This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Metal is much more than a genre of music; it’s a mechanism for coping with life, and all the bullshit that goes with it. What follows next is a list of my favourite metal albums of all time. Keep in mind that this is my list, and hence is not a universal truth. The purpose of this post isn’t to force others to like the same music I do, but merely to share with the world the wonders of metal. Feel free to disagree. If there are any bands or albums you feel should have been included on this list, send me an email. Let’s get this started.
#10 Five Finger Death Punch – The Wrong Side of Heaven & The Righteous Side of Hell
In my opinion, 5FDP haven’t changed all that much over the years. Like Amon Amarth, the Nevada-based band follow a specific formula that just seems to work. The guitars are heavy enough to make the elitists nod in hesitant approval, yet still melodic enough to appeal to a larger, more mainstream audience. While the band strongly relies on Ivan Moody’s vocals to carry the bulk of the musical onslaught to our ears, it is Jeremy Spencer on drums who creates the sonic backbone upon which all of 5FDP’s songs are structured. The blast beats are not overly-technical to the point of being random machine gun noise (yes, I’m looking at the slam death metal bands out there); they are timed with an artistic precision that incites a moderate headbanging that will relieve some post-class stress for all the students out there. While this album is not a masterpiece, it is definitely worth listening to – and it can be repeated as well, without getting bored.
Best song: Lift Me Up
Favourite instrument: Drums
#9 Incite – Up In Hell
I actually discovered this album by accident. I think I had just taken shrooms and I had been looking for some nice thrash metal to listen to, and I thought I was listening to Sodom’s “M16” – it was only when I heard the chorus of Incite’s “WTF” that I actually realized that this was not German thrash. To be honest, this album is definitely not one of the best thrash metal albums I’ve heard, but I just can’t get enough of it. The production quality reminds me of an angsty teenage brutal black metal band; you know, the kind that sounds as if it’s been recorded in a tin can in their drummer’s mom’s basement. My affiliation with this album has probably got to do with my intoxicated state when I first listened to it. Whatever the reason, I couldn’t stop listening to it, and it’s grown on me. This is the kind of album you hear for the first time and go, “Meh. I’ve heard better,” and then two weeks later you can’t stop playing the air drums and shouting “False flag!” along with vocalist Richie Cavalera. What’s that, you say? Cavalera? Why yes, yes indeed. Richie is the son of legendary singer, guitarist, songwriter and all-round metal god Max Cavalera. Trust me: give this album a listen and let it grow on you. The drums are pretty shit (by thrash metal standards), but the fuzzy vocals and thrasy guitars more than make up for it.
Best song: WTF
Rating: 5/10 (and maybe a 7/10 if you’re on shrooms)
Favourite instrument: Vocals
#8 Lucifer – Lucifer I
Another pleasant little accident, Lucifer I is one of those albums I can play out loud at any time and not get weird looks from the normal people. I had been searching for some new black metal music when I happened upon this. You can imagine my surprise when I listened to opening track Abracadabra and heard some doomy, Black Sabbath-ish riffs accompanied by these mystical, clean feminine vocals. Come on, who doesn’t love clean female vocals from time to time? Johanna Sadonis’s voice takes you out of your untidy room with the Metallica posters and unwashed dishes and plops you straight into a forest clearing, with a roaring bonfire and a throng of scantily-dressed bodies swaying in time with the groovy riffs. I love it. Andrew Prestidge accompanies on drums, adding some lovely rhythm for us to headbang to (though it’s clear that guitars and bass take the cake where headbanging is concerned). It’s interesting to note that Prestidge used to play for the band Angel Witch, which was originally called Lucifer. Hmm. Anyway, despite the fact that this is a good album, I would not recommend listening to it on repeat. It gets a bit monotonous, and can be quite boring. So unless you’re looking for a good lullaby, stay away from the repeat button.
Best song: Izrael
Favourite instrument: Guitars
#7 Avatar – Hail The Apocalypse
Fun fact: I have a fear of clowns. Or, well, I used to. Listening to Avatar and watching their live performances and music videos has made me somehow get over that fear, simply because they’re just that fucking awesome. Don’t believe me? Check them out completely slaying with this live performance of Let It Burn. Johannes Eckerström is an absolute ring-leader, entertaining us with his troupe of melodic death metal musicians. I appreciate any band that makes an effort to ensure that their performance is as theatrical as possible while at the same time not compromising on their music, especially when it comes to extreme metal. The finger-work displayed by Jonas Jarlsby and Tim Öhrström (guitars) is best experienced on Death of Sound. Sometimes I listen to the intro of that song five or six times in a row, going back to the beginning after Johannes’ scream of, “Welcome to the wasteland!” This is quite a diverse album, with each song sounding different in its own right, but still maintaining that distinct circus-slash-apocalypse-ish sound that unifies it as an album. Because of its rainbow-like composition, this album can be played on repeat until the four horsemen themselves appear and mosh about to the title track.
Best song: Death of Sound
Favourite instrument: Bass
#6 Maat – As We Create The Hope From Above
Other than being one of the best produced death metal albums I’ve ever heard, As We Create The Hope From Above is also one of those albums that gets me annoyed, simply because not enough people know about it. Yeah, there are those elitist arseholes who get a stiffy when listening to something underground, because only they are cool enough to know about it, and as soon as it becomes mainstream they suddenly discard it – but honestly fuck that mentality. Maat’s debut album is an amazing piece of art, drawing inspiration from two of my all time favourite bands: Nile and Behemoth. Maat have been criticized for sounding “too much” like their inspiration, with critics saying they “lack originality and inspiration.” Ha. So say the same guys who listen to hundreds of bands who all have the same tinny, brutal sound, pagan lyrics and unnecessarily complicated tremolo picking. Maat is a band that is definitely in my top five bands, and AWCTHFA is testament enough to their musical talent. From the opener, which also happens to be the title track, right down to the last riff, I am entertained. My neck nearly broke the first time I listened to this album. Fast-paced, brutal, lyrically-rich and – best of all – wise enough to know when to slow the pace and introduce a very Egyptian-sounding solo with the bass backing it up. The vocals are as rough and death metal-y as you can get, yet because of the high production value of this record, strikes as somewhat clear. If you can listen to Duat… After My Last Breath without violently headbanging, then you, my friend, are either deaf or not human. This is definitely something I’ll be playing at max volume when I pick my kids up from daycare.
Best song: Duat… After My Last Breath
Favourite instrument: Guitars
#5 Marduk – Frontschwein
Aaah. Black metal. What sort of list would this be if there weren’t at least some form of the most brutal, most extreme, most shocking genre of music on the face of this planet? Incomplete, that’s what! Marduk’s sonic slaughter that is Frontschwein is exactly that: a piece of music that is not only about slaughter, but that will also murder any hope you have of being a complete human being after listening to this album in its entirety. Once you go black, there’s no going back…
Marduk continue with their theme of war and the Third Reich in this album, with Mortuus on vocals being the perfect storyteller for such a disgusting period of time in human history. His screams are akin to the screams of anguish of millions of dead souls, losing their lives for the vain vision of a mad dictator… or they’re just the product of a grown man purposefully distorting his voice so as to capture the essence of black metal. This is one of those albums where vocals, drums, guitars and bass just seem to blend together so seamlessly that they form one big, scary monster called black fucking metal: the mark of true musicianship.
Best song: Between the Wolf-Packs
Favourite instrument: Guitars
#4 Watain – Lawless Darkness
Watain is the kind of black metal band that you should actually be frightened of. Okay, they’re not exactly the embodiment of Varg Vikernes, who was famous for basically being evil, but they are self-confessed Satan-worshippers, and this shines through in their music and especially their lyrics. Be this as it may, they’re still one of my favourite bands, and I recommend this album to anyone looking for some quality black metal. The guitar melodies are above average, the vocals are on point, but it’s the lyrics that get me. I’m a very wordy guy, so I appreciate it when a band writes meaningful lyrics, not just some random screaming about “Sataaaaaan!!!” Hymn to Qayin has some seriously powerful lyrics that I haven’t been able to get out of my head since learning them, and Waters of Ain is the only black metal song I would describe as being beautiful. Seriously, I’m not even being funny. The first time I listened to Waters of Ain I choked up a bit; the guitar-work in there is mesmerizing, and the lyrics transport one to another dimension. It is raw feeling and emotion made sonic; it is poetry. And I love it.
Best song: Waters of Ain (surprise, surprise)
Favourite instrument: Vocals, Guitars
#3 Hate – Erebos
Poland will forever be my favourite country, simply because they produce the best – and I mean the best – blackened death metal bands. Thank you, Poland, for giving the world Hate. This album is a masterpiece of heavy, thundering, overpowering, brutal, evil metal. There were times in high school where I just felt so frustrated, and angry, and I’d blast Erebos‘ title track at max volume and just beat the shit out of my air drums. That song is so orgasmically drum-rich that I would be sweating by the 2 minute mark, my rage and frustration lost in the sheer brutality of the music. Adam “ATF Sinner” Buszko has such a powerful, emotional voice that I couldn’t picture the band with any other vocalist. Trust me: if you ever need to get out some pent-up rage, or any emotion that you just need to let go of, and you don’t feel like throwing all your fine china against the wall, play this album at max volume and try and play the drums while screaming along with ATF Sinner: the physical exhaustion is a cathartic exercise that lets you blow off some steam in a constructive manner. Erebos is an album that I will listen to over, and over, and over again, until “the whole sky is bleeding RED!”
Best song: Erebos
Favourite instrument: Definitely drums
#2 Nile – Annihilation Of The Wicked
Aaah. Nile. This is considered by many to be one of the greatest death metal albums of all time, and it’s easy to see why. The golden trio that is Karl Sanders, George Kollias and Dallas Toler-Wade are the original rulers of Ancient Egypt, where they were known by the names of Osiris, Horus and Set. They are the embodiment of all that is metal, and all that is Ancient Egypt.
After the esoteric, acoustic opener (with a name much too long for me to type here), we are immediately blasted with the classic Cast Down The Heretic. From then on it’s an upward roller-coaster ride that is both history lesson and technical death metal. This was the first extreme metal album I ever listened to, and it is still one of my favourites. I mean, with the perfect – perfect – synchronicity between the guitarists and the drum demi-god George, how can you not love this album? I swear George sacrificed his soul to Set in order to be able to play drums that fast. No human with only two arms and two legs should be capable of creating that kind of sound at that BPM. It’s impossible. Not only is George unbelievably fast, but he knows when to slow it down and gel seamlessly with Karl and Dallas to create a sonic masterpiece that is impossible not to headbang to. Like on Lashed To The Slave Stick. Even now, years later, I am still incapable of keeping my body completely still when George starts demolishing his drum set, with Karl’s deep and menacing growls sneaking up behind you like a Nile crocodile. The ultimate chord progression can be seen on the title track: 8 minutes and 36 seconds of guitar wizardry. This is an album I’ll be playing all my life, and an album I will be jamming to with Osiris in the afterlife.
Best song: Cast Down The Heretic
Favourite instrument: drums
#1 Behemoth – Zos Kia Cultus (Here and Beyond)
Okay, just so we’re clear, I could have chosen any Behemoth album (barring maybe The Apostasy) and still have it in #1 position. It just so happens that Zos Kia Cultus is the one that made the biggest impression on me when I was younger.
Anyone who knows me personally knows that Behemoth are my all-time favourite band. Their latest album, The Satanist, is one of the greatest works of art ever, in my opinion, and is only not included in this list because I wouldn’t have wanted two Behemoth albums here.
Zos Kia Cultus is an amazing piece of raw, occult, emotional blackened death metal. This was a period of time where Behemoth were transitioning from black metal to death metal, and Zos Kia Cultus captures the best of both of these worlds perfectly; most notably in Adam ‘Nergal’ Darski’s vocals, with his characteristic raspy scream at the end of certain syllables. The opener, Horns Ov Baphomet, perfectly sets the mood: the voiceover, with the white static noise and obscure radio, topped off by a creepy-sounding priest or preacher, creates this creepy atmosphere, unsettling the listener just enough for the heavy onslaught of the guitars. On Nergal’s opening scream of, “Raise! Thy! Horns!” one can’t help but oblige his command. The lyrics are written in the trademark style and diction of Behemoth, and delivered in fluent black metal by Nergal. The crowd favourite – As Above, So Below – with its unforgettable intro will never fail to get my heart racing and blood flowing, ready to bang the shit out of my head when Nergal opens with that rapidly intensifying growl of his. The very next song has one of my favourite lines in all of metal, delivered by one of my favourite vocalists:”I seek their ruin! I shake their world! Behold! I am blackest ov the black!”
After slowing the tempo a bit with Hekau 718, the pace is once again restored to a merciless roar with No Sympathy For Fools. “I am heresy, blazing hell! The embodiment of all your fear! I am all which you can never be: a truth-revealing hate machine!” Further on, Nergal goes on to ridicule the “fools” who never bother to question; those who blindly believe, with Nergal screaming at them: “You will never see the light! Bound to always live by lies!”
Inferno is not only the High God of Drumming, he is also a magician with the cymbals. His percussion and blast beats so perfectly match Nergal’s evil-sounding guitar chords that I wonder if the two of them are not two aspects of the same entity. Nergal and Inferno no doubt have a mystical bond, being the two longest surviving members of Behemoth. There is no wonder how Inferno got his nickname: one needs only witness him demolish his drum kit to see how hellishly talented he is.
Behemoth is a band of black metal gods, who will live forever on in the halls of extreme music.
Best song: Blackest Ov The Black
Favourite instrument: Vocals, Guitar, Drums (the bass on here is shit)