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300 Albums you must hear before you die! - Part One

In the first part of the 300 albums to hear before you die, we look at Classic Rock, Metal and Roots Rock. But first, Scott Ian picks the ten albums that defined heavy metal for him...

"I can’t choose just 10 albums… Damn, that’s hard. OK, first off I’ll have to put the first five BLACK SABBATH albums as my first choice. Can I compress them all into one album?

I can’t leave any of them out. Sabbath came before everybody else, and they laid down the template for every metal band that followed. The lyrics, the songs, the album covers – basically everything on those records is the Bible when it comes to metal. Anyone who disagrees with that is wrong, ha ha! After that I’m gonna say JUDAS PRIEST and British Steel [1980], and the reason why Priest are so important is because some of Sabbath’s early riffs still had a little bit of blues in them, even though they were the inventors of metal. Priest took away that tiny bit of blues and made pure metal music: it was a bit like melting down some impure gold, draining off the impurities and coming up with something totally pure. 

Then we come to IRON MAIDEN, and I’m gonna have to have two albums here – Killers [1981] and The Number Of The Beast [1982]. They really found their sound with Killers: it was so much better than the first, self-titled album and they’d taken the Sabbath, Priest and Lizzy stuff that they were into and made it into the Iron Maiden sound. As for Number Of The Beast, it’s not just my favourite Maiden album, it’s possibly the best metal record of all time! There’s something about that record that makes it special, from top to bottom and from start to finish…

So now let’s go to MOTÖRHEAD. Now, Lemmy will be the first to tell you that Motörhead aren’t a heavy metal band. Like he says on stage every night, ‘We are Motörhead and we play rock’n’roll’, right? When you hear that coming from the man himself, it’s kinda hard to argue with him, but I will! The bands that were the biggest influence on Anthrax when we first started were definitely Motörhead and Iron Maiden. 

I have to put the Ace Of Spades [1980] album in here, because it was 100 per cent to do with what we became. It completely kicked my ass. It made me hear music in a completely different way: their song writing and their riffing had so much metal in them, even though there was other stuff in there. They really gave metal a boost, and we gravitated to that as a band. Motörhead were one of the reasons that speed metal even happened in the first place. Next… what’s next? I’ll say SAXON, but which album? It has to be Wheels Of Steel [1980] I guess, but it’s a tough one. God, we loved their records back then. That band never got the credit that they deserved.

And of course I absolutely have to say AC/DC, even though I never really thought they were a heavy metal band. I’m gonna say Let There Be Rock [1977]. I heard them even before Judas Priest, and that album changed my life. I remember putting headphones on and listening to it in my bedroom when I was a kid, and I’d never heard anything like it. I’d never heard guitars like that! The band sounded like they were in the room playing with you. Nobody could do it better than they could, even to this day.

A few years later I heard the first black metal bands, and MERCYFUL FATE just blew me away. Their album Nuns Have No Fun [aka self-titled debut EP, 1982] had a completely different sound and approach. It was raw, it was evil and it sounded so crazy, with King Diamond’s vocals and those weird lyrics he wrote. 

My next choice, and I know it’s going to be a bit weird for some people because I’ve been talking about all these bands from the 70s and early 80s, is FAITH NO MORE. They were one of my favourite bands of all time and still are to this day. I love all their albums – Angel Dust [1992] through to Album Of The Year [1997] – but I’m gonna have to nominate The Real Thing [1989] because it was the album where I first got into them, and also because the first track, From Out Of Nowhere, is one of my favourite FNM songs of all time. They really changed metal. Mike Patton is one of my favourite singers. Oh, wait, did I forget THIN LIZZY? It’s gotta be Jailbreak [1976], because a world without that album would be a sad world indeed!”


CLASSIC METAL

CRITICS' CHOICE

Five albums with the twang of yore

GRAND MAGUS - Iron Will, 2008

Somewhere between the riffs of doom and the triumphant battle cry of Manowar, Grand Magus are arguably the finest all-out metal band of their generation. Like The Oar Strikes The Water will make you bang your head off.

HIGH ON FIRE - Blessed Black Wings, 2005

A thunderous, city-levelling power trio that can mix it up with any other metal band on the planet and emerge victorious, High On Fire are the old heavy injected with a new kind of intensity. This album has riffs that will crush you like an insect.

BLACK LABEL SOCIETY - The Blessed Hellride, 2003

Metal’s premier master of the shred, Zakk Wylde has been flying the flag for red-blooded metal for more than two decades. His band always kicks arse, but on this album they kicked even more than usual. And Ozzy’s on it. Job done.

WOLF - Evil Star, 2004

Sweden produce more great metal bands than most, and Wolf are one of the very finest. Invoking the fiery spirit of early Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Mercyful Fate, they’re the ruling champions of trad metal’s new wave and this is sheer stainless steel perfection.

PORTRAIT- Portrait, 2008

Rising up from the Swedish underground, clad in leather and breathing fire, Portrait are the dark, destructive flipside to Wolf’s bright bombast. On their debut, they sounded like Maiden fronted by King Diamond, beamed directly into your ears from the bowels of Hell.

GENRE DEFINING

Five essential NWOBHM albums

Iron Maiden - THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST, 1982

After two albums that gave metal a huge wake-up call, Maiden recruited Bruce Dickinson, wrote some magnificent songs and, deservedly, became fucking huge.

Saxon - WHEELS OF STEEL, 1980

With their knack for timeless anthems kicking into top gear, Saxon could hardly fail with their second album. From Motorcycle Man to Machine Gun, this was British metal at its stripped down, belligerent best.

Angel Witch - ANGEL WITCH, 1980

Despite being overshadowed by many of their peers, Angel Witch were heavier, sharper and darker than anyone else in the NWOBHM. Their debut album remains a deservedly revered classic of the era.

Diamond Head - LIGHTNING TO THE NATIONS, 1980

Best known for being a favourite of James and Lars, DH were inspirational and groundbreakers. Metallica have covered most of the songs on this album. Easy to see why.

Raven - ROCK UNTIL YOU DROP, 1981

Fast, furious and ever so slightly demented, Raven cranked up Brit metal’s aggression, floored the accelerator and delivered a debut that still sets pulses racing today.

LIVE SHIT 

The 10 Hammer-approved best metal live albums

KISS - Alive!, 1975

The album that broke Kiss in America. It was always said that if the band could bottle their live energy and deliver it on record, there’d be no stopping them. Guess what? They did just that. The album’s success started a trend for double live albums.

THIN LIZZY - Live & Dangerous, 1978

Lizzy were a tremendous power live. This album still sends shivers down the spine. There’s something effortless about it, and some of Phil Lynott’s raps are iconic. “Is there anybody here with a little Irish in them? Any of the girls like a little more?”

AC/DC - If You Want Blood… You Got It, 1978

Just listen to the version of Whole Lotta Rosie here. It utterly pisses on the studio recording. And the same goes for everything else on this album. If anyone asks you what was so special about Bon Scott, just play them the record. Game over.

JUDAS PRIEST - Unleashed In The East, 1979

Despite all the controversies over whether this has huge numbers of studio overdubs (something the band deny), this is Judas Priest at their finest. A supreme selection of songs, delivered with power and panache by true greats. Recorded in Japan,

MOTÖRHEAD - No Sleep ’Til Hammersmith, 1981

Motörhead did with this album what they’d never done, and would never do again: topped the UK charts. This was the affirmation of their total domination of the scene at the time. They were in brilliant form on this tour, and here’s the proof blasting at a million billion decibels.

IRON MAIDEN - Live After Death, 1985

This is where the legend of “Scream for me, Long Beach!” was first coined. Recorded on the World Slavery tour in 1984/1985, it captures the excitement and atmosphere of Maiden, when they were selling out arenas in the US, but still remaining almost a cult band.

SLAYER - Decade Of Aggression, 1991

While many top thrash names struggled to capture their energy and brutality on record, this was never a problem for Slayer. Apart from the sheer high-speed ferocity of the performance, what’s also obvious is the incredible musicianship of the band, and the clear sound.

METALLICA - Live Shit: Binge & Purge, 1993

A box set of three CDs and two DVDs – or videos, more commonly upon its release – recorded and filmed on the Nowhere Else To Roam tour. This has pretty much everything you’d ever want from a Metallica live set – both band and fans.

PANTERA - Official Live: 101 Proof, 1997

Crashing through every known barrier, Pantera at their best were an unstoppable force. This is the band in top form. You can hear the snarl, the edge, the dynamic, the thrust. It’s got real metal magic oozing out of every cocksure riff and each Anselmo roar.

SEPULTURA - Under A Pale Grey Sky, 2002 

Recorded at Brixton Academy in December 1996, and historic because straight afterwards Max Cavalera quit – literally backstage. There was an edge that night between the four members, and it helped them to kick up a breathtaking performance, captured here.


Dez Fafara - The Devildriver frontman explains what metal means to him

BLACK SABBATH’s Black Sabbath [1970] defines classic heavy metal for me. There are 20-year-olds in bands who are still trying to copy its sound. It’s held up so well, and has such an incredible feel to it from start to finish. I love the song Black Sabbath, of course, but I also love N.I.B. and The Wizard. The album is perfect in its entirety – and you can’t say that about many albums. The MC5’s punk attitude back in the day got them on the cover of Rolling Stone before they even released Kick Out The Jams [1969]. There’s something to be said about that. With their stage show and everything, they were so volatile at the time. They were straddling punk and metal and bringing that anarchist attitude to metal. I wear their t-shirt on stage all the time.

First Daze Here: The Vintage Collection [2001] is such an incredible compilation of PENTAGRAM’s early stuff from the 70s that I can’t even tell you how many ways there are that it’s awesome! People have been starting to pick up on them a bit more over the last fi ve to 10 years. I’ve been playing them at my house, and people say, ‘Who’s this?’ all the time. I love 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS’ The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators [1966]. You might not regard it as metal but it’s heavy as hell, and this band totally defined the genre of their time. I play it a lot on the bus and I’ve been turning people on to Roky Erickson on tour – they’re like, ‘Who is this guy?’ and then they check out his lyrics. He was a psychedelic visionary.

“It’s not metal, true, but a lot of metal bands cover PINK FLOYD, and I think that Floyd have influenced everybody. Talk to Machine Head, for example – they love Floyd. This album is heavy in so many ways – not just in the guitars. No one else was doing what these guys were doing 30 years ago, and the music still stands tall today. Check out Animals [1977].

“From start to finish, JUDAS PRIEST’s Defenders Of The Faith [1984] is unreal. I love the sound of classic metal albums like this one. Defenders Of The Faith is raw. Compare it to a lot of stuff nowadays and you realise how overproduced everything is, with the advent of Pro-Tools and fuckin’ vocal tuning and all that other shit. They didn’t spend half an hour fine tuning it so it sounded right to the computer, ha ha ha!

“I would be totally remiss if I didn’t put AC/DC’s Back In Black [1980] in here. It’s the most perfect record ever made – ever! Kids love this stuff too; the music will never die. I got a 12-year-old metalhead at home who wears Slayer shirts. A perfect example of what classic metal means to the kids nowadays is that he woke up listening to Black Sabbath yesterday. I’m hearing War Pigs coming from upstairs and I’m thinking, ‘Wow!’ I said to him, ‘How did you get into that?’ and he said, ‘All my friends listen to Sabbath, dad…’”

“DEEP PURPLE’s Machine Head [1971] is another unreal record. It’s always the bands with the sound that takes it a little bit to the edge who survive for decades, especially when they push the boundaries so far that years later people realise that it was them who started the whole scene off in the fi rst place. KISS’s Alive! [1975] changed my world, man. As far as heavy metal, back then this was some of the heaviest metal around. To me, classic metal has gotta be 60s and 70s. The sound has got to be original, and a lot of the music was original back then. Not that there’s no original music out now, but we’re all copying somebody’s style somewhere – all of us. It’s all been done by now.

“Finally I’d recommend BLUE CHEER’s Vincebus Eruptum [1968]. I can’t even pronounce the fuckin’ title [it’s ‘win-kay-bus’ – Academic Ed] but man, if you dive into this album you’ll find yourself amazed at the garage rock, punk-rock fuckin’ scene that was going on in the 60s. It was heavier than anything that’s going on now! That record is fuckin’ godly. I’ve heard people calling it the first ever heavy metal record. I have it on constant rotation at the house.”


ROOTS METAL

CRITICS' CHOICE 

The best of Viking and folk metal

SKYCLAD - The Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth, 1991

Folk metal would probably not exist at all were it not for Martin Walkyier’s legendary post-Sabbat project. Blending furious metal with traditional folk could have been disastrous. Instead it was an exuberant triumph.

AMON AMARTH - Once Sent From The Golden Hall, 1998

Thanks to an obsession with their warrior heritage, Amon Amarth have long been the last word in Viking metal. This debut nailed their brutally melodic colours to the longboat mast, and their globe-conquering journey since has been relentless.

FINNTROLLJaktens Tid, 2001

There’s something wild and booze-inspired going on in the forest. Bringing weird instruments, pointy ears and demented humppa vibes to extreme metal, Finntroll make music to drink, dance and fight to, as strange dark magic explodes around them.

MOONSORROW - Kivenkantaja, 2003

Pagan metal with a powerfully progressive edge, Moonsorrow’s sonic realm is both epic and adventurous. Summoning the spiritual fortitude of their forefathers, their albums are fascinating, bulging with emotive power, as ancient melodies collide with atmosphere and aggression by the ton.

TURISAS - The Varangian Way, 2007 

An epic tale of the Vikings’ journey from their homeland to the edge of Asia, the second Turisas album secured their reputation as storytellers supreme, while whipping up a storm of flagon-pounding folk metal bluster. Who said the Vikings were ancient history?

GENRE DEFINING

Hammer-approved symphonic metal

Nightwish - ONCE, 2004

Trouble may have been brewing behind the scenes, but the final Nightwish album fronted by the bewitching Tarja Turunen is a colossal achievement. As lush as it is bombastic.

Within Temptation - THE SILENT FORCE, 2004

Three albums in, the Dutch outfit really hit their stride, and the results were spectacular. An instant Number One in their home country, this remains their finest hour.

Epica - DESIGN YOUR UNIVERSE, 2004

Many wondered how the vastness of The Divine Conspiracy could be followed but Epica did it in style with a grand summation of their career to date on this fourth full-length.

Iced Earth - SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, 1998

Five albums into their dogged ascent, Iced Earth delivered these life-affirming anthems hewn from purest steel. American metal’s best kept secret was a secret no more.

Leaves’ Eyes - NJORD, 2009

Fronted by chanteuse Liv Kristine (Theatre Of Tragedy), Leaves’ Eyes set the bar scarily high with 2005’s Vinland Saga. Perhaps propelled by its success, their third album was a truly masterful work.

BRIT PACK 

Gone but not forgotten, the British bands who made a difference

RAGING SPEEDHORNRaging Speedhorn, 2000

The dirtiest riffs, the craziest vocals and the constant threat of chaos and violence made the mighty Speedhorn the toast of the UK gig circuit after this vicious debut exploded onto our home-grown scene. Sludgecore brilliance from the mean streets of Corby. Where else?

JOHNNY TRUANTNo Tears For The Creatures, 2008

A scathing, artful response to the post-Dillinger era, Johnny Truant made metal records with both heart and brain engaged. This was their final assault; a bleak but thrilling eruption of riffs and roars that marked the Brighton band out as criminally underrated masters of noise.

ACRIMONYTumuli Shroomaroom, 1997

A band so dedicated to getting mashed that it’s a miracle they ever turned up to the studio at all, South Wales’ stoner doom titans could have ruled the world with albums as insanely heavy and psychedelic as this gargantuan hymn to the riff.

EDEN MAINEThe Treachery Pact, 2002

Showcasing their genre-mincing sound – a coruscating blend of thudding, left-field hardcore and brain-melting soundscapes – Eden Maine made their first EP count, but sadly, heavy music wasn’t quite ready for them. Still ahead of its time, even now.

DUB WARPain, 1995

Before Skindred, Benji Webbe tore up the rulebook in Dub War, as metal, punk, ragga and dub collided, showering sparks of pure genius in every direction. Songs like Mental and Strike It made heads bang while setting the dancefloor ablaze. Why didn’t nu metal sound like this?

PITCHSHIFTERwww.pitchshifter.com, 1998

Electronic punk fronted by JS Clayden, a sneering, anti-establishment vocalist cut from the same cloth as Lydon and Biafra, and one of the finest British frontmen of the past 15 years. www.pitchshifter.com was a masterclass in industrial dance and fuzzed-up street grit. One of the 90s’ most under-appreciated albums.

SIKTHThe Trees Are Dead & Dried Out, 2003

It’s nigh on impossible to think of a band who were as far ahead of their time as British noise terrorists Sikth. Brain-melting technicality and vocals that flitted between schizophrenic ranting and stunning hooks, Sikth are still desperately missed to this day.

ONE MINUTE SILENCEBuy Now… Saved Later, 2000

One of the best live bands on the planet in their heyday, OMS finally captured all of the turbo-charged mosh-provocation of their live shows on this stonewall classic full of floor-filling, rampaging jams.

EARTHTONE9arc’tan’gent, 2000

Combining a euphoric sense of melody and courageous dynamics with bone-crunching riffs, earthtone9’s arc’tan’gent should have seen them become a worldwide force. If you’ve never heard this gem of an album before, iTunes is calling louder than an elephant’s guff.

PULKASGreed, 1998

Heavily based on bowel-loosening low-end guitars, Pulkas added British steel to a sound that mirrored State of World Address-era Biohazard and Killing Joke in equal measure. Greed remains an unbelievable slab of alt. metal perfection. That it was Pulkas’s sole album is criminal in the extreme.

GROOP DOGDRILLHalf Nelson, 1998

Fuelled on cheap whisky and cigarettes, Groop Dogdrill’s Half Nelson had the stomp of Angus Young, the rock’n’roll flair of Lemmy and the full-on swagger of the Supersuckers. You want straight-up rock’n’roll? This is for you. Pete Spiby now fronts Black Spiders.

STAMPIN’ GROUNDCarved From Empty Words, 2000

Along with Knuckledust, Stampin’ Ground were a pioneering force in combining Brit grit, groove metal and hardcore into one viciously confrontational package. Revered as pioneers by all corners of the UKHC scene, Stampin’ Ground continue to rightfully gain plaudits four years on from their split.


JERRY CANTRELL - Alice In Chains’ guitarist guides you through the history of a timeless genre

"It’s tough doing a Top 10 because there are so many records that were important to me. Some have fallen through the cracks but there’s a handful that remain in that zone and I guess that’s why, because they meant the most. Beginning with AC/DC, who are my favourite rock band of all time. I loved a lot of their early records but the one that I really love is Back In Black [1980]. For a band to lose a member like that [singer Bon Scott] and continue on and come up with an album like Back In Black, and for it to have the impact that it did, it’s amazing. That was really important to me then and it’s even more important to me now. 

I’ve always been drawn to bands that have that uniqueness, and another favourite of mine like that is BLACK SABBATH. They made some great records in the 70s but I’d have to put Paranoid [1970] up there at the top. The collection of songs on that, the vibe and uniqueness, made it completely different from anything else, and amazingly dark. It also coincided with the beginnings of the idea of wanting to do something like that myself.

You’ll notice a lot of the bands I’m choosing are not from the United States. But one of the American bands I always loved was VAN HALEN and for that I also include their first album, Van Halen [1978]. I bought it as a kid through the Columbia Records and Tapes Club, which allowed you to buy seven or eight records for, like, a penny then have to order other records later for a ton of money, ha ha ha! My dad let me do that and I’d sit there listening to it top to bottom, multiple times, on my headphones, while my dad was watching TV. The sound and energy of it was really electrifying.

Eddie Van Halen kinda of did what JIMI HENDRIX had done to previous generations and reinvented guitar. Speaking of which, I’ve gotta have the Hendrix album, Are You Experienced [1967] in there too. Jimi really revolutionised guitar playing and had a real impact and the cool thing for me was he was from Seattle. So I had a huge connection with that, being a hometown hero, walking the same streets he did, so to speak. He was really close to home and that meant to me it was possible. That record in particular is amazing. 

For a change of pace I would go for ELTON JOHN and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road [1973]. Like all the other artists here, I could name five or six records he’s done but this is probably the ultimate, the one that was really important to me. The way  that Elton and Bernie [Taupin, lyricist] wrote together as a team… just amazing songwriters. People don’t always remember Elton as a great rock artist now but he was gigantic! 

From the same era, I’d also choose PINK FLOYD. It’s a toss-up again, but if I had to name one I’d go for The Wall [1979]. I really related to the lyrical aspect of that record, the darkness and the desperation and the loss, just the story of a life. And of course you had the movie to go with it, which I’d scrape some money to go see at a midnight movie. It’s difficult enough to make music that stands apart but then there’s a whole other level which I think Floyd definitely exists in, music that takes you on a journey. 

LED ZEPPELIN was another band like that. You could pick so many of their albums but I’ll go for their [untitled] fourth [aka Led Zeppelin IV, 1971]. In the Northwest where I grew up they were always on the radio and still are! The fourth was amazing, it had it all. I remember it for cruising around in your buddy’s beat-up car, going to keggers [beer parties] and trying to get yourself a little stink-finger. Ha ha! 

Another like that was KISS and Destroyer [1976]. The whole thing when I was a kid was great. Comic book heroes playing rock’n’roll – come on! You know what I mean? Plus there are some really good songs on there. AEROSMITH, too, and their album Toys In The Attic [1975] was a big part of my musical upbringing. If I could have only one Aerosmith album, that’s it. Lastly, FLEETWOOD MAC and Rumours [1977]; that was a landmark album in my life. The feeling and the emotion you get off it, it’s 10-feet thick Along with the musicianship, it’s perfect. I love that record.”


CLASSIC ROCK

CRITICS' CHOICE

Zakk Wylde picks five essential classic rockers

DEEP PURPLEMade In Japan, 1972

“I actually got into Deep Purple after I got into Black Sabbath, because I was all snobby about the keyboards Purple used. I was like, ‘Sabbath don’t have any fuckin’ keyboards!’ But listen to this album: Ian Gillan’s vocals shatter people’s brains in Child In Time. He still does it today.”

BAD COMPANYBad Company, 1974

“When you’re a kid you don’t know shit about music: I was 12 years old and thought that Simon & Garfunkel was all there was. Then I heard this and realised what cool shit it was. I found out about Paul Rodgers through Bad Company, not Free.”

OZZY OSBOURNEDiary Of A Madman, 1981

“I gotta have Randy Rhoads. There are faster guitarists than Randy now, but it ain’t all about speed. Anybody can get fast with practice. It was his songwriting that counted, and the way his solos were a composition within a composition.”

VAN HALENFair Warning, 1981

“Every album Eddie Van Halen did, he reinvented the guitar. No one – not the best guitar players in the world – has ever written anything like Spanish Fly. I saw VH when they were rehearsing with Dave Lee Roth and it sounded fuckin’ amazing.”

THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BANDA Decade Of Hits 1969-1979, 1991

“When it comes to the Allman Brothers, just get a greatest hits album. You need everything: the hits, the jams… you can get those things on the famous live album they did, At Fillmore East [1971], but their studio stuff was incredible too.”

GENRE DEFINING

Zakk Wylde's five face genre pioneers

Jimi Hendrix - ARE YOU EXPERIENCED, 1967

“Ozzy once went to see Hendrix, and he was playing guitar with his teeth. Ozzy said, ‘What the fuck?’ Ha ha! He was an amazing blues player, though it was psychedelic as shit.”

Led ZeppelinI, 1969

“This has a ton of jamming on it. I listened to it at parties and endlessly practised guitar to the songs. I know that people nominate Led Zeppelin IV because it was their Sgt Pepper, but I love the first one too.”

Lynyrd Skynyrd(PRONOUNCED ‘LEH-NERD SKINNERD’), 1973

“This is pure rock’n’ roll improv, with loads of jamming. Skynyrd had killer songs, and at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about.”

Black SabbathSABOTAGE, 1975

“Ozzy sings his fuckin’ balls off on this! When it comes to Sabbath I love both Ozzy and Dio, though what most people forget is that the music was totally different when Ronnie joined, not just the vocals.”

AC/DCBACK IN BLACK, 1980

“This was my first ’DC album. Then I went back and got all the Bon Scott albums. Malcolm Young is one of the great unsung guitar heroes.”

HARD ROCK HEAVEN

Hammer salutes the modern classic rockers

SPIRITUAL BEGGARSAd Astra, 2000

Founded by Arch Enemy’s Mike Amott, Spiritual Beggars are an old-school blues metal colossus and this is simply their greatest album to date.

FOO FIGHTERSIn Your Honour, 2005

Veering from their heaviest material to their most laid back, this double-disc feast showcases Dave Grohl and pals on top, hook-tastic, riff-hungry form.

ALABAMA THUNDERPUSSYStaring At The Divine, 2002

A stoner rock band with plenty of Southern-fried swagger and bumpkin soul in the tank, these beard-wearers are the great unsung heroes of the scene. We salute you!

THE ANSWERRise, 2007

Northern Ireland has produced many great bands, but few blaze as brightly as The Answer. Their debut had it all: the riffs, the tunes, the soul and the timelessness.

CLUTCHBlast Tyrant, 2004

A peerless live act and prolific studio entity, Clutch are widely adored for many reasons, including this glorious collection of highly literate, badass grooves. 

DIXIE WITCHSmoke And Mirrors, 2006

Honed by years of touring, these whisky-stinkin’ Texans were on blistering form on their third album, serving up a fiery, power-trio masterclass.

FLOODGATEPenalty, 1996

Led by former Exhorder frontman Kyle Thomas, Floodgate only made one album, but it’s a fearsome, heroic, brooding assault of swamp metal riffs and Marlboro-ravaged bellowing. Classy.

MASTERS OF REALITYDeep In The Hole, 2001

Not content with producing Kyuss and co-inventing stoner rock, Chris Goss also makes stunning records with his own band. This is the best of the lot.

OPEN HANDYou And Me, 2005

Indie rockers who strayed down the stoner path, Open Hand brought eclectic flair and psychedelic ingenuity to the bong party on this colourful gem.

PRIDE & GLORYPride & Glory, 1994

Zakk Wylde proved he was far more than Ozzy’s sidekick with this matchless collection of Southern rock anthems and country-tinged blues metal epics.

RAGING SLABRaging Slab, 1989

A swaggering storm of Skynyrd-meets-Zeppelin rock’n’roll, these Hooversville die-hards burned brightly but briefly on this seminal salvo from the bar-room floor.

ROADSAWRawk N’ Roll, 2002

The title says it all. Roadsaw kicked a huge amount of arse on songs like Bad Ass Rising and the self-explanatory That’s Mr. Motherfucker To You.

SCREAMING TREESSweet Oblivion, 1992

Crowned by the unmistakably haggard and ragged voice of Mark Lanegan, these grunge associates peaked with this gloomy missive from the Seattle shadows.

SIXTY WATT SHAMANSeed Of Decades, 2000

Balls-out stoner metal from Baltimore, Maryland, this low-slung riff bonanza absolutely reeked of trucker caps and backyard wrestling. Redneck rock at its finest.

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGEQOTSA, 1998

Before the media attention and the high-profile collaborations, Queens Of The Stone Age simply ruled. Their thunderous debut more than lived up to those Kyuss-inspired expectations.

CORROSION OF CONFORMITYDeliverance, 1994

From hardcore heroes to stoner rock standard-bearers, COC have done it all, but they’ve never sounded better than they did on this album. Big riffs galore.

BIG GUNS 

The kings of modern rock...

ALICE IN CHAINSDirt, 1992

A heavy metal band at heart, AIC plumbed the emotional depths on this stone-cold classic. A very special band on unbeatable form.

SOUNDGARDENBadmotorfinger, 1991

Squeezing the Black Sabbath ethos through their own esoteric prism, Soundgarden obliterated their peers here with ageless classics like Rusty Cage and Jesus Christ Pose.

PEARL JAMTen, 1991

Alive, Even Flow, Jeremy, Black… there aren’t many albums in history that boast as many truly great rock songs as Ten. For most people, this remains Pearl Jam’s greatest work.


This article originally appeared in Metal Hammer #205.

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