Treble’s Top 100 Metal Albums

top 100 metal albums

Black Sabbath Master of Reality30. Black SabbathMaster of Reality
(1971; Vertigo)

The now classic looped coughing bit that begins “Sweet Leaf” opens up one of metal’s finest achievements in a comical fashion, but make no mistake; the men behind the intoxicating thunder here mean business. Tony Iommi delivers riff after riff, one more memorable than the other while Ozzy sings about both his love for cannabis and civil disobedience. Though it may not have as many standout tracks like its predecessor does, Master of Reality makes up for it by being an all-around powerhouse that rarely lets up. The opening riff of “Into the Void” is one of the catchiest, head-jerking pieces of melody ever created by six strings and four fingers. The world of metal would not be what it is today without Black Sabbath, and Master of Reality is a prime example why. – Greg Speranza

Alice in Chains dirt29. Alice In ChainsDirt
(1992; Columbia)

It’s easy to look back on Alice in Chains as a straightforward ’90s alt-rock act but, in truth, their earliest works were split pretty evenly been bluesy grunge and churning proto-sludge. We all remember Jerry Cantrell’s meandering croons on “The Rooster,” but most of 1992’s Dirt hit a lot harder than that single. With beefy riffs, harmonic sensibilities and a carefree, ass-kicking attitude, it improved upon the already solid formula the band established in 1990’s Facelift. Despite many listeners who choose to downplay Alice in Chains’ place in world of metal, it’s easy to argue the long-lasting influence the band has had on modern metal. Disagree? Play “Dam That River” back to back with Mastodon’s “Curl of the Burl“ and then tell me I’m wrong. – A.T. Bossenger

Opeth my arms your hearse28. OpethMy Arms, Your Hearse
(1998; Candlelight)

Opeth is the sort of band that brings a lot of debate to the table about which of their ten studio albums stands up as their absolute best. One thing that isn’t being debated is whether or not this Swedish outfit is one of the most talented active bands in metal today — that’s an easy “yes”. Their third album, My Arms, Your Hearse, is a monumental feat as well as their first concept album. Their tendency toward concept driven works would continue with follow-up Still Life, but My Arms, Your Hearse keeps everything concise while managing to end each song’s lyric with the title to the following track — which is pretty awesome. MAYH is where Opeth hits their stride in capturing both ends of the spectrum with vocals; mixing angelic touches of melody with “April Etheral” and pure evil scraped from the chasms of hell with “Demon of the Fall.” Musically, it’s a ferocious product of only three members, and lyrically tells a harrowing and poetic tale of mortality and love lost. – Dan Pritchett

Agalloch Ashes against the grain27. AgallochAshes Against the Grain
(2006; The End)

I’ve always found it peculiar that anyone considers Agalloch a black metal band; with the exception of Marrow of the Spirit, hardly any of their recordings skew toward a classic blast-beat sound or tremolo squeal. Ashes Against the Grain in particular is the band’s most graceful moment, akin to a truly powerful post-rock record, each delicate instrumental passage building up into a soaring climax of harmonized riffs and stunning vocals from John Haughm, whether delivered as a menacing hiss, or on “Not Unlike the Waves,” cleanly sung and monastic a la Ulver’s Bergtatt. That Ulver influence might be the band’s closest connection to black metal on this colossal release, which favors beauty over crushing viscerality most of the time. That being said, the band has a wooded cabin loaded to the ceiling with chops, and they’re not afraid to use them, particularly on the righteous opening and closing riffs to “Falling Snow.” Sure, the average song length is about nine minutes apiece on Ashes Against the Grain, and yet it’s the one album in Agalloch’s discography that feels like a hits collection. – Jeff Terich

Isis Oceanic26. IsisOceanic
(2002; Ipecac)

As the title suggests, the main theme that ties the nine songs on Oceanic together is water, or more specifically, the ocean. With that in mind, it’s no coincidence that listening to the record is the equivalent to being crushed by the heavy weight of tidal waves, in the best way possible. The sludgy awe inspiring buildups within the songs that Isis creates here are simply awe-inspiring. The nearly 11-minute gargantuan that is “Weight” consists of one mammoth buildup that is subtly coated with layer after layer as the song rolls on until eventually reaching its climatic finale of heavy erupting guitars and an overall atmosphere that is as dense as it is claustrophobic. Hearing is believing, and Oceanic will make a believer out of anyone who submits to its crashing tide. – Greg Speranza

At the Gates Slaughter of the Soul25. At the GatesSlaughter of the Soul
(1995; Earache)

You’re unlikely to find a death metal album as catchy as At the Gates’ Slaughter of the Soul. You can certainly try — Carcass’ Heartwork and The Crown’s Deathrace King come close at least — but this is the most accessible of the melodeath heap. And that’s not necessarily a good thing to those who seek the most brutal, ugly and relentlessly harsh sounds of death metal. And that’s certainly fine, but if At the Gates prove anything here, it’s that death metal can be fun. On their fourth album, the Gothenburg, Sweden band used the streamlined crust of Dismember and Entombed as a launching-off point for their own precision attack, sharpening their riffs into deadly and effective tools of gloriously gleeful destruction. At the Gates is a well-oiled machine, each piece locking into place and moving in perfect harmony with one another. It’s a beautiful thing to behold, particularly for a collection of sounds so heavy and menacing. It moves quickly, however, and in a little over a half hour, the group lays down hit after hit, from the melodic jabs of “Blinded by Fear” to the fearsome swing of “Suicide Nation.” And I mean “hit” in every sense of the word. – Jeff Terich

Boris - Pink24. BorisPink
(2006; Southern Lord)

In 2006, in a strange twist of fortune for U.S. metal fans, the crowning jewel of Japanese metal released an album called Pink on Southern Lord Records. By combining their practiced punk-metal-drone with a cavalcade of new influences – shoegaze, garage rock, pop, stoner rock, even Pavement on the first part of “Pseudo-Bread” – Boris both pay homage to American music and showcase their legendary ability here. As with many breakthrough releases, die-hard fans may criticize Pink for its accessibility (in comparison with other Boris albums, at least), but, in reality, it’s pure heavy metal – Sabbath here, Electric Wizard here, thrash here – and any pop or rock leanings are thoroughly subsumed into the crushing, heavy whole. Further, the sublime expansiveness of closer “Just Abandoned My Self” provides a balance for the more rock-influenced material of the first side, allowing Boris to recapitulate many of Pink’s subtler elements and round out a raucous, rollicking, and highly enjoyable album. – Connor Brown

Helmet Meantime23. HelmetMeantime
(1992; Interscope)

If you thought any new ground got covered during the recent debates over just how “indie” or “metal” Liturgy are, y’all don’t know your history. After their Amphetamine Reptile debut Strap it On in 1990, Page Hamilton and the rest of this New York City quartet jumped to the Interscope label—winners of a seven-digit bidding war, for Pete’s sake—to help bring their staccato riffs, drop-D tuning, and unique aesthetic to the masses. A transitional album on so many levels, melodic tracks like “Unsung” and “You Borrowed” and yelled workouts such as “In the Meantime” and “Turned Out” (not to mention their workaday t-shirts-and-jeans look) openly embraced new punk influences in the metal game. The band were sadly mislabeled as The Next Big Thing, for sure; subsequent albums saw quickly diminishing returns and aside from Page Hamilton keeping the name alive with a different lineup, only alumnus John Stanier really remains active, drumming for Battles. But as a bridge between the underground and the mainstream, and as a hard-hitting influence for everyone from Pantera to Deftones to Converge, the importance of Meantime can’t be overstated. – Adam Blyweiss

Ministry The Mind is a terrible thing to taste22. MinistryThe Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste
(1989; Sire)

The incredible thing about the important yet seriously rollercoastering early period for Al Jourgensen’s Chicago ensemble was that they figured out music’s fluid formula of guitars and electronics, and what that calculus could create. They touched on fluffy and ill-advised synthpop, then digitized post-punk, then increasingly aggressive EBM before striking very, very black gold on this, their fourth album. Legendary opening thrasher “Thieves” finds Jourgensen and his most talent-heavy roster (Paul Barker, Chris Connelly, Kevin Ogilvie, William Rieflin) splintering and repeating monster riffs ad infinitum, handing relentless drum patterns over to machines, and sharing lyrical duties with sampled dialogue. They burrow further into your brain with the politics of “So What,” the anti-establishment rage of “Test,” the disorders of “Cannibal Song” and “Burning Inside,” and the atmospheric found-sound intensity of “Dream Song.” Psalm 69 would sneak into the mainstream two years later, and subsequent albums would find Jourgensen moving the digital portion of his musical slide-rule down to almost zero, but make no mistake—Ministry planted their demon seeds here. – Adam Blyweiss

Electric Wizard Dopethrone21. Electric WizardDopethrone
(2000; The Music Cartel)

Three decades after their predecessors Black Sabbath emerged from England and distorted the heaviest extant music, Dorset’s Electric Wizard did the same and released the monolithic Dopethrone, highlighting the striking and rapid evolution that metal music underwent in such a short time. Also like Sabbath, the overwhelming initial feeling towards Dopethrone was a strong doubt that anyone would ever be able to make heavier music; listening to the overwhelming, glacial procession of sludge metal essentials like “Funeralopolis,” “Barbarian,” and “Dopethrone,” it’s easy to see why. Not only is this the fruition of Black Sabbath’s legacy, but it’s also psychedelic rock taken to its extreme, slowed and amplified into distorted tapestries of feedback. If you know of something heavier, I’d like you to point me to it. – Connor Brown

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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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