Treble’s Top 100 Metal Albums

top 100 metal albums

Edge of sanity crimson40. Edge of SanityCrimson
(1996; Black Mark)

The most impressive thing about Edge of Sanity’s Crimson isn’t that it endures its demanding length, but that it’s enhanced by it. At 40 minutes long, it would be easy for the sole song to collapse under the weight of its own ambition but it never really does. Long songs are by design a marathon rather than a sprint, but Crimson starts off by grabbing the throat and never really lets up from there. The riffs throughout run the gamut of white-knuckle pit anthems to gorgeous interludes, and all demand attention in equal measure. Especially rewarding and crucial to the album’s success, however, are how it expertly weaves in and out of several masterfully crafted motifs. These riffs take on new life and meaning as the context shifts them entirely, creating an ever-evolving labyrinth of death metal. At 18 years old, Crimson not only stands as Edge of Sanity’s defining moment, it’s a love letter to everything awesome about old-school death metal. – Dakota Foss


Darkthrone transilvanian hunger39. DarkthroneTransilvanian Hunger
(1994; Peaceville)

Every style of metal has its archetype — not necessarily its greatest achievement, or its prototype, but the album that sets a certain standard for hundreds to thousands of other bands to follow or idolize. For doom metal, it’s Black Sabbath’s debut. For thrash metal, it’s Slayer’s Reign in Blood. And for black metal, it’s Transilvanian Hunger. Recorded with an even lower fidelity sound than Darkthrone’s other most highly regarded black metal album, A Blaze in the Northern Sky, Transilvanian Hunger presents a kind of evil ideal. It’s mysterious and hissy, with an onslaught of harsh sounds that mimic Nordic ice storms. It’s melodic, albeit eerie, and it’s harsh, yet accessible. And much like many of the iconic black metal records of the early ’90s, not without its controversy, thanks to contributions from Varg “Burzum” Vikernes, now known as much for murdering Mayhem guitarist Euronymous and becoming a neo-nazi as he is for his music, if not more so. Not that he should get in the way of enjoying the record (notoriety is basically black metal’s fifth Beatle) — Transilvanian Hunger is the raw punch and vitriol of black metal reduced to its purest essence. – Jeff Terich


Deftones White Pony38. DeftonesThe White Pony
(2000; Maverick)

Deftones eventually left behind their metal edge in favor of dark, experimental alt-rock, arguably as early as 2003’s excellent s/t effort. But on White Pony, they still retained just enough heaviness while experimenting with influences as broad as new wave, shoegaze, dream pop, glitch and trip-hop. It’s an odd formula, but the result is a stunning 50-minute series of drops, highs and twists. “Street Carp,” “Elite” and “Feiticera” offer the hard punching alt-metal the band were already known for while “Digital Bath,” “Rx Queen” and others offer complicated but well-executed genre-mashing. “Passenger” takes the sound one step further from Deftones’ usual realm, showcasing Tool’s Maynard James Keenan on co-vocals with Chino Moreno. Tying these experimental forays together are Moreno’s lyrics; not related conceptually but all focusing on dark fantasies or twisted situations. At its heart, White Pony is an album about the darker side of human nature; its varied tones and approaches serve as a reminder of how many different ways that shadowy temperament can manifest. – A.T. Bossenger


Mastodon Blood Mountain37. MastodonBlood Mountain
(2006; Reprise)

Matt Bayles has built a hell of a track record as a producer — We Are the Romans, Oceanic, Station and Entrench among his best work — and he was Mastodon’s main man for their first three albums. Blood Mountain is record number three, and likewise among Bayles’ finest recording projects. But, for every great producer, there must also be a great band, and Blood Mountain is where the Atlanta outfit really started to gel. This album has vast movement, structure, and just sounds enormous. It’s most certainly weird — check the insane vocal effects on “Circle Of Cysquatch” or the strange pig squeals on “Bladecatcher” — but melodic and accessible as well. Blood Mountain features stellar guitar playing by Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher, and the rhythm section of Troy Sanders and Brann Dailor couldn’t be more in sync; Dailor’s ride cymbal sounds like it’s made of glass. The ridiculous breakneck breakdown toward the end of “Circle Of Cysquatch” deserves special mention for being one of the heaviest chord drops ever; just try not to lose your shit. Hinds told Premier Guitar back in May 2009 that Bayles was “just a little bit high-strung” for their working environment. Too bad that they parted ways; Mastodon hasn’t sounded this good since. – Jordan J. Michael


Sepultura Chaos A.D.36. SepulturaChaos A.D.
(1993; Roadrunner)

Their 1996 album Roots may have gotten these Brazilian thrashers the exposure they craved, but it was this album three years prior that kicked the doors open. Incorporating everything from death-metal riffs (“Refuse/Resist”) to industrial music’s inserted sounds (“Manifest”) to acoustic guitar (“Kaiowas”), this is probably one of the best examples in our countdown where slowing things down made things better. The band’s classic lineup of Max and Igor Cavalera, Andreas Kisser, and Paulo Jr. give songs like “Territory,” “Slave New World,” and “We Who Are Not as Others” a previously unheard and sinister groove we can obviously use to connect acts just before this release (Helmet) and just on the horizon beyond it (Korn). And if you still feel the need for real speed, give something like “Propaganda” a spin. Chaos A.D. wants to be all metal things to all metal people—a moment of musical democracy spent decrying the lack of democracy in the real world—and it largely succeeds. – Adam Blyweiss


Mercyful Fate Don't break the oath35. Mercyful FateDon’t Break the Oath
(1984; Roadrunner)

We would be remiss to not represent Denmark’s King Diamond on this metal retrospective, so we went ahead and featured him twice. At the convergence of heavy metal and progressive rock in 1984, his band Mercyful Fate released Don’t Break the Oath, a follow-up to the previous year’s (also classic) Melissa. Still in their prime, with Michael Denner and Hank Shermann on the guitars, Fate expanded upon the sound of Melissa, infusing the power metal of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest with an increasingly gothic sensibility and progressive rock influences. King Diamond’s soaring vocal performance is the most impressive of all, however, maintaining the intensity and dark atmosphere of the album through all 47 minutes. Along with its predecessor, this album is utterly essential for any serious metal fan. – Connor Brown


Godflesh Streetcleaner34. GodfleshStreetcleaner
(1989; Earache)

There are countless industrial metal bands that have come and gone over the years, combining harsh electronic elements with the more traditional trappings of metal, but it could be argued that very few of those groups ever did so with the effectiveness that Birmingham’s Godflesh did. Comprising singer/guitarist Justin Broadrick, bassist G.C. Green and a drum machine, Godflesh created the perfect soundtrack for a bleak dystopian future. Their second album Streetcleaner saw the duo expand their sonic delivery with destructive force. For example, the slow, bass-heavy grind of “Locust Furnace” becomes damn near hypnotic, forcing the listener to not only hear, but feel every distorted note ringing through their bones. “Christbait Rising” sees Broadrick growl, “Don’t hold me back/this is my own hell” in a manner so unsettling, that you’re left with no choice but to believe it, while the iron works dirge of “Dream Long Dead” comes across less like a song and more like a weapon, meant to pummel the recipient into submission. Really, that’s part of what makes listening to Streetcleaner so appealing. Its unyielding heaviness, meaty riffs and apocalyptic visions, not to mention the striking album cover, all give Streetcleaner the feeling and sound of an album tailor made for the end times. – Ryan Brun


Opeth Blackwater Park33. OpethBlackwater Park
(2001; Music For Nations/Koch)

Upon its release, Blackwater Park was seen as groundbreaking. Starting with a bang and ending with an even bigger one, Blackwater Park — the album that began Opeth’s ascension to the top as progressive death metal titans — is a consistent sonic assault on all of the senses. Mikael Akerfeldt gracefully transitions from his signature hellish growls to his beautifully warm vocals over winding passages of death metal and pretty, airier acoustic passages. The classic Opeth formula was at its peak here and is still seen by many as the band’s defining statement. It’s hard to name another metal album that is so rich, so gorgeous and so utterly cold all at the same time. – Greg Speranza


Agalloch The Mantle32. AgallochThe Mantle
(2002; The End)

Agalloch never have, nor ever will be about particularly complex music. Instead, the band has always gained emotional credence through wringing out every last drop of sound to paint a far more detailed soundscape than most, if not all of their peers. Nowhere is this more evident than the group’s second LP, The Mantle. In lesser hands, The Mantle  would be a plodding, overblown mess but Agalloch are absolute masters at crafting atmosphere: footsteps in the snow; the echoed chimes of a deer skull; whispered wintry winds; and more adorn the album’s perfect tracklisting. Songs effortlessly cascade into one another, often repeating similar chord progressions in different contexts. The shifts are often miniscule instead of monumental, which further goes to underline just how damn chilling something like the re-emergence of the first song’s theme is at the end of the near-anthemic “…And the Great Cold Death of the Earth.” More so than ever, Agalloch allow the songs to breathe and take their own course of action — which are pretty thrilling in their own right. “The Hawthorne Passage,” for example, effortlessly blends a blues-y jam into and a pulse-pounding post-rock climax. It could be argued that Agalloch have written better songs than the ones found on here, but they’ve never made their creations converse with one another as they do on The Mantle. – Dakota Foss


Metallica And justice for all31. Metallica…And Justice For All
(1988; Elektra)

History finds Metallica’s fourth proper album nestled in so many thorn bushes of contrast and conflict. The flat production and intricate playing suggested the band were incorporating progressive metal into their brand of thrash. While the hardest of hardcore Metallica fans might have felt the band were wimping out, you could instead argue that the music was as badass in technique as in sound. (Besides, “Eye of the Beholder” is totally a White Zombie precursor, and there ain’t no wimp in that.) It’s the first album with Jason Newsted replacing late original bassist Cliff Burton, yet its engineering made his bass parts almost invisible to the naked ear. This could have been the first in a series of career disses on the part of drummer Lars Ulrich and leader James Hetfield, although we’d prefer to believe Newsted followed Hetfield’s riffage so closely as to be indistinguishable. The album’s themes, lifted from events and issues of the day instead of dreams and fantasies, were so new to the band that Hetfield often completed his lyrics on the fly during recording sessions; somehow, he managed to wrangle fearsome and fearful compositions including the Grammy-winning anti-war epic “One.” But it takes more than one song (memorably depressing video notwithstanding) to make an album go platinum eight times over; we suggest stuff like “Blackened” and the blacklisting tale “The Shortest Straw” helped things along considerably. For a release with so many perceived issues, metal’s presence in the mainstream at the precipice of the 1990s pretty much hinges on its existence. – Adam Blyweiss

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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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