It was Friday the 13th early in 1970 when the first, in your face heavy-metal album landed in the laps of its willing participants. Black Sabbath released their gloom and doom-filled self-titled debut and changed the face of rock music forever. Check out 10 of our favorite metal albums of all time below. What do you think? Did we get it right?
Master of Puppets – Metallica:
Master of Puppets was released on March 3, 1986, and was Metallica’s third studio album. Three decades later it’s still the benchmark for metal bands the world over. Recorded at the Sweet Silence Studios with producer Flemming Rasmussen, this was the bands the first major label release. Master of Puppets was also the band’s last album to feature bassist Cliff Burton, who tragically died in a tour bus crash during the album’s promotional tour. Peaking at number 29 on the Billboard 200, the album became the first thrash metal recording to be certified platinum, and sold more than 500,000 copies in its first year of release, even with virtually no radio airplay and no music videos. It was certified 6 x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in 2003 for shipping six million copies in the United States alone.
Paranoid – Black Sabbath
This album seriously kicks metal ass. It was the band’s second album and was released only a few months after their debut, Black Sabbath. The band threw out the curse of the sophomore jinx and delivered to metal fans the world over, an album filled with head-banging glory. You’ve only got to hear the opening riffs to “Paranoid” and “War Pigs” to know this is not your average offering, and in a time when flower power reigned supreme, Ozzy and the boys delivered crunching guitars and lyrics filled with seriously dark overtones. Ozzy screamed: “witches at black masses,” “bodies burning” and “death and hatred to mankind.” A lyric pioneer, and a true metal masterpiece.
Vulgar Display of Power – Pantera
Pantera released this classic album in 1992. This album defined the bands signature sound and to this day, Vulgar Display of Power remains a metal classic and Pantera’s definitive album. Easily one of the most influential metal albums of the 90s, the trademark Pantera sound is all over Vulgar Display, you’ve only got to hear Phil Anselmo’s roar and hostility to know that metal ran through his veins. Raw to the core, one of the stand out’s about the album is Anselmo’s positive lyrics, you’ve got to love that? Throw in Dimebag Darrell’s legendary guitar shredding, and a rhythm section that is second to none, it’s no wonder that Vulgar Display of Power has gone on to become Pantera’s best selling album, including double platinum status in the United States. In 2012, the album re-entered the Billboard 200 chart at number 48, taking the albums total sales to seriously impressive 2,177,000 copies.
The Number of the Beast – Iron Maiden
This was Iron Maiden’s third album and in charge of production was veteran producer Martin Birch. The Number of the Beast was released in 1982, and at the time, Maiden was ahead of the pack when it came to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. The band’s lead vocalist Paul Di’Anno had been replaced with Bruce Dickinson, a completely different type of singer to Di’Anno, Maiden was set for a major musical breakthrough. The album was recorded and mixed in just five weeks, and from the moment of release, became a metal milestone. “Run to the Hills” was released as a single and kicked ass all over the planet charting practically everywhere but in the U.S. The album’s title track remains a serious fan favorite and The Number of the Beast has gone on to sell over 14 million copies worldwide.
Screaming for Vengeance – Judas Priest
This was Judas Priest’s eighth album and Screaming for Vengeance was the moment Judas Priest proved themselves once and for all as a major force in the world of heavy metal. The album was unstoppable and is considered the band’s commercial breakthrough selling in excess of 5 million units worldwide and is certified double platinum in the United States of America as well as platinum in Canada. Priest stormed the mainstream Billboard single charts with the smash “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’”), and all of a sudden the band had a hit and were headlining US festivals. Singer Rob Halford told Rolling Stone: “It was a new generation, it was a new decade,” adding: “Everybody suddenly looked at this music and said, ‘Yeah, this is exactly what I want because I can relate to it. It talks about what I want out of life, and what I do.”
Reign in Blood – Slayer
And so began, Slayer solidified the genre of speed metal. From the get-go, 1986’s Reign in Blood smacks you in the face with the 210 beats per minute song “Angel of Death,” and from that moment on, for the next 29 blistering minutes, you barely catch your breath. The 10 song album is built on Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman’s machine-like guitar riffs, drummer Dave Lombardo’s immaculate timing to somewhat insane tempos, and when you add to that the bands singer-bassist Tom Araya, you’ve got a metal ass whipping on hand. So what was it that made the band’s third album stand apart from the other speed demons releasing albums at that time? Pure and simple, the production. Producer Rick Rubin, who had worked with the Beastie Boys at the time, stripped the album of the usual effects that were used at the time and came up with a sound that seemed to somehow ‘kick you in the ass.’ Reign in Blood, to this day, remains a metal classic and has helped define the sound of the emerging US thrash metal scene since the mid-1980s. The album was Slayer’s first to enter the US Billboard 200, peaking at number 94, and was certified Gold on November 20, 1992.
Blizzard of Ozz – Ozzy Osbourne
Having been fired from Black Sabbath for his love of drink and drugs, Ozzy’s reputation and stock within the music business was at an all-time low. So low, he was having trouble getting a record deal. That didn’t stop Ozzy, and in September 1980 he unleashed Blizzard of Ozz on the UK, and six months later in the U.S. The album was seriously strong, you’ve only got to listen to: “I Don’t Know,” “Crazy Train” and the controversial “Suicide Solution” to know that Ozzy and Co we coming out of the box swinging. Yes, it was Ozzy, but more modern metal-sounding than anything he’d done with Sabbath. You have to credit the shift in Ozzy’s sound to the late, and iconic guitarist Randy Rhoads, whose classically influenced guitar playing changed an entire generation of wannabe metal guitarists. Blizzard of Ozz has gone on to sell over 6 million copies worldwide.
Holy Diver – Dio
Ronnie James Dio had already established himself as one of the best hard-rock vocalist’s during the Seventies and early-Eighties as the singer in Rainbow and Black Sabbath, but with the release of his solo album Holy Diver, Dio became a true metal god. Released in 1983, “Holy Diver” was far more metallic than any of his previous efforts, and much like Ozzy Osbournes album, Blizzard of Ozz, Dio had new blood to thank, 20-year-old Irish guitarist Vivian Campbell. His choice of sound, chords and killer leads were a perfect match for the intensity of Dio’s massive voice and intense lyrical content. With metal anthems like “Stand Up and Shout,” “Rainbow in the Dark” and of course, the album’s title track, Dio cemented his place as one of metal’s best. Only reaching Number 56 on the Billboard Top 200 when released, Holy Diver went on to achieve platinum status by the end of the Eighties and became a blueprint for metal bands around the world.
Mötley Crüe – ‘Shout at the Devil’
Released on September 26, 1983, Mötley Crüe had shaken up the metal scene with Too Fast for Love in 1981, and two years later, full of Hollywood razzmatazz, Mötley Crüe took on the world again with their second album: Shout at the Devil. Right from the opening chords of the pentagram emblazoned album, the title track “Shout at the Devil” delivered a fist-banging f**k you style anthem that urged listeners to come on board to the dark side. The band killed it on both radio and the teased-hair universe that was MTV. Shout at the Devil peaked at No.17 on the Billboard 200, and the album was awarded 4x Platinum by selling four million copies by 1997.
Korn – ‘Korn’
The nu-metal subgenre was surely kicked into gear with the release of Korn’s 1994 self-titled debut. The album is a hybrid of in your face metal riffs and Davis’ experimental rap type rhythms and on release spoke to a generation of metal-heads that not only loved bands like Nirvana and Alice in Chains, they also had a soft spot for Tupac. In a perfect description of the band’s sound, Korn guitarist James “Munky” Shaffer said: “We were trying to sound like a DJ had remixed our guitars.” The album peaked at number seventy-two on the Billboard 200 and has sold at least 2.1 million copies in the United States and 10 million copies worldwide as of January 2013. Without Korn, perhaps we’d never have seen the likes of Deftones, System of a Down or Limp Bizkit.