty lame nowadays, but in the early 2000s this shit was essential, and I would make the argument that it completely revived and rejuvenated the dying underground metal scene…for better or for worse. To me, this album had pretty much what I was looking for in a metal band– memorable, passionate melodies, an aggressive atmosphere, cryptic lyrics…this baby’s got it! Also, the instrumental title track goes great with Dungeons and Dragons! I remember one time we must have listened to that song like 30 times in a row when it was the background music to a boss fight during one of our games. Good shit!
Terria (2001) – Devin Townsend
This is one of my favorite metal albums of all time because it’s one of the most beautiful, but also terrifying albums I’ve ever heard. I know that’s a pretty melodramatic statement to make, but if you haven’t heard this album it’s difficult for me to describe in words…it would be as if someone were to try to explain what being on psychedelic mushrooms is like or something. Speaking of which, this album is pretty out there…Devin Townsend has definitely done his fair share of crazy drugs, and this album is clearly a product of those experiences. On the one hand, some of the songs are really calm and introspective, like “Down and Under”, whereas on the other hand some of the songs are absolutely demented, like “Earth Day” and “Olives”. Gene Hoglan’s drumming is top-notch as always, Devin Townsend’s reverb-drenched guitar playing creates some truly rich, almost “otherworldly” atmospherics. While I don’t feel like I completely connect with all of the songs on this album, I still find Terria to be somewhat of a personal album for me in terms of the lyrics and the overall listening experience.
The Bleeding (1994) – Cannibal Corpse
Originally, I had “Follow the Reaper” by Children of Bodom on here, but decided to change it to Cannibal Corpse. Anyway, The Bleeding is one of my favorite death metal albums of all time because not only does it have two of my favorite death metal songs ever, “Staring Through the Eyes of the Dead” and “Stripped, Raped, and Strangled”, but also it’s because of this album that led me to really dig groovy, brutal death metal…especially slam death metal like Devourment and Cemetery Rapist (thank you Metal Inquisition!). I enjoy pretty much all of Cannibal Corpse’s releases, but it’s this one that sticks out to me the most. While I’m kind of undecided on the whole Chris Barnes vs. Corpsegrinder debate, I feel like this is probably Chris Barnes’ best performance. While it’s not the most technical or brutal death metal release out there, it’s my favorite.
Kings of Metal (1998) – Manowar
Honestly, what is there to say about Manowar that hasn’t already been said? While I love almost every Manowar album, this one is my favorite of theirs and one of my favorite metal albums ever. Essentially, it’s the ultimate metal album– it’s ridiculously epic, unashamedly cheesy, misogynistic, idiotic, and a hell of a lot of fun. Lyrically, they’ve got everything covered as well! Epic battles, motorcycles, sex slaves, violence, poser-disposing, it’s all here folks! Hell, there’s even a cover of “Flight of the Bumblebee”…performed on the bass guitar. WHY!?
Absolutely essential. I can’t believe there are people out there who claim to like metal but aren’t Manowar fans. Give me a fucking break.
Dusk and Her Embrace (1996) – Cradle of Filth
I really, REALLY hate to admit it, but I love this album. I’m not the hugest Cradle of Filth fan, but holy shit does this album rule! Yeah, Dani Filth’s vocals can get annoying at times, and Nicholas Barker’s drums sound laughably weak, but still, this album is an undeniable classic and one of my favorites. I really didn’t want to put this album on here because Cradle of Filth come with so much baggage and the band has some of the most irritating fans in the underground metal scene, but if I didn’t include it on here this list wouldn’t be complete. Also, since I’m laying all my cards on the table, I might as well come out and admit that Dani Filth’s lyrics are pretty fucking cool on this album. While he’s known for being one of the scene’s better lyricists, I feel like it’s with this album that Filth is at his Lovecraftian best. While it would be too much to say that he’s a modern-day Edgar Allen Poe, check out this album to see what I mean. Besides cool lyrics, for their time Cradle of Filth were actually pretty ballsy to put out albums like this…their flamboyant, “gothic” approach to black metal pissed off a lot of the kvlt elitists. While I may get shit for this, I’m proud to say that I’m a big fan of this and other early Cradle of Filth material.
Kivenkantaja (2003) – Moonsorrow
When I first heard this album I just about shit my pants. I had never heard metal so epic, majestic, and adventurous before. While Emperor also could definitely fit this criteria, the thing that got me with Moonsorrow was that it wasn’t “evil-sounding”…dark, maybe, but clearly these guys were singing about forests and barbarians, not Satan and cosmic chaos like Emperor and the other black metal bands during this time. That was another thing, also…Moonsorrow aren’t a black metal band, so when I heard it I wasn’t sure how to describe it. It certainly wasn’t black metal or power metal, and yet it seemed to almost fuse those two genres together into something that was incredibly atmospheric, epic, and grandiose, without coming off as too cheesy or goofy. Nowadays, these Epic Viking/Folk Metal bands are everywhere, but when I first heard this album in 2004 I knew that this style was going to be explode and I couldn’t wait!
Prowler in the Yard (2001) – Pig Destroyer
Originally, I was going to put Blood on Ice by Bathory on here but I decided to replace it with this album. While grindcore isn’t my favorite genre of metal, when it’s done right it can be absolutely killer and that’s how I feel about Prowler in the Yard. The first time I ever read about this album was in Ill Literature, the first metal magazine I ever bought…it was the last issue too. I remember staying up all night pouring over the articles and circling all the reviews of albums that I thought sounded cool. It was by doing this that I found out about Agalloch, Ancient Rites, Katatonia, Marduk, and, of course, Pig Destroyer. At first Prowler in the Yard didn’t really sound like my style…back then, if it didn’t have atmospheric keyboards or wasn’t about wizards or some shit I wouldn’t bother to check it out. Also, I couldn’t figure out why the band didn’t have a bassist! Anyway, when I finally got around to checking this album out I realized the error of my ways. Yeah, I was impressed by the frantic drumming and J.R. Hayes’ howling vocals, but what really got me were the lyrics. As a high school kid I was pretty blown away…he was singing about some pretty intense, nightmarish shit. I thought the storyline was pretty cool too, and I loved going on Darklyrics and analyzing the lyrics. With the creepy storyline, dark atmosphere, and some of the most intense grind I’ve ever heard, this album is definitely one of my all time favorites.
Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk (1997) – Emperor
I hate to copy off Judge Dredd, but I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t one of my favorite metal albums of all time. I’m not going to say much about this album just because I feel like Judge Dredd put it pretty well in the previous post. If you want insane, majestic, intense symphonic black metal, this is the ultimate album. On a side note, Emperor is probably my favorite metal band name of all time, so it’s cool that they happen to also be one of my favorite metal bands.
So there you have it! Since Judge Dredd listed his top ten favorite metal albums of 2009, I think I’ll do the same!
In no particular order:
“Cosmogenesis” – Obscura
“The Voice of Steel” – Nokturnal Mortum
“Crack the Skye” – Mastodon
“Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue With the Stars” – Blut Aus Nord
“S/T” – Amesoeurs
“Ballade cuntre lo Anemi Francor” – Peste Noire
“Tormentizer” – Torment
“Goi, Rode, Goi!” – Arkona
“Across the Dark” – Insomnium
“Privilegivm” – Secrets of the Moon