Treble’s Top 100 Metal Albums

top 100 metal albums

Megadeth Peace Sells70. MegadethPeace Sells… but Who’s Buying?
(1986; Capitol)

There are very few things that can diminish just how badass Peace Sells is. That iconic bassline intro, the guitar weedily-weedlies, and then Dave Mustaine snarls, “What do you mean I don’t believe in God? I talk to him every day” like a bull before the charge. I’ve heard this song probably a hundred times in the forms of live videos, studio recordings, and even some local high school metalheads giving it a go. It works every single time, and if that’s not a testament to good songwriting, I don’t know what is. During the great thrash arms race of the ’80s, the real winners were the audience. The genre saw a ridiculous amount of legendary releases in this time period and Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? is most certainly one of them. The riffs are fast and furious and soaked in piss. Like most of Megadeth’s career, there’s a chip on their shoulder that simply elevates their music to the next level. There’s anthems, blues callbacks, breakdowns, and plenty of solos that all sound like pure celebration of the guitar itself. There’s a reason why thrash has struggled to find life in the ensuing decades, and that’s because albums like Peace Sells did such a damn good job in the first place. – Dakota Foss

Kyuss Welcome to Sky Valley69. KyussWelcome to Sky Valley
(1994; Elektra)

We could spend an endless amount of time debating about what is or what is not metal, but some of it has to do with a type of no-shits-given-I’ll-pound-these-instruments-into-the-ground attitude. Kyuss conjured up countless dust storms during their career, and it could be argued that Welcome to Sky Valley hammers on the throttle harder than any other album on this list. Sky Valley became a cornerstone for adventurous music listeners, and its influence may be as massive as Funhouse. Josh Homme ended up in Queens of the Stone Age, but this is where he came from, and he once said that Kyuss wanted Sky Valley to be “like hell to play on a CD player.” This recording is invigoratingly loud (and originally released with 12 songs split into four tracks). Homme’s guitar could combat a fighter jet; Brant Bjork, his last offering with the band, slams with immense speed, cymbals crashing like car accidents; and bassist Scott Reeder sends out his share of shockwaves. Previous album Blues for the Red Sun was equally as groundbreaking, but Sky Valley expanded on Kyuss’ range within the marriage of metal and psychedelia. – Jordan J. Michael

In Flames the jester race68. In FlamesThe Jester Race
(1996; Nuclear Blast)

Though opinion is divided on the relevance of In Flames’ later work in alt-metal, it is undeniable that their 1996 album The Jester Race represents a major landmark in the history of metal music. Featuring a new vocalist and drummer, In Flames opens the album with a kind of mission statement: melodic acoustic guitars on “Moonshield.” By transitioning from these accessible portions to Maiden-esque power metal to death metal, In Flames offer an early microcosm for the ambition of the album: to reconcile the more extreme strains of metal with the genre’s roots. In that sense, this probably marks In Flames’ most ambitious moment — even more so than Lunar Strain and Whoracle, which bookend it — but the outstanding execution is what cements it as their finest hour. – Connor Brown

Kylesa Spiral Shadow67. KylesaSpiral Shadow
(2010; Season of Mist)

Why do we love metal so? Is it the muscular flow of energy every stirring riff, hammering beat and powerhouse vocal provide? Or is it the genre’s defiant temperament and willingness to grow and evolve regardless of the opinion of its fanbase or the critical masses? It’s probably a little of both and, as shown repeatedly on Kylesa’s Spiral Shadow, everything works out for the better when there are equal measures of both involved. Not only does the Savannah, Ga. band offer powerfully addicting metal, they do so while throwing the genre’s traditional band structure to the wind. With two lead vocalists/guitarists (one of them female) and a pair of dynamic percussionists sharing drumming duties, they do justice to the genre’s past while expanding upon the conversation with their pleasantly robust melodic attack. Between its thunderous mood, psychedelic tendencies and unbridled sense of adventure, Spiral Shadow not only lives up to the word ‘metal’ — it establishes a new meaning altogether. – A.T. Bossenger

Pig Destroyer Phantom Limb66. Pig DestroyerPhantom Limb
(2007; Relapse)

In a genre that is fundamentally confrontational and abrasive, Pig Destroyer make music that challenges even hardened fans with its abrasiveness. Make no mistake, however: the sound and the fury do signify something. Perhaps the clearest articulation of that fact is 2007’s Phantom Limb, which exceeds even Reign In Blood in the furiousness of its pace and the darkness of its subject matter. Vocalist/lyricist J.R. Hayes contributes and delivers a series of short-yet-harrowing poems (around which the songs are constructed), moving substantially beyond the base glorification of gore and instead broaching memory (“Thought Crime Spree”), emotional damages (“The Girl in the Slayer Jacket,” “Fourth Degree Burns”) and ugly truths (“Alexandria”). When, in “Loathsome,” he declares that, “this is my escape art / exhibition / and I’m never coming back,” anybody who has listened to the entirety of this album would be obliged to agree with him on all three points. Then again, if you listen to what Pig Destroyer offers, you may never come back either. – Connor Brown

Negura Bunget Om65. Negură BungetOm
(2006; Code666)

How do you make black metal sound even more ominous and strange than the whirlwind hiss of church-burning, axe-wielding vikings already is? Conjure up the spirits of Transylvania. Romania’s Negură Bunget are an altogether terrifying group based on the sounds of their metallic symphonies, which by all rights should be beaming out of the crypts of medieval cathedrals. And yet, their masterpiece Om represented a dramatic new reinterpretation of black metal, replacing the well-worn tropes of Satan and icewinds with lyrics referencing Transylvanian history, sung in the band’s native tongue. As a musical statement, however, Om is much more compelling — atmospheric without going post-rock, symphonic without veering into new wave cheese, and eclectic while remaining true to black metal’s unholy force. This is some of the most stunningly arranged black metal in its nearly three decades of existence, from the immaculate riffs of “Fiesarul de Lumini” to the ghostly horn that opens “Inarborat.” – Jeff Terich

Baroness Red Album64. BaronessRed Album
(2007; Relapse)

Baroness’ debut album, released back in 2007 after a series of burly and progressive sludge-metal EPs, received a warm welcome from the modern metal community, and rightfully so. Red Album is gorgeously crafted and fluid from beginning to end. Thanks to the combination of beautiful and unpredictable guitar riffs (“Isak”), isolating instrumentation (“Wailing Wintry Wind”), and fierce vocals (“O’Appalachia”), Baroness created an album of equal parts power and artistic innovation. When “Cockroach En Fleur” emerges with its finger-picking acoustic guitar, allowing a chance for respite from the epic sounds they conjure, “Wanderlust” picks up right where they left off with more progressive, sludge, doom, and more importantly, their own unique style of metal — equating to a cohesive and eclectic album as a whole. – Dan Pritchett

Converge All That You Leave Behind Album Review63. ConvergeAll We Love We Leave Behind
(2012; Epitaph)

The Massachusetts metalcore outfit’s conscious choice to avoid all outside influences—guest performers as well as production tricks—makes their eighth album a frenetic, imposingly aggressive volume. Jacob Bannon’s vocals, ranging from tender growl to indecipherable siren, aren’t the only primal screams here; in truth, every single recorded sound is hurled at you at full volume and at full speed. From the dizzying opening seconds of “Aimless Arrow,” All We Love We Leave Behind suggests the sound of a pinned-down soldier machine-gunning all enemies lined up against him, the testosterone of every 1980s paramilitary-rescue movie gushing out of your speakers. Coming quickly on the heels of the first three songs, the bluesy bits of “Sadness Comes Home” and drum-driven march in “Empty on the Inside” don’t just represent stylistic shifts, they’re the first brief opportunities to catch your breath. It’s a studio album engineered to sound like a nonstop live show, and it probably takes about as much adrenaline for you to enjoy all 39 minutes as it did for Converge to play it. – Adam Blyweiss

Dillinger Escape Plan - Calculating Infinity62. The Dillinger Escape PlanCalculating Infinity
(1999; Relapse)

Calculating Infinity is one of those rare albums where everything is more or less perfect. The Dillinger Escape Plan sucker punch you in the gut right away and don’t stop with the cheap shots throughout the album’s running-length, and then some. Songs stop and start in chaos theory fashion, and the boys certainly have a flair for the dramatic. In 1999, math-metal was still in its infancy, but Calculating Infinity came out of the womb fully formed. The songs are smeared with smirks and swagger; there’s almost no way that you’d be able to tell that this was band’s debut or that the genre was still inventing itself. That sense of confidence and newness makes Calculating Infinity sound every bit as refreshing and vital now as it did 15 years ago. – Dakota Foss

Harvey Milk A Small Turn61. Harvey MilkA Small Turn of Human Kindness
(2010; Hydra Head)

Harvey Milk don’t have a keen desire to conform to any one idea of what ‘metal’ is or might be. Among their influences, they list both Led Zeppelin and Leonard Cohen, and they’ve performed a set of nothing but Hank Williams covers. The Athens, Ga. act has even gone as far as covering R.E.M.’s Reckoning in its entirety, with Michael Stipe himself in attendance. But when a fan wrote a letter to the band declaring 2008’s Life… The Best Game in Town as a pop-leaning let-down, Harvey Milk took that as a personal challenge and turned up the sludgy doom as much as possible. A Small Turn of Human Kindness is a loud giant, cruising at a glacial pace, but that doesn’t mean the artistic or experimental side of Harvey Milk is abandoned here. Between the album’s distant, longing melodies and the pointedly self-focused lyrics (every song title begins with ‘I’) Harvey Milk defies many common tropes of the genre while still crafting a record that is unmistakably metal at its center. – A.T. Bossenger

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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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