Recently I posted this – about “Ten important hip-hop albums”. I’m going to repeat the opening paragraph from that post:
We all know that lists are subjective – that is the point of them. So I’ve decided to do a series of top 10 albums across genres. They’ll appear sporadically. And rather than call them “Top 10” I will call them ten of the most important – sorry if that sounds pretentious. It’s not meant to.
The point of the hip-hop list was to name ten hip-hop albums that I connected with. And then you were all given the chance to name some of yours. We built up our lists and hopefully reminded one another of some albums worth hearing.
So now it’s time to pick another genre. And metal gets the nod today. I know there’ll be arguments over what constitutes metal – I’ll let you fight and argue. I’m just going to pick the ten most important albums I can think of right now that would – at least at some point – come under the metal genre. So – here we go:
Push comes to shove – as is often the case in an audience at a metal show – this is possibly my favourite album of all time. I could name something by The Beatles or Miles Davis or The Velvet Underground or Jeff Beck or The Beach Boys – but in terms of music I discovered for myself it is Appetite For Destruction. In terms of music I discovered for myself that I am still listening to today it is Appetite For Destruction. I still get the same sense of sleaze and lust and rebellion oozing from the stereo when I play this. I’ve owned it on every format. I’ve played songs from the album in bands myself. And DJ’d it. It’s so evocative of the time. And it has had a lasting impact.
My uncle had a stack of records. It was a small stack – but it was awesome: Led Zeppelin III, Cosmo’s Factory, The Best Of Cream, Tubular Bells. I was allowed to borrow them for a while. I bundled them up and took them home. Studied them. I was about 14. And my favourite from that bundle was Paranoid. All I knew – at that point – was the title track. But War Pigs was a revelation instantly. A thrill. I sat on the edge of the seat as it writhed and pulsed. I understood it completely yet was baffled by it. I loved it. I skipped the needle straight back and played it again. Some of the songs were frightening, some were ethereal, some were sludgy and filled with doom. I still love this album. I still get those feelings.
A copy of The Deep Purple Singles was one of the first CDs in our house as my parents made the transition from vinyl to the new format. From there I started buying tapes, based around some of the CDs that were coming in to the house. If mum and dad bought a greatest hits compilation I would try and find an album by that artist if I liked what I heard. So, I returned from the music store, aged 13, with Machine Head, purely because I liked what I had heard by Deep Purple – which was just the early singles and the song Smoke On The Water. My favourites from this are Lazy and Space Truckin’. There are other Deep Purple albums I listen to more but this one opened the door.
This is the first Metallica album I heard and to this day my favourite. Fade To Black, Creeping Death and For Whom The Bell Tolls sounded like nothing I had heard at the time. The overall experience hearing this was, if anything, similar to how I felt when I heard Black Sabbath’s Paranoid; I knew it was something new for me and I liked it. I followed Metallica for years – stopping around the time of the Load and Re-Load albums. There’s a lot of truth in the first four albums and it all feels like posturing from then on. Today I don’t even really want to hear this album. But every now and then I do and when I do it’s fantastic, takes me back. Still sounds great.
I remember hearing all about this “heavy metal band” called AC/DC. And then I heard Dirty Deeds and didn’t think it sounded like metal at all. It sounded like Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. It sounded like boogie. And rock’n’roll. I liked it a lot. This was the default album for me – until The Razor’s Edge; that would trigger a move back through the rest of the catalogue. And to this day Dirty Deeds is the sentimental favourite.
We travelled to Wellington in 1993 to see Faith No More live. We did this because, on a whim, I decided I wanted to see them. I had really liked The Real Thing but on the way down to the concert I bought Angel Dust. I didn’t have much time to hear it before that show – but I was sucked straight in at the gig; sucked in by songs like Land Of Sunshine and Caffeine and Be Aggressive. After the gig Angel Dust became a favourite album for a long time. And I reckon I’d still have it high on a list, regardless of genre, to this day. I love it.
Iron Maiden have never really figured that much in my life. But this album was a staple. You see I knew about this album from its cover – and being frightened of it – long before I ever heard the music. An uncle (another one) had this on cassette tape. And I was always fascinated by the cover. When I came to finally hear it I was whisked about by Run To The Hills; still one of my favourite Maiden songs. And of course the title song which had appeared on a hard rock compilation. It was hearing that song that made me slip the tape in to the stereo one day around at my uncle’s place. I thought I was going to get caught, maybe get in trouble. It’s stayed with me. I only have a couple of Maiden compilations – but this album is still the one for me when I think of the band.
Regular readers will know that I never turn down a chance to reminisce about The Young Ones; I was watching the program – thanks to very lenient parents – before I ever really understood a lot of its subversive humour. And a lot of the band appearances bored me the first time around. But in one of the show’s most iconic episodes there was an appearance by Motorhead singing Ace Of Spades. I remembered that and hunted out the album. I had to hear more by this band. That title track still rates up there for me as one of the great rock/metal songs of all time. I never get sick of it.
9. Tool, Aenima
These days I could care less about Tool but the band’s Aenima album made a huge impact on me. Particulary the first three songs. I knew Sober from the earlier album, by way of a compilation. And for some reason that stayed with me enough to want to check out Aenima – I stayed on for Lateralus and liked that for a while too. But after that I was done. I still think about Aenima from time to time – often actually. Enough to rate it in my list. Especially due to those first three songs. I haven’t played it in a long time.
A brand new favourite album as soon as I heard it, when it was released – and an album that got me thinking about metal again after a while away from the subject. It’s a seven-track, 50 minute concept album featuring a story as absurd as anything by The Mars Volta with glowering bogans trudging through some plodding riffs. The drumming is superb, the songs have melodies, it’s heavy but it really sings. The music speaks to me. I found it hypnotic. It goes back to how I felt when pulled in by Paranoid or Ace Of Spades or Aenima or almost anything on this list. It’s one of my favourite metal albums. And it made me go back and check out past Mastodon material.
So – that’s my list. Laugh all you want. Point out how safe it is. Mock the omissions. Be super proud with how superior your list is. And then remember that it’s all just subjective right? Or is that only something to remember when you get to say it to me?
I’m just kidding by the way – I’m not trying to sound defensive. That’s my list – and for today at least I am sticking to it. These are ten very important (to me) metal albums. They all opened doors – or made sure that other doors in my house were firmly shut so that I could sit and listen to these albums. Over and over.
Can you name ten important metal albums in your life? Have a go. What’s on your list?