The Essential: Metal
Fifty years young, and as loud and obnoxious as ever, the world of metal remains a true musical phenomena. Michael Stephens turns the dial up to 11 and beyond. For the full top 40, get your hands on a copy of Issue 36 of Long Live Vinyl…
Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine
‘Rap metal’ threw up a lot of garbage, but don’t blame RATM. The trad metal expertise of Tom Morello made for a broad appeal and coupled with Zack De La Rocha’s righteous fury you have an LP that’s a classic outside its notional genre. Killing In The Name and Bullet In The Head became anthems.
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Judas Priest – Sad Wings Of Destiny
Judas Priest consolidated their metal credentials on this second LP. It was a commercial flop, but the right people were listening. Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine said his brother-in-law punched him in the face for doing so. Mustaine called this a turning point, where he chose a career in metal as “revenge”.
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Iron Maiden – Powerslave
Maiden were on such a roll in the 80s, it’s tricky to pick one LP over the other. But Powerslave packs all their trademarks into one package. The hits Aces High and 2 Minutes To Midnight were the commercial slams. Then there’s the epic Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, a prog-metal blowout adapted from the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem.
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Megadeth – Rust In Peace
Angry Dave Mustaine, sacked by Angry Metallica early on, came of age on this angry second album – it was even Grammy nominated. As the highly politicised frontman growls his concerns about global warming, nukes, religion and more, he and newly recruited guitarist Marty Friedman (now a J-Pop writer, fact!) weave a complex guitar assault. To some, this is the beginning of ‘tech metal’.
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Dio – Holy Diver
The late Ronnie James Dio is considered one of metal’s greatest ever vocalists for his range and ‘castle metal’/fantasy obsessions. He’d earned his dues before this solo debut, passing through the ranks of Rainbow and Sabbath, and he here assembled a superb band, notably Irish wunderkind guitarist Vivian Campbell (who is currently picking up a huge pay-cheque for not doing much in the latest incarnation of Def Leppard).
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Metallica – Master Of Puppets
Metallica’s third album is considered seminal: it’s here they nail their dynamic quiet/loud, fast/slow dynamics and, for metal, sophisticated writing. They constructed songs strictly from riffs, with words added last, making for ever-shifting sonics – the Popmatters website has called it a metal version of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound and it gave ‘thrash’ an across-the-board acclaim. Superstardom was coming.
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Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
Heavy metal’s pregnancy and a revolutionary release. There are still flashes of Sabbath’s blues and psych roots (The Wizard), even drummer Bill Ward’s jazz influences, but Ozzy Osbourne’s plaintive wail and Tony Iommi’s riffs were unlike anything else you could hear: it was a bolt from the black. It’s not perfect, Side Two meanders, but for a day’s work, it’s the most influential metal LP ever.
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Iron Maiden – The Number Of The Beast
The sacking of Paul Di’Anno and replacing him with Bruce Dickinson proved pivotal for the 80s metallers. Dickinson’s “air raid siren” vocals arrived just as Maiden were perfecting their galloping guitar duels and also exhibiting a keen commercial, melodic edge. …Beast went to No.1 and served up a Top 10 single in Run To The Hills. LP burning protests in the USA only added to their teen appeal.
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Metallica – Metallica
Also known as ‘the Black Album’, it remains a controversial LP for some purist fans, but we’d wager Metallica will take the brickbats. Producer Bob Rock worked hard on streamlining the quartet’s sound and the outcome was epicness – Enter Sandman, The Unforgiven, Nothing Else Matters, Sad But True… genuine chart hits stacked up. According to estimates, it’s sold 16m in the USA: that’s more than Springsteen’s Born In The USA.
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Black Sabbath – Paranoid
Sabbath’s quickly recorded second salvo was another five-star classic. With time to refine their sound, its loud, minor-key dirges were more focused and in Iron Man and War Pigs they served two of the most identifiable riffs in metaldom. An unlikely hit in the title track grew their audience massively… Sabbath’s proper breakthrough and metal’s defining album.
First Press £250