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Top 25 All-Time Best Metal Albums Pt. 2
by Cullen James
Here’s 15 – 9:
No Rest for the Wicked is the real holder of this spot. In my opinion, it is the quintessential Ozzy album. It encapsulates everything that bad recording quality, drugs, inner turmoil and tragedy barred him from earlier in life. He tasted greatness with Blizzard of Oz, and it’s a truly phenomenal album, but I think it’s production values rob it of much that it could have been. Starting with No More Tears and really tearing it up with this album Ozzy and Zakk shred into a new dimension for Ozzy where he could stand on top of the metal world.
BLS shares the spot mainly because I like them so much that I had to mention them. I honestly can’t say what impact they’re having because I’m disconnected with the youth of today. However, based on the popularity of his concerts, how well his albums sell, how many BLS T-Shirts I see around, and the fact that Zakk was on an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, it’s a safe bet he’s still a vital force in metal today.
However, Crue’s next album, Theater of Pain, took them down the path of girlie-band sissiness – their only claim to metal being a pumped drum track and a little distortion on their guitar. Maybe they’ve recaptured some of their former hardcoredness during more recent “Get Us Out of Debt” tours, but for one, brief and shining moment, these guys wrote a really good album. Then, my hypothesis, anyway, is that the lifestyle got a hold of ‘em. Oh well, it happens.
#13 Dream Theater - Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory: This is actually my all-time favorite album. However, in the interest of the list, it’s down further than I’m comfortable putting it. In fact, this is such a personal choice, that it’s higher than most people would put it. Most folks would have Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime in this spot. However, since Queensryche is, or was, rather, progressive metal, I put DT here because they completely and in every way pwn Queensryche.
I wasn’t a huge fan of Dream Theater in my youth. I’ve only gotten into them in the past few years, but they have fast become my favorite band. Dream Theater has made a name for themselves by producing intricate compositions, being some of the most skilled musicians in the world, and writing catchy songs on top of amazing time signatures that change as often as a woman changes her mind. This album in particular is amazing evidence of all of that and is a great concept album.
#12 Megadeth - Rust in Peace: Holy crap this album rocks! Blisteringly fast, amazingly complex solo work and some of the tightest production levels ever (EVER) heard. From this album forward, Dave Mustaine set a standard for the studio that few bands have ever met. I remember, it was around the time of Countdown to Extinction that there was all this debate going on how there was actually more sound to an analog track than there was to digital and how digital – the compact disc, mind you – format was dryer or wasn’t as full as analog sound. Well, the debate rages on, but anyway, MTV had a spot on it. And Neil “Crazy Horse But Dumb As A Box of Rocks” Young was on talking about how horrible the CD format was, etc. They cut to a spot of Dave Mustaine who said (and I paraphrase): Digital recording is amazing. If you don’t like it, you can’t play. How freaking awesome if that? He’s saying, guess what, you know what all that freaking noise you’re hearing is, it’s your sloppy effin’ playing. You can hear it now instead of it being disguised by that old freaking super-forgiving analog recording.
I digress. I could spends posts upon posts talking about recording quality and how the human ear can’t even possible discern the differences they’re talking about (in the sample rates, not quality of sound), but I’ll just get mad.
Back to RIP … this album is amazing! When it came out, I wore the tape out in about two weeks. I had to record a copy from a friend after that. I tried like mad to try and learn how to play songs off it, but it was too damn complex for me. Still is. I mean, if you have any doubts about Megadeth’s musical abilities, listen to this album, it’s damn near progressive metal. These guys pull no punches in speed or complexity of composition. Of course, when the track calls for it, the lay down some simple riffs also. It’s a matter of taste and Mustaine knows how to write a tasty lick. Can you tell who’s one of my favorite bands?
I remember the first time I saw the video for this album on MTV. It was great to watch Marty Friedman (who I had dug from his days with Cacophony) and Mustaine swap solos. There wasn’t anything to the video except them playing the song, and that was awesome.
Guys like Savatage had been doing this kind of melodic metal for a bit before Megadeth released RIP, but there’s always been something hokey about their stuff … I don’t know. Megadeth just got something right and all these high-musical-ability bands have been playing catch up since.
#11 Guns and Roses - Appetite For Destruction: Sure, you can pull out the “Where are they now?” card, but during the ‘90s these guys ruled the airwaves. Everyone wanted to play a Les Paul like Slash. This album really gelled with the public though. I think it was so strong that its popularity actually carried their next couple of releases (which may have had a couple of good songs, but only a couple). This album was so strong. Every song rocked as appropriate and balladed when appropriate. It latched on the world’s collective sense of what heavy metal/hard rock should be and put it out there on a platter. To this day I am hard-pressed to think of an album where every single song was THIS good. Production levels high, every bit of every song seemed just so right, and all the musicians gelled together. Bands that lock together this well simply don’t last, or they put out as much crap as they put out good stuff. Too bad Velvet Revolver sucks so hard. We don’t need no Chinese Democracy.
#10 Judas Priest – British Steel: Another difficult choice because Screaming for Vengeance was very good. But, come on, “Breaking the Law” is on British Steel. What Priest song has had more play and is more influential than that? “Living After Midnight” is also a hell of a song. I kind of hate to admit this, but I’m not that big of a Priest fan. Their influence and musical ability is undeniable, but I’ve always been rather pissed at their production quality. Here you have one of the arguably biggest metal bands ever and their recordings sound like they were recording inside of cardboard boxes. People always tell me, “Well consider the time frame and the equipment they had to work with.” Well, you know what? Screw you! The Ramones, hell The Sex Pistols were recording in the same time frame, with lower budgets and their production quality has always been spot fucking on. Why does this piss me off so much? Because every Judas Priest album up to Painkiller was mixed where Rob Halford’s voice sounding tinny and the guitars sounded ball-less lacking low end. Just think if there was a fullness to the recording … this shit would have stomped any other band around. So, why are they #10 if I bitch about them so much? Because even with the crappy recordings people still sing their shit and they influenced almost every metal band that came after them.
#9 AC/DC - Back in Black: Hard choice between this one and Highway to Hell, but in terms of importance to the genre, no one can argue which album everyone has heard. A mega-mega-mega great selling album, there are songs on this album that are engraved on tombstones across the world. This is the album that urban legends get based on … (must assume a stoner voice in your head, think Spicoli) “You know that wreck they found the other day? You know, the one where dude had missing for like, a week … Well, the paramedics arrived on scene and Back in Black was in the stereo and it was still playing!” “No way!” “Way.”
The fact that the mass market has accepted AC/DC does not diminish their impact on the genre. Just means they’ve aged well. Or that they need to retire.
Next week we finish up the list.