The 100 Best Metal Albums of All Time

Bert Stabler and I have put together a list of the greatest metal bands to ever crawl bleeding from an abyss of demon maggots. They're listed below, from evil incarnate to more evil incarnate even that that.

100. Diamond Head—Lightning to the Nations (1980) UK

99. Blood of the Black Owl—A Banishing Ritual (2010) US

98 Wormrot—Abuse (2009) Singapore

97 Satanic Warmaster—Fimbulwinter (2014) Finland

96 Holy Moses—Queen of Siam  (1986) Germany

95 Cryptopsy —None So Vile (1996) Canada

94  Burzum—Burzum (1992) Norway

93 Panopticon—Kentucky (2012) US

92 Voivod —Killing Technology (1987) Canada

91 Man is the Bastard—Thoughtless… (1995) US

90 Revenge —Scum. Collapse. Eradication. (2012) Canada

89 Liturgy —The Ark Work (2015) US

88 Botanist—I. The Suicide Tree/II A Rose From the Dead (2011) US

87 Kreator —Pleasure To Kill (1986) Germany

86 Mortician —Hacked Up for Barbecue (1996) US

85 Lugubrum—Heilige dwazen (2005) Belgium

84 Corrupted— Paso Inferior (1996) Japan

83. Eyehategod—Take As Needed for Pain (1993) US

82. Trouble—Psalm 9 (1984) US

81. Enslaved—Frost (1994) Norway

80. 1349—Revelations of the Black Flame (2009) Norway

79. Carbonized—For the Security (1991) Sweden

78. Bellows—Bellows ·(2008) US

77 Mercyful Fate—Melissa (1983) Denmark 

76 Immolation—Dawn of Possession (1991) US

75 Atheist—Unquestionable Presence (1991) US

74. Origin—Antithesis (2008) US

73 Immortal—Pure Holocaust (1993) Norway

72 Doughnuts—Age of Circle (1995) Sweden

71. Lustmord—The Dark Places of the Earth (2009) UK

70 Demilich—Nespithe (1993) Finland

69 Pentagram—Relentless (1990) US

68 Darkthrone—A Blaze in the Northern Sky (1992) Norway

67 Insect Ark—Portal/Well (2015) US

66 Deep Purple—Machine Head (1972) UK

65 Watain-- Casus Luciferi (2003) Sweden

64 Teitanblood-- Seven Chalices (2009) Spain

63 Furze-- Necromanzee Cogent (2003) Norway

62 Borgazur- 2P3 Alchemists Earth of Aeon AC (2008) Netherlands

61 Godflesh—Streetcleaner (1989) UK

60 Incantation—Onward to Golgotha (1992) US

59 Venom—Black Metal (1982) UK

58 Coffins—Ancient Torture (comp) (2011) Japan

57 Rapeman—Two Nuns and a Pack Mule (1988) US

56 Malevolent Creation—The Ten Commandments (1991) US

55 Svartsyn—In Death (2017) Sweden

54 Moevot-- Ézlèfbdrèthtr Vèpréub Zuèrkl Mazagvatre Èrbsèdréa (comp) (1994) France

53 Possessed —Seven Churches (1985) US

52 Rhapsody —Legendary Tales (1997) Italy

51 Napalm Death—Scum (1987) UK

50 Oranssi Pazuzu— Värähtelijä (2016) Finland

49 Decapitated—Winds of Creation (2000) Poland

48  Candlemass—Nightfall (1987) Sweden

47 Jute Gyte—Perdurance (2016) US

46 Deathspell Omega— Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice (2004) France

45 Cretin—Stranger (2014) US

44 Gallhammer—Ill Innocence (2007) Japan

43 Sepultura—Chaos A.D. (1993) Brazil

42 Harvey Milk—Life... the best game in town (2008) US

41 Abruptum—Evil Genius (1995) Sweden

40. Grave—Into the Grave (1991) Sweden

39. Blut Aus Nord—The Work Which Transforms God (2003) France

38. Saint Vitus—Born Too Late (1990) US

37. Katharsis—VVorld VVithout End (2006) Germany

36. Noothgrush--Erode the Person (1999) US

35. Entombed—Left Hand Path (1990) Sweden

34. Nadja—When I See The Sun Always Shines on TV (2009) US

33. OLD—Old Lady Drivers (1986) US

32. Mastery—V.A.L.I.S. (2015) US

31. Ogre—Dark Filth (1994) Ireland

30. Dickless — Saddle Tramp/I'm a Man 7"  (1990) US

29. Meshuggah--Destroy, Erase, Improve (1995) Sweden

28. Drudkh—Autumn Aurora (2004) Ukraine

27.Thrones—Sperm Whale (2000) US

26. Satyricon—Nemesis Divina (1996) Norway

25. Twilight—Twilight (2005) US

24. Cirith Ungol--King of the Dead (1984) US

23. Murkrat —Murkrat (2008) Australia

22.  Budgie--Impeckable (1978) UK

21 Gorguts—Obscura (1998) Canada

20. Motorhead—Ace of Spades (1980) UK

19. Morbid Angel—Blessed Are the Sick (1991) US

18 Celtic Frost—Morbid Tales (1984) Switzerland 

17. Sewer Goddess—Painlust (2015) US

16. Obituary—Cause of Death (1990) US

15. Uriah Heep—Very 'Eavy, Very 'Umble (1970) UK

14. Pyha—The Haunted House (2002) Korea

13 Urfaust—Geist Ist Teufel (2004) Netherlands

12. Funeral Mist—Salvation (2003) Sweden

11. Deicide—Legion (1992) US 

10. Gnaw Their Tongues — An Epiphanic Vomiting of Blood (2008) Netherlands

9. Emperor—In the Nightside Eclipse (1994) Norway

8. Autopsy—Mental Funeral (1991) US

7. Metallica—Garage Days Re-Revisited (1987) US/Denmark

6. Absu—Tara (2001) US

5. Bathory—Bathory (1984) Sweden

4. Melvins—Lysol (1992) US

3. Black Sabbath—Master of Reality (1971) UK

2. Slayer —Reign in Blood (1986) US

1. Khanate —Things Viral (2003) US

So, as metalheads may have guessed, this list was inspired in large part because both Bert and I were horrified (but not in a good metal way) by the Rolling Stone list of 100 greatest albums. I could go into tedious detail about the list's failings, but it's probably summed up by pointing out that the list includes albums by Evanescence, Korn, Motley Crue, Alice in Chains, and Marilyn Manson, bands that are (a) not metal and (b) not the best of anything.

What's really odd about the Rolling Stone list, though, is that it's pretty representative of the other best of metal lists you'll find if you Google. Like the RS list, most things I found list multiple albums by individual bands, and so end up with a ton of albums by worthy groups like Black Sabbath, Metallica, and Slayer, as well as by mediocrities like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Megadeth. They also often feature fairly popular but indifferent acts like Opeth or High on Fire and very popular but not really metal acts like Led Zeppelin or Van Halen (though Zeppelin and Van Halen are at least actually great bands.) 

Overall, in fact, Rolling Stone's list is one of the better ones on the web. Weak as it is, it includes a number of worthy seminal bands like Sun O))), Entombed, Mayhem, Emperor, Diamond Head, Bathory, the Melvins and Eyehategod along with ridiculous selections like Slipknot, Queensrÿche, the Deftones and Twisted Sister. 

So, why are metal lists so consistently awful? I think the problem is that metal is a music genre that, after flirting with some hits early on, moved quickly to a kind of low-brow avant garde experimentation. Even more than punk—which eschewed the mainstream while mostly remaining hook-based—metal has turned to walls of noise, ambient drift, screaming and an aesthetic that is more about hearing loss than conventional pop pleasures. 

Most lists gravitate towards popularity, either because they're actual surveys or because they're based on consensus—and intended for mainstream audiences that aren't necessarily going to know or care about bands like Obituary, Deicide or Demilich. 

On most metal lists, in short, part of being "best" is being widely successful—and metal as a genre has largely rejected success and accessibility as meaningful markers of quality or interest. On the contrary, the measure of greatness in the genre is arguably noise and misanthropy—the willingness to pursue the genre's rage, violence, and despair to such lengths that no one wants to follow you.

Bert summed it up by saying, "metal is not democratic." We've tried on the list here, therefore, to include not only influential greats like Slayer and Bathory, but also bands who have achieved perfection or monstrosity in their own particular brand of profanation—whether it's Pyha's wailing, empty black metal, Khanate's ultra-slow tormented doom, or Deicide's breakneck chainsaw of death. Given the huge variety of metal bands, each filthily nightmarish in its own way, it seemed wrong to include multiple albums by individual acts. There are a couple of groups here who share members (the Melvins and the Thrones; Khanate and OLD), but we have avoided making a list of our favorite Funeral Mist or Gnaw Their Tongues albums.

Metal is not an especially diverse genre in many respects, but it is unusually geographically heterogeneous. The list captures that pretty well; about 40% of the bands here are from the US, about a quarter of the bands are from Scandinavia, another 10% are from the UK, and 10% more are from continental Europe, with the remainder distributed in Asia, Canada…and one band each from Brazil and Australia.

We've also managed a decent distribution chronologically. The earliest album is from 1970 (Uriah Heep) and the most recent is from this year (Svartsyn.) The 1990s is probably the most common decade, but the 1980s, 2000s, and 2010s are all well represented.

Bert and I agreed strongly on almost all of the albums at the top of the list; things diverged a bit as we went down the line. Bands that easily could have been on if the blood moon had shifted phase slightly include Rites of Thy Degringolade, Disincarnate, Jesus Lizard, Agalloch, Dark Star, Scorpions, Necrophagist, and Fatuous Rump.

Best of lists are most enjoyable when they give readers something to discover. Hopefully even metal fans will find on here a few unknown darkened pits to explore, after (or while) befouling our good names with imprecations and foul loathing.