Treble’s Top 100 Metal Albums

top 100 metal albums

Pallbearer sorrow and extinction60. PallbearerSorrow and Extinction
(2012; Profound Lore)

Any hesher worth his frayed denim vest knows that metal’s Genesis essentially took place with the low rumble of doom metal, as pioneered by Black Sabbath. It’s gotten darker, more epic, gothic, funereal, droning, ugly, sludgy and even a bit scary, but it took a Little Rock, Arkansas band with the dark and mournful name of Pallbearer to actually highlight the fact that — in spite of all its inherent misery and gloom — doom metal can be quite gorgeous. The band’s 2012 debut Sorrow and Extinction is sophisticated and stunning, driven largely by masterfully executed guitar harmonies between Brett Campbell and Devin Holt. A towering epic like “Given to the Grave,” which opens with the sound of an ethereal gothic choir, seems fit for performance inside a medieval cathedral, where “Devoid of Redemption” makes great use of some devastating power chord riffs. There is darkness and pain here, but it’s something much more powerful and universal the band aims for. – Jeff Terich

Pantera Vulgar Display59. PanteraVulgar Display of Power
(1992; Atco)

In late January of 1992, Nevermind — the major label debut by Nirvana — swept the nation, sparing nothing in its path. Even the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, fell prey to the power that was the grunge movement with his album Dangerous playing second fiddle to Nevermind on the Billboard charts. Just a few months earlier, Metallica released their self-titled Black Album which saw the bay area thrashers change their frantic style dramatically. All of these things happening at once could’ve been considered the death knell of American heavy metal, but thankfully Pantera was there to fill the void. With their sixth studio offering Vulgar Display of Power, Pantera unleashed a furious 11-song set that threw a middle finger in the face of every trend in heavy music of the era. The unrelenting energy of singer Phillip Anselmo combined with the powerful rhythmic backbone of bassist Rex Brown and drummer Vinnie Paul were a formidable trio in their own right, but the mind blowing riff-fest provided by Dimebag Darrell was a complete game changer. Thrash masterpieces like “Fucking Hostile” proved that Pantera could shred with the best, but it was the all-out groove of tracks like “Mouth for War” and “Live in a Hole” that really showcased the southern-tinged heaviness of the Cowboys from Hell. – Ryan Brun

Dismember like an ever flowing stream58. DismemberLike An Ever Flowing Stream
(1991; Nuclear Blast)

Death metal’s greatest achievements have largely taken place in Sweden and the United States. Death metal’s not exclusive to these two countries, but standout bands like the UK’s Bolt Thrower are more the exception than the rule. But the sounds produced by Sweden and the U.S. come not just from geographically different places, but sonically different ones at that. Where groups like Suffocated and Obituary have cornered the market on making metal as ugly as goddamn possible, groups like Entombed and Dismember streamlined a similar kind of ugliness into a strangely accessible art form. Dismember’s Like an Ever Flowing Stream stands at the top of that bilge heap, all neck-snapping rhythms and drill-bit riffs. The ominous introduction of “Override of the Overture” is a shadowy descent into occult eeriness that is more teaser than tone-setter; Dismember drop a brick on the gas pedal and take their death-ride into overdrive in the blink of an ocular cavity. The distortion grows crustier, the rhythms gallop faster, and the bile spews forth with greater toxicity. So when the absolutely gorgeous introduction of “Dismembered” crops up, it feels like some kind of terrifyingly beautiful dream amid the efficiently executed wreckage. – Jeff Terich

Venom Black Metal57. VenomBlack Metal
(1982; Neat)

Aside from being one of metal’s greatest trios and a particularly fun entry in metal’s NWOBHM chapter, Venom are famous for two things: 1. frontman Cronos’ absurd stage banter (“You’re wild, man. Wiiiiiild!”) and 2. coining the term “black metal.” Newcastle’s Venom called upon the deeds of the Dark Lord long before it became standard practice in metal, and had a damn fun time doing it. Their second album Black Metal has few of the hallmarks of black metal as we know it today — there are no blast beats, vocal croaks or other such devices. There are, however, plenty of riff-rockin’ good times loaded with hooks and blasphemy, from the immortal title track to the speed metal overdrive of “Heaven’s On Fire.” It’s a headbanger’s paradise, or the best house party Hell ever threw. It’s best to follow Cronos’ suggestion in the title track: “Lay down your soul to the Gods Rock and Roll.” – Jeff Terich

Anthrax Among the Living56. AnthraxAmong the Living
(1987; Island)

It’s an ironic fact that Anthrax have always been a pretty clean-living kind of band, as they always seemed like the one band of the Big Four that’d be most fun to have a beer with. Rarely overly self-important, frequently unapologetically geeky, and above all masters of churning out some of the most instantly likeable East Coast thrash bruisers ever to come crashing through a Marshall stack. Among the Living is Anthrax at the peak of their powers, before swapping vocalists in the ’90s, trading Judge Dredd references for Twin Peaks, and going sort of alt-rock. Among the Living doesn’t concern itself with any of those growing pains, instead finding the band laying down meaty riff after meaty riff, paying homage to comic book icons and occasionally turning out a mosh-friendly public service announcement (“One World,” “Indians”). The groove-heavy orientation of the album very likely played a significant part in opening up the door to nu-metal — though not as much as, say, Pantera — but here, everything is in a perfectly brutal kind of balance. – Jeff Terich

Morbid Angel Altars of Madness55. Morbid AngelAltars of Madness
(1989; Earache)

Most, if not all that can be said about Altars has already been said. Along with Death, Morbid Angel rose up and out into the Floridian death metal scene seemingly overnight. But whereas Death would eventually reach the pinnacle of their sound after a series of releases, Morbid Angel created their masterwork on their first attempt. You would be hard pressed to find so many memorable death metal tracks one album. Highlights such as “Immortal Rites”, “Chapel of Ghouls” and “Damnation” are as brutal as they are downright fun to listen to. Twenty-five years after the fact, Altars remains a classic within its dingy discipline. – Greg Speranza

In flames colony54. In FlamesColony
(1999; Nuclear Blast)

Like Tampa, Fla. in the mid-nineties, Gothenburg, Sweeden also experienced a metal renaissance of sorts. But unlike their counterparts across the Atlantic the Gothenburg sound, led by bands such as At the Gates, In Flames and Dark Traquility, offered a more diverse palette of sounds and song structures for their audience. Colony, the fourth full-length album by In Flames, is one of the crowning achievements of the melodic death metal movement. From the moment the dual harmonic guitar leads of the albums opener “Embody the Invisible” tear out of the speakers, it’s readily apparent that Colony is a special album. Surprises await listeners with every track on the record, be it the mournful piano interludes on “Ordinary Story” the quasi-industrial overtones of “Insipid 200” or the delicate guitar and strings virtuosity of “Pallar Anders Visa.” Colony only gets better every time it’s played. – Ryan Brun

Soundgarden Badmotorfinger53. SoundgardenBadmotorfinger
(1991; A&M)

Some bands flaunt the dirty little secret of the so-called sin of “selling out”—mo’ money, less problems—and use access to better production and performance resources to make quantum leaps in their sound. Others find that a personnel change is what they need to be launched into fame’s stratosphere. This durable group borne from Seattle’s grunge scene needed both forms of assistance to get to the next level, but damn, what a level. Two albums removed from their time on the SST label, and working with their third bassist in Ben Shepherd, Soundgarden finally felt comfortable and talented enough in their own collective skin to make music that was more technically astute than the rest of their catalog at the time. Frankly, Badmotorfinger‘s dark pop power in songs like “Outshined” matched many of their contemporaries, the album’s only failing being that it was released in the long and growing shadow of Nirvana’s Nevermind. But where Kurt Cobain’s outfit embraced punk and Pearl Jam settled into surf and stoner jamming, Chris Cornell and company wove abstractly angry whomp and wallop throughout “Jesus Christ Pose,” “Room a Thousand Years Wide,” and especially the two-headed sonic monster “Rusty Cage.” – Adam Blyweiss

Entombed Left Hand Path52. EntombedLeft Hand Path
(1991; Earache)

The ambient drone and shriek at the beginning of “Left Hand Path” — and its Goblin-like horror prog outro — give you a pretty good indication of the chillingly macabre vibe on the sophomore release by Sweden death metal titans Entombed. But neither one is actually representative of what the album actually sounds like. This is death metal, after all — raw, wretched, crusty, crushing and vile. And goddamn is it fun! Death metal and “fun” don’t always go together so readily, but this is the band that more or less invented death ‘n’ roll, and though Left Hand Path isn’t quite the point where they adopt it, the rollicking rhythms and catchy-yet-venomous riffs are all here, turning a harsh aesthetic into an altogether riotous experience. Plenty of bands in recent memory have gone out of their way to reverse engineer the death-crust sounds on Left Hand Path; just check whoever’s on the Southern Lord roster at the moment. But you can hardly blame them. Entombed’s horror crush is a sound well worth grave robbing. – Jeff Terich

Melvins Houdini51. MelvinsHoudini
(1993; Atlantic)

Just look at that album cover. Totally ridiculous, yet inviting at the same time. This is the almighty Melvins, and we’re going to have some fun, OK? Seriously, Houdini is a fucking blast, and definitely the Melvins’ best record. It’s impossible not to viciously bang your head to songs like “Night Goat,” “Honey Bucket,” or “Copache.” “Hooch” and “Set Me Straight” could go down as pop metal hits, and the seven-minute lurch of “Hag Me” may be one of the slowest metal songs put to tape. For Houdini, The Melvins absolutely nailed it when it came to capturing the sound perfectly, and Kurt Cobain had his hands in several tracks despite being fired by the band in the middle of it all. Houdini is a main reason why guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osborne is known as “King Buzzo,” and why Dale Crover is recognized as such a behemoth drummer. In the 21 years since the release of Houdini, you’re unlikely to hear a set of drums that have sounded so punishing; Crover’s hi-hat is crisper than a potato chip, his hits monstrous, and his fills neatly placed. Houdini is dirty, diligent, a little silly, and also mind-numbing. I would have a hard time trusting your musical opinions if you didn’t dig this gem. – Jordan J. Michael

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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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