Treble’s Top 100 Metal Albums

top 100 metal albums

Pentagram Day of Reckoning80. PentagramDay of Reckoning
(1987; Napalm)

At least in terms of sound, Pentagram may very well be the American Black Sabbath, and lead singer Bobby Liebling their Ozzy Osbourne. Liebling led a constantly shifting band lineup through the underground in the 1970s, so by the time they actually released studio albums in the 1980s they had a lo-fi, unrepentantly unrefined feel that occasionally matched Sabbath note for note. Seriously, pop in this second Pentagram album and try not to do a double-take during the rhythm shifts and closing reverb of “When the Screams Come” or during the yells of “All right now” in “Evil Seed.” We have to grant that there’s not a whole lot of technical proficiency going on here—less skill on the part of guitarist Victor Griffin, for example, as well as a little less pretense. However, Day of Reckoning did more than just validate the importance of Pentagram’s peers. It put Pentagram on the radar of listeners- and players-to-be who would eventually promote the slower tempos and dreary tones of doom metal, sending dead flowers to music’s future. – Adam Blyweiss

Death Human79. DeathHuman
(1991; Relativity)

It’s pretty rare that you can attribute a single album as responsible for changing the course of an entire genre of music, but Death’s Human is just that. While Death’s career had already established them as one of the most forward thinking underground acts, Human found them making a bold statement that death metal could be something more. Moving away from the blunt force riffage and gore-focused lyrics, Human firmly established sprawling nuances that would become a staple of Death’s iconography. Songs were longer and more progressive, the lyrics turned inward, and the wounds seemed to run a bit deeper. Chuck Schuldiner brings his characteristic A-game here with some incredible riffs and a gut-wrenching vocal performance. Things are really elevated, however, thanks to recruiting Cynic’s Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert in addition to thick and slick low-end provided by Steve DiGiorgio. Starting with Human, Death would largely become a revolving door of emerging musicians who would leave their mark on the scene in one form another. While the band’s most iconic releases were yet to be written, rarely has the underground felt as united or as ambitious as is found on Human. – Dakota Foss

Cynic Focus78. CynicFocus
(1993; Roadrunner)

In the brief-but-glorious moment when “jazz-metal” thrived, two bands from Florida cornered the market: Atheist and Cynic. In 1993, with the release of Focus, Cynic arguably surpassed the former. Building upon Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinart’s progressive work with Death on Human, the group moved further from traditional metal, doing away almost entirely with blast beats (in favor of more technical variation) and liberally incorporating melodic guitar textures into the eight suite-like tracks. Add vocoders, keyboards, and gated drums to the mix, and you have one very bizarre but perfectly cohesive album — one that continues to exert its influence through the guitars of Opeth, Between the Buried and Me, and more. – Connor Brown

Between the Buried and Me Colors77. Between the Buried and MeColors
(2007; Victory)

The first time I listened to Colors, I did not know how to react. During the 64 minutes and eight tracks that freely flowed from one to the next, my brain felt like it was going to explode from too much anxiety; Between the Buried and Me was transitioning at will, leaving this unprepared listener’s mind stuck on overload. With all the changes and craziness of Colors — from extreme metal to the freak circus piano and bass part of “Sun Of Nothing” or the schizoid breakdown, twists and turns, and honkey-tonk of “Ants Of The Sky” — the album could have been a complete mess, but BTBAM’s musicianship is too calculated and brilliantly executed. Colors is a guitarist’s delight — Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring play the heroes, trading rhythm and lead throughout. There isn’t much time to catch your breath with Colors, and you’ll miss something if you’re not careful. After the release of the album, Between the Buried and Me did a Colors Live tour, playing the album start to finish, eventually coming out with a DVD that put the band’s majesty into perspective. With Colors, BTBAM figured out how to simultaneously run a marathon and a sprint. – Jordan J. Michael

Cave In Until Your Heart stops76. Cave InUntil Your Heart Stops
(1999; Hydra Head)

Taken together, the four members of Cave In comprised a formidably talented quartet. With half of Converge in the studio to assist them (including Kurt Ballou, in one of his earliest production credits), they were unstoppable. These were the exact conditions behind the recording of 1999’s Until Your Heart Stops, which perhaps explains its outstanding consistency and the appreciation of its legacy in the years since. Blending technical death, black metal, metalcore, and elements of shoegaze, Cave In here synthesized one of the most unusual sounds in the whole breadth of metal, simultaneously composing a record of astonishing technical achievement and seamless flow. Coming out when it did, this album stood as a perfect testament to the diversification and maturation of music that took place in the ’90s and effectively anticipated the directions that underground metal would take in the following years – Connor Brown

Dio Holy Diver75. DioHoly Diver
(1983; Warner Bros.)

There’s something about Dio that seems so pure and refreshing. While Ozzy has done everything from hosting festivals in his name and being the star of a reality show, Dio always seemed to love the music for, well, the music. That’s not to say that Ozzy wasn’t immensely talented or that the praise he’s been showered with is unwarranted, but Dio didn’t have a lot of the bullshit. He was goofy, expressive and kicked a fair amount of ass. Nowhere is that more evident than his solo debut, Holy Diver. The riffs are catchy as hell and powerful enough, but the clear focus is Dio’s bat-out-of-hell vocal delivery –and the wonky lyrics that come with the territory. I say that as affectionately possible. Dio pours his heart into singing words that no one could say seriously other than him. Take, for instance, the title track: “Ride the tiger/you can see his stripes but you know he’s clean/oh, don’t you see what I mean?” I don’t, but I’ll be damned if those don’t sound like the most important string of words the English language has produced when they come out of Dio‘s mouth. While that song and “Rainbow In the Dark” are the most popular, any of the songs found on here could have been massive if given the same limelight. Yes, even the incredibly corny PSA, “Don’t Talk to Strangers.” Holy Diver is just about as pure and perfect as they come in the world of Heavy Metal. – Dakota Foss

Slayer Seasons in the Abyss74. SlayerSeasons in the Abyss
(1990; American)

There’s little dispute over what Slayer’s greatest strength is: recklessly menacing high-speed thrash metal of the most unholy order. But toward the end of the ’80s, with South of Heaven, the group slowed their tempos a bit, scaling back on the white-knuckle, gut-wrenching venom and trading it in for a more precise and carefully crafted form of thrash-metal horror. Yet Seasons in the Abyss, perhaps their second greatest achievement as a band, splits the difference between that album’s more technical approach and the speed-metal mayhem of their early years. There’s no denying that the album houses more impressive riffs and melodies in songs like “Blood Red,” but when the death rattle of “War Ensemble” ramps up its BPMs to ludicrous speed, there’s no mistaking this record as the product of anyone but Huntington Beach’s most dangerous band. – Jeff Terich

System of a Down Toxicity73. System of a DownToxicity
(2001; American)

Some metal fanatics will make a disgusted face at the mere mention System of a Down. This unfavorable stereotype probably stems from a combination of the band’s mainstream radio success and the admittedly overly shiny production late in the band’s career, once Rick Rubin was no longer behind the boards. But if you give Toxicity one unbiased spin, it’s impossible to deny the record’s bizarre nu-metal allure. The wacky psych thrash of “Bounce,” the direct punch of “Needles,” the mystical churning of “Toxicity,” the anthemic madness of “Chop Suey!” — SOAD venture into so many territories on this record while still holding onto an captivating, adrenaline-soaked core sound. It’s true that they were riding a line that would arguably take them to the point of “zany for the sake of zany,” but on Toxicity the songs were creatively fresh and consistent in quality. – A.T. Bossenger

Bad Brains I Against I72. Bad BrainsI Against I
(1986; SST)

In the late ’70s and early ’80s, Washington D.C. punks Bad Brains perfected hardcore punk, so when the late ’80s officially arrived, a new sound and a new movement beckoned: alternative metal. Their pioneering spirit guiding the way, Bad Brains switched up their tempos, bought a few effects pedals, broadened their scope and got super fucking heavy. Not quite running a parallel path to Los Angeles’ Suicidal Tendencies, Bad Brains nonetheless occupied a similar space with I Against I, turning up the thrash on tracks like “Let Me Help” and laying down some immortal riffs on the runaway standout “Re-Ignition.” I Against I, interestingly enough, feels looser and more approachable than their intense and raw debut, but listen to Dr. Know’s licks carefully — they sound a lot like metal to me. – Jeff Terich

Torche Meanderthal71. TorcheMeanderthal
(2008; Hydra Head)

Torche’s sun-drenched Meanderthal is deceptively awesome. That’s not to say that it’s not immediate, because it most certainly is, but its carefree nature betrays just how ambitious their sound is. Pop-sensibilities, progressive riffs, and bone-crushing heaviness are combined to make something that is unmistakably Torche. Nearly every song on here will make you bang your head and smile like a dork, and that includes fun-sized Odyssey “Fat Waves” and the summer playlist mainstay “Grenades.” As a matter of fact, all of the songs here are covered in charcoal and salt water. Meanderthal is simply one of the greatest summer albums out there, metal or not. – Dakota Foss

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View Comments (24)
    • Ryan, Treblezine have asked me to apologize on their behalf for this misunderstanding. It appears that you are operating under the ludicrous assumption that the staff at Treble got together to compile a list of “Ryan’s favourite 100 albums”. A simple glance at the title of this article should alleviate any confusion.

  • I mean this isn’t my list or anything but 2 baroness albums?

    like 9 sabbath records?

    should’ve had some burzum on there, some maudlin of the well, and you know, not throw out the same names every 3 pages.

    • There’s only three Sabbath albums. We didn’t include Burzum, but Varg is on the Mayhem and Darkthrone albums. We figured that was plenty.

  • Although of course I don’t agree with everything on the list, this is the best list of metal albums I’ve been able to find on the internet. There’s a good variety of music, the albums descriptions actually seem relatively intelligent and coherent, and the same bands don’t repeat over and over. Also it isn’t filled with bands like Guns n Roses and Led Zeppelin(I like these bands but they aren’t metal). Good list guys!

  • I love this kind of lists, because they a) expose me to cool music I might miss otherwise and b) it’s insanely fun to tear them up.

    As Top Metal albums lists go, this one is both extremely sincere (it clearly states it’s mostly about this site’s staff taste) and utterly worthless as an historical document because of it’s many systemic bias issues I’ll adress next, coming from the mind of a 42 year old metalhead with over three decades of enjoying heavy metal under his belt:

    a) This list slants way too much towards bands from the US and completely ignores important bands from all over the world. A good example is Kreator’s absence: Pleasure to Kill was as influential on what would eventually become extreme metal as Reign in Blood was. ?

    b) The list also slants way too much towards 00s bands that still have to prove their influence an importance. I have no issue with Harvey Milk being in this list, but do they really deserve two entries? Same goes for Baroness, Converge, Mastodon, Isis, Agalloch and Deftones, they may be great bands, but you can’t seriously equate their impact or legacy with bands like Maiden, Judas, Slayer or Metallica.

    c) There’s way too much slant towards extreme metal. I get it, a lot of what was perceived as metal in the 70s and 80s was downgraded to hard rock in the early 00s, but still, bands like Deep Purple, Scorpions, AC/DC, Van Halen, Guns ‘n Roses, Rainbow and Mötley Crüe, which had a huge role on heavy metal’s formative years should be included.

    d) As a consequence of a) and c) this list has no prog or power metal, two genres that have a huge audience worldwide (Dream Theatre sells out arenas worldwide, and Helloween, outside the US is a festival headliner). Also, there’s no symphonic metal, and gothic metal’s contribution is reduced to a single Type O Negative album!

    e) Finally, a detail that really, really bothers me is A Vulgar Display of Power’s placement. Really, impact and influence wise, that album deserves a place in any Metal Top Ten, much more than Converge, or Botch, Baroness, Defheaven and Agalloch, bands that have albums included in this top 20.

    That was fun!
    Now to get myself some Harvey Milk… 🙂

    • Ha, glad you enjoyed that. All fair points; I think there’s no way we could possibly encompass the entire history of metal in 100 albums, and we definitely debated over whether to include bands like Deep Purple or AC/DC, ultimately deciding they were more “proto-metal.” In any case, happy to provide fuel for debate.

      • Well, if you take “metal leaning hard rock” as “proto-metal” a lot of your choices make a lot of sense.
        I really enjoyed this list, and I’m gonna check both Ken Mode and Harvey Milk, two bands I’ve never heard before.
        That, IMO, is the real purpose these lists serve: to give everyone ideas of great music to check out.
        Cheers. 🙂

  • Nice list.
    Some little points of crit:
    # ND’s scum deserves no spot in the top 10…
    # Pig Destroyer twice in the Top 100??

  • Never thought of Harvey Milk as a metal band – more of an experimental rock band to my ears. Obituary’s “Slowly We Rot” is a cornerstone death metal album, and where are Fear Factory?

  • Well you got the top 3 right. Have to give you credit there. After that there are some questionable choices.

    Nice job on: Coroner, Mayhem, Diamond Head, Bathory, Voivod.

    Right band but wrong album(s): Sepultura (Morbid Visions or Beneath the Remains over Chaos A.D.), Atheist (Piece of Time over Unquestionable Presence), Napalm Death (From Enslavement over Scum),

    Not metal: Alice in Chains, Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden, Bad Brains (great band though), Deftones, Korn. Plus some others that I don’t know but don’t seem like metal bands to me. You could fit so many worthy records on the list if you jus left these off.

    There are much better choices than: Mastedon, Tool, Botch, Helmet, Boris, Rage Against the Machine, System of a Down, Deftones.

    You forgot: Obituary, Autopsy, Cadaver, King Diamond, Destruction, Sadus, Def Leppard (High n Dry), Candlemass, Pestilence, Burzum, Fates Warning, Ozzy (Diary), Exodus (Bonded by Blood), Queensryche (Operation Mindcrime), Saint Vitus.

    I forget was Stained Class on the list?

    Pantera flat out sucks. Same with Rage Against the Machine. Awful crappy bands. Not in the top 1,000 metal albums.

    Paranoid at #1 is a definite. No doubt there.

    • While I agree that NIN is not typically a metal band, Broken is the exception. Definitely a metal album

  • Someone will have to explain the love for Converge. I just don’t get it. Anyone who puts Jane Doe ahead of Master of Puppets just lost a lot of credibility in my eyes.

  • Without a doubt one of the worst list’s I’ve ever seen. While you have a buncha great stuff and the top 3 right (but still barely, it is a cop out top 3), there are countless bands that are not metal and for the ones that dance on the metal/rock/core barriers, you picked the wrong albums.

  • I like this list, it’s eclectic and open minded with some outstanding albums. Do I agree with the order or everything on it? Nope. But wouldn’t it be really dumb if we all shared the absolute same tastes?

    I’m highly suspicious of Deafhaven’s hipster haircuts though, but that’s probably because I’m getting old, I’m sure I’d love Deafhaven if I was 15 year old.

  • This is probably the best list I’ve seen so far. Open-minded enough to annoy elitists and those with incredibly narrow genre definitions (you’re looking at a genre Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple were once included in…are Harvey Milk and Soundgarden really such a stretch?) but still sticks to quality albums. I’m not so sure about the order (Paranoid isn’t even my favorite Black Sabbath album), and my list would have a bunch more black metal (I’m a black metal nut), but the selections are good overall.

  • Albums that deserve to be added IMO:

    Karp – Self Titled LP
    Don Caballero – Don Caballero 2
    Mgła – Exercises in Futility

  • What a list you can come up with just by looking up Wikipedia, Did you actually listen to anyone of these? Believe me you don’t know the whole story..

  • Great list! Certainly much better than Rolling Stone’s garbage list, although everything RS does sucks dick. Obviously, no one is going to agree on all your choices, so here’s a few albums I’d put on my personal list:

    Soundgarden- Superunknown
    Alice In Chains- Self Titled
    Shai Hulud- Hearts Once Nourished With Hope And Compassion
    Tad- Inhaler
    The Melvins- Gluey Porch Treatments
    Venom- Welcome To Hell
    Faith No More- The Real Thing
    Faith No More- Angel Dust
    Living Colour- Vivid
    Acid King- Busse Woods
    Earth Crisis- Destroy The Machines
    Gruntruck- Push
    Anal Cunt- It Just Gets Worse
    Parkway Drive- Blue

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