10. Rainbow - Rising
This album deserves iconic status yet only receives one depending on certain circles. Arguably better songwriting than Ritchie Blackmore's time in Deep Purple and here is where Ronnie James Dio first made his name, not to mention Cozy Powell, Jimmy Bain and Tony Carey. Every song on Rising is letter perfection. "Stargazer" is heavy metal's answer to Zeppelin's "Kashmir," while the hyperactive band soloing on "A Light in the Black" stands as a heavy metal highlight worthy of constant re-investigation.
9. Opeth - Blackwater Park
The high priests of Goth metal. While I wanted to include My Dying Bride on this list, this sector of metal belongs almost exclusively to Opeth. Nobody of their breed possesses Opeth's collective song theory and precise sculptures of four bars in each segment to their music. You can sit there and count off the fourths, it's that exact. Rembrandts of their dark art, Blackwater Park has been said to have brought tears to some listeners and it is that emotional.
8. Mastodon - Leviathan
One of the most mind-blowing albums in the past ten years, much less metal's history. It's nearly too much to consume on the first couple go-rounds, that's how intricate Mastodon is. Detailed to excellence and heavier than your senior aunt's bra, there's not enough accolades one can heap upon Leviathan.
7. Metallica - Master of Puppets
This is an album I literally ran from my bedroom and up the train tracks to the music store to buy after borrowing it from a friend. I was that devasted by Master the first time I heard it. It rightly deserves a high mark on anyone's list, but nowadays, it carries an air of melancholy. I remember when Cliff Burton was killed just as Master was gaining steam in the metal community. And unfortunately, I just cannot stomach hearing any of these songs on "Mandatory Metallica" segments on FM radio because it's just too damned hypocritical.
6. Judas Priest - British Steel
Even non-metal fans love "Breaking the Law" and that's scary, but it's also testament to what a great freaking band Judas Priest is and how revered British Steel as an album is. We'll miss you, guys, the past decade-plus has been controversial, but thanks for British Steel and all the amazing works that stand proud in the name of metal.
5. Guns N' Roses - Appetite for Destruction
It's fashionable for everyone ranking as a critic to a beer-drinking, living for the weekender to cite Appetite for Destruction as a world class album. Well, yeah, it is. I've reached the point where I could go without ever hearing "Welcome to the Jungle," "Paradise City" and "Sweet Child 'O Mine" on the goddamn radio again, but I could never live without having access to "My Michelle," "Think About You" and "Nightrain."
4. Black Sabbath - s/t
When everyone claims Black Sabbath to be the original heavy metal band, this is the album, not necessarily Paranoid (as great as the latter is) which backs all of it up. Black Sabbath still stands as one of the most confrontational albums the world's ever known. Diabolical in sound, yet carrying an urgency to call out social injustice, Black Sabbath were bigger hippies than most ever acknowledged them to be. Think about that, you hippie bashers.
3. Iron Maiden - Number of the Beast
This album is so much more about "Run to the Hills," the song which everyone will remember Iron Maiden for. So much more. Number of the Beast is one of the first genuine metal masterpieces boasting an improbable switch-up in vocals that surpassed anyone's expectations. Even the lesser-cited songs like "Gangland" and "Invaders" are sheer brilliance. In much shorter time than Iron Maiden's later albums, they carry their listeners on a metal odyssey very few can match.
2. Iron Maiden - Powerslave
This is my personal favorite heavy metal album of all-time. Everything preceding Powerslave are supreme classics, yet I have never felt anything for a metal album in quite the same manner as I do Powerslave. "2 Minutes to Midnight" and "Aces High" are a pair of Maiden's most-respected individual songs, yet I feel literally carried aloft by "Losfer Words (Big 'Orra)," "The Duellists," "Flash of the Blade," "Back in the Village" and of course, the titanic "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Creatively-speaking, this is Iron Maiden's most adventurous and escapist record, and not a single lick is out of whack. Powerslave and the final selection on this list are, in my opinion, the most perfect albums of the genre.
1. Slayer - Reign in Blood
This is the album we should all ask one another the question "What were you doing the first time you heard Reign in Blood?" It's this album that made the entire music world bend an ear and say "Whoa..." It's been empirically proven in studies that Slayer has reached more diverse professions than any other band in metal's history. A half hour is all they needed to lift everyone by their collective chins and knock 'em on their duffs. This is the penultimate metal listening experience for all generations and those to come. For the record, I was sitting on my bedroom floor in 1987 once I finally caught up to Reign in Blood (released the year prior) and saying "Whoa..."
Monday, September 12, 2011
10. Rainbow - Rising