My Top 10 Metal Albums, Part 3

OK, here's my number one. There was part of me that really wanted to list Van Halen's "1984" as a tie here. But after talking with a friend, he confirmed for me that I can't really categorize Van Halen as a metal band. They are hard rock, but not metal. And the prominence of keyboards on "1984" further solidifies this decision. But I think "1984" would probably make my all-time top ten list if genre was not a factor. Songs like "Jump", "Panama", "Hot for Teacher", and "I'll Wait" are approaching rock perfection. Eddie's guitar work on this album is his very best, even though albums "I" and "II" were groundbreaking at the time. When I think about Van Halen "I" coming out at a time (1978) when Joe Perry and Jimmy Page were considered the greatest guitarists, it must have been mind blowing. In fact, down right embarrassing! "I" was a rock guitar clinic, pointing the way to the future. And six years later "1984" would be the culmination of that potential, peaking at #2 (Michael Jackson's "Thriller" was riding #1 at the time) with the single "Jump" reaching #1.

But, "1984" is not a metal album. But this album DEFINITELY is:

1. Master of Puppets - Metallica (1986)
The greatest thrash metal album of all time. A masterpiece. When I first heard Battery I was shocked by how fast it was. It was hard for me to comprehend. But it didn't take long for Metallica to become my favorite band. Their blue collar, anti-corporate image was refreshing in a music scene dominated by polished glam posers. At a time when Vince Neil and Brett Michaels looked (and sang!) more like women than rock stars, James Hetfield was writing "Kill Bon Jovi" on the headstocks of his guitars. What more needs said? The songs on this album are epic. The title track has such incredible rhythm guitar playing that I still can't accurately cop it after over two decades of practice. Nevermind Kirk's leads! "Disposable Heroes" might be my favorite song on the album, with James' speed chunking Low E riff underneath Kirk's wah flavored upper register. And while Lars' drumming has taken a beating lately (pun?), his work on "Master" is some of the best thrash metal drumming you will ever hear. As a youth who spent his teenage years in institutions, I was very emotionally connected to the song Sanitarium. Lyrics like "Welcome to where time stands still. No one leaves and no one will..." and "Keep him tied. It makes him well. He's getting better. Can't you tell?" seemed to be all about me and my life at the time. "Just leave me alone..." As a band, and as an album, there are few as influential as Metallica and "Master of Puppets". If and when you find yourself testing out guitars and amps at your local guitar shop, "Enter Sandman" should NEVER be played. It is embarrassing for you and those who hear you. But "Master of Puppets" should ALWAYS be played. There is no truer test of a guitar rig, and your onlookers will smile and nod knowingly. There's a young kid in our youth group band who plays "Battery" and "Master" every week during warm-up. The influence of this album is still being felt by musicians at every age and level, and I think it will continue to be felt for decades to come. Deservedly, it ranks as my number one.


Russ said...

If you are going to disqualify Van Halen then you have to go back and take out Extreme. There is no way that Extreme is more "metal". I would not consider either band to be "metal" but then the hard rock/heavy metal genre is pretty wide.

I would also say that you have to add honorable mentions for:

Def Leppard : Pyromania

Scorpions : Love at First Sting

Quiet Riot: Metal Health ( I know that this is not the coolest pick but they were the first "metal" band to actually chart and get major radio airplay. Opened doors for more bands behind them.

Judas Priest : Screaming for Vengeance

AC/DC : Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheep. I actually like this one better than Back in Black Dirty Deeds was sure to make you parents climb the walls. :)

I'm sure there are many more I'm forgetting.

Russ said...

One more I can't believe I forgot.

Skid Row : Slave to the Grind. No one, I repeat, no one, screams like Sebastian Bach. Anyone that thinks that Skid Row was some wimpy hair band has never listened to this cd.

Ken said...

I think you're right about Extreme, although I think they were known as "glam metal" and "funk metal". Not that that makes any sense! Songs like "Warheads" and "Peacemaker Die" are definitely metal songs, but the album has plenty of songs that aren't metal at all, that don't even come close... so you're probably right.

Judas Priest would probably not even make my top 25. I just never really got into them. My favorite Priest song is Painkiller, and that was more like a comeback than vintage Priest.

The others you mentioned would probably be on my top 25. We definitely agree on Sebastian Bach. He might be the greatest metal vocalist of all time. I would put "Slave to the Grind" at #11.

I would also add Anthrax "Among The Living", Poison "Open Up and Say... Ahh!", Bon Jovi "Slippery When Wet", Megadeth "Rust In Peace", Ratt "Out of the Cellar", Twisted Sister "Stay Hungry"... as well as additional entries from Metallica, Mötley Crüe, and Iron Maiden.

I also struggled with how to categorize Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Some people consider them metal, some don't. Either way, they are two of my favorite bands.

And I love Rush, but they're not metal.

I guess there is a tendency to categorize any music with distorted guitars as metal... especially if it came out between the late 70s and early 90s.