80. Trouble: Trouble
Black Sabbath clones are literally a dime a dozen, but no one took
that style and made it their own quite like Trouble. While the band’s
previous albums were a strange morass of Christian lyrics and deep, slow
burning depression (and excellent in their own right), the band kicked
the speed up and toned down the Christianity for this one. The result?
“Trouble” flat out rocks.
The driving riff that opens “At the End of My Daze” would make Tony
Iommi a little jealous and the album never really slows down from there.
Even Eric Wagner’s vocals, usually quite flat, make you want to jump
up and head bang. In a lot of ways, these songs are the embodiment of
what the classic metal sound should be in a modern setting; memorable,
riff-driven and delivered in heavier boxes than even Sabbath could have
envisioned. Trouble hit their peak with this album and it will always be
a shame they didn’t get more attention for it.
79. Ulver: Nattens Madrigal
Many less-than-hardcore metal fans would consider “Nattens Madrigal”
to be unlistenable and far from the best album of the 90’s. It has all
the classic aesthetics of black metal: ultra-fast, distorted,
horrendously produced, treble turned up to 11, and strikes you like
auditory acid. It’s easy to write the album off after one listen, but
its true beauty comes out when you pick apart the music on successive
“Nattens Madrigal” has that hazy, droning effect similar to
Darkthrone’s “Transylvanian Hunger”, but is infinitely harsher than the
latter. Whereas Darkthrone’s soft production invited listeners inside to
relax, Ulver’s production guards the door with a rabid, blood-thirsty
This, my friends, is why you must be prudent with this album. Many
mournful and beautiful melodies lie just beneath the abrasive surface.
They would never reveal themselves during a casual listen. Ulver
mastered the pretty/ugly dynamic early in their career and used it to
create some truly masterful music.
78. Angel Corpse: The Inexorable
Relentless. That single adjective sums up my feeling about this
violent piece of death metal that Angelcorpse managed to weave and
unleash unto the unprepared masses. They managed to flow through the
scope of old school black/death metal and the hyper-blasting spasmodic
assault of the new school with ease, taking selected pieces from both
realms to cook the listener a vicious and succulent piece of metal.
It is an album so intense and pictorial one gets carried away on
describing it with epic and gruesome metaphors. Is it like being skinned
alive by a bunch of vultures while being nailed to a cross assembled
with infants’ bones? Of course it isn’t, but once the album is spinning
one can’t avoid conjuring such brutal images.
Angelcorpse honed its craft from album to album and The Inexorable
is near perfect example of what a death metal album should sound like.
And did I ever mention Pete Helmkamp is one of the best death metal
77. Ministry: Psalm 69
This album contained the minor “hit” song and video “Jesus Built My
Hotrod”, which single-handedly launched a whole new scene upon the
masses. I remember it getting heavy play on MTV,
and I must have spun it 100 times during a summer stint as a radio DJ.
The influence of “Psalm 69” and their “Mind is a Terrible Thing to
Taste” album are still felt today, for better or worse, and helped to
make electronics in metal sound “cool”.
76. Darkthrone: Transylvanian Hunger
Yet another one of those “Duh” albums, as in “Duh, this is going to
be on any top metal albums of the 90’s list”. It would be easy to listen
to this for the first time in 2007 and dismiss it as simple,
under-produced crap. Hell, there are many metal fans that heard this
album in 1994 and had that very opinion. Nevermind the naysayers.
“Transylvanian Hunger” is a classic.
It’s hard to imagine black metal without Darkthrone. Genre
adjectives such as “grim” and “cult” may have even originated with this
band. I don’t know if they did, but go research it and get back to me.
The music is indeed pretty grim.
And full of hate.
Stupid black metal descriptions aside, Darkthrone’s limp recording
is actually pretty soothing. Was it intentional? Who knows, but whenever
I listen to this album, I always picture myself laying in bed and
staring up into a multi-colored pinwheel spinning psychedelia. The
album-length hypnosis may lack aural dynamics, but for some reason it
It just fucken works.
75. Anathema: Judgement
These Brits were always known for evolving into more rock-oriented
styles, and “Judgement” stands somewhere at the crossroads of two styles
– doom metal and rock. The Cavanagh brothers took the sorrowful
ambience of doom and mixed it with rock-laden guitars and passages. It
turned out great, like nothing before. Albums like this one are
sometimes the work of luck, but I’m sure that luck wasn’t a significant
factor during the recording sessions for “Judgement”. The thing that
probably helped substantially is called “genius”. Yeah, a genius album
to say the least.
74. Prong: Cleansing
Oh, what a sweet piece of history for all metal heads! Snap your
penis, snap your cock is one of those songs that just bring us back to a
wonderful time period. These were the days we’d sit around the garage
listening to metal and just doing shit that’s not looked upon with high
esteem. Prong’s “Cleansing” album is easily their pinnacle, and one of
the great early discs that Terry Date worked on (“Vulgar Display of
Power” another during this time period). Prong came out of virtually no
where with an album that helped to solidify the importance of GROOVE
in heavy music. This album is just full of integrity and awesome
songs. I’d suggest throwing it on every month or so just to remember,
and pay tribute to one of the fore-fathering bands of groove.
73. Melvins: Stoner Witch
If you’re puzzled about the importance of Melvins and what the hell
they’re doing on this list, well, they were the first post-punk band to
start borrowing those Sabbath tones. And although not every album is
all that, this one definitely is. Why? Because it shows all sides of
this multi-faceted band, and does so in a way that’s quite irresistible,
and very, very cheeky. There really is something in this album for
everyone, from pounding rhythms with wild joyrides of noisy, crunching
riffs and sleazy loungy songs suitable to strip to, to hypnotic ambient
drones. The album even sports two classic rock type tracks, and
throughout there’s melody aplenty. Well paced, and with plenty
variation, it’s almost impossible to become bored with the album. And
it’s guaranteed to change your mood for the better. Or the naughty.
Whichever comes first.
72. Disembowelment: Transcendence Into The Peripheral
The early 90’s saw doom metal take a turn for the ugly. Some bands,
like Thergothon, slowed it down and made soul crushing atmospheric
funeral doom. Others, such as Winter, added a death metal kick to the
typical gloom and doom attitude. Australia’s Disembowelment took both
approaches, blasting like a death metal band at times, then dropping to a
crawl and suffocating their listeners beneath a ton of slow, heavy and
Though this album is great for a variety of reasons, one of its
strongest points is the production. “Transcendence…” sounds like it was
recorded in cave, with each member being progressively deeper. The
drums are up front and clear and the guitars are a bit further in with a
little echo and lot of distortion. Behind it all, the vocals are issued
from the deepest bowels of the earth, only reaching the listeners ears
after being ricocheted off hundreds of feet of rock. The end result is
an ugly, chilling sound you can only find on this album.
Disembowelment only issued one album, but it was a hell of an
outing, memorable for using death and doom metal to create a uniquely
despondent atmosphere. It’s a shame that they won’t pass this way
71. Arcturus: Le Masquerade Infernale
Arcturus is one of the strangest bands to come from the black metal
scene, but also one of the best. Their disturbing brand of carnival
metal does justice to the “supergroup” tag they get labelled with. This
is the album that propelled them from an above-average black metal group
to one of the most unique bands in metal. Lucky for all of us, the
songwriting only improved after the change.
I can’t think of a band either Hellhammer or Garm has been a part of
that I haven’t liked at one point or another. While they both add a ton
of character to “La Masquerade Infernale”, the star of the show is
keyboardist Sverd. Some of the stuff he comes up with is out of this
world. He is definitely the soul of the band.
Although this is the album that people most often associate with
Arcturus, let me take a minute to pimp the follow-up: 2002’s “The Sham
Mirrors”. The drumming and keyboards on that disc are stunning. It
definitely gives “La Masquerade Infernale” fierce competition as the
best Arcturus album.